University Press of Florida
Modernization in Colombia : The Laureano Gómez Years, 1889-1965
Buy This Book ( Related URL )
Full Citation
Permanent Link:
 Material Information
Title: Modernization in Colombia : The Laureano Gómez Years, 1889-1965
Physical Description: Book
Language: en-US
Creator: Henderson, James D.
Publisher: University Press of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, FL
Publication Date: 2001
Subjects / Keywords: latin american history, Ogt+ ISBN: 9781616101220
Development, Latin American History
Abstract: The life of Laureano Gómez (1889-1965), Colombia’s combative Conservative politician and reviled public figure, serves as the backdrop for this modern history of one of the hemisphere's least understood nations. Tracing the complex process of development in Colombia, James Henderson explores the civil violence that defined the Gómez era even as the country experienced economic growth unparalleled in the rest of the Americas.
General Note: Expositive
General Note: Community College, Higher Education
General Note:
General Note: University Press of Florida UPF, James D. Henderson
General Note: Narrative text, Textbook
General Note:
General Note:
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: Copyright 2001 by James D. Henderson. This work is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit You are free to electronically copy, distribute, and transmit this work if you attribute authorship. However, …
Resource Identifier: isbn - 9781616101220
System ID: AA00011688:00001


This item is only available as the following downloads:

( PDF )

Full Text


Introduction | i Modernization in Colombia Florida A&M University, Tallahassee Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton Florida Gulf Coast University, Ft. Myers Florida International University, Miami Florida State University, Tallahassee University of Central Florida, Orlando University of Florida, Gainesville University of North Florida, Jacksonville University of South Florida, Tampa University of West Florida, PensacolaCopyright 2001 by James D. Henderson. This work is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution-NoncommercialNo Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit You are free to electronically copy, distribute, and transmit this work if you attribute authorship. However, all printing rights are reserved by the University Press of Florida ( Please contact UPF for information about how to obtain copies of the work for print distribution. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work). For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the University Press of Florida. Nothing in this license impairs or restricts the authors moral rights.


Modernization in ColombiaThe Laureano G—mez Years, 18891965James D. HendersonUniversity Press of FloridaGainesville Tallahassee Tampa Boca Raton Pensacola Orlando Miami Jacksonville Ft. Myers


Copyright 2001 by James D. Henderson Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper All rights reserved 06 05 04 03 02 01 6 5 4 3 2 1 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Henderson, James D. 1942 Modernization in Colombia: the Laureano Gmez years, 1889 / James D. Henderson. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-8130-1824-2 (alk. paper) 1. ColombiaHistory. 2. ColombiaHistory1946. 3. ColombiaHistory. 4. Gmez, Laureano, 1889965. I. Title. F2276.5.H46 2001 986.106dc21 00-051051 The University Press of Florida is the scholarly publishing agency for the State University System of Florida, comprising Florida A&M University, Florida Atlantic University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida International University, Florida State University, University of Central Florida, University of Florida, University of North Florida, University of South Florida, and University of West Florida. University Press of Florida 15 Northwest 15th Street Gainesville, FL 32611


This book is dedicated to the memory of my parents, James and Barbara Pardue Henderson


ContentsList of Illustrations ix Acknowledgments xi Introduction xiii I. Toward Modernity, 18891932 1.Fin de Sicle Colombia 1 2.Teaching the Generation of the Centenary 25 3.Reyes and Republicanism 49 4.The Bourgeois Republic 81 5.Money Comes to Colombia 114 6.Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority 154 II. The Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965 7.The Liberal Republic and Its Critics 191 8.A Society in Flux 239 9.Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days 286 10.Economic Progress and Social Change: From Ospina PŽrez to the National Front 325 11.Politics and Violence under G—mez and Rojas 348 12.A Time of Transition, 19571965 380 Epilogue: The Passing of the Centenarians 417 Appendix 1. Distribution of Violencia-Related Deaths by Department 423 Appendix 2. Violencia-Related Deaths by Year, 19471966 424 Appendix 3. Violencia-Related Deaths per 100,000 Population as a Percentage of 1960 and 1966 Intentional Deaths in Colombia; Intentional Deaths in Colombia Compared with Those in Other Countries 425 Notes 427 Bibliography 459 Index 485


Illustrations1.Physical map of Colombia 2 2.Political map of Colombia 3 3.Government soldiers during the War of the Thousand Days, circa 1901 43 4.Aristides Fern‡ndez, circa 1902 44 5.Bogot‡'s Calle Real, circa 1905 61 6.Laureano G—mez, 1921 112 7.Coffee harvesters 127 8.Formal photograph of an Antioquian campesino, circa 1920 128 9.Luis Jaramillo Walker, circa 1916 130 10.President Pedro Nel Ospina and Minister of Public Works Laureano G—mez in Bucaramanga, 1926 144 11.Ignacio Torres Giraldo, Mar’a Cano, Raœl Eduardo Mahecha, and Sof’a L—pez 165 12.Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n, 1946 292 13.Laureano G—mez at home, mid-1940s 297 14.Laureano G—mez and Mariano Ospina PŽrez shortly before April 9, 1948 308 15.Looters in Bogot‡, April 9, 1948 315 16.Alfonso L—pez Pumarejo and Mariano Ospina PŽrez, with President Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, May 1953 365 17.A guerrilla father greets his soldier son during the surrenders in Tolima, September 1953 367 18.Laureano G—mez and Alberto Lleras Camargo in Sitges, Spain, July 1957 383 19.The Carrera Thirty complex 415 20.Laureano G—mez congratulates Alfonso L—pez Pumarejo on the latter's receipt of a doctorate honoris causa, May 1962 419


AcknowledgmentsI am indebted to many people and institutions for their encouragement and support during my years of work on this book. My wife, Linda, my children, and my parents were especially understanding of my need to devote time and attention to "the G—mez study." My colleagues at Coastal Carolina University were supportive in many ways. Members of Coastal's Department of Politics and International Studies collegially supported my request for leave from teaching duties during 199091, when I wrote the first half of this volume. Our departmental administrative assistant, Bonnie Senser, was unfailingly helpful and good-humored. Faculty of the Reference Department at the university's Kimbel LibraryMargaret Fain, Marchita Phifer, and Blake Deeganhelped me locate hard-to-find volumes on Colombian history via interlibrary loan. Tabby Shelton spent many hours reformatting the manuscript. Colombianists Jane Rausch of the University of Massachusetts and Maurice Brungardt of Loyola University of New Orleans made invaluable suggestions in helping me ready the manuscript for publication. A great many Colombians aided my research. Especially helpful were Alvaro G—mez Hurtado, Roberto Herrera Soto, Alberto Bermœdez, and staff of the Sala de Investigadores of the National Library in Bogot‡. Institutional support was provided by both the University of South Carolina and Coastal Carolina University, and by my previous employer, Grambling State University in Louisiana. The American Philosophical Society, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board provided generous assistance that allowed me to work a total of three years on this project in Colombia, between 1980 and 1993. I am deeply grateful to all these people and institutions.


IntroductionColombia is a country best described in superlatives. Its mountains are South America's most verdant, its coffee the mildest, its red tape the most vexing, and its system of public transportation the world's cheapest and most accessible. Colombian history is the hemisphere's most confounding. And its transition to modernity has been the most abrupt. Over most of the present century its civil life has been the most consistently violent of any American republic. These things make Colombia an intriguing, compelling place, all the more so when one comes to know Colombians, their civility, their patience before adversity. The extraordinary complexity of Colombia's recent past stands in sharp contrast to the unremarkable character of its nineteenth-century history. As elsewhere in Latin America, the country's social calm was regularly punctuated by civil wars in which members of the social and political elite led armies in contests whose goal was overthrow of the central government. During lapses between civil wars, Colombian society reverted to its sleepy premodern character. Campesino soldiers put aside their rifles and returned to the land. Like the rest of Latin America, Colombia was an intensely rural place whose people were locked in a seignorial system characterized by extreme social inequality, hierarchy, and networks of reciprocal interdependence. Kinship ties, and those of clientage, were the chief forces of cohesion in the premodern nation. In the nineteenth century, before the rapid and violent social change that is the chief focus of this study, Colombia was more static than most other Latin American nations. Lacking lucrative exportscoffee not yet having loomed large in the national economyforeigners and foreign capital kept their distance. Colombians traveled little, for there was little reason to do so. Not much money circulated, and there were few consumer goods to be had, even by those lucky enough to possess discretionary income. Inward looking and parochial, Colombians were shut away in a mountain fastness that separated them almost as effectively from one another as from the wider world. The study that follows traces Colombia's transition from nineteenth-century social stasis, isolation, and poverty, to rapid integration into the global market economy during the first third of the twentieth century. Burgeoning


xiv | Introductioncoffee exports gave impetus to the physical development that national leaders had long sought. Thanks largely to coffee Colombia rapidly became a mobile and acquisitive society whose chief feature was an aggressive rural middle class. Conservative Party politician Laureano G—mez stands at the center of the present work. G—mez's life spanned the era during which Colombian society became increasingly individualized and violent. Thoroughly schooled in his country's tradition of political polemic shaped intellectually by militant Spanish Jesuits, young G—mez was encouraged by his elders to become a crusader for religiously orthodox approaches to national affairs. First a newspaperman, then a politician, Laureano G—mez became his nation's greatest orator and parliamentarian at a moment when eloquence in representative bodies was prized above all else. Laureano G—mez and his contemporaries, most notably Alfonso L—pez Pumarejo (18861959) and Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n (18981948), fought political battles during the 1930s and 1940s, while the masses looked on enthralled. The Conservative caudillo and his peers reveled in the politics of spectacle. Yet as men like G—mez dominated the public world, greater Colombia changed at an accelerating pace. Growing social pluralization coupled with an increasing spirit of individual self-interest were weakening popular loyalty to Colombia's traditional political elites. Laureano G—mez, leader of the Conservatives, along with his Liberal counterparts, wielded immense power and influence over a people rapidly outgrowing their quasi-democratic, oligarchic political system. Colombia's political elites, caught up in their bitter disputes, were on the way to becoming leaders with no followers. That dwindling of traditional loyalties became obvious during the eight years between 1949 and 1957, when greater society flourished in an ambience of political collapse and rural violence. That time of turmoil, the era of the Violencia, ultimately cost many thousand lives and destroyed the prestige of Colombia's traditional leadership class, especially that of Laureano G—mez, who was president during the most intense phase of the Violencia. Colombia experienced an economic boom in the years after World War II. Scholars have termed that period the Golden Age of Colombian industry. They were also years when burgeoning coffee production coincided with historic high prices, which in turn expanded and strengthened the class of yeoman farmers who produced it. Social indicators changed in equally dramatic fashion over the period. Whereas 61 percent of all Colombians lived in the countryside in 1951, only a third of them did so a generation later. Levels of infant mortality and illiteracy declined rapidly, and average life expectancy increased. A growing proportion of Colombia's children enrolled in elementary school, their numbers doubling from 55 percent in 1950 to 80 percent in 1980.1 Gross


Introduction | xvdomestic product (GDP) increased an extraordinary 5.6 percent annually between 1946 and 1955, and at 5.15 percent annually during the quarter-century that followed.2Great economic growth thus coincided with political collapse and rural violence. It was as if greater Colombia went about its business unconcerned that its once-revered public world was in ruin. The nation cheered when Laureano G—mez and his old Liberal foes reestablished amicable relations in 1957, and again when they launched the coalition National Front government a year later. But neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals recaptured their old constituencies, which together had once embraced the entire nation. By 1965, the time of G—mez's death, a politically alienated citizenry pursued its personal ends with indifference if not scorn for the nation's traditional institutions of governance. Gone was the old social tranquillity, gone was the once great public world. Colombian political arrangements no longer expressed the popular will. Over the remaining years of the century Colombian politicians struggled painfully toward creating a polity more responsive to the needs of their complex, pluralistic society, full of bellicose citizens. The present volume surveys social, political, and economic change in Colombia from the latter nineteenth century through the first two-thirds of the twentieth century. The first chapter examines a nation isolated from the Western capitalist world, one whose people lived for the most part at subsistence level. Racked by constant civil war, the country of Laureano G—mez's extreme youth was a quaint and primitive place where the well-to-do traveled over malodorous city streets on horseback, in carriages, or in sedan chairs, and where the rest made their way on foot. Reaching the national capital from any point outside Colombia required energy, dedication, and resources that few foreigners were willing to expend. Colombia of the 1880s was physically much the same as it had been over the previous three centuries. Turn-of-the-century elite culture and the process through which educated Colombians gained their political identities make up the bulk of chapter 2. Examined there are the high degree of cultural conformity within the elite, and the mechanism through which future political leadersLaureano G—mez and Alfonso L—pez among themwere politicized by men whose party allegiances had crystallized a half-century earlier. The implication of partisanship was strikingly revealed to schoolboys of the Generation of the Centenary during the War of the Thousand Days, a contest whose effects they witnessed in especially vivid ways. Chapter 2 also chronicles the process through which Colombia lost its province of Panama in 1903, and the impact of that loss on its citizenry. Colombia's Republican era is the focus of chapter 3. Republicanism is defined here as a widely shared impulse among influential Colombians to work


xvi | Introductionfor national progress in a bipartisan fashion. Thus construed, national leaders from Rafael Reyes, whose term began in 1904, through Miguel Abad’a MŽndez, whose presidential term expired in 1930, can be seen as sharing a Republican mentality. Personal and ideological differences notwithstanding, presidents of the 19041930 period tried above all else to help Colombia achieve physical progress. Collateral goals were to dampen destructive political partisanship and to improve relations with the United States. Rafael Reyes and Carlos E. Restrepo were Conservatives who governed with significant Liberal support and collaboration. Marco Fidel Su‡rez, Pedro Nel Ospina, and Abad’a MŽndez, who held office between 1918 and 1930, looked to foreign nations, especially the United States, to provide the investment Colombia needed to lift it out of isolation and backwardness. Chapter 3 also explores the early political career of Conservative firebrand Laureano G—mez. An enemy of Republicanism, G—mez and his allies attacked Republican bipartisanship as a form of apostasy and tarred as antipatriotic and venal those national leaders who sought accommodation with the United States. Chapter 4 examines the bourgeois cultural consensus prevailing in Colombia over the first quarter of the twentieth century. It finds great similarity between the attitudes of educated Colombians and attitudes of their counterparts in other parts of the Western world. The nation's leading thinkers were informed by deterministic social theory that had evolved from nineteenthcentury positivism. They believed, consequently, that the social, ethnic, and sexual inequality present in Colombian society was the inevitable product of natural selection. Also figuring in chapter 4 is treatment of Colombia's incipient social modernization during the first quarter of the century. The chapter ends with discussion of the tempestuous early political career of Laureano G—mez. Between 1912 and 1916, G—mez combated what he saw as the pernicious National Conservatism of party leader Marco Fidel Su‡rez, eventually suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of Su‡rez. G—mez persisted in his struggle against Su‡rez until 1921, when, aided by Liberal allies in Congress, he managed to drive his elderly adversary from the presidency. The epochal arrival of money in Colombia is the subject of chapter 5, which begins with consideration of businessman President Pedro Nel Ospina's effort to place his nation on a sound fiscal footing. There follows discussion of the origins of Colombia's economic bonanza of the mid-1920s, and the uses to which it was put. Special attention is given to the impact of money on Colombia's social structure, as well as to the psychological changes wrought when formerly impoverished citizens achieved relative affluence. Laureano G—mez came to appreciate money and its power during the 1920s. Chapter 5 chronicles his role in the expenditure of Colombia's $25 million Panama in-


Introduction | xviidemnity, and it suggests the use to which he eventually put the inheritance his family received in 1925. Chapter 6 examines both the immediate social consequences of Colombia's newfound wealth, and events surrounding Liberal victory in the presidential contest of 1930. Thoroughgoing economic change in Colombia intensified social inequalities that energized the nation's nascent labor movement. Hidebound Conservative regimes of the 1920s were threatened by organized labor, which they feared was suffused with a spirit of revolutionary socialism. Hence they discouraged labor organization and employed public force to break strikes, sometimes violently. The chapter concludes with discussion of Conservative loss of power in 1930, and the first two years of the Liberal Olaya Herrera presidency. It is shown that Olaya, who enjoyed Conservative support during the first half of his term, was successful in attenuating effects of the Great Depression in Colombia. At the same time neither he nor members of his Conservative coalition could contain political violence that attended the change of regime. In that sense the nation's political elites were as much victims of their highly politicized system as were humble Colombians, who suffered the violence of 19301932. Chapter 7 treats political aspects of the 1930s, giving special attention to the Liberal Party reforms of that decade and to Conservative Party opposition to them. Chapter 8 takes up economic and social change during the 1930s and 1940s, and the passionate attack on Liberal Party rule led by Laureano G—mez. Chapter 9 concerns the appearance of the Violencia, a breakdown of civil order heightened by the assassination of Liberal leader Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n in April 1948. Chapter 10 takes up Colombian economic development and social change during the latter 1940s and 1950s. Politics during the 1950s is the subject of chapter 11. Chapter 12 deals with the National Front government and its operation during its first years. It also assesses national socioeconomic and cultural development between 1958 and 1965. The epilogue assesses the role of the Generation of the Centenary in Colombian history, and that of Laureano G—mez in particular.


1Fin de Sicle ColombiaColombia and the Wider WorldRemarkable forces were afoot in the world as Laureano G—mez began his life in 1889. A historical process long under way in the West had raised Great Britain, Germany, France, and other nations of the European metropolis to the height of power and influence. Europeans had mastered all other peoples through conquest, colonization, and commerce. Now, at century's end, they dazzled the rest with wondrous inventions. Physicians announced cures for diseases that had ever afflicted humankind. Steam and internal combustion engines revolutionized transportation, and inventors were soon to successfully test the airplane. Telephones and undersea telegraph cables had been in operation for several decades, and in France the Curies were involved in their study of radioactivity. Abroad, Europeans were extending their civilization, by force where necessary, into Asia and Africa. They happily bore the "white man's burden" in the service of their respective fatherlands. This was the European Age, the Europe that held the world of young Laureano G—mez in its thrall. If northern Europe stood atop the Western cultural and economic system in those years, Colombia languished near the bottom. As a former dependency of Spain, Catholic Europe's leader in combating the Protestant heresy in the sixteenth century and Enlightenment rationalism in the seventeenth and eighteenth, Colombia1 had been intentionally isolated from the forces setting northern Europe on the path toward world domination. Colombians did not challenge the social, ideological, or economic structures implanted throughout Spanish America at the moment of discovery. Conformity and control were watchwords through the centuries that witnessed dramatic change in those parts of Europe that would lead the world into the modern industrial age. Colombia's disadvantageous place in the Eurocentric world of the late nineteenth century is nowhere more clearly revealed than in the area of economic development. Looking eastward toward Africa and westward toward the Pacific, Colombia and the rest of Latin America were isolated and distant from major commercial centers. Even before the precious metals once important to Europe's expansion were exhausted, Latin America played a minor role in


1. Physical map of Colombia.


2. Political map of Colombia.


4 | Toward Modernity, 18891932world commerce. Its share of global trade averaged but 11 percent throughout the eighteenth century, and declined sharply thereafter. No significant regional export appeared in the nineteenth century, with the result that by the 1880s the region's share in world trade was a paltry 5 percent of the global total, less than half that of Germany alone.2 And this decline occurred over 100 years, during which global trade increased fiftyfold.3Colombia was perhaps Latin America's least-favored large state during the century of explosive growth in world trade. Save for its tobacco, which enjoyed some success in international markets in the nineteenth century, the nation possessed little of interest to the metropolis. And owing to its broken terrain, poor roads, and stormy political climate, it was virtually inaccessible to foreign capital. Colombians would eventually seize on coffee as their lucrative export, but coffee would not dominate Colombia's economy until the twentieth century. Educated Colombians complained about a national commercial "paralysis" that condemned citizens living in even the most favored parts of the country to a primitive existence entirely unbefitting the age in which they lived. As one writer put it, his fellow citizens were sunk in "an inertia and depressing status quo," dwelling in "sad and indolent thatched-roofed hamlets as in colonial times."4People of the Andean nation had as much trouble internalizing the liberal ethos then dominant in the West as they did finding their place in the world economic system. Shortly before Laureano was born, Colombia settled into a spell of conservative rule destined to last for nearly half a century, ending only in 1930. Political liberalism, in control from 1853 and vigorous during the 1860s and '70s, lost its drive and confidence in the 1880s, defeated not so much because of the inferiority of their program as by the nation's inability to implement it. Colombia simply lacked the economic infrastructure to integrate itself into the world market or a social structure that could adapt to liberalism's egalitarian premises. Small gains made during the Liberal ascendance were wiped out by incessant civil wars. Such was hardly the case in Europe, where liberalism had long since triumphed. In Great Britain, Sweden, Norway, Germanyand even in eastern European countries such as Serbialiberal parties and liberal constitutions were the norm. Church was being separated from state, and the status quo was successfully challenged in countless other ways. As Colombians were signaling their inability to effect the program of nineteenth-century liberalism, whether economic, political, or social, Europeans were moving beyond liberalism. Socialist ideas were gaining currency among an urban proletariat that long had viewed the prevailing philosophy as a smoke screen masking their exploitation by the moneyed classes. Bismarck had become so concerned over the militancy of German workers that he attempted to outlaw socialism in 1876. Social democratic parties were founded


Fin de Sicle | 5in both Sweden and Great Britain in the year of Laureano G—mez's birth, and in the latter nation organized labor paralyzed industry in the great London dock strike of 1889. That same year the Second International was founded in Paris, and much farther eastward there were antimetropolitan rumblings of a related but distinct kind. East Indians were in open revolt against the Dutch, Indians met in their first National Congress, and Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen laid the groundwork for his uprising against avaricious foreigners. In all these ways peoples of Europe and elsewhere heralded the great issues of the coming century. In Colombia there were few portents of the coming era. There were no factories, no labor unions, no socialist parties, no urbanization. Colombia in the late 1880s was a place far from the modern world, sunk in a solitude that had lasted not one but four hundred years. Ambitious men were frustrated by that state of affairs, though there was little they could do about it. One such man was the father of Laureano G—mez. JosŽ G—mez, a tradesman of modest means, lived in Oca–a, in the department of Santander, lying not far from the R’o Magdalena.Oca–a to Bogot‡Oca–a was a provincial town on the road linking Cartagena with Caracas to the west, and with the mountainous interior of the country to the south. By the mid-nineteenth century Oca–a had lost the importance it had enjoyed in earlier times. More direct routes to Venezuela were opened, and steamboats made travel to Bogot‡ via the R’o Magdalena infinitely preferable to the overland journey. As Oca–a drifted into the backwater of national history, ambitious residents like the merchant jeweler JosŽ Laureano G—mez grew restless and irritable. It didn't take much to make JosŽ G—mez angry. People around Oca–a had learned to tell when the businessman was in one of his foul moods and did their best to avoid him on such days, sometimes crossing the street to do so. Family members knew even before he reached home when JosŽ G—mez's day had not gone well. Upon arriving home the irascible Oca–ero was in the habit of announcing his presence by hurling his hat into the front patio ahead of him and stalking off to his private quarters. His wife, Dolores Castro, described as an intelligent and prudent woman, spared no effort in placating him. Knowing that her husband liked his eggs boiled to a certain firmness, for example, she went so far as to purchase hens whose eggs she thought would lend themselves to proper preparation.5Conservative by family tradition, JosŽ G—mez shared the belief of economic liberals that Colombia, and his quiet hometown of Oca–a, should be much more prosperous than they were in 1888. In fact his bad temper may have been


6 | Toward Modernity, 18891932as much a function of Colombia's economic stagnation, incessant civil wars, and intractability before the forces of change, as of personal idiosyncrasy. JosŽ G—mez's father was also an impatient man, and something of a visionary as well. Once he constructed a flying machine modeled on da Vinci's famous design. He built it of wood and cloth and had two slaves carry it to a nearby mountain where he attempted a spectacularly unsuccessful takeoff. Unfortunately the fabric used to cover the wings proved too heavy for the task at hand. As with so much in the Colombia of those times, vision and enthusiasm weren't sufficient to overcome errors of technique and lack of appropriate technology. It was a point hardly lost on the grandfather of Laureano G—mez as he limped home assisted by servants who were doubtless both chagrined and amused by their master's folly. By mid-1888, Oca–a had become burdensome to JosŽ Laureano G—mez. His business, built around the sale of gold and silver filigree that he had fabricated in the river town of Momp—s, was in decline. And there was nothing suggesting that Oca–a would ever regain its old prosperity. His family was growing too. The news that his wife was pregnant with their third child set the jeweler wondering whether he shouldn't reestablish his business elsewhere, perhaps in Bogot‡, where he had commercial ties. His plan to leave crystallized on a day when Oca–eros were busy celebrating a fiesta whose high point was a parade of garish papier-m‰chŽ figures called gigantes y cabezudos (giants and big-heads). The figures were usually made in the likenesses of celebrated national and local figures, but local wits also liked to include caricatures of the town's more notable characters as well. Thus only one person was surprised to see included among the big-heads Oca–a's irascible jeweler, its painted green eyes bloodshot and bulging, the citizen wearing it ranting and cavorting in an altogether amusing manner. There is no record of JosŽ G—mez's reaction at the moment of self-recognition. But ever afterward family members relished recounting the story of his return home. His hat arrived first with unprecedented velocity. Summoning his wife and servants, his face flushed and his pale eyes bulging, he announced in stentorian tones, "We're moving to Bogot‡. This town has become unbearable!" Traveling as he was, with considerable luggage, his wife, children, and family retainers, JosŽ G—mez chose the more economical land route to Bogot‡. It was a journey not to be taken lightly, for it extended 600 kilometers along trails winding ever higher into the eastern cordillera of the Colombian Andes. One could never be certain that accommodations were available at villages along the way, or even that accidents en route wouldn't force travelers to camp under the stars or in a freezing downpour. Landslides were an ever present danger, and when rivers and streams were swollen the traveler simply waited


Fin de Sicle | 7until they could be forded. Everyone rode armed because there was also the possibility of being waylaid along some lonely stretch of trail. Such were the realities of cross-country travel in late-nineteenth-century Colombia. The party that departed Oca–a in mid-1888 first moved eastward across the piedmont of the cordillera over countless ridges and valleys. At one point the trail wound through a desolate 100-kilometer stretch, rising to an altitude of more than 2,500 meters. Then it descended until reaching the town of Cœcuta, not far from the Venezuelan border. From Cœcuta, capital of Santander del Norte, the road turned southward toward the town of Pamplona, two days' ride away. Pamplona marked the beginning of the most arduous part of the trip. From there the road to Bogot‡ branched, with a longer though slightly easier route taking travelers westward through Bucaramanga, Socorro, and Barbosa. The more direct road ran due south over the P‡ramo de Almorzadero, down through arid canyons of the R’o Chicamocha, and then up again into the highlands of Boyac‡. Both roads finally converged in the city of Tunja, former center of Chibcha Indian culture. JosŽ G—mez chose the more difficult, more direct route. Departing Pamplona, itself lying at an elevation of 2,300 meters, the travelers spent the first day climbing toward the p‡ramo, a treeless plain swept by icy winds and rain, frequently obscured by blowing fog and mist. The P‡ramo de Almorzadero was part of the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, which lay along its eastern edge. For two days they braved unending cold before finally descending into M‡laga, a pleasant town in the valley of the R’o Servit‡. After resting in M‡laga they set out for Sogamoso, five days' hard ride up the canyon of the R’o Chicamocha, always skirting the massif of El Cocuy. It was on that leg of the trip that the party noticed riders following them at some distance. Fearing the worst, they left the trail and took refuge in a cave they found high on the valley wall, where they hid until the potential danger passed. The vignette was a favorite of Laureano G—mez, who liked to recall that there in the cave his father had discovered a rich vein of emerald-bearing rock. Carefully recording the cave's location by sighting the 5,000-meter snowcapped mountain El Cocuy to the northeast, he vowed someday to return and claim the treasure. At length the party left their cave and the canyon, and emerged in the cool highlands of Boyac‡. They had reached the Colombian heartland. In relatively quick succession they passed through the mountain towns of Paz del R’o, Sogamoso, Duitama, and Paipa, at last entering Tunja, the capital of Boyac‡, then populated by some 5,300 souls. The end of the journey was in sight. More than three weeks had passed, sixteen days of which had been spent on muleback. But still one more ordeal lay ahead. Two days' travel south of Tunja, over


8 | Toward Modernity, 18891932the battlefield where Bol’var insured Colombia's independence sixty-nine years earlier, past the market town of Ventaquemada, lay another p‡ramo that of Chocont‡. A French traveler of the same epoch recorded his impressions of that particular part of the route followed by JosŽ G—mez and his party in 1888. Explorer Gaspard Mollien was at once appalled by the roads of Boyac‡ and filled with admiration for the Colombians who braved them. He was particularly awed by the valor of several women in his party who carried small children in their arms. "In spite of the constant danger," he wrote, "they laughed and sang with the same joy as if they rode in the best carriages and on the best highways of France." Of the landscape itself he wrote: "It is cold on the p‡ramo of Chocont‡, and the wind blows with as much force as on the seashore. A fine, cold rain froze on our faces and hands. The soil is black, the land rolling, like dunes. The grass is so fine that footprints of travelers disappear as rapidly as in the sands of African deserts."6The European marveled both at the "frightening cold" of highland Colombia, and at the hardiness of native populations who withstood it, all the while lightly dressed and scorning fires as detrimental to their health. In a vignette that might well have been told by JosŽ G—mez, Mollien described the happy ending of a p‡ramo night that did not begin at all well. Although he was fully dressed, wrapped in several wool blankets, and occupying the most sheltered spot in the hut, he was "numb with cold," miserable, and unable to sleep. Fortunately, as he recalled it, "our host had the singular idea of raising a large number of cats and training them to sleep on the feet of travelers. Thus two of them climbed up on me and thanks to the heat from those small animals I was finally able to warm up."7A month had passed since the G—mez family had set out from Oca–a, but at last Bogot‡ was close at hand. Descending from the p‡ramo down through the village of SesquilŽ, they entered the broad, fertile highland plain known as the Sabana de Bogot‡. Some eighty kilometers from north to south and fifty from east to west, it was the first flat land they had seen since leaving Cœcuta. Slowly they rode among fields of corn, sesame, wheat, and barley, eventually reaching the village of UsaquŽn, fifteen kilometers from the capital. Another ten kilometers took them to a cluster of houses at the outskirts of the city, a place named Chapinero for the club-footed blacksmith whose shop once stood there. From there the steeple of Bogot‡'s cathedral was visible, and soon the red tile roofs of the city could be seen in the distance. In less than an hour their mules were clattering over the rude bridge spanning San Diego Creek (Quebrada de San Diego), near the church after which both bridge and stream were named. The mountains were close now, the city nestled against a range of 1,000-meter peaks rising just to the east. The San Diego, and its larger sister streams, the


Fin de Sicle | 9San Francisco and San Agust’n, a few blocks further south, flowed down from those mountains and through the city, joining the meandering R’o Bogot‡ out on the Sabana. The noise, congestion, and squalor greeting JosŽ G—mez's companions upon entering Colombia's capital that afternoon was probably shocking to them, following so closely their weeks of sylvan travel. Though it contained barely 100,000 residents, Bogot‡ consisted of a congested 193 blocks, arranged in a rough rectangle along the mountains. The city's population density, at more than 400 inhabitants per hectare, would never be greater than it was in Bogot‡ in the late nineteenth century.8Traffic was by tradition heaviest in the city's major artery, the Calle Real, which ran north and south through Bogot‡, and down which JosŽ G—mez and his party picked their way. Crowds of Bogotanos jostled for precedence in the dusty, ill-paved thoroughfare. Most of the pedestrians were short and somber, and both men and women bent under some burden. Their swarthy features bespoke Indian ancestry. Along the sidewalks street vendors hawked their wares, and beggars, some seated, some ambulatory, exhibited festering sores, or hands and feet ravaged by leprosy. Here and there drunks slept off effects of the popular indigenous brew called chicha. Several plazas opened on the Calle Real. Those too teemed with humanity, for they were places where country people sold foodstuffs to the urban dwellers. Only recently had the practice of using the principal plazas as markets been banned as unhygienic and anti-aesthetic. Tiring of the garbage piled in the Parque Santander, near the center of town, some Bogotano adorned the statue of the revered Santander with a straw hat and ruana, and hung a sign around its neck reading, "If you don't clean this place up, I'm leaving."9 City fathers responded to the threat, and when JosŽ and Dolores G—mez passed the park that afternoon in 1888, it was relatively clean and uncongested. Adding to the difficulty of traveling the length of Bogot‡'s main street, filled as it was with human and animal traffic, was the fact that it was being excavated all along its length. The first of the iron tubes destined to bring drinking water to the center of the city were being laid, and clouds of dirt and dust hung in the air, unpleasant byproducts of urban development. Over the coming year nearly a third of the city would be served by underground water pipes, laid by the newly incorporated Compa–’a de Acueducto de Bogot‡.10Colombia's capital was, in short, everything that Oca–a was not. Its bustle suggested that it was the sort of place where an enterprising small-town businessman like JosŽ G—mez could make good. Musing on all this the father of Laureano G—mez led his group down the Calle Real, past the Plaza de Bol’var, past the presidential residence, and across the malodorous R’o San Agust’n. Ultimately they reached barrio Santa B‡rbara, where a rented house awaited


10 | Toward Modernity, 18891932them. Dusk was falling. The city's street lights were just being lighted as the party from Oca–a reached its destination.The Highways of ColombiaThe trip from Oca–a to Bogot‡ had taken JosŽ G—mez and his family through the easternmost of three Andean ranges spreading through the country along north-south axes. Had they continued beyond Bogot‡, they would have descended the eastern cordillera to the R’o Magdalena valley, Colombia's river link with the outside world. Scattered along the upper reaches of the valley were Neiva, IbaguŽ, Girardot, and Honda, the latter town being the head of navigation for traffic moving upriver from the port of Barranquilla. Two other important population centers, Popay‡n and Cali, lay hard days' travel across the Central Cordillera in the upper R’o Cauca valley. Medell’n, Colombia's second city and center of rapidly spreading coffee cultivation, lay 460 kilometers north of Cali. A popular route to the capital of Antioquia was that up from Puerto Berr’o, on the Magdalena. With the exception of towns on the Magdalena below Honda, virtually all inland population centers were reached only by horseor muleback, or on foot. While Colombia did have a few scattered railroads in 1889, they were short lines, used chiefly to move freight to R’o Magdalena ports.11Colombia's broken terrain and constant civil wars had frustrated national economic development throughout the nineteenth century. That stagnation was evidenced not only in the relative absence of rail lines, but in the generally atrocious state of all the nation's roads. The lack of transportation links was a fact of life in Colombia that became increasingly galling as railroads revolutionized travel in other American republics. At the end of the century the United States had a staggering 300,000 kilometers of track, while Argentina had 20,000. Meanwhile, Colombia had a risible 565 kilometers. But Colombia's failure to build railroads wasn't for want of effort. In 1884 a major attempt was made to link Girardot with Bogot‡. The Baldwin Locomotive Works in the United States was contracted to supply the rail and equipment, and Colombians prepared the roadbeds, cut crossties, and built station houses. All was in readiness, even down to the detail of tickets and ticket punches on counters in the stations, when word arrived that the rails arriving in Girardot were too heavy to transport by muleback. The decision was made to have smaller rails manufactured at the newly opened Subachoque ironworks. But civil war began early in 1885, causing what would lengthen to a twenty-fouryear suspension of the project.12Well into the nineteenth century Colombia's most important land route, that lying between the capital and Honda, had sections in such disrepair that


Fin de Sicle | 11human porters bore travelers over parts that were unsafe even on muleback. A North American engineer traveling what he referred to as the "so-called road from the capital to Honda" in the 1860s found that goods imported from the United States were frequently cheaper in Honda than were comparable items brought down from the Sabana de Bogot‡.13 Twenty years later a trade commissioner named William Elroy Curtis, sent south by U.S. President Chester A. Arthur "to bring our Spanish-American neighbors into closer commercial and political relations with us," described the way agricultural implements, carriages and other passenger vehicles, "all [having] been imported from the United States or England," were transported to Bogot‡: "They [are] brought to Honda by the river steamers, packed in small sections, and thence lugged over the mountains piece by piece. One peon will carry a wheel, another an axle, a third a coupling-pole or single-tree, and the screws and bolts are packed in small boxes on cargo mules. The upper part or body of the vehicle is likewise taken to pieces and packed in sections. One man will sometimes be a month in carrying a wagon-wheel from Honda to the plain. His method is to carry it some 50 or 100 paces and then rest, making sometimes less than two miles a day."14Yet another visitor, writing in the year of Laureano G—mez's birth, described the dire economic consequences of the nation's primitive transportation network: "Perhaps the chief impediment to the extension of trade in Colombia during the past year has been the terrible condition of the chief roads of the country. The road between Honda and Bogot‡, certainly the most important in Colombia, has been allowed, through neglect, to fall into such a condition as to be almost impassable. . The time occupied in transporting goods over that short distance has been greater than that taken from Europe to Honda."15The road itself was described by Curtis as "alternating between deep valleys and dizzying mountain peaks." There were places, he wrote, where it was "little else than a trail, not wide enough in many places for two mules to walk abreast, and so tortuous and precipitous as to be impassable except on the backs of animals trained to the road."16 Curtis did admit that the inconveniences and hardships of the journey were compensated by the captivating scenery along the way. However, that was faint praise indeed, especially when it rang in the ears of men like JosŽ Laureano G—mez, and all the others impatient to see Colombia join the modern age.Colombia in RegenerationAs the decade of Laureano G—mez's birth dawned, Colombian leaders despaired over their inability to achieve either order or progress. From the time the Liberal Party gained power in 1860, subsequently imposing on the nation


12 | Toward Modernity, 18891932a constitution notable for its extreme federalism and weak central government, the Rionegro Constitution of 1863, Colombia had drifted in a lethargy punctuated only by sporadic partisan clashes, one of which grew into a fullscale revolution. In the unsuccessful Conservative revolution of 1876, rebel soldiers marched with pictures of Jesus and Pope Pius IX, and banners proclaiming that they fought in the name of God. Members of the ecclesiastical community openly supported the uprising, which had as one of its causes Liberal legislation promoting secular education.17Members of the Colombian elite were sincere in their political beliefs, Liberals stressing decentralization of state power, economic and personal liberty, and Conservatives defending prerogatives of the Church and opposing social secularization and weakening of social hierarchies. Still the Liberal-Conservative debate in Colombia had a certain artificiality about it. As members of the opposing bands fought for control of the state, shedding blood and expending scarce resources, they did so in a social setting virtually unchanged from colonial times. There was no emergent middle class in Colombia as there was in Europe, where triumphant bourgeois revolutionaries forced anciens rŽgimes to free them from feudal restraints and to allow them a voice in government. The process of social diversification, born of the commercial revolution to which Europe owed its global dominance, had not yet taken place in Colombia. Political debate there was a "conversation among gentlemen," as one writer phrased it.18 The debate over liberal and conservative principles was an intraelite affair in which traditional leaders of society fought to impose their ideals as they marched at the head of peasant armies whose cadres were clients first and co-ideologists second. Under such circumstances it is hardly surprising that by the 1880s, Colombian Liberals had not achieved the successes of their European counterparts. Not only was their movement severely weakened by the absence of a selfsufficient middle class, but their programs were constantly stymied by an articulate and aggressive Conservative Party that enjoyed considerable support among the peasantry. The Conservatives had been astute in turning the Liberals' vaunted federalism against them. As soon as the Constitution of 1863 was implemented, they wrested control of several important states away from the ruling party. Especially galling to Liberals was their failure in the area of economics. For at least a hundred years it had been an article of faith among liberals everywhere in the Western world that the freeing of trade through the lowering of tariffs and other such artificial restraints would invigorate commerce. A nation like Colombia would act on its natural advantage in supplying products such as tobacco, quinine, and coffee to the world market, thus fixing itself securely in the Western commercial network. The theory was sound in the sense that


Fin de Sicle | 13raw materials enjoyed a comparative price advantage over manufactured goods throughout the late nineteenth century. Suggestive of that fact were the booms in Argentine beef, Canadian wheat, and Peruvian fertilizers that drew large quantities of foreign capital into those countries during the 1880s. Yet Colombia had been unable to profit from those favorable conditions. Tobacco and quinine prices were in decline by 1880, coffee exports had increased but slowly throughout the 1870s, and there was a severe scarcity of investment capital owing to laws permitting the export of bullion, adherence to a gold standard, and absence of a national banking system. Confronted by the failure of Liberal political, economic, and social programs, influential members of the Colombian elite prepared to undertake a drastic restructuring of the state. That task, which came to be known as the Regeneration, fell to Liberal politician Rafael Nœ–ez, who was elected president in 1880. Nœ–ez had been active in politics for nearly thirty years, first serving in Conservative cabinets during the 1850s. Shortly after the Liberals seized power following the civil war of 1860, Nœ–ez left Colombia to serve as commercial representative in the United States, and later in Le Havre and Liverpool. During his eleven years abroad he meditated on national politics while maintaining political visibility through essays published in Colombian newspapers. When he returned home in 1874, as civil war again approached, Nœ–ez intensified his criticism of the political turmoil plaguing Colombia. The thrust of his writings was that economic progress and greater state control were inextricably linked. By 1878, Nœ–ez led a reformist Liberal faction known as the Independents. In that year he delivered a speech in which he warned, "we have reached a point at which we are confronted by this specific dilemma: [either we achieve] fundamental administrative regeneration, or [we suffer] catastrophe."19 In Nœ–ez's view, actual dissolution of Colombia was a distinct possibility. "Rather than a great national boundary we have many local boundaries," he wrote. "Instead of an army, we have nine. And every two years at election time we hear talk of one state preparing military campaigns against another, or against the central government."20When he won his first two-year term as president in 1880, Nœ–ez undertook a program that within eight years would strengthen the central government at the expense of the states, renew and invigorate church-state links, and abandon extreme laissez-faire policies. Nœ–ez's Liberal Independents were joined by moderate Conservatives, and the two factions would declare themselves the Nationalist Party in 1888. Rafael Nœ–ez's movement to the right reflected both his personal metamorphosis and the conservatizing of liberalism going on everywhere in the West during the latter nineteenth century. Among the forces accounting for this shift was the fear among elites that unless checked democracy would lead to mob


14 | Toward Modernity, 18891932rule. No less a personage than John Stuart Mill had become convinced by the 1870s that the masses must be reined in through such devices as granting a weighted vote to the moneyed classes. Colombia of course had no aggressive proletariat at the time Mill called for limits on British democracy. But the newfound conservatism of Mill and many other European liberals did make it easier for men like Nœ–ez to find common ground with Conservatives, who had always mistrusted democracy. Western liberals drew motive force for their rightward movement in the ideological complex known as positivism. Historian Charles Hale has explained that Latin American liberals found comfort in Auguste Comte's teaching that mankind was moving inexorably toward an era of generalized wellbeing characterized by rational, "scientific" management of politics and society.21 Whether through institutional arrangements or imposition of a benevolent dictatorship, progressive-minded leaders were certain that they could force their nations into the modern age. In Mexico, Porfirio D’az and his coterie of technocrats, the cient’ficos (scientists), oversaw industrialization of the country. Brazil's development was directed by a military elite that went so far as to emblazon the Comtean slogan "order and progress" on their national banner. In Colombia it was the "Regenerator," Rafael Nœ–ez, who laid the groundwork for progress in a new national constitution drawn up in 1886. The Constitution of 1886 became a reality during Nœ–ez's second term as president. Members of his party's left, or Radical wing, rose in rebellion against the government early in 1885, just six months after he had assumed office. They were angered at Nœ–ez's betrayal of their cause, especially as manifested in his appointment of Conservatives to high office. The Radicals did themselves no favor, for in turning on their moderate copartisan they forced him into even greater reliance on the Conservatives. The uprising was crushed rather easily, and by September of that year Nœ–ez could announce that the Liberal Rionegro Constitution had "ceased to exist." "Soon the people will give themselves a new one," he added, "one which will satisfy their true needs and will reflect the inclinations of the great majority of the Colombian people."22The constitution drawn up by Nœ–ez's constituent assembly and presented to the nation in mid-1886 reflected the statist, conservative shift in late-nineteenth-century Latin American political thought. It strengthened the central government, especially the office of the president. Many offices that had previously been elective became appointive. New restrictions were placed on the franchise, as well as on freedom of speech. Especially significant was the renewed emphasis given the Church as a leading institution of government. Himself a skeptic, Nœ–ez took a functional view of religion, seeing it as an instrument for harmonizing class intereststhe "knife fight between the masses and


