Colombian Independence Day

On this day in 1810, Colombia became one of the first countries in the Western Hemisphere to declare independence from a colonial power. Inspired both ideologically and strategically by the earlier American, Haitian, and French revolutions, a series of independence movements and rebellions erupted across the continent, with Colombia securing recognition in 1819 as “Gran Colombia”, a state that encompassed what is today Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama, and parts of Peru, Brazil, and Guyana. (Hence why the flags of Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador, which formed the core of the new country, are similar.)

Nevertheless, Colombia’s legacy includes being the first constitutional government in South America, having two of the oldest continuing political parties in whole hemisphere (the Liberal and Conservative parties), and being one of the earliest abolishers of slavery (1852). In recent years, Colombia has finally found its footing and become one of the world’s great success stories, managing to reduce corruption, poverty, and instability after decades of rampant violence and instability.

Not unlike in the United States, Gran Colombia struggled to determine its form of governance, namely between a centralized system with a strong executive branch, or a federal system that was decentralized. (What is now Venezuela was a major proponent of the latter.) This key philosophical difference, in addition to various separatist movements, disputes with neighbors, and other internal divisions, meant an early end to Gran Colombia and recurring periods of civil strife and internecine conflict.

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