ColombiaOne.comHistorySanta Marta's Spanish Crown Loyalty in Colombian Independence

Santa Marta’s Spanish Crown Loyalty in Colombian Independence

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The Simon Bolivar Park in the City of Santa Marta, Colombia. Credit: A.P. / Colombia One

In Colombia’s struggle for independence, certain provinces, including Santa Marta, Panama, Maracaibo, Riohacha, and Pasto, along with the islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico, staunchly defended the interests of the Spanish monarchy. Surprisingly, even cities initially inclined towards independence, like Caracas and Santa Fe, warmly welcomed the Spanish peacemaker Pablo Morillo during the Reconquista period.

Santa Marta’s loyalty to the Spanish crown

Contrary to popular belief, Santa Marta’s loyalty to the Spanish crown during the Independence era may stem from historical rivalries and unique circumstances.

Pasto and Santa Marta leaned towards royalism due to resistance against republican ideas imposed by the elites of Quito and Cartagena. Pasto fell to Quito forces in 1811, while Santa Marta was occupied in 1813 by Cartagena troops under Colonel Labatut, leaving a legacy of remembered atrocities.

Rivalries between Santa Marta and Cartagena date back to the 17th century, where Cartagena’s prominence in the Carrera de Indias trade route overshadowed Santa Marta’s subordinate position. Cartagena’s economic monopoly, especially in the 18th century, heightened tensions as it disproportionately benefited from Situado funds, leaving Santa Marta economically marginalized.

Santa Marta had reasons not to break ties with the Spanish crown

Santa Marta became more isolated, both commercially and culturally, due to Cartagena’s dominance in intercontinental trade. Santa Marta’s elites may have naively believed that supporting colonial rule would elevate their city to the primary port in the Neogranadian Caribbean. However, historical data suggests that the fulfilment of this expectation only yielded temporary benefits, and Cartagena remained the dominant port until the early 19th century.

While Cartagena clashed with the Viceroy of New Granada over trade restrictions, Santa Marta faced internal disputes, such as the border dispute involving the indigenous people of Mamatoco.

The Foolish Fatherland (La Patria Boba)

In Riohacha, a city with greater autonomy, factors like the fear of losing independence likely contributed to a more monarchic sentiment. These dynamics, along with others, influenced elites and regional inhabitants to openly support the monarchy during the independence period.

The complex web of shifting loyalties, tactical errors, and strategic lessons during this period, termed “The Foolish Fatherland” (La Patria Boba) by Bolivar, set the stage for Colombia’s definitive independence from Spain a decade later.


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