So here I am, 9000 kms from home in sunny Colombia. Downtown Bogotá to be more precise. This city is home to 11-and-a-half million people and is in 2024 host of the Latin American Unicycle Championship and Convention. Or the Campeonato y Convención LatinoAmericano de Monociclo as it is known in Spanish. Hello Colombia! It’s an honour to be here.
The America’s are huge continents full of native wisdom. The indigenous people knew how to build a society, while keeping the planet in one piece. Latin America once had majestic civilisations like the Maya, Aztec and Inca. People that built modern civilisations with huge cities with roads and canals. They possessed a craftsmanship and (medical) knowledge that we are still baffled by.
But then came the Europeans. The Spaniards conquered Latin America. And if they hadn’t done it, it would have been the Portugese, French, English or the Dutch. Between 1492 and 1570 the Spanish conquistadores killed 55 million people, or apx 90% of the local population. And they did it with only a few thousands soldiers … … and 12 deadly diseases. Just think about those numbers for a moment.
The Europeans came for money and wealth. They robbed and plundered, while ignoring cultures and the widows that came with it. In the end they destroying civilisations that were more advanced than those conquistadores ever wanted to admit.
In 1800 Spain sided with Napoleon. But when the Spaniards couldn’t deliver the troops, money and ships needed, Napoleon decided to take the Spanish Royal Family hostage. The Latin American colonies made use of the chaos and lack of control that followed and chose independence. They had to fight for it, of course. Simon Bolivár led the break-away.
When Napoleon was defeated in 1814, the Spaniards tried to reconquer the former colonies. They sent 10.000 reconquistadores to Latin America, the largest army they ever sent overseas. The troops battled revolutionaries (and tropical diseases) all over South-America, also in Colombia.
Heroin of the Colombian struggle against those reconquistadores is Policarpa Salavarrieta. She was a very successful spy for the revolutionary side. In the end she was arrested and sentenced to death. With her hands tied to her back, she walked to square where she was to be executed with six other people on November 14. Since 1967 this is a sacred day in Colombia, the Day of Colombian Women. In honour to the fallen heroin of the revolution.
Today we visited a statue commemorating Policarpa Salavarrieta. But as you can see in the picture above there are also beautiful murals dedicated to her. November 14, a date to never forget.