Fin de Sicle | 15the socioeconomic elite" that he had observed during his years in Europe.23 He advocated a practical Christianity that would fill the "moral vacuum" he perceived in modern society. It was in that spirit that he favored constitutional provisions making Roman Catholicism the state religion, and requiring that all public education in Colombia conform to Church doctrine. Within a year of the constitution's ratification, Colombia had signed a concordat with the Vatican giving the Church considerable freedom from state control, remitting national moneys to it for the support of its works, and returning to it property confiscated during the era of Liberal rule. Nœ–ez perceived himself as the man Colombia needed to reconcile and harmonize national institutions. By bringing together church and state and the two parties he saw himself playing a necessary role in smoothing the way for his country's evolution toward the stage of development already reached by nations like England and the United States. His was a Spencerian view that individuals were organic parts of greater society. Their personal advancement, and that of society at large, were necessarily achieved harmoniously rather than through struggle. Prudence, restraint, and morality were qualities that Nœ–ez sought to make part of Colombian institutions. For philosophers, he wrote, "the six words justice, security, order, stability, liberty, and progress have a single and identical meaning."24Three years before he was able to carry out his reform, Nœ–ez wrote an essay in which he gave an economic justification for reform. Titled "Let Us Work Together," the piece began with a gloomy assessment of Colombia's economic backwardness: "We lack industry because we have neither machinery, nor technological skill, nor personal security, nor other indispensable things. We annually import goods valued at twelve million pesos, for which we cannot pay because costly and slow means of transportation place our export goods at a disadvantage with respect to similar goods from other countries." He pointed out that Mexico, Argentina, and Chile had entered a new era thanks chiefly to railroads that had helped bring both prosperity and peace. "For Colombia," he concluded, "the moment has come to enter the mainstream unless we want to find ourselves left behind, immobilized like stakes driven into the shore." Continuing the metaphor, he likened Colombia to "a ship tossed by a dangerous storm: Either we weather it or we go to the bottom."25Economic reform figured prominently in the Regeneration. Among Nœ–ez's first actions to stimulate the economy was the establishment of a national bank in 1881. At about the same time, he took Colombia off the gold standard and soon introduced the use of paper currency. He imposed tariffs to encourage infant industry, and imposed internal taxes that increased national revenues, although not enough to offset deficits. Nœ–ez also did his best to promote


16 | Toward Modernity, 18891932railroad construction, though his early attempts were frustrated by the Liberal uprising of 1885. He continued his efforts, however, and by the end of the 1890s, there were some 650 kilometers of track in Colombia, more than double the amount laid in 1885.26Modernizing ElitesThe Regeneration was a series of measures through which modernizing elites rationalized the state to the end of achieving the progress they saw as desirable, necessary, and inevitable. It was part of a process of state making that continues today, though in an atmosphere less heady than that of the Eurocentric world of Nœ–ez's day. Modern scholars point out that Nœ–ez and his immediate successors failed to achieve a great deal through their reforms. Nœ–ez was unable to raise much money with his protective tariff, his national bank seemed to cause nothing but inflation, and industrialization was thwarted because there was no infrastructure to support it. And before the Regenerator was ten years in his grave, a new series of disasters would befall the nation. Yet Colombians had no way of knowing that in the early 1890s. To them the future didn't appear so gloomy. In fact many of them were encouraged and pleased by the changes they saw taking place around them. Typical of the optimistic Regeneration-era Colombian was eighteen-yearold Julio Palacio, who bragged of his "record-breaking" four-day trip from Bogot‡ to Barranquilla on the Caribbean coast in 1890. A ninety-kilometer leg of his journey, from Facatativ‡, on the Sabana, down to Honda, was made in an astonishing fourteen hours. That could only have been done on a trail markedly improved over the one existing there a decade earlier. In Honda, Palacio noted the "intense, almost feverish commercial activity" of the river port, an early consequence of the boom in coffee export that would revolutionize national finances in coming decades.27 Coffee exports tripled over the eight years between 1887 and 1894, swelling from 111,000 to 338,000 sacks. By 1898 the total rose to more than half a million sacks.28 In the opinion of Antonio Rold‡n, a prominent Nationalist politician of the day, it was Nœ–ez's paper money regime that fueled the expansion of coffee cultivation. His only complaint was of the scarcity of labor caused by peasants who, encouraged by homestead laws passed in the 1870s and 1880s, poured into the cool coffeeproducing highlands.29There were other signs of the industrial progress that Colombian leaders yearned for. Both the National School of Mines and the Colombian Society of Engineers were founded in 1887. Two years later the United Fruit Company incorporated in Colombia, and in the same year a plant producing sulfuric acid was in production in Bogot‡. In 1891 the Kopp Bavaria opened in the outskirts


Fin de Sicle | 17of Bogot‡. The new brewery represented progress of a tangible and especially welcome sort. For the first time Colombians could drink a hygienically prepared beverage far safer than the fermented indigenous drink chicha, which was prepared under unsanitary conditions. The nation was, in short, slowly and painfully taking on the accouterments of modern life. A clear indication that times were changing appeared in the form of newspaper advertisements touting new products of modern technology. Aware even in the 1890s that the endorsement of local celebrities would enhance sales, the marketers of new products prevailed upon well-known local figures to endorse their wares. Kopp Bavaria secured the support of Minister of Foreign Relations Marco Fidel Su‡rez. In Su‡rez they had one of the bright lights of Regeneration-era politics, a protŽgŽ of acting president Miguel Antonio Caro. Su‡rez obligingly supplied Kopp executives the following endorsement: "I certify that thanks to the use of Bavaria beer, there has been a marked improvement in the dyspepsia from which I've long suffered. Foreign beers do not help, and instead aggravate my condition."30Su‡rez's endorsement prompted another literate Bogotano to respond in print chiding the minister for inelegance, even poor taste in writing "I suffer from dyspepsia," and warning Su‡rez that he jeopardized his well-earned reputation as a grammarian and literary stylist. The following day Su‡rez replied in a lengthy article replete with references to the classics, in which he amply demonstrated that it was perfectly appropriate to write "I suffer from dyspepsia."31Such was the small-town atmosphere of Colombia's capital when Laureano G—mez was born there near the end of the century. At the time of the lively and literate exchange there were but 85,000 people living in Bogot‡ proper, and another 50,000 in the immediate environs.32 And that population remained remarkably undifferentiated, as evidenced by several aspects of the Kopp advertising campaign. Most residents, some 80 percent of them, could not read Marco Fidel Su‡rez's praise of Bavaria beer. But that did not matter, as a majority of Colombia's lower class could afford neither newspapers nor expensive bottled beer. The size of the upper stratum of Colombian society is suggested by the fact that during the 1890s the average newspaper press run was just 1,000 copies. In a national capital whose literate population did not exceed 3,000, and whose intellectual elite numbered a few hundred high-ranking government officials well and properly cited the classics in defending their literary style. That was the sort of thing that led Bogotanos to call their city the Athens of South America. Given the intimate character of the nineteenth-century Colombian elite it's not surprising that the celebrated Marco Fidel Su‡rez should be a friend of JosŽ Laureano G—mez, the irascible merchant jeweler recently arrived from San-


18 | Toward Modernity, 18891932tander. Nor is it surprising that Su‡rez occasionally paid social visits to the first G—mez residence on Carrera 6 (Sixth Avenue), just a few blocks from the presidential residence and government ministries. Su‡rez was a bachelor, after all, only a few years removed from the provinces himself. And Su‡rez's office at the Foreign Ministry was just two blocks up the street and around the corner from the G—mez residence. Thus it was that future Colombian president Su‡rez came to meet future president Laureano G—mez when the latter was but two years old. As the years passed, and as Su‡rez became more important in Colombian politics, the two would see each other frequently. Indeed they would see each other too frequently for Su‡rez's liking.The Birthplace of Laureano G—mezLaureano G—mez was the third of six children born to JosŽ and Dolores G—mez.33 When he was not yet a month old his parents took him to the church of barrio Santa Barbara, three blocks down Carrera 6, where he was baptized Laureano Eleuterio G—mez Castro. The young priest Carlos CortŽs Lee conducted the ceremony. JosŽ G—mez did well in his business and soon was able to move his growing family from their modest one-story house on Carrera 6, to an imposing two-story structure on Carrera 7 (Seventh Avenue). The location of the new house was especially felicitous. Immediately behind their original residence, and accessible through a gate in a common rear wall, family possessions needed be moved but a few meters to their new resting places. Large and built in the colonial style, it stood on the city's principal avenue, known vari ously to Bogotanos as Calle Real, Calle de la Carrera, or simply as SŽptima. Because it faced the plaza of historic San Agust’n Church, their block was sometimes referred to by its colonial name, the Camell—n de San Agust’n. Half a block up the street stood the bridge spanning the R’o San Agust’n. In the next block on the left stood the Palacio de la Carrera, home of Colombia's president. Three blocks farther up SŽptima was the city's epicenter, the Plaza de Bol’var. Facing the plaza on the south was the Colombian capitol, the Capitolio, and on its east side stood the cathedral. Next door to the cathedral, across SŽptima from the Capitol, was Jesuit-run Colegio San BartolomŽ, where Laureano G—mez would later attend school.34Casa San Agust’n was Laureano G—mez's home until he left it to begin his own family more than twenty years later. Like most other such houses in downtown Bogot‡, it had high wooden doors, shuttered windows, and a balcony affording a view of the city and its outskirts, and of mountains rimming the highland plain some thirty kilometers to the west. The front doors opened to a zagu‡n, or short corridor, leading to the spacious central courtyard. Behind that, through another passageway, was a smaller patio where cooking


Fin de Sicle | 19and laundry were done, and that gave access to the servant quarters. An unpaved open area, the solar, lay to the rear of the house. It was filled with chicken coops, clotheslines, a small herb garden, and the miscellany necessary to home maintenance. A parlor, the dining room, JosŽ G—mez's home office, and several other rooms opened off the principal courtyard. The family's bedrooms were on the second floor. All along its left side ran a balcony overlooking the courtyard and receiving the afternoon sunshine on those occasional days when skies were clear. That was Dolores de G—mez's favorite spot. She frequently sat on the balcony, occupied with her sewing and chatting with ladies of Bogot‡'s Oca–a community, who joined her there to drink cups of hot chocolate or tinto, demitasses of sweet black coffee. Life was pleasant in the big house near San Agust’n Bridge. Mornings were filled with lessons for the younger children, who in those days were commonly given elementary education at home. Under their mother's tutelage Laureano and his sisters learned reading, writing, basic mathematics, and a smattering of geography and literature. Special care was taken with Laureano's instruction, for as the eldest son he would be the first to earn a high school diploma, the bachillerato, a highly regarded achievement that only a small minority of Colombians attained. The children spent their afternoons studying or playing in the pleasant central courtyard that was filled with bird cages, flowers, and potted shrubs. Dolores de G—mez and her children stayed close to home, for the street belonged to men and to members of the lower class. Servants normally ventured out to make necessary purchases, and a parade of street vendors sold them goods from carts that regularly traveled streets of the residential district. The only regular forays into the outside world came on Sundays, when the family traveled across the street to hear mass. Those occasions were especially important to young Laureano, who after his fifth year assisted with the mass as an acolyte. Thus passed the days for the family of businessman JosŽ Laureano G—mez. Secure in his big two-story house, young Laureano had but to wait until, schoolbooks in hand, he would enter the life of the city. JosŽ G—mez was not a member of Colombia's moneyed elite. He neither possessed landed wealth nor was he directly involved in the coffee industry. Still he and his family were members of Colombia's upper class if by no other measure than the house they rented from the early 1890s until 1916. There were only 400 houses of two stories or more in Bogot‡ at that time, and the rental on a large one in a prime location, such as enjoyed by Casa San Agust’n, was on average 200 pesos per month. That was twenty times the average monthly salary of a skilled worker, and equal to the entire monthly salary of the city's alcalde, or mayor.35Bogot‡'s wealthier citizens were easily distinguishable from the general population in the late nineteenth century. Not only did they live in downtown


20 | Toward Modernity, 18891932neighborhoods in imposing houses, but they were generally taller and fairer than their fellow citizens, being either criollos persons of European descentor, like the G—mez family, mestizos of predominately European ancestry. They affected the latest European fashions, clothing purchased at exclusive shops on the Calle de Flori‡n, just north of the Plaza de Bol’var. Foreign visitors to the Colombian capital noted that members of the elite took considerable pains to distance themselves from their fellow citizens. William Curtis, who headed the U.S. trade mission to Colombia in the 1880s, remarked that when dealing with the upper class "it is absolutely necessary to speak French to get along." He also noted that their efforts at self-differentiation extended even to the food they ateor at least to the food they served foreign visitors: "The streams are full of fish, and the mountains are full of game; but nevertheless the people prefer bacon and codfish to the natural luxuries of their country."36Curtis believed that members of the elite, for whom travel and advanced study in Europe were the norm, preferred France to other countries. Another foreigner, the German Alfred Hettner, who lived in Colombia between 1882 and 1884, agreed that while Bogot‡'s wealthiest residents might visit England or the United States for commercial reasons, Paris was their preferred destination.37 That neither JosŽ G—mez nor his wife ever visited Europe suggests that they were not of the city's highest social stratum. Surrounding the exclusive residential neighborhoods of the center city were the homes of Bogot‡'s middle class. Shopkeepers, tradesmen, and government functionaries, they lived in modest one-story houses smaller in all respects than the balconied dwellings of the wealthy. Monthly rents for tile-roofed singlestory houses were between 60 and 120 pesos, which was as much or more than the average monthly salary of a Bogotano holding a white-collar job.38 That forced many families to take in boarders or relatives who helped pay the rent. Alfred Hettner was impressed by the rents in Bogot‡, saying they were higher than those in most German cities. The fact that there were but 3,000 houses of one and two stories in Bogot‡ at a time when its population approached 100,000 suggests both crowded conditions and upward pressure on rents. Many members of the lower middle class were shopkeepers who lived in the rear of their establishments, which rented for as much as eighty pesos per month.39 Living conditions there were inhuman by modern standards, for they lacked adequate cooking and sanitary facilities. Household garbage was normally tossed into the street, and night soil deposited in drains running down the center of city streets. As most buildings of the day were built of unfired adobe brick that absorbed moisture, most were cold and damp, unhealthful year round.


Fin de Sicle | 21Most Bogotanos of the late nineteenth century were members of the lower classes. They lived still farther from downtown in crowded straw-thatched huts. Their diets and lifestyles were simple, as even skilled laborers of that time earned on average fifteen pesos per month, and craftsmen but twenty.40 Dress distinguished the lower from the middle and upper classes. The latter affected European dress, while the former wore simple woven sandals ( alpargatas ), straw hats, and ruanas. Bogot‡'s lower class was broad and amorphous. Its elite consisted of craftsmen, many of whom owned their own workshops, and its lower edge was populated by day laborers, the unemployed, and a considerable subclass of beggars and petty thieves. Foreign visitors remarked on the lack of industry in Bogot‡ of the 1880s and '90s. French geographer Eliseo Reclœs wrote that Colombia, with twice Venezuela's population, had half the industry, and Alfred Hettner was uncertain whether the Bavaria brewery and a few small print shops could even be considered industries. Except for expensive imported luxury goods available in a few stores, domestic goods were shoddy, even primitive. "There are few countries in which the principle of cheap and poor' dominate more than in this one," wrote Hettner, explaining that as "a major portion of the population lives from hand to mouth, they're simply unable to incur significant expense."41 Prices in most Bogot‡ shops were not fixed, allowing buyers to bargain prices down to acceptable levels. The commercial spirit dominant in the world's more developed nations had not taken hold in the Bogot‡ of Laureano G—mez's youth. "The feverish haste so usual in the United States is unknown here," wrote Alfred Hettner. "Everything is done in a leisurely way, and there is always time for a chat, . everyone talking for hours, huddling in the middle of the sidewalk oblivious to other pedestrians. Or they enter the shop of some friend with no thought of buying anything or closing a deal, but simply to spend a while chatting." The endless conversation of the city's shopkeepers evidently irritated the German, who added that thanks to their custom of joking with inexperienced foreigners "every transaction requires double, tripleeven ten times the time we accord it. Whether for good or ill, the factor of time still hasn't come to be important in the lives of Colombians."42It is hardly surprising that in such a setting citizens related to one another in ways that may be characterized as premodern. Bogot‡ was tiny by present-day urban standards, and there was little class consciousness in the modern sense of the word. Social distances in late-nineteenth-century Colombia did not, as historian Malcolm Deas observes, foster working-class consciousness: "The distance between Colombian extremes was perhaps modest in comparison with other societies, but in any case the new conflicts were not between such


22 | Toward Modernity, 18891932extremes, and they were still conflicts in a society where scale was intimate."43Writer Rafael Serrano said as much when he remembered the Bogot‡ of his youth as a place of placid, monotonous lifestyle, "subject to the same rules that had prevailed from colonial times."44The dynamics of intraclass relations in Colombian cities of those times are suggested in the outbreak of working-class violence that occurred in 1893. Early in January of that year, one JosŽ Ignacio GutiŽrrez published in the Bogot‡ weekly Colombia cristiana several articles bearing the general title "Mendacity." The writer's theme was the poor of Bogot‡, whom he accused of having become dissolute and immoral, addicted to strong drink, once they abandoned the countryside for the city. His indiscriminate condemnation of the poor as a simple undifferentiated class, coupled with his inference that the well-off were inherently superior to the rest, infuriated the city's artisans. Heated meetings ensued and a few took it upon themselves to threaten GutiŽrrez. City officials gave the journalist police protection, which further inflamed matters. On the second day of the trouble, January 16, gunfire erupted. Police fired on a mob of artisans, touching off an afternoon and evening of stone throwing. Most of the city's police stations were besieged, and furnishings in the homes of the minister of government, Bogot‡'s mayor, the governor of Cundinamarca, and several private citizens were destroyed. Rioters also broke into a private house of correction run by JosŽ Ignacio GutiŽrrez, the Asilo de San JosŽ, and liberated all the prisoners there. Meanwhile, acting president Miguel Antonio Caro declared that public order had been disturbed and sent troops into Bogot‡. That ended the trouble, but not before one policeman had died, and twenty-one police and thirty-one artisans were injured, by official estimates. Unofficial sources put losses at fifty persons dead.45Bogot‡'s artisan riot of 1893 was not an overtly class-consciousness movement so much as an outcry of honorable men of the lower class in defense of their honor. In Governor Antonio B. Cuervo's words, it was "not a matter of a political movement nor of any plan comparable to those which socialism and the spirit of anarchism we are accustomed to engendering in society."46 Still there were in it hints of urban protests yet to come. It has been suggested that some of the rioters were inspired by anarchist ideas, and showed it by waving black banners. Others were heard to shout, "Long live the commune!"47Rafael Nœ–ez, remembering public disorders he had observed during his years in Europe, saw in the riots evidence that the "socialist scourge" had invaded Colombia.48Even more indicative that the artisans' riot contained some element of classbased protest against authority was the fact that most of the city's new electric street lights were destroyed by the rioters. It had not been three years since the first of 200 1,800-candlepower arc lights were placed around the downtown


Fin de Sicle | 23area. Three quarters of them were destroyed in the riots of January 14 and 15, 1893. The system was never restored, and it would be seven years before new lights, incandescent street lights, would replace the arc lights.49Most who visited the Colombian capital during the 1880s and 1890s were impressed by the piety and inoffensiveness of the poor, whom they found there in such abundance. In the words of the indefatigable Hettner, the poor were "accustomed to kneel humbly before the crucifix." They were a somber lot. "There does not appear among the masses an attitude of hilarity," as Hettner phrased it, adding that neither were the people given to "reprehensible pushing and shoving at religious ceremonies."50 Occasionally, however, tragedies occurred in the packed churches of the period, such as the one that touched the family of JosŽ G—mez. During one particularly crowded mass at the San Agust’n church, young Jesœs G—mez was pressed against an altar post by a surging crowd of worshippers. Internal injuries resulted, from which the child died several days later.51Death was no stranger to homes of the city. Mortality rates were high in Bogot‡ and elsewhere in Colombia during the late nineteenth century. Poor sanitation and contaminated food and drinking water made dysentery, amoebiasis, and gastroenteritis endemic in the population. Leprosy and elephantiasis were common, and from time to time outbreaks of typhus and cholera swept the city. Sewage flowed into the city's two principal rivers, the San Agust’n and the San Francisco, whose clouds of flies and evil odors were their most notable features. Prisoners with bamboo poles pushed sewage away from riverbanks where it collected. During cloudbursts, frequent in Bogot‡, torrents of water spread refuse to doorsteps even as they flushed river channels. Vultures, of which there were thousands around Bogot‡, were said to be the city's chief sanitation officials. These unpleasant facts of life in preindustrial Bogot‡ prompted one visitor to pen what stands as the least-flattering description of the city at century's end. North American traveler Francis Nicholas wrote, "The city is a place of vermin and corrupting filth; a place where the common incidents of the streets are not fit to be described; where beggars, displaying revolting sores and rotting limbs, swarm about, even thrusting their filthy bodies where they may touch those who pass by, while they demand, not solicit, alms; where ill-mannered, arrogant, overdressed people make vulgar display of their clothes, as they strut about and crowd for precedence."52Services for social welfare were virtually nonexistent. An orphanage stood across SŽptima from the Plaza de Santander. In its wall was a small opening where mothers could abandon sick or unwanted children under cover of darkness. Scenes of casual cruelty passed almost unnoticed in city streets. Nicholas observed one instance of child abuse so appalling that he recalled "how I


24 | Toward Modernity, 18891932longed for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children." But then he remembered that he was a stranger in the city, was unknown to anyone there, and had "found but scant courtesy in ordinary affairs." So he hurried away from Bogot‡, a place he remembered whose laws made no provision for its destitute, whose citizens paid the poor no heed, and all of whose streets "were filled with scenes of filth, misery, and degradation."53Bogot‡ was a cold city, frequently lashed by rains that descended from a range of mountains lying along its eastern edge. The chill, damp weather, and the overcast skies seemed to affect the human population, whose color of preference in dress was black, and whose attitude was sober if not melancholy. Pedestrians frequently bore funereal looks on their faces as they hurried by in the streets, their eyes fixed on the ground. At least that was the impression of Julio Palacio, one of an estimated 10,000 students who studied there in the 1890s. His account of society and politics in the national capital at that time constitutes one of the more insightful descriptions of life in fin de sicle Bogot‡. It is particularly valuable because as both a native Colombian and an "outsider" he was able to pen a memoir at once informed and dispassionate. Through Palacio's work one comes to perceive Bogot‡ of the 1890s as a closed, somewhat forbidding city. Palacio's Bogot‡ was a place shut away from the outside world, little accessible to those who would become part of its life. One senses his isolation in the description of a great dress ball at the presidential palace in 1891. It was an exclusive affair to which only the cream of the city's society had been invited. The sixteen-year-old schoolboy was given special permission to watch, from across the street, the arrival of the cachacos54and their ladies, who made up Bogot‡'s elite. Most arrived in closed, horsedrawn landaus, whose iron-clad wheels, he recalled, "made an infernal noise as they rolled over the cobblestone streets." "The only ones we saw arrive on foot," wrote Palacio, "were the elegant single men and bachelors of the era, and a few families who had houses near the Palacio de la Carrera."55JosŽ G—mez and his wife were almost certainly not in attendance that night, though their bachelor friend Marco Fidel Su‡rez surely was. He probably arrived on foot, passing not far from young Julio Palacio. And Laureano G—mez doubtless heard the noise of carriage wheels in the Avenida de la Carrera. Dolores de G—mez may well have stood on the front balcony of her home, holding her firstborn son so he too could watch the exciting scene unfolding up the street, just beyond the Puente San Agust’n.


Teaching the Generation of the Centenary | 252Teaching the Generation of the CentenaryThe Victorian MindEarly in 1897, Laureano G—mez, just turned eight, began his formal schooling at the Colegio San BartolomŽ, a Jesuit-run institution, located a short twoblock walk from his home. G—mez and the other schoolboys who hurried through Bogot‡'s chilly streets that February morning were to be known as members of the Generation of the Centenary, for they would enter public life at about the time Colombia celebrated its first century of independence in 1910. Among those youngsters who would go on to become Colombia's preeminent public men, was nine-year-old Eduardo Santos. Like G—mez he was born in Bogot‡ to a family recently arrived from the provinces. Another was eleven-year-old Alfonso L—pez, the son of a well-to-do businessman from Honda. At that moment young L—pez was known principally for buckteeth that had earned him the nickname el muel—n (big-tooth). Trudging in the same direction as L—pez, for they attended the same school, notable for his extraordinary stature and fair complexion, was seventeen-year-old Enrique Olaya, widely referred to as "the blond from Guateque" ( el mono de Guateque ), a town one day's travel north of Bogot‡. Each of those young men, plus one other, seven-year-old Mariano Ospina PŽrez, who attended school in Medell’n, would become president of Colombia, holding office between 1930 and 1953. Those years might justifiably be referred to as the reign of the Centenarians. Among their peers, all schoolboys in 1897, were Luis L—pez de Mesa, ten; Luis Eduardo Nieto Caballero, nine; and Luis Cano, eight. Roberto Urdaneta, who, like Laureano G—mez, attended San BartolomŽ, was seven years old, and EstŽban Jaramillo was ten. An extraordinary professorial corps awaited the young scholars. They were for the most part mature men, whose own generational denomination was Generation of 1870. Sometimes referred to as men of the Classic Generation, they were well versed in Latin and Greek, and in philosophy, most of them having been trained for careers in law and, in a general sense, for the choicest public positions. A few could be classified as professional educators, having spent a goodly portion of their lives as teachers in schools that they themselves


26 | Toward Modernity, 18891932had founded. Among them were Jesœs Casas, Ignacio Espinoza, Antonio JosŽ IregŸi, and Luis A. Robles. Many priests were members of teaching orders. Prominent in that regard were the Augustinians, Jesuits, and Christian Brothers. Teachers of the Centenarians often spent more of their productive lives outside the classroom than within. That was especially true at the higher levels of education, where doctors, lawyers, and public officials found time to teach a class or two at a favored private school. Most Colombian presidents of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had spent years in the classroom either before or after being elevated to that office. Santiago PŽrez, Miguel Antonio Caro, JosŽ Manuel Marroqu’n, and Nicol‡s Esguerra were teachers during the earlier period; Pedro Nel Ospina and Miguel Abad’a MŽndez taught somewhat later. Abad’a, considered by most to have been a better teacher than chief executive, was remarkable in that he continued to teach law at the National University throughout his tenure as president. Those leaders of Colombian society were well aware that the fate of the nation was in their hands. Highly cultivated as a group, members of an elite class for whom foreign travel and study was not uncommon, they strove to stay abreast of events unfolding in Europe and elsewhere, and to impart their perceptions to their students. Teachers of the Centenarians represented, in short, the best, most worldly professorial corps the nation could offer its future leaders. Their immediate political differences notwithstanding, they shared a vision of the world, a Victorian vision, that transcended Colombia. The teachers of Laureano G—mez, Alfonso L—pez, and the rest, were confident men, aware that they lived in a time of astonishing change in the world. They were also secure in the knowledge that they stood at the apex of Colombia's social structure. In a country like Colombia, where the masses were as respectful of their betters as they were poor and uneducated, none of them had reason to doubt that they were the ones who would lead the country toward inevitable progress. Even if they occupied a peripheral part of the marvelous Eurocentric world, they were part of it nonetheless, fated to achieve great things in it. For decades Colombian leaders had waxed eloquent on the approaching changes. At mid-century JosŽ Eusebio Caro, a cofounder of the Conservative Party, father of Miguel Antonio Caro, assured his children that by century's end steamships, highways, and telegraphs would invigorate the nation's economy, thereby insuring continued social stability. Miguel Samper, a contemporary of Caro's, envisioned harnessing the nation's rivers, especially Tequendama Falls, whose force, he foresaw, would eventually "transmit light and heat to Bogot‡."1 He very nearly lived to see that dream come true, for his son Miguel Samper Brush did in fact use the Rio Bogot‡ to power the capital's


Teaching the Generation of the Centenary | 27first electric generator, put into operation in mid-1900. Their contemporary Salvador Camacho Rold‡n echoed their faith in the redemptive faith of technology: "To lag behind in the discipline of science," he said in a speech of 1882, "is to die."2Even the dour Rafael Nœ–ez could not help but be deeply affected by the physical strides made in the England he knew through years of residence there. His writings are replete with passages showing that he, too, shared the fundamental optimism of the age. "Societies progress through a movement uniformly accelerated," he wrote. "It is the positivist and utilitarian doctrine of scientific evolution."3Colombia's leaders were well read in the works of Europe's leading social theorists, "profits of our idealism," as Armando Solano called them. Like their contemporaries elsewhere in Latin America, they found hope and comfort in Herbert Spencer's teaching that human society is analogous to a living organism. Just as organisms evolve, so too does society. Spencer taught that different societies develop in accord with their own unique characteristics. Thus Colombians could reason that if they but pursued the study of "scientific and practical truth," in Carlos Mart’nez Silva's words, Colombia could be made to "meet the requirements of our era of progress and development."4 That conviction was the rationale for the collaboration between Nœ–ez and Caro during the 1880s and later. They understood that the nation was an entity whose destiny they themselves could shape, recognizing as their top priority the need to calm national passions to the end of making possible the progress that had so far eluded them. Liberals, too, operated on the Spencerian premise that society was an organic thing. Camacho Rold‡n told university students in 1882 that they should all think of themselves as gardeners, and of the nation as a ripening fruit that through careful nurturing could be brought to perfection. Pedagogue and Radical Liberal Antonio JosŽ IregŸi preferred inorganic metaphors. For him "evolutionary history" and "geologic history" were one and the same. In an 1896 lecture he assured students that the record of human achievement over time is easily subject to empirical study, like layers of the earth's crust.5Colombia's Regeneration-era leaders believed that England was the country they should emulate. England was both the home of the great Herbert Spencer and a model for less fortunate nations striving to begin their own process of industrialization. England, Germany, and France had achieved "adulthood," IregŸi told his eager listeners. Through such phraseology, members of the Colombian elite acknowledged their country's inferior position in the global hierarchy. Still, in their minds there was no reason to feel angerno more so than a child should feel anger over not yet being grown. Their time of maturity was coming, inevitably.


28 | Toward Modernity, 18891932The feeling of backwardness expressed constantly by Colombian leaders during the nineteenth century, standing in curious counterpoint to their deepseated optimism, was at least in part founded in their country's poverty. That moved them to yearn for help and tutelage from the metropolitan powers. JosŽ Eusebio Caro wrote at mid-century, "we can't save ourselves; it will be the hand of England that produces our social salvation." Once Colombians achieve order, he continued, "the English will come with their capital, and the North Americans with their entrepreneurial spirit, opening our doors and windows, giving us light and movement."6 A half century and numerous civil wars later Carlos Mart’nez Silva was moved to suggest that Colombia hire an English firm to collect national taxes. "Hasn't Egypt gained immensely under the wise and honorable administration of the English?" he asked.7Europeans living in Colombia reinforced their hosts' perception that if not personally inferior to foreigners, they and their country occupied a distinctly peripheral place in the concert of nations. "These bogotanos are superficially read," wrote a British consular official in 1906, adding solicitously, "still they're really quite cultivated given their surroundings." They are, he admitted further, capable of entering into debates around the themes of Darwin and Spencer, "and in some cases on the latest French and English writers."8More often than not foreign visitors tempered their condescension with ridicule, especially when remarking on Bogot‡'s pretentious nickname, the Athens of South America. "In this Athens of South America they light only seven street lights, this in reverence to the seven wise men of Greece," joked a writer in 1861.9 Years later a British consular official noted archly that the only thing Bogot‡ and Athens have in common is that in both countries contract bridge is preferred over Royal Auction bridge. And it can hardly have escaped Colombians that Bogot‡ was the least-favored posting for British diplomats. The organic vision of national hierarchies, of superior and inferior nations, that nineteenth-century Colombian leaders learned from their European teachers, jibed perfectly with what they observed at a human level within their country. Their society was exceedingly hierarchical, with vast distances separating social strata. Nine of ten Colombians were illiterate in 1897, when Laureano G—mez entered school in Bogot‡. Over 90 percent of the population lived outside the towns and cities, being farmers, or campesinos. Most of them acknowledged their inferiority before the well-to-do and well educated. When the farmer's patron visited from the city, it was common for the campesino of late-nineteenth-century Colombia to greet him on bent knee, hat in hand. The tractability of these Colombians was cause for constant comment throughout the nineteenth century, and well into the twentieth. "None are easier to govern and mold," wrote JosŽ Mar’a Samper at mid-century: "The police almost do not exist in any part of the country . because our masses are essentially


Teaching the Generation of the Centenary | 29submissive."10 Some sixty years later, in 1906, a British visitor remarked on the high degree of personal safety that foreigners enjoyed throughout Colombia. "There's really no street in Bogot‡ or anywhere else in the country . where a foreigner or a native can't walk at any hour of the day or night."11Colombia's peasants kept this pacific demeanor toward their social superiors well into the twentieth centuryat least to the 1920s. Notable in this regard were those living along the country's awakening coffee frontier. Thousands of the humble had taken up land by right of homestead laws passed in the 1870s and '80s, which opened bald’os, or unsettled parts of the country. Almost immediately, however, revenues from coffee sales made it clear that the mountainsides were of immense potential value. The homesteaders soon found their lands being encroached upon and even stolen from them by city-dwelling entrepreneurs. The newcomers frequently did so with the help of hired thugs who abused and sometimes killed protesters. Those intrusions of urban-based capitalists frustrated some Colombian politicians who wanted their homestead legislation to stimulate formation of a self-sufficient, economically productive class of yeoman farmers. Important here is not so much that market forces, the profit motive, and the superior power of well-connected coffee planters worked to the disadvantage of peasant smallholders. What is noteworthy is the way peasants initially responded to the abuse they suffered. They rarely took direct action against planters who harassed them between 1870 and 1920. Instead they went through channels, hiring lawyers to formulate respectfully worded petitions that were forwarded to authorities in the national capital. Far from making demands, they approached metropolitan powers as supplicants. "We implore justice," read a petition, which went on to lament the law "by which the powerful always impose their will upon the weak."12The diffidence and apparent helplessness of the common people buttressed the perception of Colombia's largely creole white elite that the masses were not just socially inferior to them, but were physically inferior too. Superiority of the white race over all others was one of the earliest findings of nineteenthcentury social scientists, one that wouldn't be seriously challenged until well into the twentieth century. Writings of the period are replete with suggestions, sometimes outright assertions, of racist savor. JosŽ Mar’a Samper published his popular Ensayo sobre las revoluciones pol’ticas (Essay on political revolutions) in Paris shortly after the appearance of J. A. Gobineau's disquisition Essai sur l'inŽgalitŽ des races humaines (On the inequality of races).13 Gobineau's influence seems manifest in Samper's characterization of the Indians of Nari–o as "obdurate to civilization, impassive before progress . sedentary savages." He hoped that through immigration European blood would invigorate Colombia, causing the


30 | Toward Modernity, 18891932nation to develop "a beautiful mixed, though Caucasian-tending race," one combining Hispanic vigor with "the positivism, individualism, enterprise, and tenacity of the Anglo-Saxon, the German, the Dutchman, the Swiss."14 The popularity of Samper's vision is suggested by immigration laws passed to attract white population in 1845, 1847, 1870, 1871, 1876, and in 1922. That infusion of European blood never came, leading Enrique CortŽs, minister of education between 1868 and 1870, to grumble that residents of lowland areas were "an ugly, colorless race which works little and grubs around amidst lush vegetation."15Laureano G—mez, Alfonso L—pez, Enrique Olaya Herrera, Mariano Ospina PŽrez, and the rest did not need to be told that they were members of a select group. By one count fewer than 3 of every 100 of their school-age contemporaries received any education at all. And relatively few of them attended the better schools, which tended to be in the larger towns and cities. G—mez was indeed fortunate in being able to attend San BartolomŽ, for it was believed by many to be the best school in the country. Only a small minority of those admitted to the Jesuit institution ever graduated. Between 1891 and 1984 nearly 30,000 young men were admitted to San BartolomŽ. Only 1,190 graduated.16 Thus G—mez's class of six in 1904 represented a small fraction of the boys admitted with him eight years earlier. Texts of the period amply conveyed their authors' conviction that the students who entered these schools were destined for posts of importance in the public sphere. The Libro de lecturas escogidas, a reader of the sort G—mez likely used, contains a thirty-seven-page introduction on public speaking drawing liberally from Cicero's admonitions to speakers. Integral to the discussion is a thirteen-page section on appropriate gestures for public speakers drawn from the works of Quintilian. Youngsters having further questions about public speaking are referred to the works of several French and English authorities. There follows a lengthy collection of "ideological readings" that treat themes like respect for family, love of God and country, charity toward the less fortunate, good manners, and the advantages of paying attention. The epistolary section contains seven of Lord Chesterfield's letters to his son, and a seven-page excerpt from JosŽ Mar’a Vergara y Vergara's "Advice to a Young Girl." While it is unlikely that many girls studied the Libro de lecturas escogidas, certainly not in Bogot‡'s all-male private schools of the 1890s, its patriarchal message surely wasn't lost on those who did: "Little girl, live happily. If you come to be a wife, be humble and true. Always obey, that you never cease to reign. God, your parents, your husband will be your only masters. Sometimes the world will call them tyrants. Happiness calls them your protectors. Life is not bad, only people are."17Civics books of the period enjoined the well-brought-up to respect author-


Teaching the Generation of the Centenary | 31ity, exhibit good behavior, and show deference to important people. "Doff your hat to the national president and to the archbishop when you pass them in the street," the text instructed, even if the former "belongs to another political party, or is your adversary," even if the latter "isn't of your religious persuasion." Students were warned against exhibiting bad behavior while observing congressional debates: "Those who abuse freedom of speech by shouting from the visitor galleries have done great harm to the nation."18In these ways, through the texts they studied, from the lectures of their teachers, from what they saw around them and absorbed from the elite culture to which they belonged, schoolboys internalized the social values of Victorianera Colombia. They learned that it was they who would lead their benighted country in the glorious new century, who would find a way to uplift the backward masses. They learned to intone the stirring final paragraph of Santiago PŽrez's homage to the Liberator, Sim—n Bol’var, first read before the Atheneum of Bogot‡ in 1884 and reprinted in their literature texts for many years afterward: "Be happy then, Athenians, even when we old ones vainly strain against the rocks to which we're chained! New Promethians are stealing fire from the gods. Each new conquest of science invigorates the spirits of Colombians. Thus will our common fatherland feel the thrust of universal progress, its younger generation mixing in its own accents, peaceful and prophetic, in the infinite hymn of the human word."19Politicized Education in a Historical ContextSadly, Santiago PŽrez's hopes for peace and progress were mocked by three civil wars fought in Colombia during the sixteen years between his speech and his death, in solitary exile, in 1900. Nineteenth-century Colombian teachers may have transmitted Victorian-era values in the classroom, but through their public actions they revealed that much of what they taught was laden with political meaning. That was as much the case in the 1890s as it had been for the half century preceding. Colombia was hardly a happy place that February of 1897, when Laureano G—mez and his peers walked toward their respective schools. Serious political troubles beset the government. The Regeneration was in its twelfth year, and its maker, the austere Rafael Nœ–ez, more than two years in his grave. Scholarly Miguel Antonio Caro, Nœ–ez's protŽgŽ, was now president. Caro was no politician; his heavy-handed and inept leadership of the ruling Nationalist Party was fast alienating even those who had once been the party's ardent supporters. One such person was militant Conservative Carlos Mart’nez Silva, former cabinet minister under Nœ–ez, journalist, and educator. A year earlier, in February 1896, Mart’nez Silva and twenty other prominent Conservatives,


32 | Toward Modernity, 18891932now referring to themselves as "Historical" Conservatives, broke with Caro, whom they accused of betraying Conservative values.20Eight-year-old Laureano G—mez was too young to understand the frequently byzantine workings of Colombian high politics, though even at that tender age he must have had some feeling for the importance of politics and its practical consequences. He was old enough to remember the civil war that had ended just two years earlier. The dashing Liberal general Rafael Uribe Uribe had been prominent in it, and now the thirty-eight-year-old firebrand was preparing for war against the government that he openly called an "abjectly corrupt tyranny."21 Strong words appeared early in the political lexicon of Bogot‡'s schoolboys, many of whom crowded the galleries of the Senate and Chamber of Representatives to hear debates. Alfonso L—pez was one of them. He recalled Uribe Uribe's speeches as "vibrant discourses," delivered with "finely timbered voice, Roman gestures, and irrefutable documentation."22Colombian society was in fact highly politicized in the late nineteenth century, and intensely and bitterly so at the elite level. Parents of the Centenarians knew that family fortunes waxed or waned depending on which party was in power. Many a night their sons fell asleep to the sound of heated discussions of the latest political events. Under such circumstances it is hardly surprising that schools of the period were themselves politicized. Laureano G—mez's school, San BartolomŽ, had been under the direction of the Jesuit order for thirteen years. The Jesuit fathers were put in charge of the state-owned institution as part of Nœ–ez and Caro's plan to bring traditional Catholic values back into the classroom, and at the same time to combat liberal teachings, which they saw as damaging to public morality. Liberals were furious over Nœ–ez's educational program, especially over the prominent role the Church played in it. They fumed that the Regenerators had turned their country into "a picturesque farm in the tropics owned by priests,"23 and busied themselves founding private schools where liberal values would be taught and where government inspectors could neither specify the use of texts nor force teachers to sign oaths of fealty to the Church and its doctrines. A host of liberal schools were formed during the 1880s and '90s, among them the Universidad Externado and the Colegio de Araœjo, founded by Sim—n Araœjo in the 1880s; the Colegio AcadŽmico and the Liceo Mercantil, founded by Manuel Antonio Rueda in 1886 and 1891, respectively; and the Universidad Republicana, whose founders were Luis A. Robles, Antonio JosŽ IregŸi, and Eugenio J. G—mez.24Dispute over educational policy was nothing new to Colombia. More than a century earlier, in 1774, Viceroy Manuel Guirior commissioned one of his subalterns, Francisco Antonio Moreno y Escand—n, to develop a modern cur-


Teaching the Generation of the Centenary | 33riculum for use in institutions of higher learning throughout the viceroyalty. Inspired in part by ideas of the European Enlightenment, the changes were aimed at moving New Granada away from the scholastic tradition and toward a mode of instruction encouraging greater empirical analysis. Moreno y Escand—n's plan, when submitted, was hardly a revolutionary one. Its greatest departure from the past lay in its stricture that students be allowed to compare the ideas of their several texts in order that conclusions drawn from them be governed by free exercise of reason. In spite of its mildness Moreno y Escand—n's plan wasn't fully embraced by the committee assigned to evaluate it, because of fears that if allowed to debate their texts students might fall into dangerous factionalism. Following independence, leaders like Francisco de Paula Santander gave considerable thought to improving education. New normal schools were founded, curricula revised, and the number of teachers increased. These measures were applauded by educators in the new republic, though another aspect of Santander's plan of 1826 created a furor among the traditional-minded. That involved the inclusion of books by Englishman Jeremy Bentham and liberal French economist Jean Baptiste Say in the common syllabus. Conservatives especially disliked Bentham's identification of pleasure with the good, which they saw as contrary to Christian morality. They prevailed upon Sim—n Bol’var to banish the offending texts, which he did by a decree of 1827. During the 1840s political leadership in Colombia, at the time called New Granada, returned to conservative hands. President Mariano Ospina Rodr’guez saw to it that offending texts were expunged from official curricula, to be replaced by the writings of neoscholastic philosophers Francisco Su‡rez and Jaime Balmes. At the university level religious instruction was mandated, along with the study of Roman law. Students were subjected to a strict disciplinary code on the theory that it would improve their morality and personal habits. Ospina's "counterreform" was brief, soon giving way to an era of liberal experimentation lasting some thirty years and ending with the advent of Nœ–ez and the Regeneration. Those years were turbulent ones marked by civil war and rapid differentiation of the citizenry along party lines. Romantic liberalism was the catalyst bringing about actual party formation. First under President JosŽ Hilario L—pez, and later under a succession of Radical presidents, the Liberals implemented a range of reforms aimed at drastically expanding the area of personal freedom enjoyed by the citizenry. The individualist and egalitarian thrust of the reforms is suggested by a law of 1850 eliminating the requirement that university professors possess academic credentials. That, Radical Liberals believed, represented a form of monopoly limiting the individual's freedom to teach.


