About Museo de la Independencia
The Museo de la Independencia (Museum of Independence) in Bogotá is housed in a late sixteenth-century colonial building in the lively central barrio of La Candelaria. Founded on 20 July 1960, the museum is also known as the Museo del 20 de Julio de 1810 (Museum of 20 July 1810) and the Casa del Florero (House of the Vase).
The museum commemorates the moment when Colombia’s ‘Grito de Independencia’ (Cry of Independence) was uttered, and the day on which ‘a broken vase was heard around the world’.
In 1810, in the wake Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and the fragmentation of Imperial authority in South America, autonomous municipal juntas were formed across the territories which comprised the viceroyalty of New Granada (present-day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama).
The principal protagonists of 20 July 1810 were a group of Creoles who supported the establishment of an autonomous junta of Santafé (as Bogotá was then known). The men came to the house and demanded that its Spanish owner, the trader José González Llorente, lend them an ornate vase. When he refused to hand over the vase and insulted the men, a fight ensued. The vase, the remains of which are on display in the museum, was shattered.
This altercation, which had been meticulously pre-planned by the Creoles, was observed by large numbers of local people; it quickly metamorphosed into a full-scale rebellion in favour of autonomy.
At dawn on 21 July, the Santafé junta signed a document which Colombians now refer to as their Act of Independence. It would take over a decade more for the Colombia to become independent. Nevertheless, 20 July – the historic starting point of the process – is the date on which Colombians now celebrate their country’s Independence with military processions and patriotic ceremonies.
The museum, which is always decorated with the red, blue and yellow tricolour Colombian flag, contains a number of fascinating displays, including an exhibit on the role played by women in the Independence struggle. The museum’s curators underline ‘the importance of women [to the processes of Independence], their commitment to Independence, their significant role in creating or weakening conspiracies, spying and mobilising public opinion, and their access to places of political and social relevance.’
The building holds almost 4,000 historical items. The museum’s exhibits are housed in nine exhibition halls (salas), among them the the Sala del Florero (Hall of the Vase) and the Sala de Antonio Nariño, which is named after an important figure of the Independence struggle. Nariño was inspired by the ideas of the Enlightenment and is credited with secretly translating the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’, one of the fundamental documents of the French Revolution, into Spanish.