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Republic of Gran Colombia

The Republic of Gran Colombia, or Greater Colombia, was a short-lived republic in South America consisting of present-day Colombia , Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. Its territory corresponded more or less to the jurisdiction of the Viceroyalty of New Granada.

The word "Colombia" comes from the name of Christopher Columbus and was conceived by the revolutionary Francisco de Miranda as a reference to the New World, especially to all American territories and colonies under Spanish and Portuguese rule.

The words "Gran" or "Greater" that precede the name were not used by contemporaries, however, and were added by later historians in order to distinguish it from the present-day Republic of Colombia.

Liberator of South America Simón Bolívar and other revolutionaries in the First Republic of Venezuela used this name for all Spanish America, until the republic under that name was founded in 1819 at the Congress of Angostura. It was conceived initially at that Congress as a federal republic, made up of three departments with capitals in the cities of Bogotá (Department of Cundinamarca), Caracas (Department of Venezuela), and Quito (Department of Quito). In that year, not all provinces of the former viceroyalty were yet free.

The Constitution of the new republic was given in 1821 at the Congress of Cucuta, establishing its capital in Bogotá. A new territorial division (various departments covering Venezuela, New Granada, and Quito) was conceived. Bolívar was elected president and Francisco de Paula Santander vicepresident.

In the first years of existence, Gran Colombia helped other provinces still at war with Spain to become independent, so Panama came to the federation in 1821 and so did the remaining provinces of Quito and to Venezuela. The independence of Peru was consolidated through Gran Colombia's aid. Bolívar and Santander were reelected in 1826.

Permanent changes of the political division during the existence of Gran Colombia, with local confrontations between the regions, showed the instability of the state.

Bolívar dreamt of uniting South America but was unable to achieve this during the struggle for independence. The Republic of Gran Colombia was his initial attempt at creating a single South American state. Other South American polititians, however, objected to his idea and Bolívar, disgruntled, resigned in 1828.

The federation was dissolved in 1830, despite the efforts of General Rafael Urdaneta in Bogotá, due to internal strife between the different regions which strengthened after Bolívar's resignation.

The dissolution of Gran Colombia characterized the failure of Bolívar's dream.

In 1863, one of the new countries which remained after the dissolution, New Granada, changed its name officially to "United States of Colombia", and in 1886 adopted its present day name: "Republic of Colombia". Panama remained as a province of this country until 1903, when – with assistance from the USA – it became independent.

Another federal state on the American continent that underwent a similar fate was the United States of Central America.

Last updated: 11-11-2004 00:04:05