34 | Toward Modernity, 18891932Radical Liberalism achieved maximum expression in the Constitution of 1863, which among other things decentralized national political power, granted absolute religious freedom, reduced the presidential term of office to two years, and guaranteed freedom of speech and the right to traffic in firearms during peacetime. Not long after the new constitution went into effect, party militant Santiago PŽrez published a civics text designed for use in public schools. In it he articulated the Radical Liberals' faith in democracy and individualism. "The individual is the true source of all sovereignty," he wrote, adding that the state's principal purpose lay in guaranteeing individual rights.25The Radical generation's faith in education as a means to progress and civilization took objective form in the Organic Decree of 1870. That law, requiring that elementary education be free and obligatory for children of the republic, also aimed at making schools religiously neutral. Seen by Liberals as ushering in a golden age of Colombian education, the law represented a challenge to Conservatives, who cited it as a chief cause of their uprising against the government in 1876.26 As schools were being secularized, university curricula also underwent modification in ways highly offensive to Conservatives. During the 1870s government officials mandated the use of specific texts for courses. One of the books most obnoxious to Conservatives was Ideology by French philosopher Destutt de Tracy. That work, to be used in philosophy courses, taught that all human ideas spring from objective external sources. Conservatives demanded eclecticism in text selection, meaning that a variety of points of view, including traditional Roman Catholic ones, could be presented in the classroom. The government reading list touched off what Jaime Jaramillo Uribe has called "the polemic of the textbooks."27 Conservatives like Miguel Antonio Caro, writing in the party newspaper El Tradicionalista, complained that the state was confusing its obligation to educate with the Church's right to indoctrinate. It was clear to Caro and his copartisans that the state, "armed with the sword of the law," was imposing its biases in an unwarranted and capricious way, "invading with scandal and violence the rights of religion and science."28An’bal Galindo answered for the Liberals: "If we've founded a university and if we have a university, it's to teach liberal doctrines in order to form Liberals. None of this eclecticism. Balmes and Bentham can't hold hands in university classrooms. While the Liberal Party remains in power it must teach liberalism. Political honesty requires it. If we in good faith feel that liberalism is good for the country, that's what we are going to teach young people. When the Catholic party comes to power it can follow the example of Philip II and teach Catholicism. It will be its right to do so."29Thus instructed, Conservatives built their own private schools, and planned how they would drive liberalism from school curricula when they should take power. Among their educational institutions were JosŽ Vicente Concha's


Teaching the Generation of the Centenary | 35Colegio Pio IX, founded in 1864, and JosŽ Manuel Marroqu’n's Colegio Yerbabuena and Joaqu’n GutiŽrrez Celis's Colegio La Independencia, established during the 1870s. Others were the Universidad Cat—lica and the Colegio del Esp’ritu Santo of Carlos Mart’nez Silva, founded in the 1880s.30Liberal Education or Conservative Education?Colombia's political and ideological battles of the late nineteenth century were very much part of identical ones occurring elsewhere in the West at that time. Liberals and conservatives in Europe and America alike drew inspiration from philosophical writings favoring their points of view. That was especially true in Colombia, where ideas resonated powerfully in a supercharged political atmosphere. By far the most important supplier of ideological ammunition for Colombian conservatives was the Italian Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, better known as Pope Pius IX. Seen as a liberal when elected pope in 1846, Pius IX became the world's most vigorous castigator of liberalism following the upsets of 1848 in Europe. Within months of his ordination he began warning his followers that revolutionaries were at war against the Catholic faith. Some years later, in 1864, he published what stand as history's most vigorous indictments of liberalism. In Quanta cura, and the Syllabus of Errors, released simultaneously with the encyclical, he made it clear that a "terrible conspiracy" was at work against the Catholic Church. "They," who through "criminal schemes" seek to "deprave and delude" the young with their writings, he stated, must be "held as reprobated, denounced, and condemned by all children of the Catholic Church." Pius IX further described enemies of the Church as people of "perversity, of depraved . evil opinions . animated by the spirit of Satan." They were "the enemies of the useful sciences, of progress," holders of "monstrous and portentous opinions . to the very great loss of souls and even to the detriment of civil society."31The Syllabus of Errors made clear just who these dangerous and depraved people were. They were rationalists, latitudinarians (or relativists, such as Protestants, who believed their faith was as much Christian as that of Roman Catholics), socialists, communists, Masons and other members of secret societies, and persons who wanted to separate church and state, or to place the state over the church. Also condemned in the Syllabus were proponents of secular education, Kantians (or those who believe that "moral laws do not stand in need of divine sanction"), persons wholly driven by the profit motive, believers in gratification by pleasure, believers in majority rule, civil marriage, and religious freedom. Finally, and for good measure, Pius IX condemned those who believed that the pope "can and ought to reconcile himself and come to terms with progress, liberalism, and modern civilization."32Colombian Conservatives and their allies in the Church used the pope's


36 | Toward Modernity, 18891932pronouncements as weapons both on the field of battle and in the classroom. JosŽ Vicente Concha is remembered as an educator who prepared "gladiatorial hosts" to fight the "universal apostasy" at large in Colombia. In 1875 Pius IX sent Concha a lengthy letter in which the pontiff praised the Colombian for being steadfast in the fight against erroneous and false doctrines. The pope also said he was pleased that Concha had named his school for him.33 Not long before, the pope had, in his last encyclical, Estl multa luctuosa, again used military metaphor in warning of the "great war" being waged against the church. Masons and others were said to be gathering troops in their "synagogue of Satan," so that they might soon become "masters of the world."34When Colombia's Conservative civil war broke out in 1876, it will be recalled that some soldiers carried standards that bore the likenesses of Pius IX. The bishops of Popay‡n, Pasto, and Antioquia, who justified their actions by citing passages from Quanta cura, were subsequently charged as chief instigators of the war and exiled from Colombia for ten years. In Bogot‡ public high schools closed as their mostly Liberal student bodies rushed to join government armies, and boys too young to fight staged mock wars on Sunday afternoons in the outskirts of the city. Counted among the scores of sevento twelve-yearolds formed up under blue banners of the Conservative Party were boys from Concha's Colegio Pius IX.35 Classroom, battlefield, and the Holy See lived in symbiotic balance in Colombia of the 1870s. Within three years of the conservative uprising, fortune began to smile on the Conservative cause. Rafael Nœ–ez was elected president in 1880, and again in 1884. Following the Liberal uprising of 1885, and subsequent restructuring of national institutions in the Constitution of 1886, Conservatives brought religion back into public education. Nœ–ez and Caro believed that religion would help heal the body politic. Accordingly they placed devout Catholics in key positions and gave them free hand in carrying out the pro-clerical reforms. One of the most vigorous of the religious communities invited to assist in the regeneration of Colombian education was the Society of Jesus. It was placed in charge of the Colegio San BartolomŽ, where they taught many of the nation's future leaders, inculcating in them what Laureano G—mez called "a manly concept of life."36Most students who completed the Jesuit's rigorous ratio studiorum, featuring study of the classics, Latin and Greek, and religious philosophy, went on to professional study. Those who did usually chose either law or medicine, though by the early twentieth century a good many Bartolinos were, like Laureano G—mez, choosing careers in business or industry. Laureano G—mez loved San BartolomŽ. He was an excellent student remembered both for his outstanding memory and his habit of blushing when called on to recite, a trait that earned him the nickname Electricidad (electric-


Teaching the Generation of the Centenary | 37ity). He took to the regimen of school life and reveled in its competitiveness, especially in concertaciones, public acts in which individual students demonstrated their abilities in academic areas. The only aspect of school life in which the young G—mez didn't excel was athletics, where a slightly clubbed right foot placed him at a disadvantage. Most of all Laureano G—mez loved and respected his austere Jesuit teachers. Their asceticism, intellectualism, and fealty to religious values continually inspired him. The fathers presented him a Christian view of the world buttressed by philosophic teachings that he found coherent, convincing, and satisfying. G—mez claimed never to have forgotten or betrayed the doctrines taught him at San BartolomŽ.37Liberals were horrified by the turn of events that seemingly overnight returned confessional education to Colombia's schools. Their unhappiness might have been lessened had the change not been carried out in so draconian a manner. Unfortunately for Colombia, the Roman Catholic Church was entering the most militant phase of its resistance to the complex of ideas and attitudes, founded in Enlightenment rationalism and empiricism, that had come to dominate the Western world. And it was doubly unfortunate that foreign priests, many of them Spaniards fleeing the Carlist Warsor exiled for excessive militancywere invited to help return religion to Colombian schools. The Spanish zealots who arrived in increasing numbers during the 1880s and '90s intensified Liberal anger over religious reforms of the Regeneration. Even as the Liberals were losing their fateful civil war of 1885, Spanish priest FŽlix Sard‡ y Salvany was publishing his incendiary and widely read volume El liberalismo es pecado (Liberalism is a sin).38 Monsignor Rafael M. Carrasquilla, inspired both by the Liberal civil war of 1895 and his Spanish colleague's earlier work, published his Essay on Liberal Doctrine, which went through three printings in just four years, and which concluded that no Liberal could be a good Catholic.39 Not to be outdone, Bishop Nicol‡s Casas of Pasto, writing at the height of the Liberal civil war of 18991902, published in quick succession two volumes instructing his followers on the evil political philosophy. Their tenor can be judged from the passage in which the bishop condemned doctrinaire liberalism for its "extreme maliciousness, its horrible impiety and atheistic principles," and for "the enormity of its terrifying monstrosity."40By the Concordat of 1887, diocesan bishops were granted the right to dismiss school teachers whose views they considered religiously unorthodox. In 1888 educator and militant Catholic Jesœs Casas, minister of education under acting president Miguel Antonio Caro, equated anti-Catholicism with treason. He criticized public education under Liberal regimes as a chief cause of civic disorder that had to be "cut off at its roots." The anti-Liberal hyperbole of civil and religious leaders took official form in the Oath of Faith for Teachers,


38 | Toward Modernity, 18891932which from 1901 required all teachers in public institutions to swear: "I believe in God the Father and in all those principles dealing with faith, dogma, morality, and discipline espoused by the Roman Catholic Church. . I utterly condemn and reject, as did the Syllabus, various papal encyclicals and the Latin American Council, the basic concepts of liberalism, naturalism, socialism, and rationalism."41Children from better-off Liberal families could escape obnoxious features of Conservative educational policy by attending the schools founded for them. Young Luis Eduardo Nieto Caballero did so, entering the Colegio de Araœjo even after people had advised that he study with the Jesuits, as Araœjo was a heretic. Nieto found the freethinking Araœjo in fact to be a judicious and humane man. Nonetheless the headmaster and his school were Liberal, and Nieto later admitted that during his years there he "became saturated with liberalism without knowing it."42 That was Alfonso L—pez's reaction to his study at the Liceo Mercantil: "They taught me to read the Cartilla Liberal [Liberal Primer], which left an indelible imprint on my spirit. It's a good thing my teachers didn't use the Conservative Primer. Otherwise today I'd be leader of the Conservative Party!"43Education at some Liberal schools was every bit as exclusive as at Conservative ones. Julio Palacio, who studied at the Universidad Republicana during the 1890s, had a professor of constitutional law who did not teach the Constitution of 1886. For him the Rionegro Constitution of 1863 was Colombia's true fundamental charter, and that of 1886 simply "a parenthesis that soon will be closed."44 Luis Mar’a Mora, who studied at the Universidad Externado, recalled that his professors didn't present the ideas of Bentham and Tracy as philosophic concepts, but rather as "axioms to be imposed, with fanatical enthusiasm, battle flags used when annihilating the enemy." Religion class at his school was "the butt of irreverent jokes," and teachers and students alike relished "destroying" the scholastic doctrine that just a few blocks away was so impressing Laureano G—mez.45During 1899 Bogot‡'s schoolboys were given vivid proof of the close connection between their classrooms and the public world beyond them. The academic year began with a spirited debate over educational policy, carried out in Liberal and Conservative newspapers of the city. Discussion centered on instruction given by the Jesuits at San BartolomŽ, which Liberal writers found to be outmoded and entirely inappropriate to the modern age. Emotions ran high on both sides, and at length a riot erupted in the streets outside San BartolomŽ. Sixteenand seventeen-year-olds from Colombia's best educational institutionsthe Liberal Universidad Republicana, Liceo Mercantil, and the Colegio de Araœjo, and the Conservative San BartolomŽpummeled one another as shocked adults looked on.46 It is probable that four future national presidents


Teaching the Generation of the Centenary | 39either observed or took part in the fight. Bartolinos Laureano G—mez and Roberto Urdaneta, then ten and nine years old respectively, likely watched from a safe distance. On the Liberal side, the street-fighting abilities of thirteen-year-old Alfonso L—pez probably weren't needed, as his school, the Liceo Mercantil, was splendidly represented by the blond giant Enrique Olaya Herrera, who cheerfully bloodied the noses of the priest-ridden enemy. Between semesters of that fateful year, in late June, Rafael Uribe Uribe was imprisoned on the charge of plotting civil war. He was marched away to jail along with other Liberal leaders between two columns of heavily armed soldiers, through Bogot‡'s busiest streets. By mid-July he was released, and two months after that was headed north toward the department of Santander to help organize the revolution. Thousands of Liberal Bogotanos followed Uribe in the weeks that followed. The tearful departures at Bogot‡ train stations so alarmed authorities that a state of siege was declared on October 18 in hopes of slowing the exodus. It did little good. Liberal schools lost teachers and many of their older students to the war, among them Enrique Olaya Herrera, who went to join Liberal forces in western Cundinamarca. Many of the Liberal schools closed, never to reopen. One of them was the Colegio de Araœjo, seized by government decree and converted into army barracks. Those events argue for the truth of Mora's remark, "in Colombia's state of continuous revolutions, warfare was in a certain sense the means of completing one's education."47War and IgnominyColombia's War of the Thousand Days, wrote Colombian statesman Laureano Garc’a Ortiz, began in 1840.48 He meant of course that the war sprang from the same political exclusiveness, regionalism, and elite factionalism that by Jorge Holgu’n's count had generated nine major civil wars, fourteen localized conflicts, three military coups, and two international wars over the first century of national history.49 But if most underlying causes of Colombia's war of 18991902 were the same as for earlier conflicts, there were extenuating factors that worked to make this civil war worse than any previous one. The appearance of coffee as an increasingly vital force in the national economy aggravated existing divisions among Colombian leaders and energized the conflict once it began. Growing exports of the lucrative product both upset old regional balances and encouraged the growth of new local elites, most of whom had connection with the Liberal Party. Liberals tended to be more involved in the coffee trade, for they had been forced into private life just as the boom in coffee began in the 1880s. The Liberals most directly involved in coffee export tended to be young and energetic men like Rafael Uribe Uribe,


40 | Toward Modernity, 18891932who during the 1880s and '90s established plantations in mountainous western Cundinamarca, above the R’o Magdalena. Planters like Uribe Uribe hated Regeneration-era tariffs, taxes, and inflationary money policies that hampered the coffee trade. As war approached in the late 1890s, Liberals throughout Colombia, frequently united economically as well as politically, were able to turn commercial networks to use in war planning. Such linkages extended to most corners of the nation, and ran internationally as well. By 1897 much of the commercial correspondence between Liberal coffee growers contained coded information on their party's war preparations. Abroad their collaborators included liberals in Central America, Ecuador, and Venezuela. In the latter nation their most avid supporter was liberal caudillo Cipriano Castro, whose successful seizure of the Venezuelan government in October 1899 Colombian Liberals hoped to emulate.50Elite factionalism was also intensified by the rise of coffee in Colombia. Liberals and Historical Conservatives shared a belief in economic liberalism that made them natural allies. This helps explain their campaign against Nationalist Party leaders like Caro and Marco Fidel Su‡rez, who were not businessmen and consequently not linked to the export-import economy. Nationalists tended to be men whose economic thought was colored by the mercantilist bias of an earlier era, a fact illustrated in Caro's tax on coffee exports and his extensive use of government monopolies as revenue producers. And as coffee loomed ever larger on the national scene, the cycle of ruinous price declines culminating in 1899 must be entered as another factor contributing to the outbreak of war. Carlos Mart’nez Silva, leader of the Historicals, described the moneyed classes as suffering "supreme anguish" over the price decline, which, coupled with the government's inflationary monetary policy, had limited exports and driven down Colombian stock issues on European and U.S. exchanges. Increasing numbers of the middle and lower classes found their livelihoods linked to coffee. In 1899, Mart’nez Silva noted an increase in petty criminality that he traced to the price decline. It had become a common sight to see men in town and countryside arming themselves to protect their possessions. Others whose ruanas had been stolen huddled miserably in Bogot‡'s chilly streets.51At least as important as the rise of coffee cultivation in unsettling the national scene was the ongoing poverty of the central government. That was in turn rooted in the undeveloped character of the economy. The rise of coffee notwithstanding, Colombia's economy was one of Latin America's least productive in 1899. In per capita exports and foreign investment, to cite but two indicators, Colombia stood last and next-to-last, respectively, among the twenty Latin American nations.52


Teaching the Generation of the Centenary | 41Never was government poverty more apparent than at century's end, when war loomed. The government was forced to dismiss a thousand men from its already understaffed army during June 1899, and to sell two navy cruisers at about the same timethis at a time when most considered war inevitable. Efforts to raise money through foreign loans were fruitless. Falling coffee prices and lingering effects of the civil war of 1895 had caused a default on foreign debt payments that ruined the nation's credit rating. This was doubly embarrassing in that Colombia's public debt, at just five dollars per capita, was one of the smallest of any nation in the world.53 Six months after the war began, in April 1900, a desperate Colombian government raised five million francs by agreeing to a six-year extension of the new Panama Canal Company concession. This was an ill-advised move, taken under the pressure of war, that would weaken the nation's position in negotiations with the United States over Panama three years later.54In spite of the severe problems from which Colombia suffered in the late 1890s, war still might have been avoided had its top national leader been anyone other than Miguel Antonio Caro. Throughout the decade the Nationalist Party leader had insisted on the sort of tight hold on power that invariably produced grave political strife. In 1896 he attempted a ploy through which he could stand for reelection in 1898, without violating the constitutional ban on reelection. He resigned the presidency in favor of fellow party member Guillermo Quintero Calder—n. But when Quintero had the audacity to name a Historical Conservative to his cabinet Caro sacked him and returned to the presidency, remarking that "one can't keep harmony among Catholics by naming Protestant cardinals."55Next Caro hit upon the idea of naming presidential and vice presidential candidates for the 18981904 term whom he believed he could control. For president he chose an ailing eighty-four-year-old named Manuel Antonio Sanclemente, a man characterized by writer JosŽ Mar’a Vargas Vila as "a mummy covered with dust, though venerable."56 His vice presidential nominee was Manuel Marroqu’n, a prominent Nationalist whose militant Catholicism had led Liberals to nickname him Torquemada. By Caro's plan, Marroqu’n would be acting president for the feeble Sanclemente, just has he, Caro, had been for Rafael Nœ–ez. Caro's plan miscarried soon after his candidates won the election of July 1898a contest whose fairness can be gauged by the fact that the unpopular Nationalist ticket won overwhelmingly. As soon as Marroqu’n took over as acting president he began striking out on his own. First he abrogated the unpopular export tax on coffee, and moved toward guaranteeing political representation to Liberals. He then took steps toward abolishing the law depriving civil rights to persons suspected of subversion.57 Caro moved quickly to rid


42 | Toward Modernity, 18891932himself of Marroqu’n, accomplishing this by forcing Sanclemente to assume his presidency. By November of 1898 the old man was installed in the presidential palace in Bogot‡, and was assuring members of his party that he would do nothing to dismantle the edifice of Regeneration legislation. Looking back from a perspective of ten years, Rafael Uribe Uribe recalled that it was events like thosearrogant manipulation of national politicsthat "blinded us and drove us to war."58Once President Sanclemente tottered back into office, war preparations moved apace. Soon Sanclemente was gone again in search of a more salubrious climate. He left behind a rubber stamp made up in the likeness of his signature, for use by trusted underlings. All these things were especially disturbing to Historical Conservatives, whose earlier open letters of protest had played heavily on the theme of corruption under the Nationalists. It was widely known, for example, that one of the government's most lucrative monopolies, the salt mine at Zipaquir‡, followed no set accounting procedures and in fact kept no books at all. Those abuses and many others would be held up for public ridicule in the novel Pax, written after the war by Lorenzo Marroqu’n, a Nationalist senator and son of the vice president. Historical Conservatives such as Carlos Mart’nez Silva were so critical of the government in months just before war, that many Liberals believed the dissidents would join their revolt. A few Historicals did fight beside Liberals early in the conflict, and Historicals in the department of Santander signed an agreement of formal neutrality with Liberals, but most of them quickly fell in line with the government war effort. In November 1899, Peace Liberal Aquileo Parra voiced the feeling of Liberal and Conservative peace seekers when he wrote, "the torrent is dragging us, and it would be neither sensible nor patriotic to insist on opposing it."59Surprisingly, the Liberals won the first engagement of the war, the Battle of Peralonso, fought in mid-December 1899. That victory raised the hopes of all who hoped for an early end to the war. Liberals in general, and Uribe Uribe in particular, hoped that Sanclemente might be willing to enter peace talks through which the Liberals might wring guarantees they had failed to win by peaceful means. When the president, during one of his increasingly rare lucid moments, rejected the overture, many of those interested in ending the war began plotting to overthrow him. The coup of July 31, 1900, was chiefly the work of Historical Conservatives led by Carlos Mart’nez Silva, along with a scattering of Peace Liberals and Nationalists. According to their plan, Vice President Marroqu’n would assume the presidential chair, enter peace talks with the Liberals, and eventually reform the constitution as he had agreed to do late in 1898, when he was acting president. Unfortunately for the plotters, and for Colombia, the illegal change


Teaching the Generation of the Centenary | 43of government went terribly wrong. Once the new president was in place, the pacific series of events it was supposed to set into motion never occurred. Rather, Marroqu’n vigorously prosecuted the war, which would continue, with increasing viciousness, for more than two additional years. The explanation of why this should be so is found both in the ideological character of Colombian partisan strife, and in the fact that Marroqu’n found a lieutenant capable of conducting the war with a single-mindedness that he himself lacked. That man was Aristides Fern‡ndez. Aristides Fern‡ndez was a vigorous man of thirty-eight when fate determined that he should play a key role in the coup leading to Sanclemente's fall. At that moment he was director of Bogot‡'s police force, and it was his timely arrival with a squad of four hundred police, all pledged to support the Historicals, that convinced seventy-three-year-old Marroqu’n, at the time in hiding at a friend's house, that the coup would work. From that moment until the end of the war two years later, and for nearly a year after the war, Fern‡ndez would be Marroqu’n's alter ego, prosecuting the war with a vigor that made him feared by all Colombians and hated by Liberals.60 Before his fall Aristides Fern‡ndez served the government as governor of Cundinamarca, minister of war, minister of state, and minister of finance. During early 1902 he held two of his ministerial posts simultaneously, one of few Colombians to have done so. The rise of Fern‡ndez and his sudden eclipse in June 1903 tell much about Colombian politics and society at the dawn of the twentieth century. Under 3. Government soldiers during the War of the Thousand Days, circa 1901. By permission of the Museum of Modern Art, Bogot‡.


44 | Toward Modernity, 18891932normal circumstances a man of Fern‡ndez's obscure origins never would have risen so high in government service. Ministry jobs were reserved for the wealthy and well born, or to those who had extraordinary intellectual ability as well as friends in high places. But the Athens of South America was a city under siege in July 1900, and it was organizational skill and ideological correctness that were most highly prized in government employees. Luckily for Fern‡ndez, he shared with Marroqu’n a loathing for liberalism and all it stood for. They were united in the conviction that public virtue, Christian Colombia, and all things good and pure were at stake in the war. They were one with JosŽ Vicente Concha, who early in the conflict had referred to it as a "Holy War," and with Bishop Ezequiel Moreno, who urged government soldiers, "Fight for our religion." Fern‡ndez employed that same language of Conservative extremism, saturated with the phraseology of papal encyclicals and given immediate reality and urgency by the Liberal foe. As he kept ferocious pressure on Liberal guerrillas in early 1902, Fern‡ndez told enthusiastic supporters in Bogot‡ that he intended to carry out a "prompt cauterizing of the wound" inflicted on Colombia by Liberalism, an "endemic disease . that corrodes and poisons the social organism."61 Those ideals were acted upon in mid1902, when Minister of War Fern‡ndez ordered government commanders to 4. Aristides Fern‡ndez, circa 1902. By permission of the Museum of Modern Art, Bogot‡.


Teaching the Generation of the Centenary | 45administer summary justice to Liberal prisoners. When Carlos Mart’nez Silva protested the executions to President Marroqu’n, in a letter of September 1902, Fern‡ndez did not hesitate to clap him in Bogot‡'s leprous prison, the Pan—ptico, along with Liberal Agust’n Nieto and two other prominent Historicals.62Marco Fidel Su‡rez called Fern‡ndez "no gentleman," and to Uribe Uribe he was a "national disgrace."63 But that was precisely why he was so useful to President Marroqu’n, who by social convention could not have cruelly treated peers like Mart’nez Silva and Agust’n Nieto. But there were no such linkages keeping Fern‡ndez from his duty to prosecute the war as he saw fit. Marroqu’n's merciless pursuer of Liberal revolutionaries was a man of premodern mentality. At a time when he could have become wealthy through war profiteering, as so many were doing around him, by means both legal and illegal, Fern‡ndez stole nothing. After the war and his disappearance from public life, he eked out a living selling dolls in a dilapidated shop in downtown Bogot‡, eventually dying in utter misery.64Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the war lay not in its immediate impact on Colombia, but in the way it politicized and radicalized the coming generation of national leaders. "The war was what taught me to hate," wrote Luis Eduardo Nieto Caballero, who turned thirteen just as the war entered its bloodiest stage. Nieto and his friends collected and traded cards, slips of paper, and even old banknotes bearing the likenesses of famous Liberal leaders of the past. Later he turned his collection into a mosaic mounted on a piece of cardboard, decorated it with a red ribbon, and put it in a place of honor, "like six or seven saints." During the first year of the war Nieto published a "newspaper," the proceeds from which he donated to the Liberal Party. That stopped suddenly when police came to his house and confiscated the offending documents.65Alfonso L—pez also published a secret Liberal newspaper during the war. He was arrested for it and hauled before Aristides Fern‡ndez, who freed him, but not before noting gloomily, "the youngster is already infected."66The partisan loyalties of Laureano G—mez were also shaped by the war. For him Liberal armies were "bands of incendiaries and assassins who bloodied and razed the country."67 Aristides Fern‡ndez had helped convince G—mez that was the case when he displayed three bodies of government soldiers mutilated by Liberal guerrillas across the street from San BartolomŽ. On February 25, 1902, less than a week after Laureano G—mez turned thirteen, Fern‡ndez wrote a letter to Liberal General Juan MacAlister, in which he swore to begin executing Liberal prisoners held in the Pan—ptico unless several Conservative officers held by the Liberals were released. G—mez and his schoolmates applauded the action and even sent Fern‡ndez a letter congratulating him on his


46 | Toward Modernity, 18891932stand. Laureano G—mez greatly admired JosŽ Joaqu’n Casas, the man who replaced Fern‡ndez as minister of war shortly after the MacAlister incident. It was Casas who in October 1902 ordered the defeated Uribe Uribe subjected to a summary court martial and then shot "with no afterthought." The order was never carried out.68 Still, by G—mez's view Casas was an effective minister of war whose energy was matched by his "perspicacity and clear vision."69The War of the Thousand Days ended in the latter months of 1902, with the signing of two major peace treaties. General Uribe Uribe signed the first at a Dutch-owned banana plantation called Neerlandia, near the Atlantic coast. General Benjam’n Herrera signed the second aboard the U.S. naval vessel Wisconsin anchored off the Panamanian city of Col—n. Uribe Uribe had made the sacking of Fern‡ndez a central condition of his surrender, which had led Marroqu’n to temporarily retire his minister of war.70 No one doubted, however, that it was Fern‡ndez whose draconian prosecution of the war drove the Liberals to the bargaining table. As writer Vargas Vila put it, "Fern‡ndez ended on the gallows the revolution that his generals had been incapable of ending on the battlefield. He hung it high on the gallowsthe cadaver of the war that, through Rafael Uribe Uribe's ineptitude, had already been knifed in the fields of Neerlandia."71Within a month of the war's end Aristides Fern‡ndez was back in the government. In a cabinet reorganization of January 1903, he was named minister of finance. Even as he struggled with national finances he joined with Minister of Education Casas in presenting an ultimatum to President Marroqu’n. The seven-point document represented the ministers' attempt to continue the proscription of Liberals into the postwar period. They backed their demands with the threat of their resignation from the government should it be refused. As both men had become something of a political liability to him, Marroqu’n accepted their resignations over the vehement protests of their supporters. Ten days later, on the first of June, he issued a decree ending the state of siege and declaring public order restored.72In little more than two months after Marroqu’n's decree Colombia slipped into a new crisis. On August 10, the Colombian Senate rejected the proposed Hay-Herr‡n Treaty, under whose terms an interoceanic canal would be constructed across the Isthmus of Panama. Miguel Antonio Caro led senatorial forces opposing the agreement, in part out of the bitter enmity he felt for Marroqu’n. Events moved rapidly after the vote. Panamanian representatives to Congress returned home and joined others who were plotting secession from Colombia. On the second day of November 1903, Panama declared independence. Three days later the U.S. government, which had encouraged, then supported and assisted the revolution, extended recognition to the new nation. Colombia was able to do little more than protest, as U.S. gunboats effectively protected Panamanian sovereignty.


Teaching the Generation of the Centenary | 47Bogot‡ was chaotic after noon on November 3, when telegrams arrived announcing the long-feared loss of Panama. Citizens of all ages and conditions filled the streets in the vain hope that something might be said or done to undo the dismemberment of their country. Many of them, like fourteen-year-old Laureano G—mez, wept with rage and begged to join any military expedition sent to recapture the breakaway department.73 No such force was organized, as the government remained strangely inactive in the face of what most citizens regarded as a national tragedy. More than twenty years later Laureano G—mez recounted what General Pedro Nel Ospina told him of his meeting with President Marroqu’n late that day. Like many others, Ospina went to the presidential palace to offer his services in retaking Panama. When the general arrived the building was dark and deserted. Passing from one room to another he at last came upon the president sitting under one of the incandescent bulbs recently installed in the building, reading a French novel. Marroqu’n looked up, smiled, and said "Oh, Pedro Nel, every bad thing brings something good. We've lost Panama, but I have the pleasure of seeing you again in this house!"74 It was clear to Ospina that the president, now in his seventy-seventh year, would do nothing to end the rebellion in Panama. JosŽ Manuel Marroqu’n left no record of that meeting with Pedro Nel Ospina. But there can be no doubt that his apparent lack of concern over events of the day and his outwardly cheerful demeanor masked unhappiness and resignation, and quite possibly a degree of sardonic satisfaction. His six years in high office had been neither pleasant nor easy. Still he had managed to win the nation's worst, most prolonged civil war, thus preserving Christian Colombia. His tribulations had begun in 1896, when as vice president, Miguel Antonio Caro had tried to make him his puppet. Not happy with Marroqu’n's attempt to placate the Liberals and thus avoiding war, Caro sacked him in a preemptory and humiliating way. Next came the Historical Conservatives, asking for his help. They too wanted to make him their instrument in ending a war that they themselves, through their scheming with the Liberals, had helped start. And when he, Marroqu’n, resolved to win the war, the same faction that brought him to power attempted to pull him down by way of yet another coup. Carlos Mart’nez Silva was the ringleader of both the successful and illegal coup of July 31, 1900, and of the unsuccessful and also illegal coup attempt of August 31, 1901. In spite of all that, Marroqu’n had the forbearance and good sense to make Mart’nez Silva head of the diplomatic mission charged with negotiating a Panama canal treaty with the United States. But again Mart’nez Silva overstepped his authority, entering negotiations with General Uribe Uribe, who was living in New York City at the time.75 Was it his fault, then, that he was forced to relieve Mart’nez Silva of his duties at the most crucial moment in


48 | Toward Modernity, 18891932negotiations with Secretary of State Hay, forcing him to send JosŽ Vicente Concha to replace hima man who knew little about what had been transpiring and who didn't even speak English? At the moment of Mart’nez Silva's indiscretion Liberal guerrillas were staging raids on the outskirts of Bogot‡, committing atrocities with their machetes, as Minister of War Fern‡ndez so vividly revealed. Wasn't it poetic justice that Carlos Mart’nez Silva ran afoul of Fern‡ndez soon after his return to Colombia? His imprisonment and exile did hasten his death. But even so, that spared Mart’nez the anguish of seeing the treaty he should have negotiated overwhelmingly defeated in the Senate.76And what of Miguel Antonio Caro's campaign against the treaty? The HayHerr‡n agreement was a bad one, no one doubted that. But no one doubted the might of the United States either, or that Colombia might well lose Panama should Congress reject the agreement. Still that didn't stop Caro from carrying out his vendetta against him, Marroqu’n. "And finally, General Ospina," Marroqu’n may have thought, glancing up from his novel, "here you stand before me with eyes that damn me as a doddering old man who allowed the fatherland to be diminishedyou who plotted against me in 1901 with Mart’nez Silva, suffering exile as a result; you who bear as much blame for these recent dreadful events as I. So now Colombia is one province smaller. Am I responsible for that?"


Reyes and Republicanism | 493Reyes and RepublicanismAftermathImmediately after the civil war, Colombia's economy was a shambles, the vast majority of its people were sunk in poverty, disease, and ignorance, and its leaders were full of a complex mix of self-loathing, frustration, anger, and embarrassment. The war's immediate impact was staggering: perhaps as many as a hundred thousand of the nation's young men lay dead, burned out and abandoned buildings filled the countryside, and farmers' fields were invaded by weeds. The loss of Panama, coming just a few months after the war's formal conclusion, compounded national anguish. Miseries of the postwar period were heightened by the negative image of Colombia abroad. At the London stock exchange Colombia's name figured prominently on the list of countries in default on foreign loans, and at the Paris Exhibition of 1901 a great world map showed Colombia in yellow, signifying that it was the world's most leprous nation.1 It was an unenviable distinction, owed to the fact that the leprosarium at Agua de Dios had ceased to function, driving thousands of inmates into towns and cities, where they lived in the streets as beggars. Liberal newspaperman Luis Cano spoke for most of his countrymen when he cursed the circumstances that made his country "vile through corruption, and a beggar by ineptitude, waste and impropriety."2Conservative Hernando Mart’nez Santamar’a blamed the war for ruining Colombia's image before "the civilized nations of the world."3Over the thousand days of warfare living conditions had deteriorated at every level of society. Formerly affluent families sank into "genteel poverty," while the masses experienced poverty best described as grinding. Food was in short supply everywhere, and a staggering degree of ill health afflicted the general population. Infant mortality in Bogot‡ was 25 percent, a rate likely equaled elsewhere in the country. Average life expectancy hovered somewhere around thirty years.4 Along with leprosy, elephantiasis was endemic, and epidemics of waterborne and communicable diseases periodically swept towns and cities. In Bogot‡, where the population had grown but little in fifteen years, 675 persons died of typhoid fever in 1905 alone. Physicians estimated that during the great typhoid epidemic of 19081909, as many as 2 percent of


50 | Toward Modernity, 18891932the city's entire population succumbed to the disease.5 The better-educated improved their chances of survival by filtering drinking water through pumice stone and then boiling it. The poor often did neither. Compounding the problem of public health in turn-of-the-century Colombia was the fact that most people did not know what made them sick. Antiseptic procedures weren't generally practiced in hospitals, and there was not even a bacteriological laboratory in Colombia until 1905. Indicative of the generalized ignorance of sanitary procedures was the fact that an estimated 70 percent of the young men in Colombia's capital had, in the words of physician JosŽ Lombana Barreneche, "experienced the baptism of syphilis."6 It scarcely need be added that the harsh social conditions insured the availability of prostitutes to administer the carnal rite. Adding to the miserable aspect of urban Colombia at war's end, and helping explain the disastrous state of public health, was the breakdown of the sanitation service. Residents of Bogot‡ described the city as "drowning" in uncollected refuse, and "in a state of sanitary collapse."7 Bogotanos continued to dispose of night soil in open sewers, causing a Cuban visitor to accuse the Colombian capital of smelling like "an unburied cadaver."8 Come nightfall people locked themselves in their houses, leaving the dark streets virtually deserted. Nor was there much vehicular movement during daylight hours. British visitor Francis Loraine Petre noted that one could walk through Bogot‡'s streets at any hour with little danger of being run over, "as the President, the Archbishop and a half-dozen others are the only owners of private carriages."9 Bogotanos of all classes picked their way along muddy streets, the better-off wearing raincoats and carrying umbrellas to defend themselves against water splashed by passing horsemen. Conditions were no better in the countryside, where most Colombians lived at war's end. Agriculture and cattle raising were significantly disorganized by the years of guerrilla warfare, and many coffee plantations established during the 1890s were bankrupt. Problems in the countryside were compounded by landowners who attempted to reestablish their fortunes at the expense of workers. In the coffee lands of western Cundinamarca employers recruited labor in other departments, especially Boyac‡, and then reneged on contracts. By 1906 a magistrate in the coffee zone reported an alarming level of demoralization among contract workers manifested in the stream of complaints issuing from the coffee haciendas.10The disruption of agriculture had produced sharp increases in food costs. In Bogot‡ there was a sixfold price increase between 1898 and 1901, and another threefold increase by 1904.11 Deterioration of the nation's transportation network was partly to blame. Between 1895 and 1903 railroads and riverboats increased charges thirty-seven and twenty-seven times, respectively. And all


Reyes and Republicanism | 51important mule transportation increased in cost fifty-six times. Meanwhile real wages fell by a third, not to regain their precivil war level until twelve years afterward.12 The sad state of Colombia's highways is suggested in an account of travel on the Honda-Bogot‡ road during 1905. Petre recalled his fright when approaching "a pool of liquid mud" blocking one portion of the trailwhich at the time was the Colombian capital's chief link with the outside world. His animal sank to its withers; other riders sank nearly out of sight in similar mud holes.13Problems of transportation effectively blocked national unification well into the 1920s. The rich R’o Cauca valley, to cite but the most prominent example, could be reached from the R’o Magdalena only after a hellish fourday journey over one of two routes spanning the central cordillera. A surveying team traveled the northernmost pass, the Quind’o route, linking Cartago on the western side with IbaguŽ on the east, in 1910. Its leader, one Dr. Luis Garz—n Nieto, described the trail as "a graveyard of men and animals." Over a single four-kilometer stretch he counted nineteen carcasses of animals that had "slipped over enormous slopes, losing themselves and their packs." He concluded that the Quind’o trail was "an absurdity for the entire length," recommending that an entirely new road be surveyed and constructed.14Chaos in Colombia's financial markets accompanied deterioration of the country's physical infrastructure. On October 16, 1899, the government decreed the mandatory acceptance of paper currency, and then proceeded to print an immense number of banknotes with which it financed the war effort. By war's end inflation had soared above 20,000 percent. On one occasion the omnivorous government printing presses turned out currency printed on paper intended as candy wrappers.15 Bad money drove out the good, as it was declared illegal to trade in hard currency. In 1905, Francis Petre claimed not to have seen a single silver or gold coin in use anywhere in the country.16 Very few businessmen did well during the war. Some of them, like Antioquian entrepreneur JosŽ Mar’a "Pepe" Sierra, increased their fortunes by assisting the government finance effort. Others, like businessman Pedro A. L—pez, a Liberal, simply fled Colombia. L—pez managed to convert his assets to gold and U.S. dollars early in the conflict. Those forced to remain coped as best they could. Bankers rented strongrooms for storage of the growing stacks of bank notes. Speculation in the wildly inflating currency became the only means of selfdefense for many entrepreneurs who by late 1902 borrowed money at high rates of interest on the assumption that inflation would rise from 22,500 percent to 30,000 or even 40,000 percent. Many of them were ruined when rates dropped to 9,500 percent with the declaration of peace in mid-1903.17Speculators bought gold, silver, and even coffee on credit, earning money as the currency inflated, and in Antioquia banks were founded specifically to


52 | Toward Modernity, 18891932serve businessmen involved in currency speculation. Deposits were accepted at 5 percent interest per month, and lent at 10 percent. Such was the fragile state of Colombia's economy at war's end that all but one Medell’n bank failed in the brief financial crisis of 1904.18Many rural-dwelling Colombians fell back on primitive forms of barter. Salaried urban dwellers frequently made ends meet by selling their future salaries for ready cash. During those years of war-induced austerity, when governments could rarely pay their civil servants on time, it was a common sight in Medell’n and other cities to see signs proclaiming "Paychecks Purchased Here," and "Checks Cashed."19Antioquia, a department relatively unscathed by the fighting, and renowned for the energy and entrepreneurial talent of its people, was brought to a standstill during and immediately after the war. Its capital, Medell’n, described in 1883 as one of the richest towns in South America in proportion to its population, increased in size but 26 percent over the sixteen years between 1889 and 1905.20 Two of Colombia's future industrial giants, the Cervecer’a Antioque–a (Antioquian brewery) and the Compa–’a Antioque–a de Tejidos (Antioquian textile company) were launched in 1901 and failed three years later, in the financial crisis of 1904. Labor organization was so rudimentary as to be nonexistent. The Artisans' Society of Sons—n, Antioquia, founded in 1903, was one of the first legally recognized labor unions in Colombia. But it hardly perceived its mission as that of fighting for wage increases and improved working conditions. Rather, its stated goals were to lead processionals in honor of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, to buy medicines for sick members, and to pay for "a first-class funeral for deceased associates."21 Given the fact that health conditions in Antioquia were no better than those in other parts of the nation, services provided by the Sons—n union were doubtless appropriate to the time and place. While the period from 1902 to 1903 marked the nadir of Colombia's national existence, there were signs that the nation would surely recover. In December 1902, General Rafael Uribe Uribe pronounced the War of the Thousand Days Colombia's last such conflict, adding that he had learned a bitter lesson from it. That same month, and in charming counterpart to Uribe Uribe's remark, JosŽ Joaqu’n Casas, the man who so recently had ordered the Liberal commander's summary execution, inaugurated Colombia's new Academy of History. Early in 1903 public schools were reopened by presidential decree, and the schools of mathematics, engineering, and medicine at the National University were also reopened. The latter facility had been closed by Aristides Fern‡ndez in 1901, because most of its students sympathized with the revolution.22 Elsewhere the Colombian Geographic Society was founded, and at the Jesuit high school a precocious fifth-year student named Laureano G—mez


