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Viceroyalty of New Granada

The Viceroyalty of New Granada was the name given on 27 May 1717, to a Spanish colonial jurisdiction in northern South America, corresponding mainly to modern Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. Before the 19th century independence struggles, the Viceroyalty of New Granada existed as a political and administrative entity which also extended to include oversight over local authorities in Ecuador, Guyana, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela, as well as small parts of Brazil and Peru.

Colonial history

After the establishment of an Audiencia (a "court of hearing") at Santa Fe de Bogota (today capital of the republic of Colombia) and of the New Kingdom of Granada in the 16th century, whose governor was loosely dependent upon the Viceroy of Peru at Lima, the slowness of communications between the two capitals led to the creation of an independent Viceroyalty of New Granada in 1717 (and its reestablishment in 1739 after a short interruption); other provinces corresponding to modern Ecuador, the eastern and southern parts of today's Venezuela, and eventually Panama, until then under other jurisdictions, came together in a political unit under the jurisdiction of Bogota, confirming that city as one of the principal administrative centers of the Spanish possessions in the New World, along with Lima and Mexico City. Sporadic attempts at reform were directed at increased efficiency and centralized authority, but control from Spain was never very effective.

The rough and diverse geography of northern South America and the limited range of proper roads made travel and communications inside the Viceroyalty difficult. The establishment of a Captaincy General in Caracas in 1777 and the preservation of the older Audiencia of Quito, nominally subject to the Viceroy but for all purposes independent, was a response to the necessities of effectively governing their surrounding regions, and some analysts consider that it was also reflecting a degree of local traditions that, much later, eventually contributed to creating differing political and national differences between the newly independent territories that the unifying efforts of Simon Bolivar could not overcome.

Guajira rebellion

The Wayuu (Guajiro) had never been subjugated by the Spanish. The two groups were in a more or less permanent state of war. There had been rebellions in 1701 (when they destroyed a Capuchin mission), 1727 , 1741, 1757, 1761 and 1768. In 1718 Governor Soto de Herrera called them "barbarians, horse thieves, worthy of death, without God, without law and without a king". Of all the Indians in the territory of Colombia, they were unique in having learned the use of firearms and horses.

In 1769 the Spanish took 22 Wayuus captive, in order to put them to work building the fortifications of Cartagena. The reaction of the Wayuus was unexpected. On 2 May 1769, at El Rincon, near Rio de la Hacha, they set their village afire, burning the church and two Spaniards who had taken refuge in it. They also captured the priest. The Spanish immediately dispatched an expedition from El Rincon to capture the Wayuus. At the head of this force was Jose Antonio de Sierra, a mestizo who had also headed the party that had taken the 22 Guajiro captives. The Guajiros recognized him and forced his party to take refuge in the house of the curate, which they then set afire. Sierra and eight of his men were killed.

This success was soon known in other Guajiro areas, and more men joined the revolt. According to Messia, at the peak there were 20,000 Wayuus under arms. Many had firearms acquired from English and Dutch smugglers, sometimes even from the Spanish. These enabled the rebels to take nearly all the settlements of the region, which they burned. According to the authorities, more than 100 Spaniards were killed and many others taken prisoner. Many cattle were also taken by the rebels. The Spaniards who could took refuge in Riohacha and sent urgent messages to Maracaibo, Valledupar, Santa Marta and Cartagena. Cartagena sent 100 troops. The rebels themselves were not unified. Sierra's relatives among the Indians took up arms against the rebels to avenge his death. A battle between the two groups of Wayuus was fought at La Soledad. That and the arrival of the Spanish reinforcements caused the rebellion to fade away, but not before the Guajiro had regained much territory.

Comunero revolt

Separation of Venezuela


New Granada was estimated at having 4,345,000 inhabitants in 1819.

Main cities

By population

1 - Santa Fe de Bogota

2 - Caracas

3 - Cartagena de Indias

4 - Quito

5 - Panama

6 - Cuenca

7 - Popayan

8 - Tunja

9 - Santa Marta

10 - Guayaquil

Independent history

The territories of the Viceroyalty gained full de facto independence from Spain between 1819 and 1822 after a series of military and political struggles, uniting in a republic now known as Gran Colombia.

When Ecuador and Venezuela seceded from Gran Colombia, a "Republic of New Granada", with its capital at Bogota, lasted from 1831 to 1856. The name "Colombia" reappeared in the "United States of Colombia", the new name for the country introduced by a liberal government after a civil war. The use of the term "New Granada" survived in conservative circles, such as among ecclesiastics.

As is typical in Spanish, older adjectives of places are used as demonyms for people from those areas. Today, it is typical in Spanish to refer to Colombians as neogranadinos ("New Granadians"), especially in neighboring Venezuela.

See also

History of Colombia

History of Ecuador

History of Venezuela

List of Viceroys of New Granada


Fisher, John R., Allan J. Keuthe and Anthony McFarlane, eds. Reform and Insurrection in Bourbon New Granada and Peru. Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1990. ISBN 9780807116548

Kuethe, Alan J. Military Reform and Society in New Granada, 1773-1808. Gainsville, University Presses of Florida, 1978. ISBN 9780813005706

McFarlane, Anthony. Colombia Before Independence: Economy, Society and Politics under Bourbon Rule. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1993. ISBN 9780521416412

Phelan, John Leddy. The People and the King: The Comunero Revolution in Colombia, 1781. Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1978. ISBN 9780299072902

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