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Flag of Cartagena and Barranquilla, based on the one for Cartagena State after 1811 and used provisionally for the United Provinces from 1813 to 1814[1]

Flag of the United Provinces, 1814-1816

The period between 1810 and 1816 in the New Kingdom of Granada (today Colombia) was marked by such intense conflicts over the nature of the new government or governments that it became known as la Patria Boba (the Foolish Fatherland). Constant fighting between federalists and centralists gave rise to a prolonged period of instability. Similar developments can be seen at the same time in the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata. Each province, and even some cities, set up its own autonomous junta, which declared themselves sovereign from each other.

The Establishment of Juntas, 1810

With the arrival of news in May 1810 that southern Spain had been conquered by Napoleon's forces, that the Spanish Supreme Central Junta had dissolved itself and that juntas had been established in Venezuela, cities in New Granada began to do the same and established their own. Cartagena de Indias established one on May 22, 1810, followed by Cali on July 3, Pamplona the next day, and Socorro on July 10. On July 20 the viceregal capital, Santa Fe de Bogotá, established its own junta. (The day is today celebrated as Colombia's Independence Day.) The viceroy Antonio José Amar y Borbón initially presided over the junta in Bogotá, but due to popular pressure, he was deposed five days later. Although the Bogotá junta called itself a "Supreme Junta of the New Kingdom of Granada," the splintering of political authority continued as even secondary cities set up juntas that claimed to be independent of their provincial capitals, resulting in military conflicts. There were two fruitless attempts at establishing a congress of provinces in the subsequent months.

The First Independent States and Civil War

Current flag of the Department of Cundinamarca, based on the one used for the State of Cundinamarca, 1813-1814.[2]

Current flag of the Department of Valle del Cauca, based on the one adopted by the Confederated Cities of the Cauca Valley on June 26, 1811, which used the colors of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.[3]

In the meantime, the province of Bogotá transformed itself into a state called Cundinamarca. In March 1811 it convened a "Constituent Electoral College of the State of Cundinamarca," which promulgated a constitution for the state the following month. The constitution established Cundinamarca as a constitutional monarchy under the absent Ferdinand VII. (It would declare full independence only in August 1813.) Cundinamarca invited the other provinces to send delegates to a new "Congress of the United Provinces," which first met in Bogotá, but later moved to Tunja and Leyva to maintain independence from the capital city. The Congress eventually established a confederation called the United Provinces of New Granada on November 27, 1811, with a weak federal government, but Cundinamarca rejected the Union. The Congress and Cundinamarca could not agree on whether the former viceroyalty was to have a centralist government or a federal one. At the same time, popular agitation in Cartagena lead it to declare independence on November 11, 1811, the first province in New Granada to do so. (The day is also today a national holiday in Colombia.) Other regions of the New Kingdom of Granada established their own governments and confederations (for example, the Friend Cities of the Cauca Valley, 1811–1812) or remained royalist.[4]

The dispute over the form of government eventually erupted into war by the end of 1812, and once again in 1814. The first war resulted in a stalemate, which nevertheless allowed Cundinamarca to organize an expedition against royalist regions of Popayán and Pasto. It resulted in defeat and its dynamic president, Antonio Nariño, was captured. Facing an enfeebled Cundinamarca, the United Provinces took the opportunity to send an army against it, headed by Simón Bolívar, who had fled Venezuela for the second time after the fall of the Second Republic of Venezuela. Bolívar and his army forced the submission of Cundinamarca to the Union by December 1814. However, by mid-1815 a large Spanish expeditionary force under Pablo Morillo had arrived in New Granada, which bolstered earlier royalist advances made by Santa Marta. Morillo lay siege on Cartagena on August and it finally fell five months later in December with the city suffering large numbers of civilian casualties due to famine and disease. By May 1816 Morillo and royalists from the south had conquered Bogotá and returned all of New Granada to royalist control until August 1819, when forces under the command of Simón Bolívar retook the central part of the region.

See also


  1. In Spanish: Colombia. "La bandera colombiana." Presidencia de la República.
  2. In Spanish: Colombia. "La bandera colombiana." Presidencia de la República.
  3. In Spanish: Bandera del Valle del Cauca. La Asociación Colombiana de Ceremonial y Protocolo
  4. Officially the cities called themselves the Ciudades amigas del Valle del Cauca; historians refer to them as the "Confederated Cities of the Valle del Cauca." Zawadzky C., Alfonso. Comentario al libro Las Ciudades Confederadas del Valle del Cauca. (Bogotá: Editorial Librería Voluntad, S.A., 1943).


  • Blossom, Thomas. Nariño: Hero of Colombian Independence. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1967.
  • McFarlane, Anthony. Colombia Before Independence: Economy, Society, and Politics under Bourbon Rule. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. ISBN 978-0-521-41641-2
  • Earle, Rebecca. Spain and the Independence of Colombia, 1810-1825. Exter: University of Exter Press, 2000. ISBN 0-85989-612-9

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