Reyes and Republicanism | 53founded a literary magazine called El Ateneo de miscel‡nea (Atheneum of miscellany). And far away in Medell’n, Antioquian millionaire Carlos C. Amador astounded the locals with a marvelous invention imported from France shortly before the war. It was called an automobile, and came complete with a French chauffeur and a French mechanic.23Colombia's position in 1903 was, in short, anomalous. The small number of non-Latin Americans who knew anything about the country regarded it with a mixture of scorn and amusement. A North American engineer, when asked why he had named his new locomotive the Colombia, replied that it was for the unprecedented number of revolutions per minute generated by its drive wheels. Colombians viewed themselves as possessing "the weakness of convalescents," and complained that at the dawn of the new century theirs was "the only country in which foreign capital had not penetrated."24 The perception was accurate. Foreigners had little reason to invest in Colombia as the country promised little return for their money. Figured on a per capita basis, Colombia's exports were among the world's lowest, just 20 percent that of Argentina's, Brazil's, and Peru's, and one-third that of Mexico's.25In spite of their unhappiness over Colombia's dire condition in the aftermath of its recent civil war, Colombian leaders were united in the belief that the country could and would progress if the proper man were placed in charge. The new president must be vigorous, familiar with the economic forces transforming the world at that time, and must be independent of the political cliques responsible for ruining the nation. They found their man in fifty-four-year-old Rafael Reyes, who had made his fortune in business before being drawn into warfare and politics, and who had spent some of the previous ten years representing Colombia in Europe and elsewhere. Once Reyes was elected president and sworn into office, it seemed to most Colombians that the choice had been a good one. To newspaperman Eduardo Santos it appeared that once Reyes took office "the entire nation, with childlike simplicity, surrendered itself to him."26The QuinquenioRafael Reyes, whose five years in power are remembered as the Quinquennium (Quinquenio), was inaugurated in Bogot‡ on August 7, 1904. Reyes was a Conservative, like JosŽ Manuel Marroqu’n, whom he replaced as president, and Miguel Antonio Caro, then leader of the Nationalist Conservative majority in congress. Like them he was from Colombia's interior highlands, born in the town of Santa Rosa de Viterbo, some 200 kilometers north of Bogot‡. But there similarities ceased. Whereas Caro and Marroqu’n were erudite men who moved easily if not happily within the narrow world of Colombian high poli-


54 | Toward Modernity, 18891932tics, Reyes was an outsider. His formal education was rudimentary, as he left home at seventeen to join three elder brothers in a family export business. By the time of his inauguration Reyes had made many trips abroad, both in connection with the family business and later as a representative of his government. He had spent years exploring great stretches of Colombia's Amazonian watershed, had commanded troops in the field during two civil wars, and had been active in national government in numerous capacities. He was a family man with grandchildren, and, most important, retained the ebullience and enthusiasm that had characterized all his actions. He was, in short, the antithesis of the dour intellectual whom he succeeded in the presidential chair. Reyes was hardly the stereotypic native of Boyac‡. He was in fact spiritually akin to the Antioquian entrepreneurs who risked capital and personal wellbeing in the search for opportunities outside their home state. While still in his teens, Reyes joined his brothers El’as, Enrique, and NŽstor in gathering quinine from the tropical forests of southern Colombia. When the international quinine market crashed in the early 1880s, he and his brothers extended operations eastward into jungles of the Putumayo and the Amazon, where they challenged Peruvian interests for control of the region's supply of natural rubber. Unluckily the new venture did not flourish. By the mid-1880s, El’as, Enrique, NŽstor, and a thousand other company employees had succumbed to the rigors of life in that isolated region, and the business foundered.27Still Reyes had managed to survive and had through his talent for selfpromotion even caught the eye of Rafael Nœ–ez. In Reyes the president knew he had just the sort of man who might be able to wrest the state of Panama from Liberal rebels who had seized it during the civil war of 1885. Reyes succeeded against stiff odds, earning praise from Nœ–ez as "the conqueror of the impossible." Subsequently the president dispatched him to the United States and to Europe on political and economic missions, and later called on him to put down the Liberal uprising of 1895, which he did in an exemplary way. Outbreak of the War of the Thousand Days found him in Paris on government business. By then he was a widower, suffering early effects of a malady that would eventually leave his left arm paralyzed. When Secretary of War Guillermo Valencia suggested that he might again be called to active service, Reyes refused, saying, "Tell them that I'm not a pump for putting out fires!"28Thus it was that in 1904 Reyes could run for president as a military hero, but one not associated with the terrible conflict just ended. Members of Colombia's Conservative elite were not happy with the Reyes candidacy. Nationalist leader Caro, who had never liked Reyes, was fond of repeating an admonition reportedly uttered by Rafael Nœ–ez: "Woe to Colombia should Reyes take power." His party's candidate in the 1904 campaign, Joaqu’n F. VŽlez, warned that once in office Reyes would impose a dictatorship


Reyes and Republicanism | 55similar to the one Porfirio D’az had by then maintained in Mexico for more than twenty years.29 Meanwhile Miguel Antonio Caro tried to feed fears of a Reyes dictatorship. "Watch out," he said publicly, "that man is dangerous now that he comes from Mexico. . ."30 Historical Conservatives had not trusted Reyes since 1898, when they put him forward as their presidential candidate. Just two days before the election a letter was circulated in which Reyes admitted he was not a Historical. The Historicals and their hastily fielded substitute candidate went on to lose badly to the Sanclemente-Marroqu’n ticket. Opposition from both Conservative factions increased subsequent to the election when it was learned that Reyes had defeated Nationalist candidate VŽlez thanks only to fraudulent returns in a remote part of the country. Established politicians became frantic when, a month before his inauguration, the president-elect appeared before congress requesting authorization to impose new taxes, raise customs revenues, create a central bank, reorganize the national bureaucracy, and change territorial divisions.31 The Senate responded by making Joaqu’n F. VŽlez its president. VŽlez, still smarting from his defeat, refused to administer the presidential oath, a function normally performed by leader of the Senate. August 7, 1904 was a doubly gloomy day in Colombian history. The country remained prostrate, and a hostile Congress glared at the new chief executive as Chamber of Deputies president JosŽ Vicente Concha administered the oath of office to him. In his preliminary remarks Concha lamented Colombia's history of narrow partisanship whose end result was invariably "to deepen the abyss of general misery."32 Reyes responded in like terms. "I am certain that we've reached the low point of our calamities," he said, going on to lament Colombia's inability even to defend her national territory, a state of affairs that had led to the perfidious stripping away "of one of the nation's most important departments." Even worse, he continued, "as we were considered people of an inferior civilization . the crime was not merely allowed and sanctioned [by other nations], but was considered a transcendent service to universal civilization." The new president concluded by pledging to preserve order and to do his best in carrying forward the work of national reconstruction.33The only levity in an otherwise somber ceremony was provided after the speech by members of the Nationalist caucus. They laughed over the fact that Reyes had not written his inaugural address, entrusting the task to his nephew Cl’maco Calder—n Reyes. When one congressman expressed his belief that Reyes was half crazy, Miguel Antonio Caro responded, "Then he's improved!"34Congress was determined to block Reyes's ambitious program of national rejuvenation. Its members were further scandalized when the new president included two Liberals in his cabinet, making it one of Colombia's few biparti-


56 | Toward Modernity, 18891932san cabinets since that of Manuel Mar’a Mallarino, fifty years earlier. Another of Reyes's early acts was to convene a new consultative body that would meet with him regularly to discuss national problems. Liberals were included in that body, which bore the sonorous name Junta of Notables. Reyes's inclusion of Liberals in his government especially infuriated intransigent Conservatives who favored proscribing all members of the enemy party. Regional economic interests also generated congressional opposition to Reyes and his legislative program. Colombia was very much a nation of loosely united regions in 1904, a fact most clearly revealed in the economic realm. As Reyes attempted to rejuvenate national finances, he found himself in competition with local leaders, such as Antioquian businessman and politician Pedro Nel Ospina, who were equally interested in promoting the development of their home departments. Thus, as Reyes's biographer Eduardo Lemaitre put it, the president's ambitious program to raise moneys for his government, often at the expense of the departments, crystallized the "authentically democratic" and "republican" opposition aimed at blocking his project.35In early October 1904, Reyes appeared before Congress to again request enabling legislation for his reform package. Subsequently he sent written messages to the body urging it to act. On October 19, he again appealed personally to the body. But no congressional action was forthcoming. By early December members of the tiny Liberal minority were berating their Conservative colleagues. Antonio JosŽ Restrepo, a prominent Antioquian Liberal, wished good fortune to any national leader who might start "looking toward other horizons." Rafael Uribe Uribe was more explicit. On December 3, 1904, he openly promised to support Reyes should he decide to seize the power needed to implement his reforms.36 Three days later handbills appeared in the streets of the capital denouncing the "do-nothing" Congress, and five days after that Reyes received two letters. The first was from the president of the Chamber of Representatives, Dionisio Arango, complaining of an ongoing lack of a quorum in his body, and the other was from poet Guillermo Valencia, reminding the president that "since the time of Cromwell governments have rented the houses of hostile parliamentarians." The following day Reyes dissolved Congress and sent telegrams to all parts of the nation requesting support for his action.37 Five days later, on December 18, another handbill was posted in the streets of Bogot‡. It bore the title "A Necessary Explanation," and stated in detail the reasons for congressional opposition to the president, and was signed by twenty-two congressmen, most of them Historical Conservatives. Reyes, buoyed by the outpouring of support for his suspension of Congress, blasted the signatories as "obstructionists and rebellious criminals." Citing one of his own presidential decrees, he threatened any of them who did not publicly denounce the "Necessary Explanation" with exile to the tropical east-


Reyes and Republicanism | 57ern llanos. Half of them refused to do so and soon found themselves on the way to the llanos under military guard.38 Reyes's acts of late 1904 were illegal under Colombian law, as were many others that he undertook until his ouster in mid1909. But at the outset most Colombians applauded his taking decisive charge of the nation's recovery. Prominent members of both Conservative factions supported him. Guillermo Valencia, a Historical, was an early supporter, as was Nationalist Marco Fidel Su‡rez. Liberals were of course enthusiastic supporters of the Conservative president, who, in the colorful phrase of Juan E. Manrique, "placed himself opportunely between the whips of the victors and the backs of the vanquished." General Benjam’n Herrera was especially grateful to Reyes for "allowing the Liberals to breathe" for the first time since the Regeneration. He went so far as to call Reyes "the best leader Colombia has had after [Manuel] Murillo Toro."39The groundswell of popular support that Rafael Reyes rode for nearly five years was merely one aspect of a mood dominant throughout the Western world at that time. Since the era of Bismarck nationalists had endorsed benevolent despotism when exercised for the benefit of the fatherland. During the Reyes years in Colombia the example of Germany's late Iron Chancellor continued to instruct the leaders of major European powers. Over both American continents Reyes-like strongmen demonstrated how modernization could be hurried when leaders did not allow themselves to be hobbled by juridic or ethical preconceptions. At the moment Reyes took power in Colombia the Argentines were bidding farewell to their twice president General Julio Roca, "Conqueror of the Desert," so named for opening the pampas to settlement by liquidating the indigenous peoples who had lived there. The Brazilians basked in an era of "order and progress" made possible just a decade earlier when General Floriano Peixoto, "Consolidator of the Republic," overthrew Emperor Pedro II. Porfirio D’az was at the pinnacle of his prestige in Mexico Rafael Reyes returned from touring Mexico and meeting personally with D’az in 1903, full of admiration for his achievements there. But he was less fulsome in his praise of the Mexican dictator than was U.S. Secretary of State Elihu Root, who in 1907 called D’az "one of the great men to be held up for the hero worship of mankind!" And in the United States Theodore Roosevelt captured the imagination of his own people through his exploits in Cuba, his creation of a first-rate navy for the country, and of course, for his taking of Panama from Colombia. Reyes, Peixoto, D’az, and other Latin American leaders of their era were not simply romantic figures who dazzled and intimidated the rest through their charisma and their willingness to deal harshly with anyone who opposed them. Their actions were in fact endorsed and supported by members of their respective intellectual establishments who took the position that their societies re-


58 | Toward Modernity, 18891932quired centralized governments headed by strong chief executives if they were to catch up with Europe and the United States. Basing their arguments in the positivism of Auguste Comte and the biological determinism of Herbert Spencer, they reasoned that their peoples had not trod far enough along the evolutionary path to make self-rule work. Intellectuals such as Mexican positivist Emilio Rabasa believed that radical liberals erred when they wrote democratic constitutions that tied their leaders' hands. To Rabasa, their experiments were based in what he called "unworkable, unrealistic sociological law."40Rafael Uribe Uribe was one of those who helped Reyes justify his movement to authoritarian rule. As Reyes was beginning to appreciate that he would never achieve his goals through democratic means, Uribe Uribe made a speech arguing persuasively for strong state intervention in national affairs. Using the analogy of Holland's successful battle to push back the sea, he argued that the central government was the only institution powerful enough to save Colombia from the two forces that thwarted progress, "barbarism and the jungle." Who will defend us from the two? he asked. He answered his own question: "the state, the only true power," he said, would bring progress to benighted Colombia. Uribe Uribe went on to outline a variety of elite-directed programs of national betterment that he referred to as "state socialism."41Once political control was in his hands, Reyes acted quickly. On the first of February he instructed governors of departments, all of whom were his appointees, to name representatives to a new National Assembly. One-third of them were to be Liberals. The body commenced its meetings in Bogot‡ six weeks later, on March 15, 1905. The puppet body would meet annually from that time until March 1909, when popular pressure forced Reyes's resignation and brought about his subsequent self-imposed exile from Colombia on June 13, 1909. Between its initial meeting in mid-March 1905, and its adjournment six weeks later, the National Assembly created by Reyes approved a package of constitutional amendments giving the president the power he sought. Among the measures were provisions weakening Colombia's supreme court, allowing the president to convene and dismiss Congress at will, ending restrictions on the president's power to tax, providing for the expropriation of private property in case of public need, removing certain constitutional safeguards of regional interests, and allowing the president to change internal departmental boundaries. One of the last laws was a provision guaranteeing the Liberal Party one-third of the seats in all elected bodies. Shortly before the National Assembly ended its 1905 session on the last day of April, grateful Liberals joined their Conservative colleagues in extending Reyes's term in office an additional four years, to December 31, 1914. The body adjourned after a mere forty-seven days, during which it gave juridic sanction to Colombia's new


Reyes and Republicanism | 59status as an authoritarian state. "Never in our parliamentary annals has greater harmony existed between the executive and legislative powers," was JosŽ Joaqu’n Guerra's ironic assessment of the Quinquenio period. The same thing must have occurred to Manuel D‡vila Flores, Abad’a MŽndez, and Sotero Pe–uela as they straggled back into Bogot‡ following their brief exile in the eastern llanos. Early in 1905 Reyes began a frenzy of activity that would not diminish until his fall from power, four years later. As his most pressing needs lay in the area of fiscal affairs he undertook a variety of measures aimed at improving Colombian finances. Tariff duties on agricultural and other exports were raised to 70 percent, paper currency was destroyed until the ratio of paper to gold reached 100 to 1 (down from 10,000 to 1), a bank was founded and given broad powers in the area of revenue raising, and General Jorge Holgu’n was dispatched to London to inform foreign investors that his nation was putting its financial house in order. Reyes's fiscal initiatives met with quick and gratifying success. Government revenues first doubled, then tripled. Inflation ended and the nation's foreign debt was paid off during 1907, resulting in Colombia's name being removed from the list of delinquent debtor nations posted at the London Stock Exchange.42 Colombian bonds, which had earlier sold in London for as little as 14 percent of face value, were selling at 46 percent by 1906. That was owed to the repayment of a substantial portion of the foreign debt earlier that year. By Reyes's fall in 1909 an estimated $3 million worth of foreign capital had been invested in the country.43 A few foreign companies began operations in Colombia, most notable among them the United Fruit Company of Boston, which responded to Reyes's invitation by opening banana plantations in the northern part of the country. The government's fiscal program also spurred industrial and agricultural development. Reyes's tariff on imported cloth insured that Medell’n's infant textile business would prosper. It is significant that entrepreneurs like future national president Pedro Nel Ospina clearly perceived the benefits both of protection and of government intervention on behalf of the economy at large. Before the Quinquenio ended grateful owners of a successful sugar refinery spontaneously repaid all subsidies that the government had awarded it.44 The Reyes program set Colombian manufacturing on a course of steady growth that it would maintain for the next two decades. Export agriculture, especially coffee, benefited under Reyes. Growers had become so prosperous by 1907 that they asked the president to take the one gold peso per hundredweight bounty on coffee previously awarded to them and use it to improve transportation on the R’o Magdalena.45 Aware of the potential profit in coffee, and of its importance to national growth, Reyes


60 | Toward Modernity, 18891932awarded ten million hectares of the national domain to domestic capitalists, who agreed to colonize it and bring it into production.46Reyes spent a great deal of the money he raised in improving the nation's ever problematic system of transportation. One of his first acts was to set 4,000 laborers working on the Northern Highway, extending from Bogot‡ toward Boyac‡. Before he left office Reyes had the pleasure of driving his new Cadillac along the 200-kilometer stretch whose terminus was his own hometown of Santa Rosa de Viterbo, more than half the distance to Bucaramanga. He had to thus cut travel time from five days to one. Great money and effort were lavished on the country's rail system. By the end of his regime Reyes had increased railway mileage by 50 percent above what it was when he took office. Most significant, he succeeded in completing the link between the national capital and the Magdalena, something Colombian leaders had been trying to do for more than twenty years. Also important in a country where the overwhelming majority of freight was hauled by animals, Reyes improved many kilometers of existing mule trails and had 780 kilometers of new routes built. The government spent money on and otherwise encouraged a variety of social and civic improvements. During Reyes's term of office Bogot‡ and Cartagena witnessed the construction of new water systems. The leper colony at Agua de Dios (Cundinamarca) was put back into operation, and two additional facilities were established in other parts of the country. Two previously neglected groups, women and workers, found their educational needs addressed during the Quinquenio. Reyes brought French nuns of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to open the country's first girls' colegio; he promoted evening vocational courses for workers, and oversaw the founding of a business school as well. Marco Fidel Su‡rez wrote approvingly of the new parks and streets that the dictator had constructed, as well of the hippodrome he had built for automobile races. Su‡rez also approved of Reyes's use of public moneys to refurbish the Palacio de San Carlos, as well as for rebuilding the Palacio de la Carrera. Manuel Zamora, author of a city directory published in 1907, noted "a great profusion of carriages circulating through all the streets and, along with automobiles, [taking passengers] to neighboring towns. The city also has a perfectly established street railway system."47Rafael Reyes's administration was especially notable for the extent that new interests became directly involved with the business of government. Within three days of the new president's inauguration, his Liberal treasury minister, Lucas Caballero, called together fifty businessmen and charged them with initiating a national-level Chamber of Commerce. The president himself organized a Society of Coffee Producers, which later became the semiofficial Society of Colombian Agriculturalists. Hardly one to sit in a solitary office reading


Reyes and Republicanism | 61novels, as had his predecessor Marroqu’n, Reyes filled his workdays with an endless stream of meetings and presidential decrees and directives. Historian Humberto VŽlez estimates that during his term of office Reyes granted 11,550 audiences with individuals and groupssome fifteen per day. He met with his cabinet 324 times, formulated 4,742 decrees and 1,316 presidential and fiscal accords, and dispatched 58,750 telegrams.48The president's management style is suggested in an incident said to have taken place in connection with his controversial Central Bank and its equally controversial director Pepe Sierra. When the Bogot‡ newspaper El Nuevo Tiempo attacked Sierra for his handling of the bank, the wealthy paisa threatened to resign his directorship. Reyes summoned the paper's editor, Ismael Enrique Arciniegas, to his office, shouted at him and waved his fist under the newspaperman's nose. It was rumored that Reyes also laid hands on Arciniegas and tried to throw him over a balcony and into the patio of the presidential mansion. Meanwhile Pepe Sierra supposedly listened to the exchange in an adjoining room.49However successful Rafael Reyes was in reviving Colombia after its recent war, his tenure in office could never have approached the thirty-five years that 5. Bogot‡'s Calle Real, circa 1905. (Note streetcar tracks.) By permission of the Museum of Modern Art, Bogot‡.


62 | Toward Modernity, 18891932Porfirio D’az enjoyed in Mexico, or even the eight years that strongman Cipriano Castro had just completed in neighboring Venezuela. Colombians, unlike many other Latin Americans, had a history of not tolerating arbitrary rule for very long. By 1908, Reyes had offended so many of his countrymen that his hold on power had grown tenuous. His attack on departmental prerogatives, especially his nationalization of departmental liquor, tobacco, and other monopolies, infuriated regional elites. The president had struck hard at the regions in 1905 by creating six new departments and a federal district. By 1908 he had created an additional eighteen new departments, bringing the total number to thirty-fourup from the nine that had existed when he entered office.50 Antioquia alone was metamorphosed from one to five departments. In part because of that, the rich province became the focus of antigovernment opposition. In March 1908, 250 influential paisas, led by businessman Carlos E. Restrepo, founded the Republican Union movement. It quickly became the chief mechanism for aggregating and channeling opposition to the regime in Bogot‡. Motivated as well by moral considerations, Republicans also made much of the nepotism and corruption that flourished under Reyes's rule.51For years the enemies of Reyes had tried to get rid of him by illegal means. By 1908 the president had survived two major coup attempts and three plots on his life. Reyes had also confronted a bizarre scheme through which conspirators in Antioquia, Cauca, and Atlantic coast departments plotted to join Panama in forming a new state to be called the Isthmian Republic.52 The most celebrated attempt to assassinate Reyes came on February 10, 1906. Three men fired on his carriage as it traveled through Bogot‡'s northern outskirts. Miraculously, they missed both Reyes and his daughter, who accompanied him at the time. When the three men were captured, along with an accomplice, Reyes had them tried and sentenced to death by firing squad. The four executions, illegal under Colombian lawdoubly so, as both Reyes and his daughter were uninjuredwere conducted publicly as a none-too-subtle exercise in Victorian morality. Official photographers recorded the spectacle, which was carried out at the site of the attack, as a large select audience, prisoners from the nearby Pan—ptico, looked on with horror.53It was neither assassination, arbitrary executions, nor regional opposition that brought Reyes down. Rather, it was a series of crises centering on Colombia's growing involvement with the United States. First in the chain of events was a financial panic of 1907 affecting New York and London banks the so-called rich man's crisis. As well as helping drive coffee prices down, the economic downturn caused Jorge Holgu’n to fail in his attempts to negotiate new loans in London. That moved Reyes, desperate for money to finance his


Reyes and Republicanism | 63development programs, to take two ill-advised steps. First he sent Laureano Garc’a Ortiz to negotiate the leasing of government emerald mines to a foreign consortium, which Garc’a Ortiz succeeded in doing just before Christmas 1908.54 At the same time he urged his foreign minister, Enrique CortŽs, to continue negotiations with the Americans to the end of reestablishing good relations with the wealthy nation. CortŽs's success in signing a treaty in January 1909, the so-called tripartite agreement, sparked a series of angry public debates. They followed Republican Union member Nicol‡s Esguerra's angry letter to the National Assembly, in which he argued that the body had no constitutional power to approve treaties. It was soon revealed that in exchange for $2.5 million, to be paid in equal installments over ten years, Colombia would pledge peace and friendship to both the United States and Panama.55In mid-March 1909, student demonstrations erupted in Bogot‡, leading Reyes to resign the presidency in favor of his minister of the interior, Jorge Holgu’n. Angered and disconcerted by continued demonstrations, and a few scattered incidents of stone throwing, Reyes reassumed power almost immediately and quashed the demonstrators. But Reyes knew public opinion ran heavily against him. On June 4, 1909, the president and his family boarded the train for Girardot, en route, so the president said, to a tour of the coastal departments. Pausing briefly in Puerto Wilches to confer with his former vice president Ram—n Gonz‡lez Valencia, Reyes continued on to Barranquilla, where a gala was scheduled in his honor on June 13. Late on the thirteenth, as the orchestra played and dignitaries glanced nervously at their watches, Rafael Reyes and his family slipped out to sea on a freighter owned by the United Fruit Company. Reyes would never again play a significant role in Colombian politics. The Quinquenio was ended.G—mez CommencesColombia's "March Days" of 1909 were doubly significant in the country's political history. They not only hastened the demise of Reyes's Quinquenio, but they also announced that a new political generation had come of age. The college students who successfully challenged the dictator first called themselves Trecemarcistas (March thirteenth-ers), but soon exchanged the cumbersome nickname for the more sonorous Generation of the Centenary. Because their political maturity coincided with the bipartisan Republican Union movement, whose leaders filled the political void left by Reyes, it seemed for a while that the Centenarians might succeed in bridging the ideological chasm that had divided their mentors. As it turned out, the Centenarians could no more unlearn the great truths of Colombian Liberalism and Conservatism so recently


64 | Toward Modernity, 18891932instilled in them and underlined in blood during the War of the Thousand Days than could their elders make Republicanism a viable alternative to the violent partisanship that had prevailed for fifty years. The forces working against bipartisanship in Colombia were not entirely autochthonous ones. In Europe, theorists on both the left and right continued to promote their own mutually antagonistic visions of the social order. Their inspiration would prove invaluable to intransigent Liberals and Conservatives who perceived Republicanism as political relativism, or worse, political apostasy. In the view of Colombia's older generation of Conservative and Liberal ideologues, Republicanismwedding, as it were, Liberals and Conservativeswas an unnatural, immoral thing to be got rid of as quickly as possible. Hence even as the bipartisan Republican Union movement grew and prospered around the time of Reyes's fall, committed partisans of Liberalism and Conservatism plotted their strategy. They too had welcomed the fall of the dictator Reyes. But unlike the impressionable Centenarians, they watched the political events of March 1909 with a cool and calculating eye. Throughout the nineteenth and well into the twentieth century, the most dramatic events in Colombian public life frequently took place in the chambers of Congress. During moments of high drama, such as those occurring between February 22 and March 13, 1909, spectators jammed the long semicircular galleries overhanging the scene of debates. Secondary, preparatory school, and college students normally filled a good many of the seats, for Bogot‡ was then, as it remains today, Colombia's center of higher education. Students from the best families flocked to the capital for advanced formal education. After class they often repaired to the capitol to observe the political goings-on, and, indirectly, to participate in them. They did so by applauding their heroes and registering noisy disapproval of enemy politicians. The student Laureano G—mez, for example, spent many an afternoon observing debates. As a lad of fourteen he had raptly followed Miguel Antonio Caro's successful campaign against the Panama treaty. Now a twenty-year-old university student, he watched the National Assembly attempt to pass Reyes's complicated treaty involving Panama and the United States. On March 9, 1909, he and all the others whistled and jeered a pro-treaty petition from the despised Aristides Fern‡ndez, and watched with dismay as yet another distinguished citizen, Adolfo Le—n G—mez, was clapped into the Pan—ptico for registering vehement opposition to the tripartite pact. A week earlier Reyes had jailed the noted jurist Eduardo Rodr’guez Pi–eres and General Carlos JosŽ Espinosa for opposing them. Rodr’guez Pi–eres, president of the Colombian Academy of Jurisprudence, had signed his organization's finding that the National Assembly could not legally approve treaties as it was not a legally constituted body.56Demonstrations against Reyes and the tripartite agreement began on


Reyes and Republicanism | 65March 10, the day after Aristides Fern‡ndez's petition was read before the assembly. They were led by students from the medical school of the National University, the pro-Liberal institution that Fern‡ndez had closed during the War of the Thousand Days. Prominent among them were Jorge Mart’nez Santamar’a and Luis L—pez de Mesa. On their way to protest the proposed treaty before the American Consulate, they passed by Sim—n Araœjo's Universidad Republicana, where they enlisted the support of Ram—n Rosales, Pedro Juan Navarro, and many others. Soon they were joined by students from the law school of the National University.57The following day, March 11, President Reyes called student leaders and heads of their respective institutions to the presidential palace. Among the latter groups were rectors of the law and medical schools of the National University, as well as Monsignor Rafael M. Carrasquilla of the Colegio del Rosario and Father Vicente Leza of San BartolomŽ. Only the rector of the engineering school of the National University and his student representatives failed to attend. President Reyes had intended to cow his guests, as he had all Colombians for nearly five years. After so doing he planned to mollify them with a luncheon at his residence. But nothing went as he hoped. Only Carrasquilla agreed to keep his students from further protests. Father Leza shocked Reyes and delighted the students by refusing to accept responsibility for what San BartolomŽ students did once they left the campus, and several of the students, led by Mart’nez Santamar’a, spoke boldly against approval of the treaties. The student Rafael Abello Salcedo stupefied cabinet members in attendance when he addressed Reyes as Citizen President. Members of the cabinet were required to address the president as "your excellency." In the end Reyes had clearly lost his composure. The students could see that he was beside himself, his hands trembling, his voice taking on a supplicating tone. Earlier he had torn the tricolored presidential sash from his breast and hurled it to the floor. Students and rectors left the palace, scorning the president's luncheon.58Word of the meeting spread quickly, and in less than two hours a large group of students made its way to the home of Jorge Mart’nez Santamar’a to congratulate him. Notable for their presence were students of the school of engineering of the National University. Their leader, Laureano G—mez, gave an impassioned speech in which he offered the movement his and his companions' support. Not long afterward a detachment of police carrying rifles and fixed bayonets surrounded and arrested the students. Laureano G—mez and Ram—n Rosales were among the first taken. As they were marched away to jail, down Calle 12 to the Calle Real, down to and across the Plaza de Bol’var, the students, their faces radiant, sang a spirited rendition of the "Marseillaise."59


66 | Toward Modernity, 18891932More demonstrations took place the next day, March 12. On the following day Reyes turned power over to Jorge Holgu’n, who quickly withdrew the treaties from consideration and released all those jailed during the demonstrations. March 13 also marked the political debut of Enrique Olaya Herrera. Tall, blond, and ten years older than most of his student peers, Olaya captivated the younger men with a Plaza de Bol’var speech notable chiefly for a brilliant improvisation. Glimpsing two of Reyes's daughters passing in a carriage, Olaya pointed to them and thundered, "the diamonds that the daughters of Reyes wear are nothing less than tears of a people who today assume the fullness of their rights and duties."60Olaya's words were premature, for Reyes had resumed the presidency before many more hours passed. But within three months Reyes was gone. In July a popularly elected Congress began its sessions, and by August Ram—n Gonz‡lez Valencia took office as president, to complete the remaining year of Reyes's original six-year term. As for Enrique Olaya Herrera, he became active in the Republican Union movement, ultimately becoming Colombia's youngest ever minister of foreign affairsat an astonishing twenty-nine years of age. Members of the clergy and their ultramontane Conservative allies were distressed by Bogot‡'s March Days. They saw in the mass schoolboy uprising and in the attending rush toward bipartisanship a dangerous forgetfulness of fundamental social and political values. Liberalism and Conservatism could never be reconciled, they believed. Yet that truth appeared to be forgotten by student leaders Mart’nez Santamar’a and Olaya Herrera, enemies in the recent war. And the sight of young Laureano G—mez braying about "raising the bloody banner" and "marching so that the foul blood may drench our furrows" while happily trotting off to jail alongside Liberal students must have struck them as truly disconcerting. G—mez was, as headmaster Father Vicente Leza and secular activist JosŽ Joaqu’n Casas well knew, the finest product of Jesuit education, a devout Catholic only recently graduated from San BartolomŽ at the head of his class. Could it be that he had, while studying at the National University, fallen prey to the disassociative ideas they all feared and about which Aristides Fern‡ndez had so eloquently spoken not long before his fall from power?61There was, in the view of Colombia's religious right wing, an equally dangerous element in the recent demonstrations. Immediately after resuming power President Reyes warned that the uprising against him was "fomented and exploited by revolutionary agents."62 His words were a frightening reaffirmation of Pope Leo XIII's warning in that most famous of modern encyclicals, De rerum novarum (1891), that "crafty agitators" were intent on exploiting the differences between rich and poor, in order "to pervert men's judgment and to stir up the people to revolt."63 Still in the Colombia of 1909 it was clear, as


Reyes and Republicanism | 67noted above, that socialism was not about to sweep the country. Immediately after the March Days artisans, laborers, and factory workers marched in support of the government crackdown on the students. But that did little to comfort Father Leza, who saw "the tide of Communism incipient today in Colombia," and who warned that "if it is ignored it [can] assume a most disastrous character in the future."64Such remarks were hardly the unique expressions of reactionary conservatives living in one of the Western world's most isolated republics. Rather, they echoed the statements of militant religious activists everywhere in the Roman Catholic world, all of whom were committed to countering a widely perceived threat to Christian morality. That threat was modernism, being defined as everything falling outside the parameters of scholastic learning. Pope Pius X, who had succeeded Leo XIII in 1903, showed the way in encyclicals that were read to all Catholics. In 1907, Lamentabli sane and Pascendi dominici gregis proscribed the liberal Modernist Movement within the Church, which Pius X had called "the heresy of heresies."65 Chief among the sins of Modernist theologians was their insistence on an interpretive as opposed to a literal approach to Scripture. Two years earlier, in Il fermo proposito, directed to Italian Catholics, the pope urged that they organize politically, "in order to combat antiChristian civilization by every just and lawful means." While the encyclical was specifically directed to Italian members of the lay organization Catholic Action, Church activists everywhere could not have helped notice the pontiff's injunction for "all Catholics to prepare themselves prudently and seriously for political life in case they should be called to it. . ."66 Following the issuing of Pascendi, the leading Spanish Conservative politician, Antonio Maura (1853 1925), invigorated his nation's Catholic Action movement by launching a new and even more militant group in 1909, called the Maurista Youth Movement.67In France, Charles Maurras and his followers fought the liberal Third Republic, which they called la gueuse (the slut), by forming an antiparliamentarian bloc within the French parliament.68 And in Colombia, JosŽ Joaqu’n Casas, Father Vicente Leza, and their associates, decided to rally Catholic youth by giving them a newspaper. During the middle months of 1909, Casas and others met privately with a number of young men whom they had identified as both fervent Catholics and as intelligent, articulate, and politically active. Twenty-year-old Laureano G—mez was especially interesting to them, because he, more than any of the others had shown extraordinary qualities of leadership during the recent upset. However, G—mez required special handling, as by that time he was both a "doctor," having just been awarded his college degree, and the head of his family. JosŽ Laureano G—mez had died in 1905, shortly after instructing his eldest son that he must become an engineer. Further complicating matters was


68 | Toward Modernity, 18891932the fact that G—mez had recently accepted an engineering position with the Antioquia Railroad. Responsibility for bringing Laureano G—mez into the publishing venture was assigned Father Luis J‡uregui, a Spanish Jesuit who had taught G—mez at San BartolomŽ, and whom the young man loved and respected. J‡uregui described the need for a new pro-clerical newspaper dedicated to answering attacks on the Church by its enemies. He described journalism as the noblest of occupations, one whose rewards were many and whose disillusionments few. To G—mez's protests that neither he nor his family was likely to survive on his salary as a journalist, the priest turned to Scripture. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," he intoned, "and these things shall be given unto you."69 The Jesuit salesman's pitch was a tour de force. G—mez left J‡uregui's quarters having agreed to join the publishing venture. During September 1909, an organizational meeting was held to launch the newspaper, which would be called La Unidad (Unity). No member of the clergy was present, but fifty-four-year-old JosŽ Joaqu’n Casas was. Casas, who during the war had founded the Colegio P’o X, and who had toyed with the idea of founding a Catholic party in Colombia, along with Aristides Fern‡ndez, made clear the pro-clerical intent of the paper. All those in attendance were graduates of San BartolomŽ.70 Like G—mez, most were young, and looked on the famous Dr. Casas with respect verging on veneration. Thanks to Casas and his support, both moral and economic, La Unidad published its first edition October 2, 1909. Laureano G—mez was its editor. G—mez quickly proved to be both a brilliant defender of the religious right and of the notion that Conservatism and the Church were ideologically one and the samethat Catholic values were Conservative values, and vice versa. As he said to JosŽ de la Vega on meeting him for the first time, in October 1909, "we must defend the great values of Conservatism."71 Because he saw Colombia as "an ungovernable country par excellence," the common good required not the liberty advocated by Liberals, but rather "repression of the passions through the exercise of self-control, which in fact constitutes moderate and just use of that same liberty." "That's the true liberty we aspire to," he wrote. "Isn't it more honorable to preach the rigidity and sobriety of Sparta than the dissipation and freedom of Babylonia?"72 It's hardly surprising that Laureano G—mez supported moderate suppression of press freedom and of other civil liberties. G—mez believed that as moral ideas are from God and are handed down to man through His church, and thence come to govern human actions through secular law formulated by the state, then church and state must inevitably work together closely. The Conservative Party, then, as political arm of the Church, must control the state if Colombia is to remain a truly Christian na-


Reyes and Republicanism | 69tion. That line of thought ran through the La Unidad editorial of October 16, 1909, in which G—mez wrote that every political question contains a religious question. Since he also believed that in order to be a Liberal "one must support absolute liberty, which the Church condemns," he was forced to conclude that "the principal and almost exclusive cause of political division among us is the religious question."73Thus the young newspaper editor marked himself as a man of firm convictions from the time of his earliest public statements. In that his view of society was ordered by a set of beliefs that were religious, therefore metaphysical and a matter of personal conviction, they were impervious to attack through rational argument. Laureano G—mez was, in short, an ideological thinker who approached all things with a certainty and intellectual tenacity instilled in him over years of study with the Jesuits. His vision of the world was, at least at the level of morality and social order, one of divinely inspired verities, one of rights and wrongs and of clearly defined hierarchies. As one who saw Colombia's Liberal and Conservative Parties as rooted in diametrically opposed sets of ideas, he resisted any idea that there could be accommodation between them. Heterogeneous elements, he stated bluntly in a La Unidad editorial of December 4, 1909, could never form the basis for a lasting political party. Laureano G—mez could not be other than the avowed enemy of the Republican Union movement, which, as he began his newspaper, held a powerful attraction for moderate Conservatives, who were weary of the old partisan struggle. G—mez thus attacked the coalition party repeatedly as a "hybrid," as "a mix of contradictory ideas." Even worse to the young editor, who believed all human society consisted of a profusion of organic hierarchies in which the best and brightest directed the rest, the Republican Union brought together "men of every class, with no selection whatsoever."74 He repeatedly attacked the new party, and urged Conservatives to return to their party. Throughout 1912, G—mez supported Marco Fidel Su‡rez as the man best able to unify Conservatives. He called Su‡rez "a leader of the first magnitude," and continually urged party members of both factions to join Su‡rez's orthodox Conservative "Concentration" movement.75Nine months after La Unidad began publication, in July 1910, Colombians made ready to celebrate the centenary of their national independence. In Bogot‡ the normally gloomy nocturnal scene was brightened by strings of incandescent lights hung by the local privately owned electric company, the new Park of the Centenary readied for its inauguration, the old mule-powered tramway, only recently nationalized, was electrified, and numerous pavilions were readied for the inevitable round of speech making. The holiday had special significance for Colombia's Jesuit community, for it marked the twentyfifth anniversary of their return from Liberal-imposed exile. A celebration


70 | Toward Modernity, 18891932marking the event was held at San BartolomŽ on July 17, and one of the principal speakers was the 1904 graduate Dr. Laureano G—mez, known by then as editor of the city's most vociferous Catholic newspaper. It was to be his first formal presentation. Appropriately, it honored his Jesuit mentors. G—mez began the talk by evoking the happy recollections of all who had studied at the school. He praised the Jesuit Fathers for their virtue and wisdom, and expressed profound gratitude for the parental love they showed their charges. He thanked God for allowing him to study with Jesuits, a religious order whose members place "the seal of perfection upon everything that comes under their influence." G—mez ended with a glowing metaphor. San BartolomŽ was like a noble oak standing lonely on the secular plain, comforting and giving hope to those who lived there. "Years hence," he concluded, "when old age tires us and when we seek its shelter in search of comfort, a tear of bitterness will cross our withered cheeks: Yet it matters not that impiety, the numbing winter of souls occasionally blights this illustrious institution. Its sap will course again, because it is rooted in Catholic faith. Its venerable trunk will forever be covered with flowers and fruits for the glory of God and Country."76Tears dampened many a cheek, and President Gonz‡lez Valencia barely contained himself, rushing to bestow a heartfelt embrace upon the speaker. A visibly moved Father Leza thanked the young orator, and adjourned the ceremony. "It conferred upon me a relative celebrity," G—mez later said of the president's embrace.77 That it did, for in less than a year Laureano G—mez won election to Colombia's Chamber of Representatives as Primer Suplente (first deputy) on the "Authentic" Conservative ticket headed by Miguel Abad’a MŽndez. Thus in mid-1911 he began a parliamentary career that would stretch to more than three decades, and which would be remembered as the most tempestuous in the history of Colombian politics. Laureano G—mez cut a splendid figure as he took his place, at age twentytwo, in the national legislature. With his three-piece suit, gold-headed cane, and cigarette in hand, he was the very picture of the well-dressed cachaco. And he was handsome. Sturdily built, with wavy brown hair and piercing blue-gray eyes, he exuded confidence and vigor. G—mez was a truly charismatic figure who first drew the like-minded to him, and then kept their admiration through personal flair and certainty of purpose. His friend JosŽ de la Vega was one of the first to fall under his spell. At about the time G—mez entered Congress, de la Vega dedicated his doctoral thesis in jurisprudence to his parents and to G—mez, whom he described as "a strong and outstanding spirit," possessing "an integral character and privileged talent."78G—mez's spirit of combativeness was an important part of his persona. Fired by religious zeal, he likened himself and his peers to crusaders who gauged their virtue by the numbers of infidels slain. G—mez admitted that time had


Reyes and Republicanism | 71changed the nature of the contest. "Today," he explained in a speech in 1914, "one must know how to wield the invisible sword of wordswords that, if pronounced with sincerity and faith, damage the adversary more than steel."79Colombia's young Conservative activists found a splendid model for their behavior in the Spanish Conservative Party leader Antonio Maura. G—mez and his fellow militants were among Maura's most avid readers, adopting the Spaniard's slogan, "Liberty has become conservative."80 They admired Maura because he was an ideologist and a staunch foe of anticlericalism, because he was a moralist possessed of a dominating personality, and because he projected an arrogance and self-confidence that prompted some to say, "Maura thinks that he made the world." It was also said of Maura that he "cannot speak without wounding. . [He] only knows how to convince by falling upon his adversaries and listeners in an unrestrained torrent. . ." Historian Fredrick Pike wrote that Maura, "seeking a political course of action that would stave off revolution from below, insisted that only those policies that responded to the religious sentiment of the Spanish people were capable of conserving the nation. . [He] polarized Spain into bitterly hostile Maura, s’' and Maura, no' camps."81 The same would later be said of Colombia's Laureano G—mez. The earliest public acts of Laureano G—mez were marked by the confrontational style that became his trademark. In August 1911, during his first intervention in a congressional debate of small importance, G—mez ended by charging another representative with knowingly violating the nation's constitution.82 Several months later he approached the congressional press gallery and exchanged hot words with an opposition newspaper editor. The two then flew at each other, G—mez brandishing his walking stick and the other man a pistol that he pulled from a coat pocket. They were separated before either inflicted physical damage upon the other.83 During congressional debates the following year his verbal violence so infuriated G—mez's elders, particularly Archbishop Bernardo Herrera Restrepo, that La Unidad was forced to suspend publication. At issue was the government's attempt to raise revenue through leasing the Muzo emerald mines in Boyac‡ to European interests. G—mez was especially critical of Laureano Garc’a Ortiz, a distinguished jurist and diplomat whom he accused of profiting personally from the transaction. When Herrera Restrepo threatened to anathematize both La Unidad and its editor, G—mez yieldedbut not without having the last word. In the editorial in which he announced suspension of his newspaper, G—mez explained his actions as those of one who was simply trying to defend national interests. "But," he stated pointedly, "Muzo has shut us up." "We cease publication with sadness," he concluded, "not for ourselves but for this ill-fated country, where even the highest ecclesiastical officials servedoubtless in misguided good faithto whitewash the actions of a frock-coated thief."84Luckily for G—mez, just as he was angering the archbishop he was also


