Today is a special day in the Northeasternmost corner of South America.
One hundred and ninety-five years ago, most people there thought it was just another Friday. Only it didn’t end as such.
A Royal deputy, Don Antonio Villavicencio, was coming to the town of Santafé. It was market Friday there, and where normally the town would be more on the sleepy side –despite being the Royal Seat, it had a population of about 20,000 — that Friday it was teeming with activity from the neighboring towns.
Now this Royal deputy was a sympathizer of the colonialists, and therefore viewed as an inferior by a Mr. Llorente, who had a fine goods store near Downtown. Mr. Llorente was a Royalist sympathizer, and proud of being a Spaniard, and wealthy. So when the Brothers Morales and Don Luis Rubio –who supported the colonialists and were preparing a welcome-back party for Don Villavicencio– went to borrow a vase from Llorente’s store, the latter refused and gave flaky excuses.
In their heart of hearts, they knew it was a bad idea.
If they’d truly needed a vase, I’m sure they could have gone some other place.
But it was Friday marketplace.
It was about time that something happened.
So when Mr. Llorente, upon being told the reason for borrowing the vase, loudly and rudely proclaimed that Mr. Villavicencio and all American-born people and their sympathizers could go fuck themselves, it was just the spark they needed.
The vase? Let’s just say it broke. Along with Mr. Llorente’s nose, when one of the Morales brothers had his fist connecting to it. People heard the buzzing about a fight, and soon the words of Mr. Llorente were traveling faster than a wildfire. And the market soon teemed with one thought only, “Revolution.”
Later that day, it would be an insurrection veteran, Mr. José Acevedo y Gómez (who was part of earlier –but unsuccessful– attemtps at Royal overthrow) who would capture the spirit of the day with a phrase that every school child in Colombia was made to memorize in the past:
«Si perdéis estos momentos de efervescencia y calor, si dejáis escapar esta ocasión única y feliz, antes de doce horas seréis tratados como insurgentes: ved [señalando las cárceles] los calabozos, los grillos y las cadenas que os esperan». “If you let this vim and passion die down, if you let this unique happy moment get away, in little more than twelve hours you will be treated as insurgents; behold the dungeons, the fetters and the chains that await you.”
Sometimes the most important things start over irrelevant minutiae, such as a vase. In this case, it was the day that signaled Colombia’s independence from Spanish rule.
I just hope that someone thinks of borrowing a cup of sugar from the revolutionary guerrilla forces and start another bid for independence, so perhaps the happy zeal and thirst for freedom can stir that poor country again out of the sixty-year slump of horror, corruption and civil violence in which it’s so deeply mired. Then I would gladly say Colombia is a free country.
Feliz Veinte De Julio!