The Battle of Boyacá, which took place on 7 August 1819, was a decisive moment in the bloody struggle for Independence from the Spanish Empire which had been raging across Latin America for nearly a decade.
The armies of Simón Bolívar, united with the republican forces of the Brigadier Generals Francisco de Paula Santander and José Antonio Anzoátegui, defeated the Royalist forces led by the Spanish Colonels José María Barreiro and Francisco Jiménez. The victory, which was achieved in the space of two hours with the military assistance of the British Foreign Legion, sealed Colombia’s independence.
The most well known protagonist of this battle was, of course, the military leader and politician Simón Bolívar. Bolívar, who is known across modern-day Latin America simply as el Libertador (the Liberator), contributed decisively to the independence of the territories which make up present-day Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela. Following the defeat of the Royalist armies, Bolívar was President of the short-lived Republic of Gran Colombia between 1819 and 1830.
Although historians have traditionally focused on the labour of liberation carried out by Bolívar and his male compatriots, women also played a significant role in the Battle of Boyacá, and in the independence struggle in general. At Puente de Boyacá, as well as offering practical and support to the liberating armies, some women also went into battle. Records reveal the names of several women – among them Evangelista Tamayo, who achieved the rank of Captain - who took up arms and fought at Puente de Boyacá.
These women, whose stories have generally been overlooked by chroniclers, are not featured in the monuments which have been erected on the battle site. Nonetheless, visitors can visit a monument known as the Arco de Triunfo, which commemorates all the officers and soldiers who took part in the liberation campaign of 1819.
They can also observe the Monument to Bolívar, and eighteen-metre tall sculpture of Bolívar which is accompanied by five angels that symbolise the countries he liberated: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. The site also contains the reconstructed bridge which Bolívar’s troops crossed to enter into battle, a monument to General Francisco de Paula Santander, an eternal flame lit for Bolívar and a chapel.
The battlefield is on the main road which runs from the city of Tunja to the Colombian capital, Bogotá. It is on the left side of the road, 110 kilometres from Bogotá and 14 kilometres from Tunja. Any bus passing along this road will drop you off at the site.
There are a large number of restaurants dotted along the road near the bridge, both in the direction of Bogotá and the direction of Tunja
Entry is free and at any time as the site consists of a bridge and a collection of monuments. Those who wish to visit the chapel should be aware that mass is at 12.00, 17.00, 18.00 and 19.00.
Puente de Boyacá, Boyacá, Colombia
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