72 | Toward Modernity, 18891932pleasing him mightily. In June 1912 the young congressman had joined with Conservative intransigent Sotero Pe–uela in sponsoring a law that would ban the Masonic Order from Colombia as a "secret society" and therefore in violation of the national constitution.85 Then on October 30 he launched a movement from the pages of his newspaper for a national eucharistic congress. The idea caught on among Conservatives and by early 1913 a major effort to organize it was afoot throughout Colombia. All this, plus public statements of contrition by G—mez, brought him and his newspaper back into the good graces of the Church hierarchy. La Unidad reappeared in March 1913. Rather than an editorial, that edition contained a letter from G—mez to Archbishop Herrera begging his forgiveness for any trouble he may have caused, and thanking him for having said to G—mez, in an earlier letter, that he wanted nothing more than to see him work in service of the Church "and in accord with directives from the Holy See."86His reconciliation with the archbishop was followed in April by a uniquely self-deprecating letter to La Unidad in which G—mez asked his friends not to propose him as a candidate in upcoming congressional elections. As the party is presently weathering stormy times, it must, he wrote, be represented by a candidate "of eminent virtues, great intelligence and illustration. As I possess none of these qualities, I must remove myself as a possible candidate for that post, the suitable fulfilling of which is beyond my modest abilities."87 His words produced an instant groundswell of support among Conservatives that swept G—mez back into Congress for another term. As the 1913 session approached, Representative G—mez, Sotero Pe–uela, JosŽ Joaqu’n Casas, and other pro-clerical Conservatives hit upon a ploy that they knew would drive members of the Liberal minority to distraction and continue their work of party rejuvenation along Historical lines. They would propose a resolution by which the Colombian Congress would "render homage to Jesus Christ." Liberals, who on principle would not vote for the measure because it mixed religion and politics, would attack its formulators for indulging in cheap political theatrics, which of course they were. But that mattered little to G—mez and the rest, as the Liberals would be forced to go on record as refusing to salute the Redeemer. Additionally, it would neatly unify congressional Historical and Nationalist Conservatives. The measure was debated in the sessions of July 28, 29, and 30. Representative Ram—n Rosales opened for the Liberals, explaining in some detail why he and his colleagues intended to vote against the proposal. It is anti-Liberal, he said, just one more example of how since the 1880s his party had been forced to combat both the Conservative Party and the Church. Thus, Rosales continued, he and other Liberals had good reason to believe that both the matter under debate and the upcoming eucharistic congress would be used


Reyes and Republicanism | 73against them. Marco Fidel Su‡rez has already written in El Nuevo Tiempo that the congress "would make politics, and politics of the most astute kind," said Rosales. If the priests are openly anti-Liberal during mass, why shouldn't they be so at the congresswhy are no Liberals involved in it? Rosales concluded with a rhetorical flourish, asking if it did not seem logical that Liberals should refuse "to weave with their own hands a rope fitted especially to their throats."88Debate continued and at length Liberal Representative Felipe Escobar spoke up, saying that as the proposition was obviously going to pass, Congress should vote to modify it in order that a marble statue of Jesus could be erected on the Palonegro battlefield. The statue should be inscribed with the words "Love one another." To that Representative G—mez interjected, "That is an irony, a sarcasm!" More debate followed, with Liberal Francisco de Paula Borda finally losing patience and accusing Conservatives of raising the issue to delude and distract the masses; the Conservatives were, Borda said, using the Redeemer as a toy. Warming to his theme, the Liberal called the debate a stupid waste of time, a byzantine and unproductive thing to be discussing at a moment when pressing issues of national interest should occupy debate. He called the Regeneration a "mortal wound on the republic" because it made the religious question explode in their midst. He called for the vote, adding that the entire debate did nothing more than illustrate Colombia's lack of culture.89At that point G—mez spoke, saying he'd known all along that he would hear nothing but a series of hapless minority party remarks, the sort of unconstitutional, utilitarian arguments to be expected of Liberals. The only new idea expressed, he said, was the burlesque one about the statue; and Representative Borda had sunk as low as one could, resorting to character assassination. When Borda said, "Who, me?" G—mez elaborated, saying he had heard Borda's anti-Regeneration speech before, adding that the Liberal's accusation that Nœ–ez was poisoned by a Jesuit was a vile lie. G—mez lashed out next at Representative JosŽ Manuel Saavedra Galindo for having taken an oath to defend the Church when a high school student on scholarship at the Colegio del Rosario. "Thus, Mr. President," G—mez concluded, addressing the presiding officer of the C‡mara, "in voting against this project Representative Saavedra proves himself not merely a hypocrite, but a perjurer as well!" With those words the Conservatives present burst into "great and prolonged applause," and members of the congressional majority crowded around G—mez to congratulate him and to shake his hand.90 As the debate had consumed the entire afternoon, the presiding officer adjourned the session. Saavedra Galindo opened the next day's debate saying, among other things, that Representative G—mez had stooped to character assassination in bringing up his, Saavedra's, humble origins and the free room and board he had been


74 | Toward Modernity, 18891932forced to accept when an impoverished student. He professed surprise at hearing someone discussing such mundane subjects in the national congresssubjects properly the domain "of the ill born and of hotel maids." Saavedra's sarcasm had little effect on G—mez. Later in the debate G—mez gave thanks that he had not "squandered the best years of [his] youth in low scenes of hypocrisy, as did a certain student at the Colegio del Rosario."91At last, on July 30, the proposition that the Colombian Chamber of Representatives "render homage to Jesus Christ" was put to the vote. It passed handily, as everyone knew it would. Sixty Conservatives voted for it; thirteen liberals voted against. These incidents reveal that religion remained a divisive force in early-twentieth-century Colombia, and that young politicians like Laureano G—mez were likely to keep it so into the foreseeable future. At a broader level they are suggestive that as the second decade of the new century wore on, extremists in both major parties had little trouble reviving old patterns of partisan enmity, thus dooming the infant Republican Union movement. That three days of discussions could be devoted to a matter of little practical but of great ideological consequence indicated that Colombia remained a place where the ultramontane right could successfully conduct its war against modernism. Representative Pedro Sicard, who also participated in the debate, was no doubt correct in wailing that the chamber should be debating matters like national defense and public education. But it did not necessarily follow, as his colleague Francisco Borda said, that the Conservatives were simply "throwing dust into the eyes of . the unthinking masses, fanaticized by the spirit of party."92There were no masses in Colombia in 1913, at least in the sense implied by Borda. Rather, the nation possessed a great majority of pious and unlearned country folk, Liberals and Conservatives, who routinely and sincerely rendered homage to Jesus Christ and attached no greater political significance to it. The debates went on over an inherently trivial matter because there was no reason for them not to. Politics was in large measure showmanship in the Colombia of that time. The Liberal and Conservative Parties had long since worked out clientelist networks through which the government's limited political largesse was distributed, depending, that is, on whose party held power. The rest was posturing. Not that most Colombians didn't avidly follow the deeds of their leaders in the various national fora. It was nearly as much fun for them to read or hear of Laureano G—mez's followers "deliriously carrying him through the streets" on their shoulders, as Representatives Borda, Sicard, and Saavedra skulked away, "their political reputations ruined" thanks to the young tribune's reasoned attack.93 Men like G—mez and Saavedra did not represent individual Colombians. Rather, they were the visible representatives of


Reyes and Republicanism | 75what remained monolithic interest associationsthe largest and most inclusive in the nation at that time. Having achieved their exalted status, politicians were expected to represent their constituents with panache, not with substantive programs aimed at the public welfare. In fact such programs had never been realized in Colombia. The evolution of Colombian politics from theatrics to meaningful debate over issues of substance would have to wait until the government commanded more resources and until even hotel maids and the illborn could exercise direct and meaningful influence on the political process.Republican InterludeColombia's Republican Union became a political party in 1909, and elected its first and only national president, Carlos E. Restrepo, the following year. The party's decline began almost immediately and by 1918 it did not even field a presidential candidate. Still the spirit giving life to Republicanism was broader and more important than its ephemeral political party. If that spirit is understood to have signified elite political partisanship pledged to the cause of national peace and economic progress, then all five men who held office in Colombia between 1906 and 1926 can be considered Republicans. The two decades encompassed by that interval did constitute a time of peace and economic development in the Andean republic. The same can be said for other Latin American nations where caudillo-inspired civil wars had become things of another era, and the social protests that would fill most of the twentieth century still had not begun. Carlos E. Restrepo had his counterparts in Chile's Arturo Alessandri, Argentina's Hip—lito Yrigoyen, and to a lesser extent in the Brazilian presidents of the bourgeois Old Republic. All were members of an unchallenged political elite who shared the conviction that their nations must rush to join the industrializing capitalist world whatever the cost. The leaders who held power during Colombia's Republican interlude not only enjoyed a time of relative peace and prosperity, but they shared a philosophy that enabled them to pursue national development with a remarkable degree of unanimity. That philosophy was positivism, which, as noted earlier, taught that nations inevitably pass through stages, reaching enlightenment through the discovery of rationally deduced scientific truths. Latin American positivists like Restrepo and his peers found Herbert Spencer's "sociological" elaboration of the philosophy especially relevant. The evolutionary process described by Darwin, and applied to human society by Spencer, appeared manifest in Colombia, where the more favored races flourished at the expense of less favored ones. Restrepo and the others resolved that as members of the select few, it was their duty to help the rest travel the upward-tending path of progress. That


76 | Toward Modernity, 18891932would not be easy, for Restrepo knew how long and twisted the path would be. Colombia remained, after all, "a childlike, infant country, of capricious and epileptic impulses, guided by national, political, and religious instincts."94That made it imperative for men like him to wean his fellow citizens from puerile attachments to "metaphysical" political beliefs, to help them move up to a truly mature "scientific" approach to public affairs. He repeatedly called for "less politics and more administration," a tenet of scientific politics in the heyday of Latin American positivism. Rafael Reyes said as much when, near the end of his presidency, he called politics "an experimental science." Rafael Uribe Uribe, a political antagonist of Restrepo, shared the latter man's empirical attitude: "let us adopt the experimental and evolutionary method in politics," Uribe Uribe said in a speech of 1911.95 And like Restrepo, the Liberal caudillo appreciated the vast effort it would require to propel their people to a higher stage of development. "Nearly the entire circumference of Colombia is in the hands of savages," he wrote in 1907, going on to explain his plan for uplifting the Indian population by integrating them into national life.96Men of the Republican interlude were, in short, enthusiastic Victorians steeped in the dominant philosophy of their day. Despite differences of personality and party they shared a scientific spirit and a belief in progress that united them with like-minded leaders across their own continent and elsewhere in the quickening Western world. Carlos E. Restrepo took office on August 7, 1910, pledged to continue the work of reconciliation begun by his predecessor, Ram—n Gonz‡lez Valencia. Gonz‡lez's term was popularly known as the Christian Year in tongue-incheek recognition of the president's extreme piety and desire for peace. Constitutional reform was political Colombia's chief concern during the brief Gonz‡lez presidency. The reform was carried out by a constituent assembly dominated by Republican Unionistswho went on to elect Restrepo to the presidency. Hence it bore Restrepo's civilist stamp. The reforms strove to lessen single-party domination principally through limiting the presidential term to four years and specifying that there should be no immediate succession. President Restrepo was convinced that the two traditional parties were in a state of "decomposition," being rooted in the metaphysical concerns of an age now past. That was the basis of his conviction and his hope that Republicanism was the wave of the future. Through it, Colombians could put behind them their "primitive blood feuds," and enter "the purely social and economic terrain where civilized nations of today are fighting their battles." "When they say to me that metaphysical questions must be discussed along with politics," Restrepo wrote in 1904, "I say to them: let's suspend those questions until some holiday, when we can afford the luxury of metaphysical parties."97 The


Reyes and Republicanism | 77remark suggests the great distance separating civilist Conservatives like Restrepo from ultramontane ones like G—mez, Casas, and the others. It is no coincidence that Antioquians assumed leadership during the two decades of calm between the war and the mid-1920s. They were the most entrepreneurial of all Colombians, and dominated the country's chief coffeegrowing region as well. Profits from coffee exports were to help speed Colombian modernization at an accelerating pace throughout the Republican interlude. Carlos E. Restrepo was associated with the more successful business interests in his department. He was president of the Medell’n Chamber of Commerce when elected national president in 1910. Pedro Nel Ospina was a member of the chamber at that moment, as was his brother Mariano Ospina V‡squez, another ardent Republican. Yet another brother, Tulio Ospina, cooperated with the government in helping foment economic development. He helped establish what would become the chief organization of Colombia's large landowners, the Society of Colombian Agriculture.98The Republican interlude was accompanied by gratifying economic progress. During Restrepo's administration coffee prices rose by 50 percent and coffee exports doubled, reaching a million sixty-kilo sacks in 1913. Coffee, which represented 42 percent of Colombian exports at the end of Restrepo's first year in office, had risen to 72 percent of exports when Pedro Nel Ospina began his presidency in 1922.99 Suggestive of the brightening economic picture was the fact that Restrepo was able to pay many public employees in pounds sterling rather than in pesos. The municipality of Bogot‡ was affluent enough to purchase its trolley system from the private owners in 1910, as it did the privately owned water system the following year. And still there was money left to asphalt the city's main street. Whereas ten years earlier visitors remarked on the lack of traffic in the national capital, by 1912 observers happily described the "animated hubbub of the Calle Flori‡n and the Calle Real . the boiling pots of metropolitan life."100 Other regions shared the newfound prosperity. In 1914 the Antioquia Railroad was completed, linking Medell’n with Puerto Berr’o, on the R’o Magdalena. And Cali, Colombia's third largest city and commercial center of the R’o Cauca valley, was joined by rail to the Pacific port city of Buenaventura. Colombia increased the exploitation of its vast hydroelectric resources during the Republican interlude. Imported generators began to replace the steam engines that had formerly powered workshops and factories. The electricpowered textile plants opening in Antioquia were so much quieter and more efficient than their predecessors that people bought tickets so they could watch the new machines operate.101 Electricity was the chief power source in Bogot‡'s new Germania brewery and in the Samper brothers' new flat-glass plant. Political peace and economic development found dramatic symbolic ex-


78 | Toward Modernity, 18891932pression on September 19, 1908, less than a year before Rafael Reyes's fall. On that day the president, in Bogot‡, pushed a button inaugurating the Coltejer textile plant in Medell’n. Coltejer would soon become one of Colombia's first industrial giants. A reporter captured the event in a newspaper article wondrous as much for its ingenuousness as for its descriptiveness: "The sensational moment has arrived, ladies and gentlemen. Let us draw closer and observe the phenomenon. General Reyes has in his hands the electric button . two minutes pass . suddenly an electromagnet activated by the current running from Bogot‡ through telegraph lines moves a lever which frees a weight that falls, closing a switch, thus permitting electric current to enter, starting dynamos whose axles are connected to machinery suddenly set into dizzying movement."102Colombia's need for capital was an ongoing problem during the Republican era. Santiago PŽrez Triana, sent by Reyes to find European lessees for the Muzo emerald mines, saw that as his nation's most pressing need. He gave his argument in favor of foreign loans a moral cast by tracing "popular misery [and] the many evils afflicting Colombia" to a lack of personal capital. "Without [money]," he lectured, "moral progress is impossible."103 Modern studies confirm PŽrez's perception that Colombians had very little disposable capital. In 1917 the currency in circulation was only four pesos per capita, whereas the average in Chile was sixteen pesos and in Argentina forty-six.104The scarcity of investment capital from abroad made it increasingly important that Colombia improve its relations with the United States. That country's significance in hemispheric finance was manifest in 1906 and 1907, when bank failures in New York dried up European loans. Yet Colombians remained angry over American complicity in the Panama revolt, as evidenced by Foreign Minister Pedro Nel Ospina's refusal to permit a visit by Secretary of State Philander Knox in 1912. At length mutual economic self-interest prevailed, and in mid-1913 the two nations resumed negotiations aimed at settling the Panama matter. The following year both countries signed, in Bogot‡, the Urrutia-Thompson Treaty. Among the Colombian signatories were First Designate Marco Fidel Su‡rez and former president Gonz‡lez Valencia. By May the Colombian Congress had ratified the treaty, but not without opposition led by the Historical Conservatives, who at one point stopped Senate deliberations by throwing asafetida on the floor of the chamber.105 Opponents included Manuel D‡vila Flores in the Senate, and Miguel Abad’a MŽndez, Laureano G—mez, and JosŽ de la Vega in the Chamber. The treaty included both a clause stating that United States expressed "sincere regret" for the Panama incident, and another providing for a $25 million indemnity to be paid upon the treaty's ratification by the U.S. Senate. That would not take place for another eight years, however, as Republicans in the U.S. Senate refused to endorse or vote for


Reyes and Republicanism | 79an agreement that they judged to be an affront to their greatest living leader, Theodore Roosevelt.106As Carlos E. Restrepo's term ended it was clear that his party would not endure. Prominent members of the two traditional parties deserted Republicanism early in his administration. In 1911, JosŽ Vicente Concha and Marco Fidel Su‡rez set aside their mutual dislike and worked to unify Conservatism, which Concha likened to "a chained titan." Uribe Uribe founded his antiRepublican newspaper, El Liberal, in 1911, and the following year organized the Liberal Bloc movement. Violence erupted in many parts of the country during elections in March 1913, causing Restrepo to openly lament the widespread Conservative fraud that had helped cause it. Privately he berated Colombia's electoral "rottenness," which proved to him "that we are still an inferior and unworthy nation."107 In the presidential election of February 1914, Restrepo's candidate, Nicol‡s Esguerra, lost to Conservative JosŽ Vicente Concha by a staggering eight-to-one margin. Unlike his predecessor, and the two men who followed him as president, JosŽ Vicente Concha was not an Antioquian. Nor had he a background in business, as did the paisa industrialists Restrepo and Ospina. Still he shared with the others an abhorrence of partisanship that made him unpopular with extremists in his own party. Many Liberals admired him for his good citizenship and his philosophic commitment to administrative decentralization and laissez-faire policies. To young Juan Lozano y Lozano "Concha was a Liberal, a great Liberalperhaps the most orthodox Liberal in Colombia. . The extreme right always looked at him with a terror that none of the great Liberal leadersGeneral Uribe Uribe, General Herreraever inspired."108Concha got on so well with Rafael Uribe Uribe that the Liberal caudillo backed him in the 1914 election. That shocked many, as it forced him to oppose the highly regarded Republican candidate, Nicol‡s Esguerra, a fellow Liberal. The new president intended to reward that support by making Uribe Uribe his minister to Great Britain, when the assassination of the Liberal leader removed him from the political stage in late 1914. World War I coincided precisely with JosŽ Vicente Concha's term in office, which meant that economic dislocations condemned his government to an ongoing situation of penury. Sources of foreign credit disappeared, coffee prices fell, customs duties dried up. True to his laissez-faire and hard-money principles, Concha refused to inflate the currency or, save for his imposition of a tax on luxuries that produced little new revenue, to raise taxes. The consequence was that salaries of public servants went unpaid, and government agencies were forced to close. The leprosarium at Agua de Dios once more disgorged its hapless inmates into the towns and cities of central Colombia. An especially noteworthy consequence of the world conflict was the loss of


80 | Toward Modernity, 18891932Colombia's European markets, and the concomitant expansion of business dealings with the United States. Before the war Colombians sold 40 percent of their exports to Europe and 50 percent to the United States. After the war the corresponding figures were about 15 and 73 percent. The shift in imports was even more striking. Whereas in 1910 Colombia bought approximately twothirds of its imports in Europe and less than a third from the U.S., after the war the figures were reversed.109In spite of these developments, Colombian-U.S. relations soured over the issue of Colombian neutrality during the war. While the policy was based on long-standing good relations between Colombia and the Central European powers, U.S. officials assumed that the policy indicated a pro-German bias. Consequently they pressured Concha to strike at German interests in his country. Concha remained obdurate, and the Americans could do no more than wring from the Colombian Congress a condemnation of German submarine attacks on neutral shipping.110The placing of Colombian-U.S. relations back on track would become the chief foreign policy goal of Concha's successor, Marco Fidel Su‡rez. The Conservative Party leader and president of the country between 1918 and 1921 achieved that goal, though it cost him his popularity and ultimately his presidency. His successor, Pedro Nel Ospina, and, ironically, Ospina's anti-U.S. minister of the interior, Laureano G—mez, would reap the immediate rewards of that policy. By the third decade of the century bipartisan Republicanism as a political movement was dead. It was defeated in a highly unequal contest pitting it against Liberal and Conservative Parties undergirded by vast clientelist networks, given life through emotional attachments generalized in the citizenry and stretching back over many decades, and energized by rising young stars like the Liberal, "El Muel—n," Alfonso L—pez, and Bartolino Laureano G—mez. Men of the Republican consensus were by contrast dry-as-dust technocrats whose politically temperate speeches filled spectators of the political processmeaning most Colombianswith ennui. Alfonso L—pez spoke for them when he called Republicanism "apolitical politics." Yet in saying that, he put his finger on the great achievement of Republicanism writ large: through its ideology and agenda modernizing elites found common ground upon which they could start building a modern nation. Their use of the state to foment economic development, their prudent fiscal programs, and their foreign policy aimed at normalizing relations with the United States set precedents for Colombia that would be turned to national advantage in succeeding years.


The Bourgeois Republic | 814The Bourgeois RepublicManners and MentalitiesThe interval in Colombian history between the War of the Thousand Days and the end of Conservative hegemony in 1930 was pivotal for national economic development. During that period long pent-up forces of economic change were freed, with the result that Colombia made dramatic progress toward closing the gap between itself and other Western nations. The engine driving the process of change was coffee and the revenue it produced. A great many ordinary Colombians worked in the coffee industry, many of them landowning small farmers. The consequences of that fact are many, and go far toward explaining certain unique features of twentieth-century Colombian life. Important to the present discussion is the way coffee-produced revenues found their way into a relatively broad segment of rural society. Moneys earned through the production, processing, transportation, and sale of coffee, and from the manifold other activities connected with the vigorous young industry, revolutionized rural life over a large portion of the nation. Members of Colombia's ruraldwelling majority suddenly began earning cash with which they could purchase the finer things of life, travel, and send their children away to school. They could, in short, aspire to a middle-class lifestyle. The process described above was hardly a pacific one. Violence and pesos were common currencies on the coffee frontier. Yet the paramount fact remains that in spite of the violenceand often thanks to itColombia ended the first quarter of the twentieth century with a sizable rural bourgeoisie that complemented and strengthened its urban counterpart. Colombia had no aristocratic class. Its wealthiest and most accomplished citizens were thoroughly imbued with middle-class values, having themselves only relatively recently risen to social prominence. That is why Colombia in the early twentieth century is appropriately categorized a bourgeois republic. The case of Tulio Ospina serves to illustrate the point. Tulio Ospina was a notable member of what is arguably one of the most distinguished families of Colombia's national period. Son of national president and Conservative Party cofounder Mariano Ospina Rodr’guez (18571861), and brother of President Pedro Nel Ospina, he was a prominent and useful

PAGE 100

82 | Toward Modernity, 18891932citizen in his own right. Sent to specialize in mine engineering at the University of California at Berkeley in 1877, he later became a cofounder and rector of the important National School of Mines in Medell’n. A great fomenter of industry in Antioquia, Tulio Ospina also found time to write a treatise on agriculture, to serve in congress, and to publish learned volumes on philology. His considerable accomplishments were, in short, hardly the sort normally associated with the idle rich. Ospina was in fact descended from smallholders from the Guasca-Gachet‡ region of northeastern Cundinamarca. Thanks to hard work and prudent marriages, the Ospina family improved its fortunes throughout the eighteenth century. Still, as people of humble origin they could never have advanced in society but for the revolt against Spain in 1810, and the subsequent upward social mobility that national independence occasioned. That made it possible for Santiago Ospina Urbina of Guasca to send his son Mariano to the Colegio de San BartolomŽ during the 1820s. Thus Mariano Ospina Rodr’guez and his hard-working descendants could go on to play important parts in national affairs. Not far removed from their rural origins, sons of the first President Ospina were hard working and socially conservative. As Roman Catholics and members of the Conservative Party they adhered to the moral and social philosophies of church and party. And as well-traveled and well-educated men they internalized the values and biases of the great bourgeois world whose heartland was circumscribed by London, Paris, and Berlin, and whose principal American salients were Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and New York.1As men of Victorian and Edwardian temperament, the leaders of Colombia's bourgeoisie did not hesitate to advise their fellow citizens on proper standards of behavior. Their social status allowed them to do so, and their sense of social responsibility required it. Both impulses moved Tulio Ospina to publish in 1919 his Protocol of Urbanity and Good Manners, a volume that he knew would be of use to socially aspiring Colombians both at home and abroad. A sense of parental responsibility moved Rafael Reyes, in 1920, to list for his children and grandchildren the precepts they should follow in order to live successful lives. Reyes's principles were temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility.2Prominent Colombians strove mightily to live virtuous lives. From childhood they were admonished to do so by their parents and by the priests and nuns charged with religious instruction. Moral idealism had powerful social overtures in Edwardian Colombia, where men of the elite strove to internalize the virtues that they believed must be practiced in society at large, a society whose members respected hierarchy, obeyed the "principle of order," and were deferential to superiors. An excellent statement of personal philosophy penned

PAGE 101

The Bourgeois Republic | 83during the time of Colombia's bourgeois Republican era was that of the young engineer Juli‡n Cock Arango. In 1922, while undertaking advanced study in Paris, he set down what he called his Code of Personal Morality, which included the following personal injunctions: "It is imperative to triumph. You have been very weak; you have been the plaything of your indecision, of your impulsiveness, of your lack of attention. Always flee the terrible corrosive that is emotion, which obscures reality. . Be free, absolutely free . that neither your friends nor vices enslave you. . Eat only what is necessary, and slowly. . When necessary, do not reject responsibility, face it, be strong. . Be absolutely orderly and methodical. Defeat laziness always and everywhere, even when it is just for the pleasure of doing so. . Be reserved in things intimate. Don't make a fool of yourself by talking too much, trying to explain everything. . In conclusion, learn to dominate yourself and you will dominate and triumph over others. . ."3 Rafael Reyes carefully charted his personal progress toward virtue: "I got a small book in which I devoted a page to each one of the virtues. . Thus I was able to note with a black cross each failing that, upon reflection, I decided I had committed during that day."4Men of the bourgeois republic weren't remiss in instructing proper behavior to those farther down the social hierarchy. Women and girls of the middle and upper classes were especially fond of reading Juli‡n P‡ez's Cartas a mi sobrina, first published in 1912. "Do you want to be respected, admired, and loved?" P‡ez asked in one of his letters. "Wrap yourself in this delicately prestigious cloth, so distant from the vulgar, that's called mystery. . To show yourself at your window, to frequent the streets, to attend every dance . to talk loudly, elbow your neighbor, be the subject of everyone's conversationall this, my beloved niece, lessens your prestige and vulgarizes you. It places you within reach of everyone, and breaks the sacred pedestal that woman must forever occupy: mystery."5 The young bachelor physician and scholar Luis L—pez de Mesa combined scientific fact and romantic, organic metaphor to explain feminine fidelity. Speaking to a largely female audience in 1920, he likened woman's soul to her egg, "that upon receiving the fecund chromatin of the sperm, hardens its ectoplasm with a shield impenetrable to the other elements that seek it." "Thus," L—pez de Mesa concluded, "is woman's soul once it lets enter its great love. It closes its ears to every new flattery."6During the early twentieth century Colombian woman's subordinate place in society was sanctioned and reinforced through two distinct ideological traditions. The first was the Roman Catholic one holding that marriage and homemaking were the proper destiny of most women, and that the married woman should spare no sacrifice for husband and children. The second, exemplified in L—pez de Mesa's pronouncements, offered the same message, but couched in the social Darwinist idiom popular in Colombia of the time.

PAGE 102

84 | Toward Modernity, 18891932The Roman Catholic teaching that wives and mothers must sacrifice personal pleasures for their families is called Marianismo. A good statement of the concept can be found toward the end of a pastoral letter issued in 1926 by the archbishop of Medell’n, Manuel JosŽ Cayzedo. "Queen and lady of the house, the Christian woman manifests there the qualities that God has given her, exercises her virtues, and instills and strengthens them in all those around her. . Out of love and virtue she suffers, enjoys, watches, works tirelessly, renouncing personal pleasure with heroic abnegation to the benefit of her family." The archbishop called the carrying out of domestic chores "the supreme destiny of mothers," for whom "there is no labor that tires, no pleasure that seduces, nor sacrifice she won't make to spare her husband and children." Archbishop Cayzedo cited Leo XIII as his authority in restating the age-old teaching, "The male is the head of the household and his wife's superior. She must submit to her husband and obey him, not as a slave but as a companion that is to say, with decorous and dignified obedience."7In his talk of 1920, L—pez de Mesa presented a secularized version of the same message. In colorful language he evoked the image of prehistoric man, "warrior and wanderer, nervous, vigilant, combative, and strong," who after a wearisome day at the hunt "returned tired, in search of his woman." Meanwhile his mate had busied herself "searching for dry limbs to feed the fire, clearing more space in the cave or in the hollowed out trunk of a tree." Thus from primitive times woman was the homemaker. Citing scientific studies, L—pez de Mesa assured his female listeners that while the feminine intellect may be "in some ways inferior to that of the male," owing to the fact that her brain is smaller, she makes up for it in areas "in keeping with her feminine mission." Among those are "powers of rapid observation, good memory for detail, and others that make her the ideal counselor and companion of the male." His restated version of Archbishop Cayzedo's message reads as follows: "Her will is strong, her character good-natured, generous, and malleable. And the wholeness of her moral structure is so precious and worthy that it enraptures even when viewed through cold psychological analysis."8Colombians not of the elite shared the biases of their social superiors during early decades of the twentieth century. They generally did not do so for any single reason, but rather for a complex of reasons. As has already been suggested, there was great pressure to honor and obey one's social superiors. Traditional Christianity taught that there was a hierarchy of virtue; hence persons of higher social status were blessed not only with more material goods, but were naturally wiser, more intelligent, more virtuous. To put it differently, virtue and justice were thought to be distributive in nature. Even the most highly educated, secular-minded of Colombians, such as the engineers of the Medell’n School of Mines, spoke of "the moral ascendance" that they held

PAGE 103

The Bourgeois Republic | 85over their social inferiors, such as the workers whom they were called upon to direct. The engineers were constantly admonished to live "irreproachable private lives" that would serve as examples for their employees.9 Workers themselves were typically humble, and tended to feel indebted to factory owners for doing them the kindness of hiring them.10 Early photos of Colombian factories depict what appear to be large family reunions, with men, women, and children posed amid belts, spindles, and other such attributes of modern mechanical culture. There was widespread belief that in a godly, proper society all citizens obeyed what was commonly called the principle of authority. That was the title of a lengthy series of articles published during the second decade of the century by Laureano G—mez's mentor, Manuel D‡vila Fl—res. For Marco Fidel Su‡rez the principle of authority was "the prime instrument used in the long and complicated task of civilizing the human species."11 Laureano G—mez saw it as undergirding Catholicism: "Doctrine alone, without authority would be a Catholicism that has died."12Country girls around the mountainous bishopric of Santa Rosa de Osos, in Antioquia, obeyed the principle of authority when they walked kilometers over rugged mountain trails, even though common sense suggested they ride the horses or mules readily available to them. But Bishop Miguel Angel Builes had forbidden the practice to women of his diocese, pronouncing the custom of women riding astride "a sin against natural law" for "the disastrous effects that it produces."13 When General Benjam’n Herrera expelled striking workers from his banana plantation early in the century he did so because they had violated the principle of authority. When they demanded an additional peso per bunch harvested, Herrera drove them out by force of arms, reviling them as "disobedient peons."14Further complicating and hardening bourgeois prejudices about the poor of early-twentieth-century Colombia were a set of ideas concerning the supposed inferiority of non-Caucasian peoples, and the "racial decay" of societies where dark-skinned peoples predominated. In a country like Colombia, where a largely Caucasian elite held sway over a mostly swarthy majority, the impact of such belief was necessarily great. The relative quiescence of the Colombian masses in those decades fed race-based prejudices against them. Important too was the fact that the eugenicists, sociologists, and anthropologists who formulated racialist theories made extensive use of empirical data. That could not help but impress positivist-minded Colombian elites. Nor did it hurt that the theories originated in the most advanced centers of Western civilization. Boyacense physician and Conservative leader Miguel JimŽnez L—pez was the leading proponent of the theory that Colombia was suffering the effects of racial decay. During his years as a student he had traveled widely in Europe,

PAGE 104

86 | Toward Modernity, 18891932where he both heard the theories of Joseph Arthur Gobineau and other racial theorists debated, and studied them himself. During his years of postgraduate study, 19001909, three biographies of Gobineau were published in Paris alone, and another appeared in Leipzig. Between 1910 and 1930, while the racial debate raged in Colombia, an additional ten studies of Count Gobineau appeared in France, Germany, and other European countries.15 No wonder, then, that JimŽnez L—pez published a scholarly article in Paris in 1917 in which he concluded that racial decay rendered Colombia's chances of progress nil.16Only if his countrymen eventually lightened their skin through European immigration, wrote JimŽnez L—pez, could Colombia avoid falling farther behind the more civilized nations. JimŽnez L—pez's ideas were widely discussed in Colombian intellectual circles during the second and third decades of the century. The debate over racial decay reached its height in 1920, during a cycle of conferences on the Problems of Race in Colombia, held in Bogot‡'s Teatro Col—n. JimŽnez L—pez, Luis L—pez de Mesa, and other physicians and scientists took part in them. There were of course those who disputed the race decay theory. As the debates took place an El Tiempo columnist suggested that another series of debates should be organized around the possibility that the Colombian race was growing stronger.17The fact that many Colombians shared the biases of JimŽnez L—pez is evidenced in Rafael Reyes's remark of 1919, that while Colombia should encourage immigrationeven Japanese immigrationit should prohibit entry to Chinese and Hindus, "races made degenerate through servility."18 Three years later, in 1922, members of the national Congress passed a law prohibiting the immigration of Chinese, Hindus, and Turks (Otomanos), but encouraging European immigration. That same year a writer for El Tiempo protested Tropical Oil's use of Jamaican guest workers in its Colombian fields, a charge the company "enthusiastically denied." Still, the editorialist concluded, "we hope the government has already taken the means necessary to put an end to an immigration that is absolutely undesirable in every sense, not only because it causes competition for Colombian workers, but because of the grave damage it does to our race."19Casual anti-Semitism also formed part of bourgeois Colombia's racial thought during the early twentieth century. While there were few Jews in Colombia, Jews were frequently mentioned in connection with the Crucifixion, for their alleged control of international banking, and because they were generally perceived as grasping, unattractive individuals, and enemies of Catholicism. Mention of the Hebrew race is frequent in the pastoral letters of Colombian bishops around the turn of the century. Medell’n's Archbishop Cayzedo castigated the impious, who, "like the perfidious Jews who rise against Christ," attack Colombia's Christian order. In another of his pastorals he re-

PAGE 105

The Bourgeois Republic | 87proved "the enemies of Christ . united in their shadowy Masonic societies, who like Jews cry out [against Catholicism]."20An atavistic source of Colombian racial thought is found in preoccupation over "purity of the blood" ( pureza de sangre ). That concern was brought by Spanish conquistadors in the sixteenth century. The Spanish fixation on lineage ran back perhaps as far as the near simultaneous Christianization of the Iberian peninsula and the arrival there of Jews earlier expelled from their land by the Romans. With the persecution of Spanish Jews during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, their expulsion from the country in 1492, and their subsequent persecution in both Spain and Spanish America during the succeeding two centuries, it became important to establish that one was not tainted with Moorish, African, and Jewish blood. Not to do so might label one a converso, a recent convert to Christianity. And to be a converso, or to be descended from one, raised the possibility that one's family continued to practice Judaism covertly, which invited arrest by the Holy Office and loss of all social position. Concerns about overt persecution vanished with the independence of Spanish America. While many conversos, or New Christians, as they were also called, may have made their way to New Granada during the colonial period, they appeared to suffer no extraordinary persecution there. Still, through a curious set of circumstances a major segment of Colombia's population, the Antioquians, came to be thought of as descended from Spanish conversos. Exploration of that question is beyond the scope of the present study. But the folk wisdom of paisa Jewishness is important in that it made the Antioquians particularly sensitive both to anti-Semitism and to the greater question of race. Slightly later in Colombian history, during the 1930s and 1940s, when Jewish refugees fled Europe, some Antioquians advocated offering shelter while others argued vociferously against such policy. Earlier, paisa sensitivity toward race made them among Colombia's most vocal proponents of the racial theories and racist attitudes prevalent in the bourgeois republic. Colombia's most respected scholar, Luis L—pez de Mesa, helped Miguel JimŽnez L—pez give currency to racial theories that worked to the disadvantage of their dark-skinned fellow citizens. Like JimŽnez, L—pez de Mesa saw Colombians growing lighter in complexion thanks to "a fermentation owing to the fact that the race is cleansing itself of its Negroid sediments."21 In 1927, L—pez de Mesa authored a commissioned report titled The Ethnic Factor. High church officials and government officials received copies of the report, which represented the most advanced thought of the day on the subjects of race, race mixture, and the dire consequences of "population darkening." The following passage suggests the tenor of that report: "The mixture of the Indigenous with the African element, and even with mulattoes deriving from it, would be a fatal error for the spirit and wealth of the nation. Rather than being eliminated, the

PAGE 106

88 | Toward Modernity, 18891932failings and defects of both races would be augmented. Thus we would have an astute, indolent, ambitious, sensual, hypocritical, and at the same time vain zambo (person of mixed indigenous and African ancestry), as well as an ignorant and unhealthy one. This mix of impoverished bloods, from inferior cultures, creates subjects who are unable to adapt, and who are subject to nervous disorders, mental disease, madness, epilepsy, and crime. They come to fill asylums and jails when they enter into contact with civilization."22The literary counterpart of L—pez de Mesa, racial theorist, was paisa essayist Fernando Gonz‡lez. His Los Negroides (The blacks), 1931, was astonishing for its reviling of Latin America, whose representative figure he called the Great Mulatto. Americans, Gonz‡lez wrote, suffer a "complex of illegitimacy" dating from the Spanish conquest, and a "mangled identity" as a consequence. In the volume Gonz‡lez heaped scorn on Colombia's leading figures, holding up Enrique Olaya and Laureano G—mez as "homunculi," Abad’a MŽndez and Miguel Antonio Caro as "sleeping mulattoes whose tongues are moved by European books," Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n as "a clownish mestizo."23Fernando Gonz‡lez's racism forms a case perhaps more appropriate to psychiatric than historical study. One notes a chilling similarity between his ravings and the racist blasts being heard in European capitals at the same moment. Yet even elitist Colombians, few of whom could be absolutely certain that they possessed purity of the blood 400 years after the conquest, refused to take Fernando Gonz‡lez very seriously. A writer for El Tiempo, reporting on one of Gonz‡lez's public lectures, remarked mildly that the writer's interpretations were a "refreshing change," that watching him perform was like "watching a naked man."24The El Tiempo writer's detachment in reporting the eccentricities of Fernando Gonz‡lez reflected the aplomb with which educated Colombians observed the human comedy over most of the first quarter of the new century. Most of those in positions of leadership were steeped in a culture variously described as positivist, Victorian, and bourgeois. Only in the late 1920s, when a spirit of combativeness began to invade certain sectors of the non-elite, did prominent Colombians begin to sense that a relatively benign period in their national history was ending. Profound forces were at work in Colombian society that would challenge old assumptions of who Colombians were and what they were about.Daily LifeOver the first quarter of the twentieth century Colombian society changed in a myriad of ways. Most of those changes were at the level of material culture. At the beginning of the period citizens lived more or less as they always had

PAGE 107

The Bourgeois Republic | 89traveling on foot or on the backs of animals. At the end of those twenty-five years they traveled by air, automobile, or electric trolley. Physical improvements also had the effect of demonstrating how far Colombia had yet to go. Rich and poor continued to live in two worlds, and to accept that condition as proper and normal. There was little questioning of the status quo, though incidents sometimes occurred when the poor protested especially egregious affronts, sometimes violently. But even then the protests were brief and had little lasting effect on society. Social change in Colombia during the time of the bourgeois republic did have revolutionary implications, though only the most discerning eye appreciated that fact. Spokesmen for the Church perceived the changes and protested them loudly, warning of their threat to traditional society. But because the transformations were so incipient, so subtle, conservative clerics were unable to articulate their fears in an especially coherent way. But even if churchmen had been able to do so it would have mattered little, as most Colombians were avid for social change, embracing it warmly when it came. They were delighted that their poor country, long far behind the West's leading nations, at last seemed to be catching up. That spirit moved a wag to say, at the height of Colombia's influenza epidemic of 1918, that his country's citizens were happy to be suffering a disease that was afflicting the world's leading nations at the same moment. The social and political order was not seriously and overtly threatened until well into the third decade of the century. And at that it was challenged only by a relative few and with unfortunate result. Most people simply marveled at the changes and enjoyed them to the extent they were able. The new wealth could no longer be hid, as it once was, inside foreboding houses that presented only dirty whitewashed walls to the alien eye. Automobiles were to be driven, fashions flaunted, imported liquors drunk. Colombia had a sustained source of money for the first time. And though it was not well distributed, even the poor could afford occasional distractionswireless transmissions and motion pictures brought a world to them that previously only the wealthy had visited in their travels. Bolivian diplomat Alcides Arguedas was so impressed by the Colombian public's devotion to film that he remarked during his visit there in 1928, "this century has a new religion: it is called Charlie [Chaplin]."25One of the most important changes in Colombian daily life was one of the most gradual and least noticed. That was chlorination of the nation's urban drinking water, which produced astonishing declines in mortality from typhoid fever and other waterborne diseases. Typhoid fever, which in 1905 carried away 672 of Bogot‡'s citizens, killed just 266 in 1920, and twelve in 1924.26 A Public Health Committee, formed in 1916, managed to have a law passed requiring the channelization and covering of the San Francisco and San

PAGE 108

90 | Toward Modernity, 18891932Agust’n rivers, and for the construction of an adequate sewage treatment plant for Bogot‡.27 Those improvements were expensive, however, and there was little discernible progress toward effecting them until the 1920s when moneys became available. By 1926 the projects were well on their way to completion.28Costly projects aimed at improving water quality and sanitation were the product of a generally brightening financial situation that had produced a geometric growth of some municipal budgets following the War of the Thousand Days, and that by 1913 brought the first national budget surplus in recent memory. Seen from another perspective, those improvements were but tentative beginnings in improving a generally inferior quality of life for Colombians. Across the nation streets were generally filled with litter and uncollected garbage that, when conditions were dry and windy, became airborne. Bogot‡'s streets were so filthy that one visitor claimed it gave him the impression of living in a sewer.29 Only the better-off among the capital's residents bathed regularly, as most possessed nothing resembling the modern bathroom. Pedro Nel Ospina paid weekly visits to the home of his friend Lucas Caballero in order to soak in the latter's cast-iron "American-style" bath tub.30 Public services were tenuous all over the country. When Bogot‡ experienced a general strike in 1919, the city narrowly averted a public health catastrophe as its sanitary system collapsed.31Investigative journalists like young JosŽ A. Osorio Lizarazo reported that large numbers of Bogot‡'s residents continued to live in inhuman conditions. In a 1926 piece titled "Mansions of Poverty," he described miserable, sickly squatters living on the yet exposed banks of the R’o San Francisco, and in the city's numerous pasajes, or twisting alleyways, such as the Pasaje Rivas, where bohemians of an earlier era had written poetry and used heroic drugs.32 Birth rates remained low through the first three decades, around 20 per 100,000 population, and average life expectancy stood at 34.2 years in 1930.33 Over the first thirty years of the century total population nearly doubled, rising from about 4 million to 7.5 million in 1930.34 The striking increase in population was owed to the sharp decrease in deaths of children under five years during the period. At the turn of the century 60 percent of all deaths in Colombia were of infants and young children.35 Colombia experienced virtually no immigration over the period. One ends with the mixed assessment that the level of Colombian public health conditions was improving rapidly, though they remained appalling. Through the first two decades of the century, and well into the third, relationships among social groups remained much as they ever had been, as the groups themselves remained relatively undifferentiated because increasing wealth was only at the earliest stage of broadening and complicating social definitions. A corporative ethos continued to prevail by which members of the

PAGE 109

The Bourgeois Republic | 91several social strata continued to regard each other and themselves in terms of categories: cachacos, public men, the deserving poor, artisans, and the like. Public men did not spend much time debating the question of poverty, but when they did it was usually in moral, not socioeconomic terms. Nor was the same standard of analysis applied across groups. The debate over the problem of alcoholism serves to illustrate the point. Excessive drinking was acknowledged as serious by leaders, though criticism of it was usually couched in terms of the lower classes. Liberal leader Uribe Uribe hated drinking, calling it "the social cancer that devours us."36 The Church spoke out continually against it too. Alcohol was commonly referred to as the worst enemy of Colombia, and over most of the period discussed Colombia witnessed an ongoing temperance movement. But as the upper classes campaigned for abstinence among the poor, they themselves drank to excess. "Here they drink like nowhere else in the world," remarked the widely traveled Alcides Arguedas. He described a party he attended in which sixteen friends entertained 200 invited guests. They laid in twenty cases of whiskey, ten of champagne, and another five of assorted other liquors. That was consumed before the party ended and a truck was sent to fetch an emergency supply.37During the time of the bourgeois republic Colombia's poor perceived themselves as making up a valuable, indeed integral part of society, and strove to live in as dignified a manner as possible. One visitor to Bogot‡ marveled that tiny boys earned money selling penny poems to market women, most of whom could not read them. Yet the women took pleasure in knowing that the poems expressed sentiments of moral uplift, filial devotion, and the pursuit of virtue by humble people such as themselves.38 In the countryside campesinos bore the abuses of large landowners with remarkable placidity. Aware that in many cases their rights were being violated, they still sought redress of their complaints through legal means, rather than direct action. That would remain the case at least until the mid-1920s, when growing affluence at all levels of society would start changing popular attitudes in the countryside. The remarkable tranquility of the period also suggests popular adherence to traditional social norms. One searches in vain for meaningful signs of social protest prior to the 1920s. The few outbreaks of popular violence were logical responses to perceived desafueros (violations of rights). The riots of 1893, it will be recalled, sprang from a series of defamatory newspaper articles that infuriated Bogot‡'s artisans. A similar incident occurred in Bogot‡ seventeen years later, on Colombia's independence day, July 20, 1911. The celebration's high point was to have been a bullfight staged in a new ring then standing on Bogot‡'s northern edge, near the Bavaria brewery. Unfortunately, the chief attraction, the popular torero Valent’n (Antonio Olmedo) performed so miserably as to have insulted the hundreds of aficionados who had flocked to see

PAGE 110

92 | Toward Modernity, 18891932him that day. Order deteriorated quickly, with the crowd ultimately attacking the bullfighters, pulling boards off the sides of the bullring and making off with the bulls. Police were called in and shortly after their arrival began firing on the crowd. That touched off a major riot that left nine civilians dead, dozens of police injured, and the police station besieged. Only when Minister of War Mariano Ospina V‡squez appeared along with several army officers and a handful of soldiers was order restored.39As in 1893, the independence day riot of 1911 was touched off by ordinary citizens who felt they had been wronged. Their aim was not so much that of destroying property as it was regaining the cost of their ticket. That is why many in the crowd pulled boards off the bullring and carried them away. Their taking of the bulls was more in the spirit of the common good than of common theft, for they drove the animals up to the Pan—ptico, slaughtered them, and gave the meat to the prisoners. The mob turned on the police not because they represented symbols of authority, but both because they had failed to appreciate what the trouble was about and had fired into the crowd. There would not be another major incident of urban violence in Bogot‡ for another eight years. Around the time of the bullring riot of 1911 there were signs that Colombia was at last making real progress in solving its age-old dilemma concerning transportation. First the nation's two major cities were linked to the R’o Magdalena by railroad, and shortly thereafter interior Antioquia was linked to the Cauca valley by the Amag‡ Railroad. Completion of the Amag‡ Railroad at the end of the century's second decade created palpable excitement among the people of Antioquia and of the Cauca valley. A photo from about 1920 suggests their enthusiasm. It shows ladies in formal gowns and gentlemen in frock coats, seated in chairs arranged along a flatcar being pushed up a grade of the Amag‡ line by an 1880s-vintage wood-burning locomotive. Those elegantly dressed paisas had laboriously built the railroad, and they clearly intended to have a look at it.40In spite of completion of a few vital rail lines, progress in the area of transportation was frustratingly slow. By 1920, 90 percent of the nation's land routes remained mule trails, and just 1,195 kilometers of railroad track was in service. A very limited amount of highway was passable by truck and automobile. Rafael Uribe Uribe, visiting Chicoral, between Bogot‡ and IbaguŽ, near the R’o Magdalena, spoke expectantly of the day a traveler could depart Bogot‡ in the morning, lunch in IbaguŽ, and retire for the night in Cali. "What an immense change that would be," he mused.41 Rufino GutiŽrrez, a writer on geography, complained of transportation difficulties in the coffee country of southern Antioquia late in the decade, and Ecuadorian visitor Alberto GutiŽrrez described the incongruous sight of "rich and powerful persons," who having reached Girardot by train, were then forced to continue their trip

PAGE 111

The Bourgeois Republic | 93northward to Honda on "miserable rented mules" because of low water on the R’o Magdalena. The Colombian GutiŽrrez, who painted Colombia in glowing terms generally, had to admit that the trip upriver from Barranquilla to Honda was one of unending monotony punctuated by "inhumanly tenacious" mosquitoes and asphyxiating, forgelike heat.42Urban Colombia, too, experienced a lumpen sort of progress in the area of transportation. Early in the second decade the main street of Bogot‡ and several other important thoroughfares of major cities received new asphalt surfaces. Bogot‡'s mayor was so enthralled by the smooth surface that he had city workers clean it with kerosene after sweeping it, with the result that Seventh Avenue partially dissolved. While the city's trolleys were electrified in 1910, they moved so slowly as to earn the nickname "comets" ( cometas ) for the infrequence of their appearance. Others laughed at their slowness, claiming that in Bogot‡ electricity moved more slowly than mules. When Bogot‡'s first traffic codes were put into effect in 1912, police enforced them on bicycles. Yet in spite of all, those developments portended extraordinary change over the second and third decades of the century Whereas there were only 100 autos in Bogot‡ in 1912, by 1920 the number had tripled. By 1930 it had again doubled.43 In 1921 bus service was inaugurated between Bogot‡ and Chapinero, and in 1923 the capital registered its first traffic fatality when one Se–or Pataquir‡ was run down by a taxi. The appearance of an airplane in the skies above Bogot‡ portended a true transportation revolution for Colombia. The nation' s first airplane was brought to Medell’n in 1913, and by 1916 enthusiasts in Bogot‡ had formed an aviation club, though they had no plane. German entrepreneurs in Barranquilla founded a company named the Colombo-German Society of Air Transportation (SCADTA) in 1919, the same year Europe's first commercial route was opened between London and Paris. A year later SCADTA inaugurated Colombia's first commercial service. That made the nation the first in the Western hemisphere to possess a scheduled air line. Twice-weekly mail service linked Barranquilla and Bogot‡ in 1924, and air service cut the time between Bogot‡ and Girardot to twenty-two minutes, shortening that journey by a factor of fifty. By the latter part of the decade government officials like Laureano G—mez were flying about the country on business, complaining that the country's railroads were wholly insufficient in comparison to airplanes.44 Charles Lindbergh praised Colombia's progress in aviation when he visited there in early 1928. The giddy celebration attending his arrival bespoke the joy of a people at last free to soar above their mountains. Other changes in Colombian daily life rivaled those first air flights in symbolism and significance. New residential patterns became possible thanks both to improvements in the transportation network and to the increase in affluence

PAGE 112

94 | Toward Modernity, 18891932nationwide. Whereas the wealthy had traditionally lived in two-story colonialstyle houses in center city, by the second decade of the century they had begun to move into new residential neighborhoods on the northern outskirts, or even as far as Chapinero. A rapidly expanding middle class began taking up residences in barrios built especially for them. One such was developer Ernesto Gonz‡lez's Barrio Santa Anna, located south of the city. It boasted reasonably priced homes, a healthful environment, and location near the streetcar line for easy commuting to work.45 Meanwhile the poor were left behind in the center city. The homes built by the wealthy departed radically from the traditional. Decorative eclecticism was the norm in Colombia during the bourgeois decades. Entire barrios were built around themes, such as La Merced in north Bogot‡, whose stately row houses followed an English motif. In cities like Cartagena diversity was the rule. Architectural historian Germ‡n TŽllez has written of the "fantastic formal transplantation" which took place in that city during the second and third decades of the century. Rich Cartageneros were like "bourgeois kings" in their unique palaces, TŽllez writes, their flights of fancy representing what he refers to as the "bourgeoisation" of elegance, the vulgarization of luxury."46Such architectural excess obviously represented conspicuous consumption of the most extreme sort. It was also a peculiarly Victorian way of communicating the owners' social status. But beyond that the new architectural styles gave concrete expression to a growing openness in Colombian society, to a long-standing desire among the country's leaders to emulate the more "highly civilized" nations. Their new Englishand French-style housing developments, whose green spaces were moved from the interior patio to the outer, surrounding area, eloquently attested to that significant shift in elite psychology. The movement of Colombia's elite into their suburbs, and their experimentation with new architectural forms, reflected yet other changes in Colombian society. Throughout all of national history prior to that time, rich and poor had lived in close proximity, the latter deferentially serving the former, who lived downtown. Such a residential pattern, with the elite at the center and non-elites living round about in concentric rings characterized by ever decreasing wealth and status, palpably replicated and reinforced the "hierarchy of virtue" propounded in moral philosophy of the time. When they quit the center city the elite sundered the old residential arrangement that gave real expression to philosophic schemes they continued to endorse. Even as that process occurred, the factors making it possibletechnological and attitudinal change, growing affluence, and increasing complexity of the social structure worked subtle and not-so-subtle changes in attitudes of the non-elite. The implications of those changes, and of the fact that the center city had been

PAGE 113

The Bourgeois Republic | 95abandoned to the urban class, would become clear on the afternoon of April 9, 1948. For the time being only a few Colombians, most of whom were associated with the religious right, worried about the character of city life. Luis Serrano Blanco, a colleague of Laureano G—mez, warned those attending the Ecumenical Congress of 1913 that urban life threatened orderly society because it eroded faith and awakened an unhealthy materialism in the masses. Whereas the soul of the rustic harbors a pure, angelic faith, said Serrano, the urban setting "muffles" it: "Amidst the book and the newspaper, the club and the committee, the lecture and the hubbub, the soul's clarity is banished." His spirit thus disturbed, the urban dweller fell easy prey to social agitators, to "a torrent of wishes and desires and ambitions without end or measure."47 Two years later, in 1915, Archbishop Manuel JosŽ Cayzedo equated the modern city to ancient Babylonia, a place where evil reigned amid "human vanity and the false splendor of material progress that obscures the true good and perverts the spirit with concupiscent fire." He proclaimed the bankruptcy of faith in national progress, whose poisonous fruit he portrayed as the war at that time raging in Europe.48In the end, members of the religious right found themselves simply talking to one another. Clerics like Archbishop Cayzedo could anathematize urban life, with its "circuses, salons, theaters, motion pictures, clubs, and concerts," all of which he perceived as awakening in the masses "a feverish sensuality [that] invades and corrupts everything."49 But it was poet Luis Tejada who spoke for and to the average Colombian: "I don't want your cursed peace, the alluring tranquility of your country towns."50 As the 1920s approached Colombians had seen modernity and decidedly had liked it. Advances in nonprint media during early decades of the century heightened Colombian sensitivity to the larger world. The appearance first of film, and then of radio, completed the link whose forging began with wire service news reports appearing in their newspapers prior to World War I. Bogot‡'s first movie house, the Olympia, opened in 1919. That was five years after paisa businessmen had formed a company for the distribution of U.S. films in Medell’n. During the 1920s dozens of theaters opened in cities and towns all over the nation, and Colombians of all classes became movie aficionados. In some cities the better-off families rented theater boxes for their weekly movie viewing. Once, when spectators in Bogot‡ were angered over the poor print quality of a much-anticipated Charlie Chaplin film, they destroyed the interior of the Teatro Olympia. They would have done the same to the new Teatro Faena, where the same movie was showing, were it not for timely arrival of the police.51 It was Archbishop Cayzedo's nightmare of modern life come to Colombia. Journalist Hernando TŽllez echoed the good archbishop's concern

PAGE 114

96 | Toward Modernity, 18891932some years later when he observed that North American film "hammered and undid" traditional life in old Santa Fe, offering "a new version of love, sport, fashion, comfortof life in general."52Radio came to Colombia in 1923, when Pedro Nel Ospina hired the Marconi Wireless Company to establish a national telecommunications network. On April 12 of that year, the president inaugurated the service with an effusive greeting to Marconi himself, who was at the time in London. He congratulated the Italian for his invention and expressed hope that radio "might become a tool of moral and material betterment for the Colombian people." Marconi responded in kind, congratulating Colombia on its "drawing closer to . the main currents of civilization."53While public men, philosophers, and theologians debated the effect that the new inventions might have on their people, Colombians flung themselves into their long-term love affair with the media. Thanks to the silver screen, the radio, and international wire services, they could at last indulge their avidity for things beyond their mountain fastness. They became fans of foreign film stars, athletes, and celebrities, and emulated them in their own sports clubs and domestic film industry. El Tiempo marveled that no political event in recent memory so agitated Bogotanos as did the Dempsey-Tunney bout of 1927. A large crowd of fans stood for three hours in front of the city's telegraph office awaiting periodic announcements of the fight's progress. Many of them no doubt returned home shaken when longtime champ Jack Dempsey lost the famous "fight of the long count."54Urban Colombians thus became close observers of the world scene during years of the bourgeois republic. It was natural that they should become fans and spectators, for in being so they merely continued to fill the role they had played in the political life of their nation. Through the first decades of the century and beyond, most Colombians were political spectators who cheered on their nationally famous leaders, stars of the traditional parties to which they were passionately attached, frequently at the level of personal interest. Politics meant jobs, the control of public policy, and in some cases, personal safety or the lack of it. And beyond that, it made for a decidedly good show. National politics was full of drama, and treated the viewer to an unending series of emotion-laden vignettes that unfolded with the regularity of a modern soap opera. And of course it was freeat least over the short term. One of the most riveting political dramas of early-twentieth-century Colombia took the form of Greek tragedy. Its protagonist was an old man in whom hubris and self-hate jostled for precedence. The old man was pursued by furies who first made him a pariah and then destroyed him. But the old man rose again and lashed out at his tormentors through dreams. It was a wonderful, ultimately satisfying drama. It served too as a kind of coda to a placid yet complex and important era in Colombian history.

PAGE 115

The Bourgeois Republic | 97The Tribulations of Marco Fidel Su‡rezOn the afternoon of November 6, 1923, former president Marco Fidel Su‡rez, then sixty-nine years of age, was knocked down by a freight wagon as he walked down Calle 12 (Twelfth Street) in the center of Bogot‡. Luckily he was not badly hurt. Bystanders helped Su‡rez to his home, which was four blocks away, and he continued work on his newspaper piece "Primer Sue–o International" (First international dream), which appeared in the newspaper El Nuevo Tiempo a week later. That sort of accident wasn't unusual for him, as throughout his life Marco Fidel Su‡rez had liked to walk alone in the middle of the street, his head bowed as if oblivious to everything around him. Three years earlier, then president of the nation, he was run over by a cyclist as he walked in the intersection of Calle 10 and Carrera 8 (Tenth Street and Eighth Avenue). He was not seriously hurt that time either, and had the police free the cyclist.55The incidents described above are significant and symbolic, for they shed light both on the character and life of Su‡rez, and of his country as well. Marco Fidel Su‡rez was a man of the old Colombia, of the premodern, sleepy republic where save for an occasional mounted rider or slow-moving carriage, the streets were quite safe for pedestrians. Being a man of fixed personal habits, he was not about to change his ways simply because the country was caught up in rapid metamorphosis. Both accidents took place at low points in his career, the first occurring as he withstood withering criticism for his handling of the nation's highest office, and the second shortly after he was driven from office by a powerful coalition of political enemies. Yet in keeping with his character, Su‡rez picked himself up and went about his business much as before, sure that he would be vindicated in the end. And to an extent he was vindicated, though in a way typical of Colombian public men of his era. Between his public humiliation in 1921 and his death in 1927, Su‡rez defended his past actions, expounded on Colombian history, and pilloried his enemies in a series of newspaper articles that ultimately filled twelve volumes bearing the title Sue–os de Luciano Pulgar. The Sue–os were constructed as dialogues between Luciano Pulgar (Su‡rez) and several younger men. Written in measured, elegant style and full of literary allusion as well as learned disquisition on literature, grammar, and vocabulary, the Sue–os stand as both a classic of Colombian political literature and a monument to the era of Su‡rez and men like him. Marco Fidel Su‡rez was a scholar in the tradition of Miguel Antonio Caro, his mentor and friend. Unfortunately for himself and his party, he was, like Caro, an inept and uncompromising politician who in the end damaged his cause rather than helping it. Above all else, Su‡rez was a complex personality, a troubled man who never allowed himself or others to forget that fact. The

PAGE 116

98 | Toward Modernity, 18891932second of three Antioquian presidents during the bourgeois Republican era, Su‡rez stands as one of the most intriguing personalities of modern Colombian history. Su‡rez came into the world burdened by hardships that would have doomed a lesser man to a life of obscurity. He was born in poverty, the illegitimate child of a mixed-blood washerwoman living in the village of Bello. Yet his mother doted on him, and struggled to give him advantages that would in time allow young Marco to enter the priesthood. Rosal’a Su‡rez was known in Bello to be a woman of irreproachable character in spite of her liaison early in life with a young man named JosŽ Mar’a Barrientos. Barrientos, who later married a woman of his own social class, is believed to have contributed modest financial support to his illegitimate son.56 Still, the greatest contribution to Su‡rez's later success came from Su‡rez himself. From his earliest years he revealed an intellectual brilliance that astonished all who knew him. Shortly after entering the seminary at age fourteen, he so impressed Manuel Uribe Angel, who had lent the youngster an abstruse tome and later had quizzed him on it, that Uribe found himself embracing Su‡rez and exclaiming "you are the teacher and I your student. You can digest iron, stones, and whatever you'd like!"57Su‡rez spent seven years in seminary, leaving when the civil war of 1876 forced it to close. That was about the time he decided not to join the priesthood, insisting that his "human smallness" prohibited him from following that sublime vocation. So he became a school teacher. Two years later a friend, Father Baltazar VŽlez, convinced Su‡rez to continue his education in Bogot‡, and contributed moneys to that end. That brought the young man into contact with Carlos Mart’nez Silva and Miguel Antonio Caro, who befriended him, and future public figures like JosŽ Vicente Concha and Miguel Abad’a MŽndez, who were his students. When the Regeneration began in the 1880s, Su‡rez entered government service, first as Caro's assistant at the National Library, and later as an undersecretary at the Ministry of Foreign Relations. He took up those posts having earned a degree of local celebrity by defeating all challengers in an essay contest on Spanish grammar. Embarrassed when called forward to accept the award for his "Essay sobre la gram‡tica de AndrŽs Bello," he responded with the outward humility that characterized him: "I receive this award not so much as a prize, but rather as a challenge to make me worthy of it."58The political fortunes of Marco Fidel Su‡rez waxed and then waned with those of the Nationalist Party, whose cause became his own. Thanks to the party he held high political office at a relatively young age. And thanks to the party he earned money that enabled him to marry the love of his life, Isabel Orrant’a, with whom he produced two children before century's end. His ser-

PAGE 117

The Bourgeois Republic | 99vice to Nationalism led him from the sublime to the ridiculous. The mid-1890s found him eloquently defending the government in debate against Rafael Uribe Uribe and JosŽ Vicente Concha in the Chamber of Representatives, and skittering about the Plaza de Bol’var handing out fireworks to be ignited following a speech by Miguel Antonio Caro.59Su‡rez's shining moment came on August 1, 1900, when he penned his scathing "Protest" against the overthrow of President Sanclemente. In his letter Su‡rez called the military coup a barbaric and unpatriotic act that would dishonor Colombia before other nations of the world and would undo public order by weakening the principle of authority. As he saw it, the coup ushered in a phase of barracks revolts and praetorian rule in Colombia that would make public authority "the plaything of public opinion, that is to say, the passions of the mob. . ."60 The letter was a statement of principle and moral outrage illuminating Su‡rez's belief that through manly demonstrations of character one gained wisdom, virtue, and glory. It was also a quixotic act that signaled his withdrawal from politics for an indefinite period. With the letter Su‡rez charted a path that would lead him into endless misfortune and unhappiness. Over the next ten years Su‡rez was in political eclipse. Although he had endorsed Rafael Reyes's suspension of Congress in late 1904, he angered the general a year later by agreeing to defend Conservative Eutimio S‡nchez, who along with Su‡rez's friend Luis Mart’nez Silva had tried to overthrow Reyes in late 1905. When Reyes fell in 1909, Su‡rez was put forward by Nationalist Conservatives and Liberals to complete Reyes's presidential term, but lost to Ram—n Gonz‡lez Valencia by a vote of 47 to 31. The following year Su‡rez supported the candidacy of Carlos E. Restrepo, an act leading to his political rehabilitation by the Republican Party.61Between 1910 and 1912, Su‡rez served Restrepo in a number of capacities, most notably as minister of public instruction, the same post he had so spectacularly abandoned on August 1, 1900. But he resigned the position in February 1912, following a disagreement with the president over the power to make appointments. He had held the post only a short time. Within two months of his resignation Su‡rez broke with Republicanism and began working for Conservative union. That would be his chief political goal for the remaining fifteen years of his life. He sounded his call for peace and reconciliation within the party in a letter of April 23, 1912. Among those receiving copies were JosŽ Vicente Concha, Aristides Fern‡ndez, Jorge Holgu’n, JosŽ Joaqu’n Casas, Miguel Abad’a MŽndez, Alfredo V‡squez Cobo, and Jorge Roa. His initiative bore fruit, and by late 1912 Su‡rez and Concha headed a rejuvenated Conservative Party directorate. Two weeks before the Eucharistic Congress of September 811, 1913, unified Conservatives had settled on Concha as their can-

PAGE 118

100 | Toward Modernity, 18891932didate for the 1914 election. Marco Fidel Su‡rez had in characteristic fashion sacrificed his own presidential ambitions to the greater cause of Conservative unity. Su‡rez no doubt had his own selflessness in mind as he walked the streets of downtown Bogot‡ in early September, meditating on what would be remembered as one of his finest speeches, his oration titled "Jesus Christ," to be read at the plenary session of the Eucharistic Congress, on September 11. All had seemingly gone smoothly in pulling together fragmented Conservatism. The upcoming congress, he hoped, would serve as a benediction of sorts to the recent work of harmonizing the party representing Catholic Colombia. Still his own sacrifice should not be forgotten, especially three years hence, when it would be time for him to launch his own presidential campaign. Thus it was that Su‡rez's personal piety combined with his political ambitions and disappointments, to produce one of the more moving passages contained in his speech "Jesus Christ." In it Su‡rez reflected on the supreme sacrifice of the "God Man": "These virtues of Jesus Christ purify and ennoble human nature. . Martyrdom, which is a heroic sacrifice in the service to truth or justice, is fecund with happiness because it produces glory."62 They were words that Marco Fidel Su‡rez would have cause to reflect on frequently between that time and his death in 1927. Although he did not suspect it at the time, the process leading to his eventual political martyrdom was already well advanced. The downfall of Marco Fidel Su‡rez actually began in January 1896, when his old patron Carlos Mart’nez Silva, and others, published their "Motives of Dissidence" against the Nationalist Party, thus formalizing the HistoricalNationalist split within Conservatism. Historicals led by JosŽ Vicente Concha had refused to seat President Sanclemente in 1898, angering Su‡rez, who loved and admired the old man. His anger turned to fury in 1900, when Mart’nez Silva, Concha, and others overthrew Sanclemente, moving Su‡rez to revile them in his letter of August 1. Su‡rez exhibited his political ineptness four years later, when he wrote Rafael Reyes praising him for dissolving the national Congress. His letter constituted an indirect criticism of Historical Conservatives, whose congressional opposition had frustrated Reyes's program of national accomplishment, and it was especially imprudent given the fact that prominent Historicals like JosŽ Joaqu’n Casas, D‡vila Flores, and Abad’a MŽndez had either just publicly humiliated themselves before Reyes by retracting their criticism of him, or had suffered exile to OrocuŽ. Su‡rez struck at JosŽ Manuel Marroqu’n's son, Lorenzo, three years later when the latter published his best-selling anti-Nationalist novel Pax. Lorenzo Marroqu’n was a particularly inviting target because he had counseled Aristides Fern‡ndez during the latter's reign of terror. Within months of the appearance of Pax, there appeared a slim, luxuriously bound volume titled An‡lisis gramatical de

PAGE 119

The Bourgeois Republic | 101"Pax" (A grammatical analysis of Pax ), whose author identified himself simply as "a nephew of Gonz‡lez Mogoll—n" (the fictitious name assigned Miguel Antonio Caro in the novel). Literate Colombians instantly recognized it as Su‡rez's work, and chuckled over what in essence constituted a 220-page lampoon of Marroqu’n's careless use of the Spanish language.63Two years after his attack on Pax, Su‡rez again angered Historicals both by running for president against their candidate, Gonz‡lez Valencia, and by receiving the vote of their despised enemy Rafael Uribe Uribe. The following year, 1910, he urged his Nationalist followers to support Carlos E. Restrepo in opposition to Historical Conservative candidate Concha. Thus Historical Conservatives had reason to look balefully on Su‡rez's call for party unity in early 1912, following his break with the Republicans. If ever there was a marriage of convenience, Colombia's Conservative Party unity of 191213 exemplified it. All it would take to shatter fragile party harmony was a speech given by young Historical firebrand Laureano G—mez in February 1914, and Su‡rez's championing of the Urrutia-Thompson Treaty in May of that year. The old Nationalist and the young Historical Conservative were predisposed to dislike one another. Su‡rez, and everyone else in Bogot‡, knew that G—mez and his newspaper, La Unidad, represented Historical and Jesuit interests. Nor was it a secret that Su‡rez was strongly backed by the secular Church hierarchy, led by Archbishop Herrera Restrepo. Not long after Su‡rez's call for Conservative union in 1912, G—mez's intemperance toward men prominent in the government of Carlos E. Restrepo had led the archbishop to suspend La Unidad. But by early 1913 the newspaper was back in business, and in early 1914 it reported the incidents giving rise to the G—mez-Su‡rez breach. On February 11, 1914, G—mez delivered a speech before the Academy of Caro, a literary society founded in honor of the Regeneration-era grammarian and politician Miguel Antonio Caro. In it G—mez likened himself and other young Conservative extremists to ideological crusaders who excite the masses with words that wound more terribly than swords.64 On reading the speech Su‡rez was reported to have remarked acidly that G—mez advocated "mystic demagoguery." El Tiempo and the Liberal establishment seized on Su‡rez's words as a hopeful sign of Conservative division. A curious event of the previous month hinted that Colombia's Liberals had already found in G—mez someone whom they believed might aid them in their fight against Conservatism. On the twenty-sixth of January, and unbeknownst to Conservatives, Bogot‡'s Masonic lodge rewarded one Antonio Rinc—n G‡lvis for saving the life of G—mez, who was at the point of drowning in a river near the resort town of Anapoima.65Animosity between G—mez and Su‡rez became open and acrimonious during April and May 1914, when the latter led a successful campaign to have the Urrutia-Thompson Treaty approved by Congress. Su‡rez shared the hopes of

PAGE 120

102 | Toward Modernity, 18891932most Republican Union members that good relations with the United States might be restored. That would bring sorely needed capital to Colombia in the form of cash compensation for the loss of Panama. It was also anticipated that loans from U.S. banks would be forthcoming. Historical Conservatives, on the other hand, under whose regime Panama was lost, harbored a dislike of the northern metropolis that verged on hatred, a view hardly unique among most Colombians. Yet unlike most others they were intransigent in insisting that national honor demanded no reconciliation with the Americans and certainly no acceptance of money from the Yankees. Historicals like Laureano G—mez said such an act would "make vile the concept of patriotism." Marco Fidel Su‡rez started working to restore good relations with the United States after March 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson promised, in his inaugural address, to end "Big Stick" diplomacy. Within weeks Su‡rez had published an El Nuevo Tiempo piece arguing for renewed negotiations and referring to the United States as "this great nation."66 On August 8, Su‡rez and Nicol‡s Esguerra were selected to lead an Advisory Commission charged with renewing treaty negotiations with the Americans. All this likely explains Su‡rez's odd juxtaposition of George Washington and Ecuadorian arch-conservative Gabriel Garc’a Moreno in his oration "Jesus Christ," both men given as examples of divine providence acting in history.67 The Americans were equally anxious to reestablish good relations with Colombia, for in August their consular officer in Bogot‡ had notified his government that British interests threatened to monopolize oil exploration in the country. Accordingly, the treaty was rushed to completion by early 1914. Signed on April 6, the Urrutia-Thompson Treaty stipulated that Colombia receive a $25 million indemnity for the loss of Panama. It also included a statement of the Americans' "sincere regret" over the events of November 1903.68Congressional debate of the treaty took place during May 1914 and pitted Su‡rez and members of his committee against Historical Conservatives in both chambers. On May 12 the Senate went into closed session, where Su‡rez and the Liberal Nicol‡s Esguerra argued forcefully for the treaty. As he was wont to do in his public statements, Su‡rez offended his opponents in such a way as to become instantly destructive of his own interests. He insulted young and old Historicals alike. First he assured the Senate that there was nothing to fear from the shouts and threats of the "heroes of mystic demagoguery." Then, after Esguerra concluded his defense of the treaty, Su‡rez turned to a colleague and said in a loud whisper, "That argument would convince a jackass, save for D‡vila Flores." On May 14, Laureano G—mez responded to Su‡rez in a scathing and sarcastic La Unidad editorial titled "Mystic Demagoguery." "It is inconceivable," wrote G—mez, "that a man like Su‡rez, possessing the sweet wisdom . the evangelical gentleness of a good Christian, could ever utter the

PAGE 121

The Bourgeois Republic | 103wretched and vulgar phrases attributed to him." "As Sr. Su‡rez never has been known as flippant, or biting, or aggressive, or cruel, or angry in his speeches, letters, glosses, and parodies," Gomez continued, "we're certain that he had only words of praise and flattery for Dr. D‡vila Flores." G—mez went on to assure his readers that Su‡rez would never label anyone else a mystic demagogue. "The day we organize a fraternity of mystics, demagogic or traditionalist," G—mez continued, "Sr. Su‡rez will certainly be our director." Opponents of the treaty used every conceivable means to obstruct its passage. Their charges were that it impugned national honor and that its negotiators were chiefly interested in the indemnity. One senator suggested that the indemnity be used to purchase a piece of land on which a gallows should be erected and from which members of the treaty commission should hang themselves. The negotiators were likened to Judas Iscariot, and D‡vila Flores called Su‡rez and the rest pharisees more venal than those denounced by the Savior. The Semitic metaphor was extended to the point of finding the treaty an act of repugnant Judaism, something to be expected of a document signed by members of a commission the majority of whose members were Antioquian. They accused Su‡rez in particular for wanting to place Colombia in orbit around the "Polestar." Su‡rez admitted the charge, but argued that improved relations with the United States made sound economic sense. He cited Conservative Party cofounder Mariano Ospina Rodr’guez, who in 1857 had suggested that Colombia seek annexation by the United States.69 In the end the treaty was approved by Colombia's Congress, as the Historicals did not have sufficient votes to block it. Still they had the satisfaction of knowing that Henry Cabot Lodge subsequently defeated the treaty in his own Senate, and that they themselves had played a role in his success. At one point during Senate debate, Lodge, a Republican from Massachusetts, had brandished a copy of La Unidad, citing it as proof of Theodore Roosevelt's charge that Colombians were venal, unpatriotic, and thievish, interested only in getting their hands on American dollars.70Having lost their fight against the Urrutia-Thompson Treaty, the Conservative dissidents fell back to regroup. Between June and October 1914, La Unidad suspended publication, during which time the Historicals formed their own party directorate headed by Ram—n Gonz‡lez Valencia and Manuel D‡vila Flores. By early 1915 the battle was joined. Gil Blas editor Benjam’n Palacio Uribe called it a "duel to the death." Arrayed on one side were Su‡rez and the Church hierarchy. On the other were Historical Conservatives and the Jesuits, and their political organ La Unidad, called by some "the Archbishop's nightmare."71 Early in 1915 wall posters appeared in Bogot‡ advising Catholics not to read La Unidad, and in August, Su‡rez circulated a communiquŽ in which he complained that he could not continue being party leader in the face

PAGE 122

104 | Toward Modernity, 18891932of the opposition of G—mez and his friends.72 For his part G—mez was publishing Su‡rez's letter of December 31, 1904, in which the latter praised Reyes for closing Congress. In his commentary on the letter G—mez warned ominously that "in the not-so-remote future we will see justice done."73The dissidents had picked a fight they could not win. As G—mez denounced his enemies in the C‡mara and in the pages of his newspaper, a noose woven of political and ecclesiastical power, and reinforced by popular disapproval of his hot words, began closing about him. In September 1915 wall posters again appeared advising Catholics not to read La Unidad. Even Father Leza, called "the technical director of demagogic mysticism," found himself telling San BartolomŽ students not to read the newspaper that he himself had helped found.74 Leza soon fell victim both to what Palacio Uribe called "the terrible underground battle" raging within Conservatism, and to "the magistral diplomacy" of Marco Fidel Su‡rez. The Jesuit was removed from his headmastership and not long afterward sent back to Spain. In a C‡mara debate of late 1915, the hirsute Conservative Sotero Pe–uela became so enraged by G—mez that he lunged at him snarling, "I'll make this swine pay!" Even Liberal editor Benjam’n Palacio Uribe, who had once suggested that his party contribute to the support of La Unidad, and who relished the sight of Conservatives tearing at one another, began to criticize G—mez. In an editorial of September 27, 1915, bearing the title "Paragons of Virtue and Garbage Pickers," Palacio opined that prominent citizens like Marco Fidel Su‡rez merited respect. During the time of strife G—mez began to receive help from several young followers of Liberal leader Benjam’n Herrera. The most important among them was Alfonso L—pez Pumarejo, then thirty years oldthree years G—mez's senior. The two formed a working relationship not long after L—pez had absorbed one of G—mez's witty oratorical jabs. L—pez had just concluded his first congressional address when G—mez rose and remarked that everyone had just witnessed the miracle of a man who had spoken for ninety minutes having no discernible subject. Yet June 26, 1916, found the two harassing Marco Fidel Su‡rez and other Nationalist Conservative ministers who had been called to testify before the C‡mara. G—mez spoke first, damning Su‡rez as nothing more than the "ambitious and suspicious leader of a political party" who, with likeminded men, allowed themselves to be led "like sheep" by the United States. After both G—mez and L—pez spoke, Su‡rez, who had listened intently, an ironic smile on his face, rose to reply. Standing, head bowed, his arms crossed with hands placed inside his sleeves like a seminary student, he agreed to answer the charges of L—pez. Then he added that he would not answer G—mez's speech, which he had found to be vacuous, contradictory, and generally uninspiring. He went on, praising G—mez for the good memory that enabled him to recite his speeches, memorized over a period of days in the backyard of

PAGE 123

The Bourgeois Republic | 105his house. "The only thing I can't forgive," said Su‡rez, "is a grammatical sinthe crime he committed in saying sheep, an ill-chosen term that dulls an otherwise brilliant piece. . Sr. G—mez . has been unable to learn the difference between sheep and lambs. But I'll take this up with him later if God gives me strength, which shall be the case, for the recitations of Sr. G—mez have not yet given me hepatitis."75Su‡rez's words brought guffaws from representatives and spectators alike. For years afterward Laureano was known by the nickname El Ovejo (the sheep). He was often caricatured as an angry ram draped around the neck of, or otherwise burdening, Marco Fidel Su‡rez. Within months of the June 1916 debate, Su‡rez registered an impressive victory over his young antagonist. He succeeded in ridding himself of La Unidad thanks to help from Archbishop Herrera Restrepo and the Vatican. In early August a meeting took place between G—mez and papal internuncio Monse–or Enrique Gasparri. While all of Bogot‡'s newspapers carried conflicting accounts as to who initiated the meeting, and what was said therein, it seems clear that G—mez was threatened with harsh ecclesiastical sanctions if he continued to publish his newspaper. Gasparri may have suggested that a diplomatic post in Europe might be forthcoming if G—mez made peace with Su‡rez. An offended G—mez gave his version of the meeting to Liberal journalist Eduardo Santos, who scooped all other newspapers by publishing an article on the affair.76 Less than a week later Archbishop Herrera Restrepo anathematized La Unidad.77 Six weeks after that Herrera gave the newspaper its coup de gr‰ce by way of a circular, approved by clerics attending an ecclesiastical conference in Bogot‡ during those weeks. According to the circular, La Unidad did not meet the norms handed down by the Holy See and hence was not to be read by Catholics. G—mez did not close his newspaper quietly. Before La Unidad ceased publication at the end of September 1916, its editor had vigorously protested his Catholicism, accused Su‡rez and his Nationalists of ruining Conservatism, sued El Nuevo Tiempo editor Ismael Enrique Arciniegas for libel, and left behind a statement of principles that well may have given Su‡rez, his followers, and all other Colombians pause for thought: "When all those who resist the vertiginous current of revolution become afraid of it and hide, we will appear. . We (emulating a great Spanish tribune) [Antonio Maura] are devoted and intransigent conservatives and Catholicslifelong conservatives and Catholics, by conviction and conscience, through heartfelt feeling and understanding. We were yesterday, we are today, we will be so tomorrow, and we shall die being so. . We obey without hesitation every order of ecclesiastical authority. . If we must remain alone, without friends and without followers, we will cry out in our isolation Su‡rez no! "78

PAGE 124

106 | Toward Modernity, 18891932In the months following Su‡rez's victory over the Historicals, political Colombia positioned itself for the presidential succession of 1918, even though it was a foregone conclusion that Sœarez would be both candidate and victor. No one doubted that he would be borne into office thanks to his control of major power brokersthe Church and regional bosses, who would turn out the vote on election day. Events would soon prove something else that many suspected at the time: the Su‡rez presidency would be one of the least successful in national history. Colombia was entering a state of ferment as the second decade of the century drew to a close. With World War I ended, and international trade recovering, the demand for Colombian coffee increased dramatically. The revenues from ever increasing coffee exports would help invigorate the economy. New social ideas were entering the country too, moving growing numbers of ordinary people to perceive the national milieu in new, frequently iconoclastic ways. The period from 1918 to 1922 marked, in short, an important juncture in national history. As such, Colombians should have elected a vigorous, forward-looking leader who might have responded creatively to changing social and economic realities. Instead they placed in office an old man of another era, one who liked to stroll in the streets of Bogot‡ meditating on his next literary creation, a "fossilized grammarian," in the words of the young Liberal newspaperman Enrique Santos.79Nor was it simply that Su‡rez was out of touch with the times as he prepared to lead his restive nation in 1918. Throughout his life he was afflicted by a variety of physical and psychological maladies. His health problems had ranged from stomach troubles in his thirties, to intestinal bleeding in his early fifties, to a mild stroke that paralyzed the left side of his face around the time of his presidency. All that heightened the pain he suffered when knocked down periodically while walking in Bogot‡ streets. His physical ill health complemented Su‡rez's lifelong feeling of personal inferiority. He viewed himself as a "child of sin" owing to the circumstances of his birth. African ancestry on his mother's side linked him by blood to a people believed at the time to be suffering "racial decay." When Su‡rez at last, in mid-1917, achieved his goal of winning the Conservative presidential nomination he feigned to reject it, saying, "I can't be president because I lack certain qualifications, and these impede me. . It's that . I am of illegitimate birth; and there will be no lack of pharisees who, wishing to injure me, will attack me on this point, injuring the party and the country."80Domestic tragedy intensified the physical and psychological disabilities afflicting Marco Fidel Su‡rez as he took up his presidency in 1918. No sooner than Su‡rez entered office, he received word that his only son, a lad of nineteen, had succumbed to flu while studying in the United States. All the new

PAGE 125

The Bourgeois Republic | 107president's maladies were aggravated by the ferocious political attack Su‡rez had suffered from early 1914. By the time he took up his presidential duties Su‡rez was likely to weep copiously when confronting an emotional situation. The Su‡rez candidacy aroused such opposition across Colombia that when asked what he took most pride in during his four years in office, outgoing president Concha replied that it was keeping the army from shooting into crowds protesting the election of February 11, 1918.81 In spite of Concha's efforts to prevent bloodshed, there was considerable violence across the country as the Conservative political machine made sure that dissident candidate Guillermo Valencia did not win. It was not so much that the holders of political power mistrusted Valencia, a Historical Conservative, as it was they feared the heterogeneous coalition he headed. Formalized in late October 1917, it joined Liberals, Historical Conservatives, and members of the Republican Party in a union that was, as one wag observed, "founded in mutual hatred and mutual fear." Thanks to the Su‡rez candidacy, Colombians were treated to the incongruous sight of Benjam’n Herrera and Alfonso L—pez, representing the Liberals, Valencia and Laureano G—mez, representing the Historicals, and Eduardo Santos and Luis Eduardo Nieto Caballero, representing the Republicans, all stumping the country together. Odd friendships were made during the tempestuous months of late 1917 and early 1918, such as the one that sprang up between young Laureano G—mez and old General Herrera. That the coalition did not work together as smoothly as it might have is suggested in Valencia's complaint that "campaigning with Laureano G—mez [is] like trying to plow with a fighting bull." Still the campaigners generated great excitement on their swing around the countryside, always speaking to large and enthusiastic crowds, and sometimes experiencing violence. It was during those months that Guillermo Valencia characterized Laureano G—mez as "the human storm." Ugly incidents attended the 1918 campaign. Shots were fired into the homes of Liberals in many parts of the country. Touring coalition members were set upon and beaten by people in the towns of Guasca and Gachet‡, north of Bogot‡, when a priest there accused them of persecuting the Church and spreading false doctrines. And there was at least one bona fide assassination attempt against Laureano G—mez.82 In the end machine politics triumphed. Marco Fidel Su‡rez won handily and was inaugurated August 7, 1918. The first crisis in Su‡rez's administration was socioeconomic and had a decided international dimension. It was the shooting of workers in the Plaza de Bol’var on March 16, 1919, an incident that left six dead and eighteen wounded. The trouble originated in the president's decision to purchase foreign-made cloth for army uniforms, which angered the city's artisans. Led by the president of their newly formed Central Workers' Union (Sindicato Central de Obreros), Alberto Manrique P‡ramo, several hundred of them assembled in

PAGE 126

108 | Toward Modernity, 18891932the plaza to protest the action. Su‡rez spoke to the workers, attempting to explain that he had canceled the foreign purchase, deciding instead to have the uniforms produced domestically. But his voice was drowned out and he withdrew to the presidential palace, where he subsequently entered into a shouting match with Manrique P‡ramo. The labor leader returned to the plaza and egged his followers on. Stones were thrown, and the presidential guard opened fire.83Key to understanding the tragedy is the fact that members of Colombia's social and political establishment interpreted the demonstration as the possible first step in an attempted communist takeover of Colombia. On March 14, Minister of Government Marcelino Arango had alerted governors and prefects around the country of an impending Bolshevik threat. The next day El Nuevo Tiempo editor Ismael Enrique Arciniegas used Arango's circular as the basis for an inflammatory editorial titled "Anticipating Bolshevism." And the fact that workers in the Plaza de Bol’var mixed cries of "Long live socialism!" with shouts of "Su‡rez, no!" heightened the impression that they were dangerous subversives. No matter that organizers of the union made it clear just a month earlier that their movement was non-Marxist, embracing instead what they called a "Christian" approach to progress within a context of class harmony.84What men like Su‡rez, Arciniegas, and others of Colombia's bourgeois republic believed they saw were signs of the same sort of radicalism that so recently had pulled down the czarist regime in Russia. Viewed from that perspective, the firing on unarmed workers in downtown Bogot‡ was a product of the same impulse that had sent club-wielding, machine-gun-reinforced police into protesting workers in Seattle, Washington, a few weeks before the Plaza de Bol’var shootings. Nor were its dynamics unlike those of the May Day violence that rocked Paris six weeks later. Problems of both an economic and a diplomatic nature brought the second crisis of Su‡rez's administration. Early in 1919, matters of mutual economic concern sent Colombia and the United States back to the bargaining table in an effort to resolve their differences over the Panama question and the treaty that would settle it. By August of that year U.S. and Colombian officials had agreed to accept a version of the Urrutia-Thompson Treaty that omitted the "sincere regret" phrase that had long rendered it unacceptable to members of the U.S. Republican Party. Just as it seemed that the treaty and its $25 million indemnity might be forthcoming, the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, headed by Henry Cabot Lodge, balked. The North Americans had learned of presidential decree no. 1255B, of June 20, 1919, proclaiming national control of Colombia's subsoil. Su‡rez responded by announcing that he would suspend the decree if only the Americans would approve the treaty. In his usual illtimed and clumsy way he followed his decision with a telegram to the Colom-

