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Speechwriters guide to Colombian independence day[]

It could be argued that all countries that were once colonies and which are now ‘decolonised’ have at least two independence days: the date on which independence was declared and the date on which it was achieved. In the case of Peru both 1821 and 1824 (Battle of Ayacucho) are candidates: the former is observed. (Gran) Colombia on 20 July 1810 ceased or refused to recognise the Napoleonic takeover of the Spanish throne, but many remained loyal to the Spanish monarch, Ferdinand. It was nine years later on August 7 1819 that, following the defeat of Spanish forces in the Battle of Boyaca, the force under Bolivar gained independence for Colombian Creoles. Slaves and Indians had to wait a while longer. Bolivar was amongst the few landowners who freed their slaves at that time.

So if you are holding an event to mark Colombian independence spare a thought for August 7 as well and if you are, even now, composing your National Day speech you may find the following, slightly tongue in cheek, advice from a gringo colleague useful. Bear in mind that gringo ‘state of the union’ and ‘thanksgiving day’ speeches are similarly puffed-up and that South American politicians have no monopoly on conciseness.

However you will be criticised if you do not observe protocol, so here is a timeless guide to a possible structure. You can begin by mentioning a few immortal words by Miranda, Bolivar, Santander or other hero of emancipation, noting as you do so that the Colombian flag is based on the “Mirandian Colours” – yellow-gold, blue and red. It would be a nice touch at this point if you could get your young son to sing the little ditty known to all Colombian schoolchildren:

“YELLOW is our gold, BLUE is our vast seas (oceans) and RED is the blood that gave us our freedom... (from Spain)”

Protocol also, it seems, requires the following words to be embedded in the speech: sovereignty and justice; nobility, loyalty and vigilance; honour, generosity and a blood-soaked victory. These three groups of words could be seen as evocative of the three colours of the flag: gold (yellow), blue and red. Avoid substituting words or phrases of your choice: universal liberty, independence, freedom, equality, rule of law, bloodless change as these are considered ‘hostages to fortune’.

If you are giving the speech in Britain it might also be worth mentioning that Miranda, stretching a point, was British by virtue of his marriage (see Minkanews 24 April 2008 in Minkapedia) to Sarah Andrews who seems to be known only as the unsung, and of necessity abandoned, wife of Francisco Miranda, hero of Latin American independence. Miranda came to London 200 years ago and lived in Grafton Road with his wife and they were, it seems, for a while the centre of one of the early ‘Hispanic-American communities’ in London. The process of mestizaje (inter-marriage and cultural mixing) has continued to the point that there are several hundred thousand families here in the UK with part of their make-up, roots and heritage deriving from Latin America. They form a small but significant part of the UK (potential) electorate . . . Centuries earlier two of our greatest Elizabethans, Shakespeare and composer Purcell, were already dealing with the ‘new world’ -- Shakespeare had included a Miranda in the Tempest and Purcell composed his “Indian Queen” in honour of a great pre-Colombian goddess. It might also be noted that Miranda may well have written elements of the constitution in London, perhaps identifying the precise address in Grafton Way for effect. If you are Colombian ignore the fact that his house now belongs to the Venezuelan Embassy. And if your audience is Colombian on no account mention that Miranda and Bolivar were Venezuelan – concentrate on Santander. If you still have time to fill, a discourse on national dignity and the output of carnations would be appropriate.

Only mention the objective of regaining Panama if no Yankee is present. Oh, and Britain’s lead in the industrial revolution might well have been lost if a chance meeting in Colombia between Cornish steam-pump inventor Trevithick and locomotive engineer Stephenson had not taken place. It seems that the meeting had been in a bar in Cartagena or Baranquilla. British engineers are also credited with introducing football to Colombia. They were building a railroad near Barranquilla when they first played football there in 1903, and the Barranquilla FBC was founded in 1909. Colombians refuse to believe that they did not kick a ball about prior to 1903.

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