Colombian Independence Day: Origins, Celebrations, and What to Expect

Last updated on June 18th, 2024 at 09:16 am

Colombians celebrate Independence Day on July 20, which marks the day in 1810 that the residents of Bogotá began protesting in the streets against Spanish rule.

This Colombian national holiday commemorates the country’s independence from Spain. One of the great appeals of the holiday is its global reach. Because of the extensive amount of emigration throughout Colombia’s history, many parties take place in cities around the world.

The global pandemic in 2020 meant that most Colombians celebrated Independence Day online. As the pandemic has waned in some parts of the world, Colombians around the world are excited to attend many festivals and parades with family and friends.

We wish our Colombian customers, friends, and employees a very happy Independence Day!

A Brief History of Colombian Independence Day

The Spanish first arrived in Colombia in 1499 and founded the first permanent settlement in 1510. However, King Charles III and the Spanish government insisted that the colonies could only trade with Spain, limiting their growth.

Spanish support for the Americans in the U.S. war of independence increased taxation, and there was a lot of growing resentment toward Spain as a result.

In 1808, Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Spain and imprisoned King Ferdinand VII. Most parts of Spanish America, including New Granada (now Colombia), went to Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte.

After a year, Camilo Torres Tenorio of New Granada wrote about repeated Spanish offenses against natives in his Remembrance of Offenses, or Memorial de Agravios. He reiterated that the people of New Granada were unhappy with Spanish rule. Tenorio specifically mentioned that Criollos, who were born in Colombia, couldn’t hold high office.

For months leading up to July 20, 1810, there was insurrection and declarations of military governments across many regions of Colombia. Watching the climate grow heated, members of the political party predicted that similar events would eventually happen in Bogotá.

The Criollos, i.e. those of Spanish descent born in Colombia, wanted to make sure that the uprising started in the capital city. So, they hatched a plan involving, of all things, a flowerpot!

On the morning of July 20, some Criollos visited a prominent local businessman, Jose Gonzalez Llorente, to ask him if they could borrow a flowerpot to give to a fellow Criollo. It was a small item to request, but they assumed that Llorente would refuse.

According to local legend, he did refuse, and the Criollos stole the flowerpot and smashed it to pieces in the street, inciting the riots in Bogotá that led to the formation of the people’s junta.

However, it wasn’t until 1819 that Colombia became a republic, formally gaining independence from Spain.

6 Facts About Colombian Independence Day Celebrations

Here are a few fun facts about Colombian Independence Day:

1. Celebrations happen around the world.

Colombia National Day, also known as Colombian Independence Day, is occasion for celebration among many Colombian expat communities. Celebrations can include military parades, parties, folk music, and feasts of traditional food.

2. Los Angeles has one of the biggest Colombian Independence Day celebrations.

California is one such nexus of the Colombian diaspora, as home to the fourth-largest Colombian-American population in the United States.

Los Angeles has a world-famous Festival Colombiano, a massive party featuring live bands and DJs that perform in front of thousands. It’s a great opportunity to sample some delights of Colombian cuisine at mom & pop stores and delicatessens across the city.

3. Colombian food features prominently.

One way to celebrate Colombian Independence Day is to prepare or sample traditional Colombian food and beverages, such as bandeja paisa, ajíaco, or aguapanela.

4. Independence Day is one of MANY national holidays.

Columbia has more public holidays than the U.S. or any countries in Europe.

The country celebrates 18 public holidays in a calendar year, and Colombian Independence Day is one of the biggest! Only two countries in the world have more public holidays than Colombia—Sri Lanka and India.

5. Fireworks and dancing are main attractions.

Residents of Colombia typically celebrate Independence Day with parades and marches throughout the country.

Other popular activities include shooting off fireworks, watching sports, and listening to traditional Colombian music.

6. Visiting Llorente’s House is a popular way to celebrate.

Llorente’s house in Bogotá, the scene of the flowerpot incident, is now the official “20 July Museum,” which is a popular place to visit on Independence Day.