PAGE 127

The Bourgeois Republic | 109bian consul in New York instructing him "to explain to interested and influential persons" that his government wanted foreign development capital, and didn't intend to let the matter of petroleum stand in the way of improved Colombian-U.S. relations.85September 16, 1919, found the Plaza de Bol’var once more full of antigovernment demonstrators, all shouting "Su‡rez, no!" and "Viva" to the antiSu‡rez coalition. They had come to hear Eduardo Santos read a resolution in which he mentioned the president's telegram to "interested and influential persons" in the United States, and in which he and his group called for Su‡rez's resignation. The crowd fell silent when Laureano G—mez climbed into the rented open car that served as the orators' stage, each member of it anticipating the blistering attack that was to come. But a series of explosions cut it short, and G—mez dropped like a stone into the convertible. The crowd scattered, some in it shouting, "They've killed Dr. G—mez!" When the noise died G—mez cautiously lifted his head only to see a member of his erstwhile audience staring back at him wide-eyed, asking lamely, "Dr. G—mez, where is your hat?" "They shot it right off my head," G—mez answered. Seconds later all understood that they had been victims of a practical joke. A Su‡rez supporter had tossed a package of firecrackers under the car as G—mez began his speech. Marco Fidel Su‡rez delighted in the incident, remembered in Colombian history as "the conspiracy of the firecrackers." He retold the vignette lovingly in several of the Sue–os de Luciano Pulgar that he began publishing soon after resigning the presidency in 1921. His most complete retelling of the event appears in the "Sue–o" published July 24, 1923, appropriately titled "The Dream of Gratitude."86During 1920 a variety of problems, most of an economic nature, further eroded support for the Su‡rez presidency. Colombia had at last entered the era of growth and prosperity that national leaders had anticipated. But as revenues from coffee sales began rolling in, the bonanza created new problems even as it highlighted and intensified old ones. Costs of basic necessities skyrocketed, driven upward both by decreases in food supplies as ever more workers entered the coffee groves, and by the increasing amounts of cash in the pockets of consumers. Urban dwellers were especially hard hit, as food prices in places like Bogot‡ rose to double and triple the amount paid for comparable items in New York and Paris. Coffee revenues created a flood of imports that clogged ports, illustrating their antiquated condition and the impenetrability of red tape holding those articles in customs. Coffee growers protested ever more loudly the lack of railroads and river boats needed to get their crops to the foreign market, and their pressure for reform intensified. Colombia still had no central bank, and the ongoing imbroglio with the United States sharply limited their access to foreign sources of capital. And owing to the seasonal nature of

PAGE 128

110 | Toward Modernity, 18891932coffee harvesting, unemployed and vagrant workers periodically appeared in towns and cities. When the twice-yearly harvest took place other crops languished as agricultural workers flocked to earn high wages on coffee fincas (farms) large and small. As if all that weren't enough, Colombia and its grammarian president were rocked by strikes and demonstrations that made all the more vivid fervid visions of impending social revolution. None of these things appeared to concern Su‡rez as much, however, as did the war raging within his party, and his continuing inability to make progress on the Urrutia-Thompson Treaty. On July 21, 1920, five days after being run down by the cyclist, the president reminded Congress that seventeen years had passed since the loss of Panama, and Colombia had still not received its just reparations from the United States. Furthermore, he pointed out, making reference to a similar remark by U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee member Albert B. Fall, the lack of a treaty harmed the economy and juridic interests of both countries.87From the beginning of his term Su‡rez had rightly perceived himself as a political pariah, and he constantly spoke of stepping down in favor of a man stronger than he. On September 17, 1920, he had sent a telegraph to the governor of Valle, Ignacio Rengifo, in which he indicated that he was increasingly anxious to resign. That might placate enemies whom, he rightly perceived, had an aversion for him "because they consider me representative of what they call a theocracy."88 Early in 1921, Su‡rez made a difficult and rapid journey from Bogot‡ to Calarc‡, Caldas, to personally offer Rengifo the presidency. Rengifo refused the offer for complicated political reasons, though Su‡rez explained the rejection as resulting from the death of Rengifo's wife. That the sickly old Colombian president had undertaken a hellish round trip, involving two muleback crossings of the Quind’o pass in three days' time, suggests Su‡rez's desperate state of mind in early 1921. And the fact that a secondary figure like Rengifo had refused the offer, after Pedro Nel Ospina and Carlos Holgu’n had done the same, hints at the disarray prevailing in Conservatism. All this helps explain how Marco Fidel Su‡rez came to make the most grievous error of his political career. He welcomed Laureano G—mez back into the party fold. Two weeks after the president's hurried trip to Caldas, G—mez traveled to the town of Pacho, northwest of Bogot‡. Before returning he was feted by local Conservatives. G—mez delivered an emotional impromptu speech there in which he said that he felt no need to renew the seductive newspaper crusades of his younger days, adding that he remained an enthusiastic defender of the Conservative cause, standing ever ready to serve his party if called on to do so.89 Conservatives around Su‡rez seized on the remarks as a clear sign that a new, moderate G—mez had emerged. Ismael Enrique Arciniegas passed that

PAGE 129

The Bourgeois Republic | 111judgment, expressing pleasure that Dr. G—mez, "accidentally retired from political activities . [is] ready to serve the Conservative cause with his energy and obvious talent."90 In the succeeding months conversations took place during which G—mez assured party leaders that he was indeed a changed man. Accordingly his name was added to the Conservative ticket and in elections of May 1921 he was reelected to the Chamber of Representatives.91 On June 1, G—mez was hosted at a banquet at Bogot‡'s elegant new Hotel Continental. Photos of the dinner reveal G—mez, arms crossed and a half smile on his face, looking contentedly at Maestro Arciniegas, seated just to his left. It was not long before Arciniegas, Su‡rez, and the rest discovered that they had made a dreadful mistake. The first sign of that appeared in early July, when G—mez and his old companions from La Unidad broke with Pedro Nel Ospina, who had been named the official party candidate for the 1922 presidential election.92 Then on July 20, when congressional sessions commenced, dissident Conservatives, most of them Historicals, joined with Liberals to elect Laureano G—mez president of the Chamber of Deputies over the administration's candidate, Ismael Enrique Arciniegas. Backed by a substantial majority in the chamber, G—mez was at last ready to confront the government of Marco Fidel Su‡rez. Laureano G—mez used his new congressional office to harass Su‡rez supporters at every turn. On September 6 his old adversary, the old Conservative from Boyac‡, Sotero Pe–uela, could not finish a speech because G—mez allowed hecklers in the visitors' gallery to drown him out. When G—mez lashed the ministers of Su‡rez with charges of corruption, onlookers cheered him heartily. That led Su‡rez, who had meanwhile attempted to resign once again, to replace his entire cabinet on September 19, in hopes that it would placate opponents of the Urrutia-Thompson Treaty. The action bore fruit when, on October 13, the Senate approved the treaty. Still, acceptance of the document depended on its passage in the C‡mara, many of whose members liked it only slightly less than they liked their president. As things stood in mid-October 1921, Su‡rez himself was the chief obstacle to the treaty. On October 26, Laureano G—mez took the floor of the chamber to debate Su‡rez's minister of government, Arist—bulo Archila. He began his speech in a routine way, as if simply to answer Archila's accusation that he had failed to specify his charges against the government. Suddenly, about halfway through the discourse, G—mez shifted the focus of attack from Archila to Su‡rez, professing to have in his possession at that moment documents proving the president guilty of official wrongdoing so shocking that he, G—mez, was both astonished and tormented. So grievous were the president's sins, continued G—mez, that the myth of his "piety and mysticism" would be forever laid to rest. G—mez went on to list in considerable detail charges that Su‡rez had sinned

PAGE 130

112 | Toward Modernity, 18891932against the nation by selling both his salary and his expense account for ready cash, and by accepting bribes, in the form of loans from interested parties, in exchange for lucrative government contracts. Laureano G—mez concluded his indictment of Su‡rez by calling for an investigation of the president and for his removal from office. G—mez's charges created a sensation. Members of Congress formed an investigative committee and called upon the president to appear before them and explain his actions. Then the Chamber of Representatives adjourned and Laureano G—mez was borne away to his nearby residence on the shoulders of friends and admirers. The next day Su‡rez appeared before the chamber, along with members of his cabinet, to answer G—mez. It was a dejected Marco Fidel Su‡rez who addressed the body, among whose 112 members he counted only twenty-two supporters. To make matters worse, one of his political enemies, Jesœs Perilla, presided over the body that day. Speaking in a hesitant, nearly inaudible voice, Su‡rez told the representatives that he had indeed sold his salary at a discount and for cash, something not only legal, but something he had done all his life. He only did it, he continued, because he was in urgent need of cash. He also admitted that he had accepted a substantial loan from an American businessman who had sold railroad track to the government, but 6. Laureano G—mez, 1921. By permission of the Museum of Modern Art, Bogot‡.

PAGE 131

The Bourgeois Republic | 113only because the banker who normally made him short-term loans was low on cash at the moment. None of that, Su‡rez insisted, impugned his honor or harmed national prestige. When he turned to leave the podium and exit the chamber a din of hoots and catcalls rose from the packed galleries. Jesœs Perilla did nothing to silence them. Mortified and near to swooning, Marco Fidel Su‡rez had to be helped from the chamber by one of his cabinet members.93 Within a week a congressional committee cleared Su‡rez of criminal charges, whereupon he again tendered his resignation. It was accepted, and on November 6, 1921, Jorge Holgu’n assumed the presidency to complete the last nine months of Su‡rez's term. In little more than a month the Colombian Chamber of Representatives approved the Urrutia-Thompson Treaty. Meanwhile Marco Fidel Su‡rez sat at home planning how he might best salvage his tarnished honor. Before many months had passed he would begin to make public the torment he had suffered for the past eight years at the hands of those he labeled the Eumenides (the Furies). One of his earliest "Sue–os" contains the following thinly disguised autobiographical passage: "That whole cloud of enemies came down upon the old man because they said he was a rank fanatic, a diehard sectarian, a hidebound pharisee of falsity having an alarming streak of Machiavellianism. That's the reason they treated him as they did. And if you want to know what was in store for him, learn the verse of the bat: they stab you and they slice you, they thrash you, they beat you, they hammer you, they pierce you, they riddle you, they divide you, they cut and cleave you, they dismember you, they split you, they cut your throat, they crack you, they flay you, they crush you, they club you, they batter and bruise you, they destroy you, confound and baffle you.'"94

PAGE 132

114 | Toward Modernity, 188919325Money Comes to ColombiaPedro Nel Ospina: Businessman PresidentColombian leaders had always dreamt of the time their country should become rich. For decades, even centuries, they had repeatedly been told, and had told one another, that their land was a storehouse of untapped wealth, a potential cornucopia. JosŽ Celestino Mutis, Spanish-born royal official and savant of the late eighteenth century, had been one of a procession of foreigners who, when gazing upon the country's verdant mountains, flora and fauna, succumbed to their beauty and dedicated major portions of their lives to studying and writing about them. Baron Alexander von Humboldt was similarly impressed by New Granada (Colombia) when he visited and studied it during the lifetime of Mutis. Francisco JosŽ Caldas and the great Sim—n Bol’var, a native and an adopted son, early in Colombia's national period gave their lives seeing to it that the nation's treasures might be enjoyed by their own descendants. Yet all their labors were frustrated by a land that proved to be a cruel though doubtless beautiful mistress. Upward of a century after the passing of Bol’var, Caldas, and other tragic heroes of Colombia's early national era, the people of that country remained, as yet another foreign visitor described them, beggars reposing upon seats of gold. But at last, in the third decade of the twentieth century, Colombia's longanticipated bonanza materialized when a tidal wave of dollars rolled into and across the country. The sudden appearance of money in the poor, remote, tradition-bound nation necessarily had profound consequences. And the fact that a great deal of the cash immediately reached the hands of a considerable proportion of the citizenry, especially the rural citizenry, rendered the Colombian case extraordinary. That the major part of the money was generated by coffee, that most coffee was grown by yeoman farmers, and that those farmers were dispersed over a mountain fastness in central Colombia, would have significant consequences for the nation. Businessman and politician Pedro Nel Ospina presided over the first half of what would prove to be eight years of vertiginous economic growth. Elected in a violence-and fraud-ridden contest of March 1922, he occupied the presidential chair at the precise instant when his entrepreneurial skills could be of

PAGE 133

Money Comes to Colombia | 115greatest benefit to the country. Ospina belonged to that generation of Colombians imbued with the certainty that progress was inevitable and that they knew exactly how to achieve it. And as a man of sixty-four, he had experienced the full measure of frustration that political turbulence and an intractable physical environment had visited upon Colombia. His earliest memories were of a lengthy foreign exile that he spent with his family, the consequence of political machinations against his father, President Mariano Ospina Rodr’guez. In early middle age he fought in the War of the Thousand Days, witnessing the war's baleful effect on the nation. In the course of the war Ospina himself suffered exile by order of President Marroqu’n, who accused his then minister of war of conspiring against him. When he became the official candidate of his party in 1921, Ospina began planning how best to improve Colombia's economic position. His concern was not entirely selfless. Over the previous two decades he had dedicated much energy toward personal economic pursuits, frequently seeing those enterprises fail because of Colombia's primitive banking system and its sensitivity to international business cycles. As recently as 1920, he had lost money when V‡squez y Correa, one of the country's largest commission houses, failed in the economic downturn of 19201921. Fifteen years before, several of his businesses failed in the crisis of 1904 that brought down most of Medell’n's banks. This helps explain why as soon as he was elected, Pedro Nel Ospina traveled to New York to consult with American economists and financiers. The Americans were more than sympathetic to his entreaties for economic assistance, in part because they had learned of potentially rich Colombian oil fields. Within two months of his taking office, in August 1922, Ospina's government had negotiated a $5 million loan from an American bank, a sum equaling almost 20 percent of total government revenues for 1920.1 Of infinitely greater significance for Colombia's immediate economic future was the arrival soon thereafter of Princeton University economist Edward Kemmerer, employed to help Colombia create a central bank. The bank began to function the following year and instantly produced the anticipated results. Exchange rates stabilized, interest rates fell, and rapidly increasing deposits created significant amounts of new investment capital.2 As the tempo of business accelerated, national and departmental tax revenues increased steadily. Once the Kemmerer mission concluded its task, Ospina arranged with one of its members, Thomas R. Lill, to reorganize national accounting procedures. Accordingly, Lill left Colombia with a system that one commentator called "something that our greatest industrial concerns might envy."3As Colombian finances strengthened, additional moneys appeared in the form of loans to departmental and municipal governments, most of which proceeded from U.S. banks. Over the decade approximately $200 million was

PAGE 134

116 | Toward Modernity, 18891932lent. The magnitude of the sum can be appreciated when one considers that those moneys equaled nearly three-quarters of national tax receipts from normal sources collected between 1923 and 1928, the years during which the money was lent.4 The sum becomes all the more extraordinary when compared to the paltry amount foreigners had invested in Colombia before Pedro Nel Ospina took office. In 1913, Colombia had received but one percent of British and U.S. investment in Latin America. With between $2 million and $4 million in U.S. investment in 1913, Colombia was perhaps the least-favored Latin American nation in that regard.5Twenty-five million dollars from the U.S. indemnity swelled the torrent of money flowing into government coffers during the 1920s. That sum, which became payable the year Ospina took office, was ten times more than all bank reserves in Colombia at that time. Some 25 percent of those moneys were assigned to the new Bank of the Republic and a new sister institution, the Agricultural Mortgage Bank, which began to function in 1926. The rest was distributed among sixteen railroad projects and six additional projects aimed at improving ports and river transportation.6As Pedro Nel Ospina dedicated himself to the welcome task of disbursing the cash choking his treasury, another flood of money entered the private sector of Colombia's economy. That revenue derived from coffee, whose value and quantity had increased steadily after the War of the Thousand Days. Colombia had half a billion trees in production or started as seedlings during the presidency of Pedro Nel Ospina, a man who himself "came from coffee," as one writer put it.7 Colombians had planted coffee with a vengeance after the war. Influential men like Antonio JosŽ Restrepo dedicated themselves to opening coffee lands along a vast frontier south and southeast of Antioquia. Restrepo's experience as a colonizer of the Caldas-Quind’o region dated from the 1880s.8 He and others financed the movement of colonos (colonizers) to the coffee frontier. The success of their endeavor is told in statistics showing a 300 percent increase in coffee exports between 1913 and 1929, and a physical expansion of coffee groves that pushed them from 9 percent of the country's cultivated area in 1915, to 15 percent in 1925, to 22 percent in 1937. In 1920, 70 percent of Colombian export earnings derived from coffee, up from 40 percent at the turn of the century.9 That resounding increase took place in a setting of rising prices marred only by the brief downturn of 19201921. Coffee prices rose by 50 percent between 1923 and 1928, and revenue earned from coffee exports doubled.10Revenue earned by coffee, virtually all of which went to private individuals, consistently and substantially exceeded those taken by the government through normal tax revenues. By 1928, the year governmental affluence reached its peak, moneys earned from coffee exports, at 88 million pesos,

PAGE 135

Money Comes to Colombia | 117exceeded all government revenuesincluding foreign loansby nearly 12 million pesos. Revenues from petroleum and banana exports brought in an additional 34 million pesos in 1928.11Colombia was, by the mid 1920s, awash with money. This may not have meant that the country or its people were wealthy in absolute terms, but it was the case in a relative sense. In 1928 the combined increase from foreign loans, taxes, and coffee earnings were twelve times what they had been in 1910. And much of that money quickly found its way into private hands, whether through salaries received from work on government-financed public works projects or in the form of moneys earned through some aspect of foreign trade. Colombians characterized it as the time of "the dance of the millions." And it was the paisa industrialist Pedro Nel Ospina who played for the dance. He instituted the reforms that, in the words of Alfonso Pati–o Roselli, "represent one of the finest hours of Colombian economic history." Without Ospina's initiatives, writes Pati–o Roselli, Colombia "would never have been able to achieve the rate [of growth] that it reached . in money, credit, and finance."12The Consequences of AffluenceMoney induced Colombians to change lifestyles and aspirations, and it produced changes in social structures as well. The nation went on a spending binge. Wealthier citizens invested in automobiles imported from the United States and Europe. Toward the end of the decade more than 40,000 PierceArrows, Cadillacs, and Stutz-Bearcats traveled Colombian highways, five times the number of just a few years earlier. Nouveau riche coffee growers borrowed money on their land to construct multistory buildings in the cities. The better-off developed expensive tastes. French champagne became de rigueur at upscale celebrations, and middle-class households increasingly boasted new Victrolas bought on credit. The sale of imported musical instruments tripled over the period. During the Abad’a MŽndez presidency (1926 1930) it became common to repatriate the bodies of prominent Conservatives who had died overseas, and to hold elaborate reinterment ceremonies once they returned home. Pedro Juan Navarro claimed that even middling European and American cities had Colombian consulates during the twenties, only Soviet Russia being spared invasion by affluent Colombians.13Others remarked that while Colombia was a country where most citizens wore alpargatas (sandals) and were illiterate, the wealthy routinely squandered great sums of money in highly visible, frequently offensive ways. The flood of imports worked hardship on domestic manufacturers, and as the burden of debt mounted there appeared worrisome budget deficits. When foreign credits dried up in 1928, and Western trading nations entered economic crisis

PAGE 136

118 | Toward Modernity, 18891932soon thereafter, it became clear that foreign loans and burgeoning coffee exports heightened Colombia's vulnerability to international economic cycles. By early 1928 public figures like Alfonso L—pez were sounding dire warnings of approaching economic contraction owing to the unfavorable balance of trade. As the 1920s began, Colombian labor suffered the effects of low wages in the face of inflation that would over the decade run between 3 and 8 percent annually.14 But with just 6 percent of the nation's population living in the three largest citiesBogot‡, Medell’n, and Caliand the nine next largest cities accounting for only another 6 percent, organized labor was not yet the force it would become in succeeding years. Along with their small numbers in the as yet nonurbanized nation, workers experienced the additional liabilities of uncertainty as to the principles under which they should organize, and popular governmental hostility once they did organize. When the Confederation of Social Action was formed in Bogot‡ following the influenza and typhoid epidemics of 1918, it counted both Laureano G—mez and Marco Fidel Su‡rez among its members. And when that organization affiliated with the Central Workers' Union early the following year, the umbrella body couched its call for advanced social legislation in terms of the common good and Christian charity on the part of constituted powers.15 Less than a month later, in March 1919, as described above, union president Manrique P‡ramo exchanged words with President Su‡rez, the denouement being the shooting of workers in the Plaza de Bol’var. Soon after the incident Pedro Nel Ospina sent Su‡rez a telegram congratulating him for decisive action in upholding the principle of authority. The message moved Gil Blas editor Benjam’n Palacio Uribe to remark that humble workers shot in the back wasn't enough for Ospina. What he would have preferred was a hundred heads of workers preserved in aguardiente (raw brandy) and placed at the entrance of the barrio Candelaria as a warning to others thinking of rising against civil authority. Palacio concluded that the telegram warned workers of what they could expect should Ospina ever become president.16The upshot was that while there was growing ferment within Colombian labor during the 1920s, labor became neither a coherent movement nor a significant political force during the period. During the nine years between 1922 and 1930, there were just eighty-three strikes in the entire country fewer than nine per year.17 While several of those strikes were historically significant, they were rarely won by the workers. As public works projects consumed an overwhelming majority of foreign dollars entering Colombia from 1923 to 1930, and as most of the money paid as salaries went to men drawn to railroad and highway projects from rural areas, the campo (countryside) was much changed by the new affluence. Some

PAGE 137

Money Comes to Colombia | 11930,000 campesinos flocked to construction sites where they exchanged their labor for cash. The sums they earned were not great in real terms, but they were lavish in comparison to the pittance they had earned working as day laborers or tenant farmers. Labor on public works in fact paid five times what agricultural work did.18 It also offered the inestimable inducement of travel and after-work excitement. The noise and activity of railroad work camps, the bright lights of railhead cantinas, and the affordable charms of female camp followersnot to mention the moneyproved irresistible lures to adventuresome and underpaid campesinos. Two sets of interests were threatened by the appearance of money in rural Colombia and the social and economic disruption it produced. Members of the religious establishment quickly grasped the significance of the changes and mounted a campaign against them. Most of the men heading Colombia's Church had rural origins. They were taught in seminary that human society was organic and hierarchical, and that anything not conforming to that ideal was ungodly and to be condemned. Bucolic rural Colombia, as they remembered it from their childhoods, and as they perceived it daily as they exercised pastoral duties, replicated more perfectly than anything else that benign garden where the first man and woman once lived. Modern life and its noisy hubbub, vice, movement, and material lures were corrupting evils that threatened to destroy their sylvan Eden. Thus, in 1922, Antioquian archbishop Cayzedo lamented "depopulation of the campo," and its sad consequences for the nation.19 His young contemporary, Monsignor Miguel Angel Builes, denounced the "spiritual decadence" that material culture produced. Builes mourned the young people who appeared destined "to lose the innocence preserved in their mountains, to lose it in the highway work camps." "Have you seen that multitude of men who work on the highways?" asked Builes. "Most of them are victims of the atmosphere that those places breathe. . Forgetfulness of God, scorn of holy days, dances, games, liquor, abominable gestures, smiles that proclaim licentiousness, frightening voluptuousness, fornication, lubricious thoughts, sinful desiresit is the chariot of Asmodeus, the demon of impurity that pulls down peoples."20As churchmen sounded their warnings, others acted to protect economic interests jeopardized when workers left low-paying jobs for more lucrative ones. The migration to public works projects led both to labor shortages and to upward pressure on wages. In areas such as upland Boyac‡, a non-coffeegrowing region having a large and impoverished agricultural population, the problem became especially severe during the twice-yearly coffee harvest. So many Boyacenses began leaving traditional pursuits during the 1920s, that the departmental assembly passed a law prohibiting the seasonal migration. The measure, subsequently overturned at the national level, was of course unen-

PAGE 138

120 | Toward Modernity, 18891932forceable. It brought cries of outrage from coffee growers who, through spokesmen like Alejandro L—pez, denounced the law as immoral.21 Similar protests were lodged when landowners in other departments, most notably El Valle and Tolima, passed "vagrancy laws" carrying prison sentences for migrant workers found loitering in city streets and refusing to accept agricultural employment when offered.22 All those efforts to coerce labor were unworkable by the 1920s, when the appearance of money in the countryside gave agricultural workers the means to resist the punitive labor practices of earlier eras. Once Colombians began making money, they started spending it. That had an invigorating effect on national markets, which quickly expanded to supply the products demanded for both personal consumption and investment. Cities like Medell’n, Manizales, and Pereira, in the country's principal coffee-growing area, experienced phenomenal growth in their retail and wholesale sectors, and in manufacturing as well. Medell’n, especially, witnessed the proliferation of industries satisfying consumer needs: textiles, beer, sugar, cement, and cooking oil. That in turn spurred the construction of new housing and schools, and the expansion of electricity-generating capacity.23Simultaneous economic expansion took place in the campo. Increasing quantities of coffee required greater milling capacity and improved roads and trails for moving the product to market. Ever more pack animals were needed, as were packing materials in the form of locally produced sacks woven from henequen. Foodstuffs had to be produced in ever greater quantity to feed the shoals of new workers entering the expanding frontier. Hard-working arrieros (muleteers) and coffee cultivators needed their beef, rice, and cassava ( yuca ), along with copious amounts of chicha, beer, and aguardiente with which to wash it down. Historian JosŽ Antonio Ocampo cogently describes the impact of coffee cultivation on Colombia's economy at large: "Coffee at last created the complex of activities that definitively cracked the precapitalist economy inherited from colonial times, which the expansion of exports in the nineteenth century scarcely scratched."24Economist Luis Eduardo Nieto Arteta drew the same conclusion during the 1940s. Coffee, he rightly perceived, had given Colombia a capitalist economy, a development revolutionary in its implications. Thanks to coffee, and revenues derived from it, Nieto Arteta wrote, campesinos "begin contemplating life in terms of economics," and began "to experience those economic realities with intensity."25The truth of Nieto Arteta's remarks is borne out in the story of labor relations on Viot‡ coffee estates during the 1920s. Comprising some of Colombia's largest and oldest coffee farms, most Viot‡ plantations belonged to absentee owners, were run by hired managers, and were worked by campesinos living as tenants on small plots of land that they farmed in their spare time. Over the

PAGE 139

Money Comes to Colombia | 121decades the plantation owners of Viot‡, which is southwest of Bogot‡, had enjoyed a docile workforce thanks both to the campesinos' traditional deference to men of wealth and standing and to the fact that they were kept from making money by growing coffee on the land they occupied. They were allowed to grow foodstuffs for personal consumption only. The landowners' hold over tenants was so complete that they could renege on labor contracts with the certainty that they would suffer little more than complaints from the disgruntled but impotent workers. Viot‡'s plantation laborers were, in short, among the most exploited, abused workers in Colombian coffee country. At least that was the case before money came to Colombia in the 1920s, until Viot‡'s workforce began, as Nieto Arteta put it, to contemplate life through economics. Prohibited from growing coffee, Viot‡'s tenants tapped into the coffee economy in other ways. They began producing panela (unrefined sugar) and chicha, and a variety of other products for local consumption. Sometimes twenty to thirty tenants united to mount small mills that could supply panela to markets embracing two to three thousand persons. Estate managers knew that the cane from which tenants manufactured panela was stolen from plantation lands. So they did their best to skim tenants' profits through tolls, licenses, fees, and other ploys. But they were generally no more successful in taxing the clandestine cottage industries than was the state. Male and female tenants alike became skilled at hiding the products of their toil, selling on the sly, and smuggling them to other regions where they could be more easily sold. Viot‡'s grassroots capitalism became so pervasive, so persistent during the 1920s, that half of all arrests for tax fraud registered in the region between 1925 and 1928 were of women who manufactured and sold unlicensed chicha. The tenant-entrepreneurs of Viot‡ were so proficient in not paying taxes that at length estate owners joined forces with them to evade the excisemen who, with their armed escorts, periodically raided the coffee estates searching for tax cheats of any description.26 Thus began the democratization of law breaking on Colombia's coffee frontier. The case of Viot‡, and of Colombia's entire coffee zone during the affluent twenties, illustrates the truth of economic historian Fernand Braudel's remark that capitalism and the capitalist spirit rest "upon the broad back of material life," which strengthens in proportion to the expansion of markets and money supply.27 Viot‡'s tenants had wanted to become prosperous since they first started working the estates in the 1880s. But not until the 1920s did objective conditions start to favor their endeavor. During that decade money arrived in the hands of people who wished to buy whatever Viot‡ tenants could produce. Meanwhile, improvements in highways were dropping transportation costs in some cases as much as 400 percent.28 Recent research in an area of subsistence

PAGE 140

122 | Toward Modernity, 18891932farming well to the west of Colombia's coffee zone has demonstrated that when improvements in transportation are complemented by market economy, capital accumulation becomes possible even on a wage labor basis. When those conditions exist, migrant farmers ultimately become able to purchase their own land.29 Those conditions were present in Colombia's coffee zone starting in the 1920s. Once they started earning money, campesinos all across the coffee zone could realistically hope that they too might someday own a coffee finca. There were coffee fincas to be had during the twenties and thereafter. Statistics reveal a tripling of the number of farms in Colombia over the ten years between 1923 and 1932. Production increased by a third over that span of time, from 2 to 3 million sixty-kilo sacks. Over the following twenty-one yearsto 1953total production in Colombia would double again, reaching 6.6 million sacks. And during the twenty-year span between 1932 and 1952, an additional 50,000 coffee fincas would go into production. Save for a severe decline in prices spanning the 1930s, coffee prices enjoyed a steady and striking rise that pushed prices from thirty cents (U.S.) to a high of eighty cents in the mid-1950s.30The most extraordinary aspect of Colombia's coffee boom lay in what is frequently described as its "democratic" character. The tripling of fincas between 1923 and 1932 was owed both to the settling of public lands and, more important, to the breaking up of large holdings either through inheritance or purchase. Finca "La Julia," in Caldas, to cite a prominent example, was described as the department's largest in 1916. It had 200,000 trees in production that year and occupied over 600 hectares of Colombia's best coffee land. Ten years later the finca's original owner, Luis Jaramillo Walker was gone and so too his monster farm. It had been broken into a number of smaller holdings, passing into the hands of heirs and others who bought fractions of it from Jaramillo Walker's kin. By the mid-1920s no finca in Caldas approached the size of Jaramillo Walker's La Julia. And save for the haciendas of land developer Antonio JosŽ Restrepo and a dozen other wealthy men, none of the 10,000 coffee farms in the department boasted as many as 100,000 trees on their holdings. In fact most of those many thousand fincas were small ones averaging a few thousand trees each.31Close students of Colombia point out that the coffee frontier was not the democratic place that idealistic students of the settlement process once suggested it was. Many of the best lands, they stress, were bought by the relatively few persons having investment capital during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. And as land values increased rapidly during the twentieth century, landed interests used every means at their disposal, legal and illegal, to maintain their favored position and even to improve it. However, the point to

PAGE 141

Money Comes to Colombia | 123be made here is that in spite of the inequities and strife that attended settlement of Colombia's coffee frontier, the process gave rise to a new social class, a rural middle class empowered by global demand for the mildly addictive brew whose raw material they produced or otherwise helped dispatch to world markets. Colombia had achieved by the second quarter of the twentieth century the dream of nineteenth-century liberals: the nation had created a relatively self-sufficient, relatively affluent yeomanry having a capitalist outlook and convinced of the virtues of free markets. Luis Nieto Arteta perceived this clearly, going so far as to assert that a "new man" had emerged from Colombia's coffee-fueled revolution: "In this century coffee has placed before Colombian sociologists a complex of realities that enrich their subject of study. Without coffee . it would never have been possible to study internal conditions leading to the development of Colombian capitalism, the transformation of the Colombian man, of his style of life . in sum, the rich set of diverse realities that coffee has created in Colombia."32Nieto Arteta saw coffee as a curative for Colombia's social and political problems. Coffee was for him a medicine capable of reforming the state and producing forgetfulness of partisan ideologies. Unfortunately the hardy farmers who grew coffee were imbued with a complicated set of historically induced cultural values at the time they commenced earning money derived from coffee exports. The tenacity of those beliefs, and Nieto's optimism, led him to mar his otherwise brilliant analysis with a breathtaking misstatement. When he laid down his pen in March 1948, he left the following happy reflection: "The small producers, the landowners who have cultivated the land with their own hands, have triumphed. Peace and tranquility reign in Colombia."33Money and MentalitiesAs noted earlier, Colombia had a mostly peasant population before money arrived there in substantial quantity. Most of the poor engaged in subsistence agriculture on land they did not own. They were passive, respectful of authority and hierarchy, their places fixed in a patriarchal order from which they rarely escaped. The average person enjoyed little physical mobility in those times. Such travel as the average poor rural dweller experienced was at another's instruction and direct economic benefit: he worked as an arriero or river boatman, or perhaps marched off to defend his patr—n (patron or master) in one or another of Colombia's frequent civil wars. Except for that, the poor of rural Colombia lived and died near the place they were born, fulfilling the role society had prescribed for them. It was not serfdom, but it wasn't far removed from it. The lot of the poor was not necessarily unpleasant; nor did they always

PAGE 142

124 | Toward Modernity, 18891932chafe under conditions of their existence. It was simply all they knew. In areas of old settlement they frequently lived as renters, growing specified crops, working as vaqueros, or performing any other of the designated tasks carried out on archetypical Latin American haciendas. They served their patron, and if one of his sons got the daughter of a peon with child, the girl's father accepted it philosophically: the baby would be the natural child of a wealthy and powerful man; perhaps it would benefit from the connection. At any rate there was little recourse for the poor man living in close proximity to another, and in asymmetrical relationship of power with him. A foreign traveler described the life of hacienda owners and their peasant workforce before money figured in their social equation: "They lived without worry, dining on the cattle that grew in a nearly natural state on the immense plain, and eating fruits of the earth that their rentersa kind of servant of the glebeproduced by the sweat of their brows."34Before Colombians began earning money, developing modern attitudes concerning its use, human relationships in that country tended to be static and organic. The pace of life was slow, noncommercial. Land tended to be poorly utilized and life was in general rustic, primitive. Life's patterns and rhythms accorded perfectly with the organic metaphors so favored by conservative social philosophers of the day, who from their pulpits described godly society as one of hierarchies, closed systems, and absolutes. In those early times social structure harmonized perfectly with the Thomistic metaphysics so loved by enemies of change. That was the vision of static wholeness so idealized in the early twentieth century by clerics like Archbishop Cayzedo in his mountain fastness, by politicians like JosŽ Manuel Marroqu’n on his highland estancias, by students like Laureano G—mez at the knees of his Jesuit mentors. Modern commercial life introduced a host of factors that soon destroyed the system of traditional authority in Colombia and elsewhere. Long before coffee revolutionized the life of the Andean nation, the expansion of markets and growth of international trade changed Europe, giving nations of that continent an urban, capitalist culture. European thinkers pondered the changes and tried to interpret their impact on human society. Karl Marx (18181883), who in 1867 published the first volume of Das Kapital, offered a positivist vision that looked beyond capitalism to a benign, strife-free world in which the means of production were communally owned. While the Marxian vision would have a certain resonance in twentieth-century Colombia, it was another German thinker, Georg Simmel (18581918), who spoke more directly to the Colombian experience. Lecturing in Berlin during the year of Laureano G—mez's birth, Simmel posited money's liberating effect on human society. Rather than an instrument for the enslavement of humankind, he pointed out, money was the Magna Carta of personal freedom for the European peasantry.

PAGE 143

Money Comes to Colombia | 125Once money became the mechanism for satisfying contractual obligations it freed serfs to pursue a range of remunerative activities by which they could discharge their obligations. Money introduced impersonality in dealings between subordinate and superior. When cash, whether in the form of salaries or payments to satisfy legal obligations between servant and master, became interposed between lord and vassal, it severed the organic link previously uniting them, depersonalizing both parties.35The process of human liberation by money described by Simmel occurred in Europe over centuries, as urban commercial culture supplanted feudal manorial life. In Colombia the transition took place almost overnight. Whereas European modernization occurred by way of measured expansion of commercial networks, capital accumulation, occupational diversification, and evolution of modern business techniques and technologies, Colombia was hurried into the world thanks to a rapid and sustained infusion of cash money and consumer goods. Both those vital elements of modern life appeared suddenly during the 1920s because of the willingness and ability of affluent, industrialized nations to lend Colombia money and to pay high prices for the agricultural product that grew luxuriantly throughout its mountains. For the first time in her history Colombia's mountains helped rather than hindered national development. Colombian peasants had no need to escape into nascent cities to earn moneyto "breathe free," as medieval participants in the process phrased it. Some did that, it is true. But most followed the easier route to the coffee frontier, where they could tap the agricultural bonanza. Money struck the countryside like a bombshell, revolutionizing social structures, lifestyles, and attitudes. It turned topsy-turvy the old lines of authority. Those at the bottom of rural society's social pyramid experienced for the first time the joys of a seller's market. Humble campesinos from highland Boyac‡ and Cundinamarca were suddenly so prized for their labor that lawmakers in the former department tried futilely to keep them in place. Rural wages rose to unprecedented levels. If landowners refused to pay top dollar, then someone else would. Money, market pressures, and the opportunities they presented worked striking changes in popular attitudes. A new militancy appeared, leading landless tenants to challenge authority for the first time. Examples have been given above of those least favored of Colombia's agriculturalists defying convention by mounting clandestine businesses whose raw materials were often stolen from their patrons' land. Tenants in places like Viot‡ also stopped speaking to their patrons with the old deference, took to sabotaging hacienda property, killing livestock and carving threatening messages on the carcasses. "Why should we waste our time greeting you?" snapped tenants newly conscious of their personal worth. "Better to greet a tree, which at least waves back." Evidence of the new mentality was all the

PAGE 144

126 | Toward Modernity, 18891932more striking when the historically submissive Boyacense appeared on the coffee frontier with money for the purchase of his own land. "He arrives all stooped, his eyes lowered, walking at a little half trot, courteously taking off his hat and holding it behind him to greet those he passes," wrote Gonzalo Par’s Lozano of Boyacenses entering the region above Tolima's coffee country. "But wait until he sells his first two crops, buys a riding horse, and puts a machete on his belt," continued Par’s. "When that happens, step aside! The contact with other people and customs lifts from him the weight of ancestral oppression little by little [and] . turns him into an aggressive person."36The passage suggests in a colorful, anecdotal way the complicated process through which old linkages between patron and client were rendered tenuous. By joining thousands of others on the coffee frontier, by earning the money that allowed them to achieve higher social status, the campesinos described by Par’s Lozano illustrated what Simmel described as money's "disintegrative effect" on old social institutions as well as its tendency to create new ones. Colombia's new rural middle class was created by coffee earnings. And its members expressed "that inner independence, the feeling of individual selfsufficiency" produced when one comes to possess money.37Coffee thrust Colombia's frontiersmen into a setting dominated both by international markets and by individual competition of nearly Hobbesian dimensions. Personal advancement in that heady setting called into play a range of skills not so necessary when Colombia's economy was based on subsistence. To be successful in the new milieu one needed be industrious, pragmatic, and above all rationaleven calculating. Those new habits of mind could not but destroy an authoritarian social order predicated on revealed truths. Self-interested coffee cultivators had progressively less need of the old clientelist networks that once allowed political elites to mobilize campesino armies at will. Thus Professor Anthony McFarlane could write that "coffee exports were to prove a . durable and effective vehicle for economic growth and political stabilization, and for the realization of ambitions frustrated during the nineteenth century."38 A number of social scientists have remarked on the link between market expansion and changes in clientelist networks. Especially important, they find, is the way complex new linkages appear, and then challenge or even replace the simple patron-client bond of premodern times.39 Nieto Arteta made much of that phenomenon in his essay of 1948. He was especially impressed by the way the National Federation of Coffee Growers (Federaci—n Nacional de Cafeteros), an interest association incorporated in 1927, lessened coffee growers' dependence on the state even as it forced greater pragmatism and rationalism upon them.40As coffee changed attitudes and institutions, it also democratized frontier violence. In earlier times landowners and speculators had their way with pow-

PAGE 145

Money Comes to Colombia | 127erless and inarticulate peasants. But once money empowered campesinos, turning them into yeoman farmers, they stood able and willing to act, violently if necessary, to promote and protect their interests. By most accounts Colombia's frontier was "a secularized and greedy place" where "money was held up as society's most desirable attribute."41 That was certainly the message contained in J. A. Osorio Lizarazo's naturalistic novel La cosecha (The harvest; 1935). Purporting to describe the coffee frontier of northern Tolima, it portrayed the frontiersmen as grasping, lawless, and much given to machete duels and similar mayhem.42 That was precisely what saddened and discouraged Antioquia's Archbishop Cayzedo, causing him to cry out, in a pastoral letter in 1927, that "the anxiety to earn money makes us forget law, justice, and honor."43Coffee prosperity did not cause the relative position of rich and poor to change dramatically. But the new material culture purchased with coffee revenues had in itself a liberating, individualizing effect. Stores throughout the coffee zone filled with goods never before seen in the countryside. The poorest campesino could now buy a new machete with decorated leather sheath, a new hat, pistol, or horse. Each new purchase heightened self-esteem and provided tangible evidence that one was getting ahead. Campesinos liked to have formal 7. Coffee harvesters. By permission of the Museum of Modern Art, Bogot‡.

PAGE 146

128 | Toward Modernity, 18891932photographs made of themselves and their new finery. Those photos, framed and hung on the walls of rustic houses scattered through the coffee zone, typically showed the head of household, perhaps with his wife, resplendent in suit, gold watch chain, and leather shoes, showing off new ruanas, and carriels (peasant satchels), posed before backdrops of pastoral scenes like those back home. That was but one way members of Colombia's new yeoman class suggested a heightened sense of self, and evoked the style of life to which they aspired. Middle-class bourgeois culture was what men and women of the coffee frontier hoped to achieve for themselves and their families. They set their standards by what they had seen in the city, and by what they knew of life in the great metropolitan centers of Europe and the United States. Woe to merchants 8. Formal photograph of an Antioquian campesino, circa 1920. By permission of the Museum of Modern Art, Bogot‡.

PAGE 147

Money Comes to Colombia | 129in better stores of Marinilla and Manizales, of Pereira and Armenia, who could not supply them with fine merchandise. Colombians may have lived in the countryside during the 1920s, '30s, and '40s, but their minds were fixed on urban styles of life. They manifested what a prominent Colombian sociologist found to be "an intense desire to identify with the urban upper classes."44Colombia's middle-class coffee farmers used their wealth in ways that allow us to read the direction of their thought. They built two-story houses, the first floor serving as a warehouse where coffee from the finca was stored and where its owner had his officeusually no more than a desk and chair, account books, and sometimes a typewriter. The family lived upstairs in a degree of elegance proportionate to the quantity of coffee passing through the storage area below. Sometimes the home owner advertised his political loyalties by painting shutters and doors red if a Liberal, blue if a Conservative. In those ways they forcefully harmonized a plurality of identities that frequently jostled uncomfortably, even contradicted one another. That was the case with churches of the coffee zone, often built in seeming "blind veneration" of modern architectural style, thereby standing in direct challenge to the pope's encyclical against modernism.45 Yet pious coffee farmers seemed not to notice the contradiction, worshiping contentedly in them, likely agreeing with Bishop Builes that their daughters should not wear slacks or ride astride as both things were affronts to their honor and sinful as well. Quind’o coffee farmer Luis Jaramillo Walker was one who showed his fellow planters the kind of life they could live when they became rich. Described as a man "of unsullied lineage," first among that "race of titans," the Antioquian coffee entrepreneur, he was among the first to defy convention by mechanizing his farm La Julia. His was the largest finca in Caldas in 1916, one whose waterfalls provided electricity for nearby Pereira, as well as for his own mill, which accommodated 900,000 pounds of coffee per month. Jaramillo Walker built a house on his farm, described by one who had seen it as "a fine residence [where] its owner and guests enjoy at all times all the comforts and luxuries of city life. It may be considered a real pleasure resort, as everything that money can buy is found here." Luis Jaramillo Walker is shown in the finely appointed parlor of his home, in a photograph taken about 1916. An old man at the time, he stares fixedly at the camera, ivory-headed cane in hand, a bowler hat on his head, wearing a three-piece suit surely tailored of the finest British wool.46 The very image of middle-class respectability, he stood as a model for all to emulate. Luis Jaramillo Walker was Colombia's New Man, a paisa Kubla Khan whose pleasure dome in the mountains of Quind’o proclaimed that gentility could indeed come to Colombia's coffee frontier. Meanwhile urban Colombians scrambled to stay abreast of fad and fashion. As material culture expanded it became increasingly possible for middle-

PAGE 148

130 | Toward Modernity, 18891932class Colombians to affect the look of their social superiors even if they could not afford their lifestyles. Dime stores and shops with names like Mundo al Dia (The up-to-date store) sprang up, offering a cornucopia of products at affordable prices. New impersonality entered daily life as the concept of paying fixed prices replaced the time-consuming bargaining of older times. Beauty shops offered patrons a variety of hairstylesbraids, bangs, dips, curls, frizzles, and transformationsall guaranteed to be "Parisian chic." Portrait photographers promised to capture the feminine likeness with such artistry 9. Luis Jaramillo Walker, circa 1916. From Libro azul de Colombia, edited by Jorge Posada Callejas (1918).

