Antonio Nariño

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Antonio Nariño
Nariño by Acevedo Bernal.jpg
Oil painting by Ricardo Acevedo Bernal.
Vice President of the Republic of Colombia
In office
April 4, 1821 – June 6, 1821
President Simón Bolívar
Governor President of the State of Cundinamarca
In office
September 19, 1813 – May 14, 1814
Preceded by Manuel Benito de Castro
Succeeded by Manuel de Bernardo Álvarez del Casal
Governor President of the State of Cundinamarca and Viceregent of the King's Person
In office
September 21, 1811 – August 19, 1812
Monarch Ferdinand VII
Preceded by Jorge Tadeo Lozano
Succeeded by Manuel Benito de Castro
In office
September 12, 1812 – September 19, 1813
Preceded by Manuel Benito de Castro
Personal details
Born Antonio de la Santísima Concepción Nariño y Álvarez
(1765-04-09)April 9, 1765[1]
Bogotá, Viceroyalty of New Granada
Died December 13, 1823(1823-12-13) (aged 58)
Villa de Leyva, Cundinamarca, Colombia
Nationality Neogranadine
Political party Centralist
Spouse(s) Magdalena Ortega y Mesa
Religion Roman Catholic

Antonio Amador José de Nariño Bernardo del Casal (Santa Fé de Bogotá, Colombia 1765-1824 Villa de Leyva, Colombia)[1] was an ideological Colombian precursor and one of the early political and military leaders of the independence movement in New Granada (present day Colombia.)

Early political activity

Nariño was born to an aristocratic family. He was always seeking knowledge and greatly admired the political ideologies of the leaders of the French and American Revolutions. In his impressive library there was even a portrait of Benjamin Franklin that hung above the mantle. In his youth, Nariño was a strong influence amongst the progressive young people of Bogotá, Colombia. He was the host to many secret political gatherings which purpose was to discuss the need for independence. Nariño was always one of the most out-spoken and articulate participants at these meetings, which gained him much admiration.

In 1794, Nariño procured a copy of the "Declaration of the Rights of Man" which was being distributed by the French Assembly. He translated the Declaration of the Rights of Man from its original French into Spanish and printed several copies from his own private press.[2] He then circulated these translated pamphlets among his politically like-minded friends. Copies of the pamphlet were distributed to all corners of the continent and created a stirring in the political mentalities of the time. The government soon discovered the material and any copy that was found was burned. Nariño was sentenced to ten years of imprisonment in Africa for his leading role in the political group and was exiled from South America. Nariño had previously worked as a tax collector (Recaudador de diezmos) and was also accused of fraud resulting from this activity.

However, when the ship landed in Spain, Nariño escaped from his captors and later went to France and England, where he continued his work supporting the revolution in South America. He found his way back to New Granada (Colombia) where the authorities again caught up with him in Bogotá. This time he was imprisoned and sent to Madrid but somehow managed to escape again and return to Colombia, where he was able to take part in the revolution. He founded the political newspaper La Bagatela in 1811. That same year he was selected president of the State of Cundinamarca.

Recognized as the commander of the centralist republican forces in New Granada, Nariño fought several battles against the federalists organized around the city of Cartagena, Colombia.

Southern campaign

In July 1813, General Nariño began an intensive military campaign against the Spanish and Royalist forces in the south, intending to reach Pasto and eventually Quito.

Nariño's forces, known as the Army of the South, numbering 1500 to 2000 men, managed to capture Popayán in January 1814 after defeating the Royalist forces in the area in a series of initially successful battles.

After stopping to reorganize the city's government and his own forces, he pressed on towards Pasto. Historians have speculated that, had he not stopped at Popayán but actually decisively pursued the fleeing Royalist army, he might have been able to successfully capture a relatively undefended Pasto.

As things happened, the constant raids of Royalist guerrillas, the harshness of the terrain, the lack of promised reinforcements from Antioquia, and the delays in bringing up his army's artillery contributed to weakening the morale of many of the troops under Nariño's command, when they had practically reached the gates of Pasto.

After being wounded during combat, a false rumor of his death was spread, and most of the remaining soldiers scattered, only some 400 returning to Popayán. Nariño, left practically alone in the battlefield, attempted to hide, but surrendered himself when Royalist scouts found him. He was taken into Pasto in May 1814, and then sent to the Royal prison at Cádiz via Quito.

Later years

Watercolor by Ricardo Acevedo Bernal

Nariño was freed in 1821 after the revolt of Rafael del Riego, and returned to his country (Colombia), now independent from Spain after the republican victory at the Battle of Boyacá.

Nariño was one of the candidates for the presidency of Gran Colombia in 1821, where he lost to Simón Bolívar by the significant margin of 50 to 6 votes in the Congress held at Cúcuta, finishing second. He also lost the election for vice president, as Francisco de Paula Santander eventually defeated him by a 38 to 19 vote margin after several heated rounds of voting.

In 1824, Nariño died. Before his death, Nariño became a national hero in his country. He is mentioned in last stanza of Colombian national anthem. At the foot of his statue in Colombia, he is quoted, "I have loved my country; only History will say what this love has been."

The presidential palace of the Republic of Colombia, Casa de Nariño or Palacio de Nariño is named in his honor and was constructed at the site of Nariño's birthplace.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hector, M., and A. Ardila. Hombres y mujeres en las letras de Colombia. 2. Bogota: Magisterio, 2008. 25. Print.
  2. MacFarlane, Anthony. Colombia before Independence: Economy, Society, and Politics under Bourbon Rule. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 284-5. Print.


  • Blossom, Thomas (1967). Nariño: Hero of Colombian Independence. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
  • Crow, John A. (1992) [1946]. The Epic of Latin America (4th ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN