2019 is the year in which the bicentennial of Colombia’s independence will be celebrated. That was recalled by the president of that country, Ivan Duque, when he met in Cartagena with the Secretary of State of the United States, Mike Pompeo. Duque said that “200 years ago the support of the founding fathers of the United States to our independence was crucial, so today receiving your visit (in reference to Pompeo) fills us with joy and honor,” which generated a great controversy. The Colombian magazine Semana interviewed the historian Arnovy Fajardo, professor of the Externado University of Colombia, about these statements.
The Presidency published that post on its twitter account and from that moment the statement began to raise a wave of criticism.
Semana Educación spoke with the historian Arnovy Fajardo, a professor at the Externado de Colombia University. The teacher said that it is impossible for characters like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and George Washington to support a process of independence from Colombia, when many had already died and others were removed from public life because of their advanced age.
SEMANA: Is it true or not that the heroes of the independence of the United States supported the independence of Colombia?
Arnovy Fajardo: It’s not true. The error of President Ivan Duque’s speech is in affirming that the characters that created the United States around 1783 participated in our independence, which occurred almost 30 years later. The eighteenth century men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and George Washington, had no way to participate in something that happened several decades later with characters like Bolivar, Nariño, Santander, Miranda, among others. However, what did exist was ideological influences on the part of some North American thinkers and heroes, although not the only ones, because other countries also influenced them.
SEMANA: What were those ideas that influenced the heroes of the independence of Colombia?
A.F .: In the case of the leaders of the United States’ independence, the main idea that attracted many of the Colombian heroes was to create a federal country under a republican model. Historically it was known that the only federation that had worked in old times was Rome. But, knowing that the United States was formed as an independent country, under a republican government and under a model of federation of the territories was very attractive here, because if they had achieved in a large country like that, in Colombia it could be viable.
SEMANA: If the United States did not support Colombia’s independence process, which countries did?
A.F .: Characters such as Miranda and Nariño thought of England, a country from which they expected an open declaration of war against Spain. But they never managed to get that support officially, because at this time England was allied with Spain to fight against Napoléon. However, there are known cases of Irish and English soldiers who came to the Llanos of Venezuela to support the process of independence. Commercial support was also sought from England, which occurred unofficially. France also played a very important role. For example, in 1822, through Francisco Antonio Zea, a guide from Colombia was published describing the country and telling how the independence process was. In this way they not only sought diplomatic recognition, but also to establish commercial links and even attract European migration. And it is known that important support was also obtained from Haiti, support that was related to the abolition of slavery.
SEMANA: What does the statement of President Duque mean to you as a historian?
A.F .: What reflects the error of the president are the deficiencies of the teaching of Social Sciences in our country. Everything, because more than 20 years ago it was decided to combine the teaching of History with subjects such as Geography and Civic Values. This has caused teachers to have little time to teach the history and geography of the country conscientiously. That leads to young people staying with some superficial information. It’s a shame, because there are good teachers who have a critical attitude and do their job well, but sometimes the curricular plans designed do not respond to these critical discourses.
SEMANA: So far the president has not removed this statement from his Twitter account and has not ruled on the subject …
A.F .: The historians hope that the president goes out to correct that statement because he loses credibility as a ruler. In addition, it is very bad that we celebrate the bicentennial of the Battle of Boyacá and the independence of Colombia without recognizing a tremendous historical error. It is unforgivable that the president is not able to assume that he made a mistake and he does not correct it.
Translated by JRE/AR