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Colombian History

Although the Spaniards arrived in Colombia in 1499, it was not until the founding of Santa Marta in 1525 and Cartagena in 1533 that permanent settlements emerged. Colombia declared its independence from Spain in 1810, and under the leadership of Simon Bolivar and Francisco Paulaner de Santander, defeated the Spanish forces, and was recognized as an independent nation in 1819. The defining moment in the military conflict was the epic Battle of Boyaca, a department north of Bogota, where the Spanish were routed.

Colombia subsequently pertained to Gran Colombia, along with present Ecuador, Venezuela, and Panama, until the state disintegrated in 1830. 1849 saw the formal establishment of the two political parties that would dominate Colombia's history: the centralist Conservatives and the federalist Liberals. Much of Colombia's history has been marked by political instability and violence, and the 19th century saw numerous civil wars and rebellions. These culminated in the horrific War of the Thousand Days in 1899, when over 100,000 Colombians died.

During this time of domestic strife, the United States used the opportunity to encourage a secessionist movement in Panama, which at the time was a part of Colombia. They subsequently used the nascent nation to build and gain control of the Panama Canal, a landmark in global transportation, which facilitated dramatically more efficient Atlantic/Pacific ocean transport.

The defining moment of twentieth century Colombia was the 1948 assassination of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, a populist icon and presidential candidate. Riots followed throughout Bogota, known as the Bogotazo, which spread throughout the country, eventually leading to civil war between the Liberal and Conservative parties. This period of time was known as La Violencia.

While the two parties eventually reached a power sharing agreement, the armed conflict paved the way for the establishment of two guerrilla groups that continue to this day: the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias Colombianas/Armed Revolutionary Colombian Forces) and the ELN (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional/National Liberation Army).

The 1980s and 1990s were times of great unrest and disorder in Colombia as, in addition to the guerrilla groups, drug cartels, and paramilitary groups took power. It was estimated that the FARC controlled 30% of Colombian territory at its height. Overland travel was impossible, due to violence, and millions of Colombians were displaced from their homes and land by the armed conflict.

In 2002 Alvaro Uribe came to power, and successfully pursued a ruthless campaign against the guerrillas, pushing them out of urban areas, and into the border regions with Ecuador, Venezuela, and Panama. Uribe was reelected in 2006, and remains a popular figure today.

 

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