PAGE 149

Money Comes to Colombia | 131that even the homeliest woman was assured of being depicted "with radiant face, her soul brimming over."47 All these things were clear indications that the nation was becoming more like the great metropolitan world whose ways had previously been so unattainable. In Colombia, as in Europe and elsewhere, the expansion of physical culture was starting to blur the previously clear distinction between the wealthy and the rest. And the growing availability of money was changing popular mentalities in ways that would soon produce striking changes in national political life. In the 1920s, Colombia had its flappers and its smart set, whose members roared down city streets in late-model automobiles, guzzling liquor from hip flasks in an open and scandalous manner. The years of the dance of the millions marked a brief moment of camaraderie among the country's young future leaders as they forgot their differences and dedicated themselves to having fun. They lived the good life with esprit and at a level of affluence their parents had never known. When the city's college students launched their 1926 carnival, for example, they did so by way of an elaborate charade that they chronicled in a fifty-page publication complete with photographs and cartoons supplied by Pepe G—mez, the younger brother of Laureano. According to the pamphlet, titled The Case of Pericles Carnaval y Neira ( Proceso de Pericles Carnaval y Neira ), on the evening of July 14, seven "dissolute young people," among them Olga Noguera D‡vila, Tonny Greiffestein, Germ‡n Arciniegas, and Miguel L—pez Pumarejo, kidnapped the wealthy and fictitious Pericles Carnaval, from whom they planned to extort money for that year's student festival and charity ball.48 Unfortunately, the victim was injured during the assault, and no amount of brandy liberally applied could keep him from expiring. The malefactors were tried before "Judge" Sim—n Araœjo, and a jury made up of Alberto Lleras Camargo, Helena Ospina, and others. Hernando Uribe Cualla and Julio Holgu’n Arboleda served as lawyers for the defense. At the end of the mock trial Judge Araœjo found the defendants guilty as charged, and sentenced them to raise money for a new "fiesta of flowers," to be held in Independence Park, and to find moneys sufficient for underwriting several other projects relative to the student union and to Hospital San JosŽ. Germ‡n Arciniegas, then twenty-six years old, was the spiritual father of Bogot‡'s student carnivals. The idea for them had occurred to him four years earlier, in 1922, and when he proposed the idea to his friends it "produced universal enthusiasm" among them.49 Celebrations, after all, seemed especially appropriate in Colombia of the twenties, when money and champagne flowed, and change was in the air. The beautiful Maruja Vega Jaramillo was elected queen of the students. Costumes were rented, floats constructed, and the festivities scheduled for September 21. On carnival day all went as planned: the student parade tied up traffic in Bogot‡ streets, and afterward the

PAGE 150

132 | Toward Modernity, 18891932young people jammed the Teatro Col—n for the coronation ball. Maruja I was crowned in a ceremony whose high point was a speech pronounced in her honor by Laureano G—mez, who had been asked to serve as "official orator" for the event. G—mez gave a speech variously described as "lyric," "impressive," and "beautiful"a discourse entirely appropriate to that memorable night. Laureano G—mez was at the height of his popularity during the 1920s. A great many Liberals, and increasing numbers of Conservatives, perceived him as precisely the person who should lead the nation. As in the case of his country, money came to Laureano G—mez during the 1920s, and he used it to finance three years of travel and study abroad. When he returned home in 1932, circumstances forced him to alienate many of his old friends, ultimately darkening his historical reputation.The Most Popular Man in Colombia Discovers MoneyNot long before September 29, 1916, when he closed La Unidad, Laureano G—mez formed two personal alliances that mitigated his defeat by Marco Fidel Su‡rez and the Conservative Party establishment. The first came through his marriage to Mar’a Hurtado, a few weeks before the demise of his newspaper. The second occurred by way of his political collaboration with Alfonso L—pez Pumarejo, which began in 1915. In both instances G—mez gained an added measure of personal economic security, as the families of his wife and his Liberal friend were among Colombia's wealthiest. Thanks to the influence of Mar’a Hurtado and Alfonso L—pez, G—mez learned to appreciate money as something more than a potential corrupter of morals and besmircher of national honor. Mar’a Hurtado was the sixth of eleven children of Sim—n Hurtado, a humbly born native of Popay‡n who, by dint of hard work and a modicum of luck, became a well-to-do businessman. In his youth Hurtado had raised a small amount of capital with which he launched a company dedicated principally to the export of quinine. He invested his profits in land, eventually coming into possession of what were described as "magnificent rustic estates" in the districts of Popay‡n, PuracŽ, and Silvia. His wealth and reputation for rectitude and honorableness enabled him to marry into a prominent family of the region, and not long afterward fate and quinine brought him into association with Rafael Reyes. Hurtado so impressed the young Boyacense, who was ten years his junior, that Reyes named one of his own daughters after a child of Sim—n Hurtado. Later, during the Quinquenio, President Reyes made his old friend minister of the interior. By that time the Hurtado family was established in Bogot‡, a place Sim—n Hurtado judged better suited to the furtherance of his business ventures than was Popay‡n.50

PAGE 151

Money Comes to Colombia | 133When Sim—n Hurtado and his family made their trip to the savanna of Bogot‡ sometime before the turn of the century, their party created a sensation. Such numbers of pack animals and quantities of luggage had not been seen on the route from Popay‡n since Francisco JosŽ Caldas had passed that way a century earlier. Upon reaching the highlands, Hurtado left his party for a time in the village of Madrid, on the edge of the savanna, while he sought a suitable residence for them in Bogot‡. He raised eyebrows when he purchased an ample house in the northern part of town, on Calle 19 (Nineteenth Avenue), thus inaugurating the move of affluent Bogotanos out of the center city. During the War of the Thousand Days and again after Reyes's fall in 1909, Hurtado removed his family to Europe. With Paris as their headquarters, they all experienced European culture through tours of the continent's principal cities. At the end of each trip they returned home bearing household furnishings and new wardrobes that made them the envy of their peers. Sim—n Hurtado certainly "knew how to improve his social condition through foreign travel," as one writer put it.51 Thanks to his wife Isabel Cajiao's friendship with Leonor C—rdoba, the wife of JosŽ Vicente Concha, August 7, 1914, found Sim—n and Isabel de Hurtado, and their children, at the new president's inaugural reception. Laureano G—mez met Mar’a Hurtado that August afternoon in the entrance of the newly renovated presidential residence, the Palacio de la Carrera. She was standing quietly beside a large potted palm, away from the noise and excitement going on inside. Mar’a Hurtado was by nature a quiet person. Some called her standoffish and aloof; others said she was simply shy and retiring. At any rate it was in keeping with her character that she should be out of the mainstream at Concha's reception, observing the glitter from a certain distance. Not unattractive, but at the time a mature young woman of twentysix, she was some years beyond the prime marriageable age of young women in society. The recent trip to Europe had taken her away from friends and potential suitors at a crucial moment in her life. As she stood there by the potted plant, watching the other invited guests come and go, she may well have already resigned herself to a life of spinsterhood. One can imagine her surprise when handsome, dashing young congressman and newspaper editor Laureano G—mez, organizer of the recent Eucharistic Congress and bane of both the archbishop and Conservative Party leader Marco Fidel Su‡rez, approached and engaged her in conversation. She was certainly pleased and astonished that she, so long overlooked, and never the belle of any ball, had attracted the attention of one of the city's most eligible bachelors, who was, moreover, a year younger than she.52Several things drew G—mez to Mar’a Hurtado. He knew her and her family, and that she was proper and pious, not given to showing herself unnecessarily in the street. In short she was precisely the sort of woman who would likely

PAGE 152

134 | Toward Modernity, 18891932keep the quiet, well-ordered house that a public man needed at the end of a fatiguing day in the public eye. Having traveled extensively in Europe, she was much more accomplished than the average Bogotana of good family. And G—mez, who loved Gallic culture only slightly less than that of the Iberian peninsula, must have been charmed and impressed when he learned that Mar’a Hurtado spoke excellent French. She would make an excellent companion when he, Laureano G—mez, made his own European tour. The courtship of Mar’a Hurtado and Laureano G—mez lasted for slightly more than two years, and culminated in their marriage on September 9, 1916. Their first child, Cecilia, was born a year later, and was followed in 1919 by a son, Alvaro. Two more sons, Rafael and Enrique, were born in 1922 and 1927 respectively. Meanwhile G—mez scrambled to support his family. The year 1917 found him in partnership with civil engineer Luis Vargas V‡squez. The Vargas and G—mez Engineering Center advertised specializations in home construction and irrigation projects, and promised to develop plans for works of art, remodeling, and interior decoration projects as well. The engineers offered free estimates, and boasted a centrally located office with three telephones.53 In May 1917, G—mez accepted employment as departmental engineer of Cundinamarca, a post to which the newspaper Gil Blas snidely referred as humble. Nevertheless, it soon gave Laureano G—mez opportunity to inaugurate one of Colombia's major new public buildings, the Savanna Railway Station. He did so on July 20, 1917, in a paean to progress drawing upon Spanish writer Angel Ganivet's notion that railway stations symbolize the degree of a people's cultural level and administrative ability. G—mez's appointment as departmental engineer also coincided with a period of intense seismic activity in central Colombia. Known as "the time of the earthquakes," it necessitated his inspection of damaged buildings across the department. It also caused his bride, his mother, other members of his extended family, and himself to sleep in tents outside their new home in Chapinero until the danger of aftershocks passed. During his earliest years of marriage, G—mez's friendship with Alfonso L—pez served him in good stead. After quelling his aversion to someone he initially described as a man "of the extreme left," one who dabbled in politics "as if it were a game of polofor sport,'" the two happily worked against Marco Fidel Su‡rez and the Conservative establishment.54 In so doing they recreated the Historical-Liberal alliance that first formed during the late 1890s as a vehicle for attacking the Nationalist Party. JosŽ Vicente Concha and Rafael Uribe Uribe had led that coalition, and Marco Fidel Su‡rez had been their chief antagonist in the Chamber of Representatives. L—pez's business connections were especially welcome to G—mez as the latter struggled to improve his personal fortunes. The year 1918 found L—pez founding his Mercantile Bank of the Americas, and a year later informing his

PAGE 153

Money Comes to Colombia | 135New York manager, Alfred Meyer, that he had just hired "several young, very important, and highly recommended young men," one of whom was his friend Laureano G—mez.55 Unfortunately for both L—pez and G—mez, their enthusiasm for politics was greater than for business. Pedro A. L—pez quickly tired of the two closeting themselves in bank offices to smoke cigarettes and "make politics," and he fired them both. That misfortune wasn't especially damaging to G—mez, as in 1919 he won a position with the Tolima Railroad Company. Toward the end of the century's second decade Laureano G—mez entered the time of his greatest popularity in Colombia. Counted among his friends and supporters were Historical Conservatives like Manuel D‡vila Flores and JosŽ Joaqu’n Casas, who had helped him found La Unidad, Juan and Guillermo Uribe Cualla, and Guillermo Cote Bautista, who had worked on the newspaper with him. Many of his friends were Liberals. Two of them, future party leaders who lavished fulsome praise on G—mez, were Alfonso L—pez and Eduardo Santos. Nor was their high regard for G—mez entirely self-interested. From 1916, members of the Liberal-Conservative alliance against mainstream Conservatism had combined pleasure with business, honoring one another in an endless stream of celebrations running the gamut from birthday parties, to picnics, to formal dinners, to all-male fetes at the Jockey Club and less exalted watering places around the city. Bipartisan conviviality extended into the home, where friendly visits were exchanged on Sunday afternoons and tertulias (social gatherings) took place on week days. Card parties were often given Saturday nights at one or another of the associates' homes. Within such a setting it was logical and natural that Laureano G—mez and Alfonso L—pez should become compadres (co-godfathers), as they did during their years of closest collaborationa fact that seemed incredible to later generations of Colombians. By late 1921, following his exposŽ of President Marco Fidel Su‡rez's financial improprieties, G—mez was being lauded by Liberal Armando Solano as Liberalism's best ally in its fight for progress and liberty against "archaic Conservatism." Two years earlier a writer for El Espectador had referred to G—mez as "the Lenin of modern Conservatism."56During those halcyon days of coalition attacks on the old regime, G—mez and L—pez approached their work with Žlan and a spirit of fun. Thus it was that in late May 1922 the two were plotting another campaign in their ongoing war against Marco Fidel Su‡rez. The fallen Conservative leader had been politically active during the six months following his resignation, among other things composing a lengthy defense of his actions while president. He intended to publish the work under the title "Honores y Deshonra" (Honors and dishonor). Unluckily for him, the manuscript was stolen from the printer and placed in the hands of Laureano G—mez. When G—mez discovered that Su‡rez had included a colorful blast at him, likening him to a demagogue who, from

PAGE 154

136 | Toward Modernity, 18891932the heights of Tequendama Falls, heaped abuse on a hapless old man lying battered on the rocks below, G—mez and L—pez conceived a spoof that would yet again subject Su‡rez to public ridicule even as it absolved them of any complicity in the theft of the manuscript. Their plan began unfolding on May 29, 1922, when L—pez's newspaper, El Diario Nacional, featured a front-page article about a suicide at Tequendama Falls. Accompanying it was a photograph of the victim being hauled from the water beneath the falls. The man, one Aurelio Velandia, had killed himself upon learning that he had contracted elephantiasis and perhaps leprosy following amputation of his left leg. The next day, May 30, El Diario Nacional published on its front page a large photo of Laureano G—mez, a letter from G—mez addressed to the newspaper's director, a heavily edited version of "Honores y Deshonra," punctuated by humorous subheadings, and a Ricardo Rend—n cartoon showing Su‡rez seated forlornly on a rock as vultures circled overhead. According to G—mez, a one-legged man had mysteriously delivered the manuscript to his house the previous day. While he had not been home at the time, the man was doubtless Aurelio Velandia, driven to know the place of Su‡rez's phantasmagoric description in an intimate and final way. Marco Fidel Su‡rez was probably correct in calling the account of Velandia's delivery of the manuscript to G—mez a hoax. He subsequently filed suit against G—mez for theft of literary property. The incident described above suggests something of the G—mez-L—pez relationship at that time, and the vigor with which Marco Fidel Su‡rez continued his struggle against Laureano G—mez between 1921 and 1927. It was important for two additional reasons. First, it sent Su‡rez back to his study to devise a safer way of defending his injured honor, through a series of newspaper articlesthe "Sue–os de Luciano Pulgar." Second, thanks to "Honores y Deshonra" one appreciates what Su‡rez felt that painful day in the Chamber of Deputies when he attempted to defend himself against the charges of Laureano G—mez. Midway through the rather dry document Su‡rez inserted a paragraph that Alfonso L—pez termed a "lyric intermezzo," an impressionistic description of Su‡rez's ordeal before Congress. In it he likened himself to a worthy and wronged old man, a victim of political slander, who had been cast up on one of the great stones at the foot of Tequendama Falls. Su‡rez painted a Dantesque scene of enormous black rocks alternately exposed to sunlight and blowing spray, a man seated on one of them, "alone and naked, a reprobate of political slander." Above him, on a cliff at the edge of the falls, "gesticulating and shouting," stood Gutenberg Bochica (Littlemouth), who "amidst the stupendous roar of a thousand cannon, blindly and furiously hurled his affronts down upon the eviscerated, wretched Indian." Meanwhile a multitude of spectators, standing on cliffs surrounding the falls listened to and lauded

PAGE 155

Money Comes to Colombia | 137Gutenberg and rendered him acts of homage: "children, workers, soapbox orators, hangers-on, club men, parliamentarians, and even some magistrates celebrated the unfailing voice of Littlemouth." Su‡rez concluded by explaining that his downfall was all a function of acoustics, and warning that in spite of all he "bore within his bosom something that didn't allow him to die, something that permitted him to appeal [his case] and to hope. . ."57At about the same time G—mez and L—pez were roughly handling former president Su‡rez, Laureano G—mez was becoming a problem for incoming president Pedro Nel Ospina. G—mez had opposed Ospina from mid-1921, when the paisa businessman was selected to succeed Su‡rez. In early 1922, when the president-elect proposed that Colombia establish a national bank and negotiate foreign development loans, G—mez went on the attack, though not with the same vehemence as against Su‡rez. During March he argued that the new bank be subject to restrictions lest it give rise to a dangerous "plutocracy of wealth" in the country. He also wanted to restrict Ospina's use of the first $5 million indemnity.58 He opposed several railroad projects for which indemnity moneys were targeted, but at the same time supported the approval of moneys for the Pacific Railroad whose director was his ally Alfredo V‡squez Cobo. G—mez's initial opposition to Pedro Nel Ospina was rooted in the old and well-documented regional social, economic, and political tension between Antioquians and Colombians living in Cundinamarca, Boyac‡, and the Santanders. Laureano G—mez rightly perceived himself as representing constituencies in those interior provinces. Sotero Pe–uela accused G—mez of hostility to the Carare Railroad because the commission planning it was dominated by Antioquians.59 In September, G—mez warned fellow Representatives to carefully scrutinize the contract for a railroad in Antioquia before approving it. He even went so far as to organize a Colombian Society of Engineers and then have it accredited as a certifying body for mining engineers so as to break the monopoly over accreditation exercised by the National School of Mines. October found him arguing against Ospina's proposed $100 million loan on the grounds that such transactions presented a threat to national institutions. By his logic, large sums like that might cause the Chamber of Representatives to become a "punching bag for special interests."60 By November he had warmed to his task to the extent that he tarred Ospina's minister of the interior, Manuel Mar’a Marulanda, for his actions during the Quinquenio, and insisted that Ospina pledge to use the U.S. indemnity payment as collateral for his proposed loan. When the Chamber of Representatives passed the loan proposal on November 30, G—mez and eleven other representatives signed a declaration holding that the measure would harm national institutions.61Meanwhile, Pedro Nel Ospina was conducting an astute courtship of Laureano G—mez, the upshot of which was to turn G—mez into an ardent

PAGE 156

138 | Toward Modernity, 18891932defender of Ospina and his regime. Ospina had many reasons for doing so; the first and most obvious was to silence G—mez. The strategy would of course alienate Marco Fidel Su‡rez. But faced with that inevitability, who better to defend his regime against Su‡rez and his followers than G—mez? Moreover, G—mez would be useful to his administration. He was the most charismatic and popular young politician in the country, after all, an ardent proponent of progress and an experienced engineer, and he was a dedicated Conservative. In other words, G—mez had a great deal in common with Ospina himself. Forgiving G—mez his earlier attacks on his candidacy, Ospina concluded, was an altogether prudent thing to do. Laureano G—mez had his own well-founded reasons for being receptive to Ospina's overtures. By approaching him the president had indicated his willingness to break with Su‡rez, a fact that doubtless impressed G—mez. G—mez was ambitious, and having the chief executive's support would do much to further his own political career. Moreover it was highly flattering that a man with the president's power and prestige was willing to offer him the hand of friendship when he had done so little to merit it. G—mez had always responded positively to strong older men, often striving to emulate them. How logical, then, that given the opportunity, he should look up to Ospina, a man who was, among much else, the nation's most famous engineer. Had not the president graciously accepted an honorary membership in G—mez's own Colombian Society of Engineers, praising the organization and its founder for their good works?62 What a noble gesture, coming from a founding father of the National School of Mines! The new president was obviously no narrow and egotistical paisa, avid to promote his region at the expense of others less fortunate. Finally, and of no small consequence in the eyes of G—mez, Ospina was a Historical Conservativeone who knew what it was to suffer for the sake of political ideals. Ospina sealed his handling of G—mez by dispatching the obstreperous young politician on a diplomatic mission that would remove him from Colombia's political scene for two years. He appointed G—mez, along with G—mez's old friend Guillermo Valencia, and Liberal Carlos Uribe Echeverri, delegates to the Fifth International Pan American meeting in Santiago, Chile. Following the conference G—mez was to continue on to Buenos Aires, where he would represent Colombia as ambassador. It was his first trip abroad, and as he departed Barranquilla on February 27, 1923, G—mez paused long enough to send a telegram to Benjam’n Herrera. "I greet you upon departing the country," it read, "saluting a distinguished citizen whose probity and rectitude have brought great good to the Republic. Your friend, Laureano G—mez."63 Writing in El Gr‡fico, Luis Eduardo Nieto Caballero mused that the trip would be good for G—mez, whom he judged to be a person "suspicious to the point of

PAGE 157

Money Comes to Colombia | 139illness," who had a way of frustrating the best intentions of colleagues with ironic remarks about hidden motives. G—mez "seduces us with his talent and energy," continued Nieto, who hoped that during his trip G—mez would reflect on the ironies of life "to the extent that he comes to forget the cruelty that takes possession of him in the passion of inspiration, when at the critical moment he injures with his lips. . ." Cured of that failing, G—mez might return better prepared "to aid in the work of our redemption."64Continuing to Buenos Aires from Santiago by train, G—mez presented his credentials on May 22, 1923. He remained at his post until February 1925. Once installed as minister G—mez carried out his assignment with characteristic enthusiasm. He dedicated schools, hosted a gala reception for the diplomatic community, improved the embassy library, traveled to Paraguay for the inauguration of a new president there, and even found time to share his thoughts on the League of Nations with foreign minister Jorge VŽlez. He entertained visiting Colombians, some of them lavishly. When the celebrated novelist and polemicist JosŽ Mar’a Vargas Vila passed through the city, G—mez gave a banquet in his honor. The writer departed Argentina pleased with his reception, remarking that "in Buenos Aires they paid me the honors usually reserved for prize fighters."65 The Conservative diplomat and the iconoclastic writer seemingly got on well together. Not long after meeting G—mez, Vargas Vila described him as a paragon of virtue and eloquence, possessing a Danton-like head and "features like those molded by an Indian sculptor charged with carving the Idol of his tribe from the heart of a sacred oak." According to Vargas Vila, G—mez had appeared "like Jesus in the temple of the money lenders, wielding his word like a whip." His words were "the hatchet that decapitates the criminal in full sunlight."66 Meanwhile, back in Bogot‡, Marco Fidel Su‡rez was informing readers of El Nuevo Tiempo that the name G—mez "seems to come from the word Goma,' a Gothic surname."67By 1924, Laureano G—mez had begun to appreciate that great endeavors carry a high financial cost. In January of that year he sent Foreign Minister Jorge VŽlez a long letter complaining of the high cost of living in Buenos Aires, of the fact that his salary of $1,000 was $200 less than the previous minister earned, of extraordinary medical bills that had caused him to negotiate a shortterm loan with his wife's family, and of the $3,000 he had to pay to transport his wife and children to Buenos Aires. He threatened to resign unless sent $1,000 to help cover his expenses. G—mez reminded VŽlez that in the event he did resign, the government was required by law to send him $2,000 severance pay. VŽlez, who did not like G—mez, instructed subordinates to send the ambassador the thousand dollars he requested and another thousand for his passage home.68 The money was sent, but VŽlez's recall of his ambassador was apparently countermanded, as G—mez remained in Argentina for an additional

PAGE 158

140 | Toward Modernity, 18891932year. Twelve months later, on February 2, 1925, G—mez again cabled VŽlez, saying that economic considerations necessitated his immediate resignation. News of G—mez's impending return created a flurry of excitement in Colombia, especially when it was learned that he had been offered and had accepted the position of alcalde (mayor) of Bogot‡. Residents of the nation's capital had special reason to relish the prospect of having the dynamic, forward-looking engineer and politician as their mayor. G—mez's friend Alfonso L—pez had recently negotiated an immense loan, in the sum of $6 million, from the Dillon Read Company of New York. That money in the hands of one who knew how to use it meant that all the municipal improvements desperately needed and ardently desired for so many years would be soon forthcoming. Alfonso L—pez, caustically described by British diplomats as "a social climber" and "a man who lives beyond his means," thus continued to shape G—mez's appreciation of money, its power, and pleasures.69 Before his arrival in Colombia, G—mez met in New York with Dillon Read representatives, who showed him all the courtesies normally lavished on a major client.70Following some six weeks in New York, Laureano G—mez and his family returned home. There was a palpable sense of excitement in political circles as rumors flew that he might be put forward as a presidential candidate. In spite of his insistence that his only desire was to work hard at his alcaldeship, and enthusiastic assurances from Bogot‡ and Cundinamarca to the effect that they appreciated his willingness to do so, many expressed doubts that he would ever take up the post. An El Tiempo columnist felt sure that G—mez would reenter politics, and hoped that he would do so much calmed, as Uribe Uribe did following his diplomatic mission to Argentina and Brazil. The writer complemented "the incomparable engineer and parliamentarian" for having completed his formation as a statesman while in Buenos Aires, and for having, "along with his cultured wife, brilliantly represented Colombia" in the Southern Cone.71When asked to comment on national politics, G—mez applauded President Ospina for his progressive attitude and his good will, adding that his character and ability placed him among the first rank of American leaders.72 Such remarks sent a clear message that G—mez would be receptive to any overture the president cared to make. Meanwhile the ovation continued. Barranquilla's Diario del Comercio gushed over G—mez as "the synthetic expression of our collective ideology, representing all in it which is noble and beautiful," referring to him as "this truly new man."73 Even members of the British diplomatic mission, not given to excessive praise of Colombian politicians, pronounced G—mez "an able and ambitious man who will go far in the public life of the nation; the Presidency, which doubtless is his final objective, will perhaps fall into his hands one day."74 The only Colombians not pleased to have G—mez

PAGE 159

Money Comes to Colombia | 141back were members of the Conservative old guard. When, on June 17, a member of the Central Social Conservador proposed a greeting to their returned copartisan, a tumult erupted and ten members rose to attack G—mez.75Early in June, Pedro Nel Ospina offered G—mez the Ministry of Public Works. G—mez demurred, observing that the job was demanding and the minister subject to intense public pressure. His indecision did not last long, however, for by June 9, 1925, G—mez had accepted the position. G—mez took up his duties with the commitment of a man having a job to do and unlimited funds with which to do it. He more than redoubled the efforts of Ospina's two previous ministers, rushing along the twenty-two railroad and other transportation projects for which nearly $20 million of the U.S. indemnity had been designated. The new minister obviously had access to moneys from the Dillon Read loan, and other funds as well, for he hired thousands of workers to undertake projects in and around Bogot‡, and in other parts of the country. At the end of his ministry, in mid-1926, Bogot‡ and its environs had the appearance of an immense work under construction. Among the more notable projects were the narrowing of broad-gauge rails between Bogot‡ and Facatativ‡, which made possible uninterrupted railroad travel between the capital and the R’o Magdalena, and completion of the long-delayed channelization and covering of the R’o San Francisco. In a typically flamboyant gesture G—mez combined the river channelization project with the creation of a new thoroughfare, built on the covered stream, that he named Avenida JimŽnez (de Quesada). The broad new boulevard, winding along the river's course, extended through central Bogot‡ all the way from Third Avenue to the Savanna Railway Station some twenty blocks away. The job required razing many buildings, angering people like Marco Fidel Su‡rez, who, in his "Sue–o de la locura" (madness), blamed G—mez for vaingloriously creating a "Colombian Fifth Avenue" entirely inappropriate to a city of just 150,000 souls.76Ospina's new public works minister also widened and extended Fourteenth Avenue from central city to Chapinero, christening it Avenida Caracas. He completed the capitol building, and remodeled the Plaza de Bol’var, providing it with lighted fountains, parking space for autos, and improved right of way for the trolley. He had the Parque del Centenario remodeled too, filling it with sculpture that included the neoclassical statue La Rebeca, by Roberto Henao Buritic‡. It was called an exaltation of the human body by some and salacious by others who were offended by its turgid breasts and expanses of unadorned flesh.77 Public works projects proliferated at such rate under his regime that one wall of the new Palace of Government for Cundinamarca remained unfinished because G—mez had them turned into commemorative plaques for his creations. By May 1926, near the end of his first and only year as minister, G—mez celebrated extension of the Railroad of the North to Chiquinquir‡,

PAGE 160

142 | Toward Modernity, 18891932where he had built a large and ornate neoclassical station to accommodate it. That same month he inaugurated yet another major undertaking, a new highway that would eventually make it possible to travel between Bogot‡ and Honda by automobile.78In early June 1926, G—mez presented Congress his annual report, which chronicled his accomplishments over the preceding twelve months.79 It contained numerous photos of railroads, bridges, highways, railroad stations, and monuments. While it did document achievements the likes of which no previous public works minister had ever laid claim to, a good many people complained that poor planning and waste had attended the work. Roberto Urdaneta Arbelaez went so far as to term G—mez's administration of public works "a financial catastrophe."80 Eugenio J. G—mez aired his charges in a volume that appeared in 1942, the same year JosŽ Francisco Socarr‡s published what stands as the most devastating, detailed, and entertaining account of G—mez's frenzied activities during his year as minister.81 The charges of poor planning were quite true, as suggested by the fact that G—mez never responded to them. But it should be noted that Colombia had no tradition of public works planning when Laureano G—mez occupied his ministry. Nor would it for another twenty-five years. Significantly, when Colombia finally established its national planning office, it was during the administration of President Laureano G—mez. The irony of G—mez's position in 1925 and 1926 was lost on no politically aware Colombian. The man who for eight years had cast aspersions on those supporting the lucrative Urrutia-Thompson Treaty was the same one who spent the money provided through it. He not only spent much of the indemnity, but a great deal of the Dillon Read loan of 1925 and the Baker Company loan negotiated early in Ospina's presidency. Even more galling to some was the fact that G—mez was given the assignment of leading Ospina's campaign for congressional authorization of a new $60 million loan. Completing the extraordinary coming together of Laureano G—mez and money during that period in his life was Sim—n Hurtado's death on June 17, 1925. That made Mar’a Hurtado an heiress, and her husband a relatively well-off man for the first time in his life. That circumstance gave rise to a telling incident in the congressional session of October 20, 1925, when G—mez bet Representative Abel Casabianca $1,000 that testimony he had just given was accurate. Casabianca demurred, remarking that not having had a death in his family, he did not possess that kind of money. G—mez rightly lashed out at Casabianca for dragging his family into the debate, but most agreed that Casabianca had won the point.82Pedro Nel Ospina could not have chosen a worse person to cajole Congress into approving the new loan. G—mez and the Suarista majority turned the 192526 session into a conflict filled with drama, replete with pathos and

PAGE 161

Money Comes to Colombia | 143bathos. The session was exhilarating, but ended with little meaningful business transacted and Ospina's loan initiative resoundingly defeated. Nevertheless it was great fun, it made for wonderful press, and the session was full of incidents that live on in national political lore. Moments of humor were provided by the Senate president, the perennial Jorge Holgu’n, who professed to fear that G—mez's eloquence would convince him to vote for the loan even against his will, and who on another occasion feigned disappointment on learning that the cheering which erupted when he rose to speak was in fact for Laureano G—mez, who had just entered the Senate chamber. There were moments of fear and near violence, as when in November 1925, G—mez debated Senators Ignacio Rengifo and Rom‡n G—mez. At one point in the debates senators laid hands on one another and there were fears that G—mez might be physically attacked by irate members of the Suarista majority. During the session of November 14, which lasted into the early hours of the fifteenth, the C‡mara voted to absolve Marco Fidel Su‡rez of the charges Laureano G—mez made against him four years earlier. The Senate voted to bar the Minister of Public Works from further sessions. On November 17, El Tiempo editorialized that the events signaled a total breakdown of Colombian politics. Nieto Caballero, looking on disapprovingly from the sidelines, called the 1925 Congress a circus, and opined that Laureano G—mez's self-love and rancor would bring about his eventual downfall.83The brouhaha continued when Congress reconvened in mid-1926. G—mez and Ospina had spent the intervening months traveling around the country visiting public works projects, as Marco Fidel Su‡rez and El Nuevo Tiempo maintained their barrage of criticism against G—mez, referring to him variously as "the terror," "a soul in purgatory," and "a hyena with a poisoned soul."84 Though G—mez had been barred from entering the Senate, he could and did appear before the Chamber of Deputies, always to galleries packed with students, public employees, and others who hung on his every word and cheered his eloquent defenses of himself and of Ospina's government. A memorable moment came in the session of August 2, when G—mez suffered a seeming mental lapse, appearing to confuse Carlos Arango VŽlez with his brother, a physician working for an American oil company. When Arango corrected him, saying ingenuously "Sir, you're mistaken, I'm a lawyer," and the crowd applauded, thinking G—mez had blundered, G—mez turned and unleashed a withering attack that began "Ah! So you're not a doctor? Then I declare this debate lacking of all importance," a conclusion he went on to support by pointing out that Arango was a poor lawyer who worked for "a law firm that specialized in losing important cases."85 His performance brought down the house. On August 3, G—mez entered the Senate chamber to answer allegations that

PAGE 162

144 | Toward Modernity, 18891932Rengifo and Liberal Senator Antonio JosŽ Restrepo had made in his absence. The senators reconfirmed their refusal to hear him, and had police escort him from the chamber. Thereupon G—mez made his way to the patio separating the House and Senate wings of the capitol building, made a short speech, and was borne away to his home on the shoulders of supporters. There he addressed them from his balcony. Several hours later Tenth Street was again jammed with people shouting, "Down with Rengifo and Restrepo! Long live Laureano G—mez!" Most of them were students, young Liberals calling themselves Los Nuevos, whose spokesman, Alberto Lleras Camargo, gave a short speech against Rengifo, Restrepo, and national comptroller Alfonso Pal‡u, who had 10. President Pedro Nel Ospina and Minister of Public Works Laureano G—mez in Bucaramanga, 1926. By permission of the Museum of Modern Art, Bogot‡.

PAGE 163

Money Comes to Colombia | 145slashed G—mez's salary some months earlier. After minutes of great commotion, "Vivas," and entreaties that he speak, G—mez appeared on the balcony and gave a blistering peroration centering on Antonio JosŽ Restrepo, whom he accused of lacking moral standards, and whom he said was but one of many Liberal leaders who "had dragged his party, like a miserable ragamuffin, through the mud of every corruption and servility."86 At that point someone shouted, "All of us here are Liberals; be careful with Liberalism," to which G—mez answered that while he recognized the greatness and prestige of their party, it was presently in eclipse thanks to the "corrupt servility" of people like Antonio JosŽ Restrepo.87Two days later Carlos Arango VŽlez again rose to debate G—mez in the C‡mara. His remarks are noteworthy both because they touched on a theme that followed Laureano G—mez to his grave, and beyond, and because they suggest much about the nature of accommodation within Colombia's political elite during the waning years of the Conservative "old republic" as well. First, Arango cited G—mez's reference to Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West, which he claimed to be a fascist work. Fascism, charged Arango, who had spent several years studying in Italy, ran through all of G—mez's speeches. Then he added, somewhat incongruously, that Laureano G—mez represented Colombia's "New Politics," whose sources and character were best sought out in movie houses of the city and in the luxurious confines of the Friends Club.88The club to which Arango alluded was a short-lived association of Bogot‡'s social and political leaders notable in its bipartisan aspect. A week before Arango's speech the Friends Club had honored G—mez at a ball among whose invited guests were President Ospina and his wife, Ospina's entire cabinet, Lucas Caballero and his daughter, Enrique Santos, Luis Eduardo Nieto Caballero, Juan and Guillermo Cote Bautista, Juan Uribe Cualla, JosŽ and Enrique G—mez Castro, Rafael Parga CortŽs, and Jorge Soto del Corral. The guests represented committed Liberals and intransigent Conservatives who shared commitment to material progress, to fighting the old regime, and to political principles ideologically held. For the moment it mattered not that their ideologies were diametrically opposed. G—mez's place in Colombian politics was anomalous during the late 1920s. Though he never claimed to be other than a doctrinaire Conservative, he was lionized by Liberals and anathematized by members of his own party establishment, which was at the moment controlled by members of the Su‡rez faction. His own ideas and attitudes had seemingly modernized along with the nation, and in October 1926, he could admit to feeling "temperamentally closer to Santos than to Pulgar."89 The oddness of his position was especially evident in March 1927, when he attempted to occupy a seat in the Departmental Assembly of Santander, won under suspicious circumstances over a Liberal candidate.

PAGE 164

146 | Toward Modernity, 18891932Santander had a long history of electoral fraud, and Liberals there were not pleased to see yet another Conservative deprive them of an assembly seat, even one as noted as Laureano G—mez. But it was the assembly's Suarista Conservative majority that refused to seat G—mez when he arrived there for the opening session. A political deadlock ensued, the assembly was unable to commence its business, and political passions reached a boiling point. Liberals and conservatives fulminated against one another, as did proand anti-G—mez factions. Many feared violence, as citizens exhausted stocks of revolvers in area stores.90After a stormy week, during which armed guards were posted at the homes of G—mez and other assembly members, the session convened. Gabriel Turbay led anti-G—mez Liberals, who formed a rare united front with the Suaristas. Meanwhile, G—mez protested that he had come to Santander merely to help the department win passage of a loan authorization for public works.91While near chaos reigned in the departmental assembly, Laureano G—mez delivered a lecture in Bucaramanga's principal theater at the invitation of the local chamber of commerce. His subject was loans for public improvements, one not normally thought of as exciting. Yet according to Liberal journalist Milton Puentes, G—mez stunned his audience with an address of such passion and eloquence that he was constantly interrupted by salvos of applause. Drawing on evolutionary theory, and employing colorful metaphor, G—mez argued that when people do not progress "they fall back and die." Colombia, he said, along with geographic "confederates" Venezuela and Ecuador, constitutes "an enormous emporium of immense riches" waiting to be tapped with the help of loans wisely administered. Journalist Puentes left convinced that Laureano G—mez was "one of the most revolutionary spirits the country has produced in recent times, the standard bearer of the enormous transformation that Colombia requires."92A few days later, on April 4, as G—mez continued trying to serve in a legislative body deadlocked by his presence, news of Marco Fidel Su‡rez's death arrived. Near the end of the session, after the representatives had spent some time drafting a message of condolence, Laureano G—mez asked permission to speak. A witness to the event described G—mez as genuinely moved by the news, his voice barely audible and with the look about him "of one lost in the mystery of the unknown." He spoke slowly, "his voice . at the moment weak, trembling and proclaiming intense spiritual distress," going on to deliver an elegant eulogy in which he referred to Su‡rez as a great citizen, a patriot, and one of the most illustrious sons of the republic. He ended saying that an intense religious sentiment moved him to stammer the same words at that moment being pronounced over Su‡rez as he reposed on his bier: "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."93 The spell was broken when a representative remarked that G—mez had his nerve praising Su‡rez after having

PAGE 165

Money Comes to Colombia | 147spent years making his life miserable. G—mez shot back recalling words of the French writer Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle (16571757), who had once lamented the lack of a law prohibiting dogs from entering cemeteries. It was hardly surprising that a storm of criticism followed G—mez's eulogy to Su‡rez. Alfonso Pal‡u summed up most people's assessment of it when he accused G—mez of wanting to "turn Sr. Su‡rez's coffin into a canoe for navigating political waters." There was an element of truth in the remark. A month earlier G—mez had also spoken positively of another old antagonist, Ismael Enrique Arciniegas, but to no avail. The Conservative Party still denied him a Senate seat in congressional elections held during late April.94Shut out of political office by his own party, Laureano G—mez could do little more during late 1927 and early 1928 than meditate on national problems and to criticize President Abad’a's handling of national affairs. During that final year before his departure for Europe, G—mez and Alfonso L—pez concentrated on three aspects of politics that they found especially disturbing. The first was the way Antioquian interests seemed to be favored under the new administration. They believed that Antioque–os were receiving more than their share of government assistance, and that paisa industrialists were winning too many government contracts. Second, they charged that Colombia's executive and judicial branches were carelessly and venally giving the nation's oil reserves away to wily international petroleum trusts. Their third complaint was of governmental incompetence. G—mez charged that Abad’a, popularly caricatured as sleeping while the nation disintegrated around him, was leading Colombia to ruin. G—mez shared the traditional jealousy, suspicion, and fearful admiration of paisa economic vigor harbored by Colombians not from that region. His antipaisa bias was also a function of the growing sophistication with which he viewed money, its uses and influence. It was clear in early 1926, when as minister of public works he chided Antioquian businessmen who complained of his giving public works materials priority in R’o Magdalena transport, rather than allowing traffic to proceed in turn as prescribed by law. Why, G—mez asked members of the Medell’n Chamber of Commerce, should he allow them to import their cargoes of whiskey, Flemish cheese, and silk clothing, when building materials were needed to help open less fortunate regions.95Alfonso L—pez was G—mez's natural ally in resistance to paisa economic might. In August 1927, L—pez delivered a lecture critical of Antioquian economic exclusiveness and attitude of superiority in things economic.96 At about that same time L—pez and G—mez were collaborating in an exposŽ of an Antioquian consortium that they charged with squandering public funds on the IbaguŽ-Ambalema Railroad. They continued that criticism during late 1927 and into the following year. Early in 1928, El Tiempo published a series

PAGE 166

148 | Toward Modernity, 18891932of letters from G—mez in which he termed the Antioquian financial group the Leviathan, for its insatiable habit of devouring material resources. The term caught the public imagination, and it quickly became part of the popular idiom. During the student carnival of 1928 a group calling itself the Leviathan won that year's musical competition.97Their concern for propriety and good sense in the handling of national resources moved L—pez and G—mez to jointly oppose a government proposal that a British consortium exploit oil reserves in the Urab‡ region of western Colombia. Anticipating later developments in Mexico, and in Colombia itself, the two proposed nationalization of oil reserves, and their exploitation by a nationally owned oil company. "We rebel," they wrote, "against the government's idea of putting oil reserves in western Colombia into the hands of those same blue-eyed men who went to India with Warren Hastings and who helped Cecil Rhodes realize his imperialistic dreams in South Africathis under the pretext of their keeping [Colombian reserves] from falling into the hands of other blond men who are presently lodged in the eastern part of the Republic."98 When G—mez proposed to speak on the subject of nationalization of oil reserves at the National University law school, the minister of education refused to permit it. Angry students led by Carlos Lleras Restrepo then marched to the Ministry of Education and broke out its windows.99 Soon thereafter G—mez revealed that many professors at the law school were on retainer from big oil companies, and that one of them had literally wept when G—mez showed unwillingness to drop his opposition to the British Andean National Oil Corporation.100 Two weeks after the incident G—mez delivered a lecture on the nationalization of oil to 2,000 persons at the Teatro Municipal, the largest audience ever assembled there. Citing sources that included Izvestia and Current History, he argued that Colombia was incapable of controlling large oil trusts once they gained a foothold in the country. Luis Eduardo Nieto Caballero, who found the talk worthwhile though far from profound, wondered why the government had been so inept as to provoke a conflict with G—mez, "a man of vast prestige," thus giving him a much larger audience than he would have otherwise had.101 The following month university students led by Germ‡n Arciniegas approved a Manifesto of Anti-imperialist Youth, which endorsed the program of Peru's populist APRA party.102By 1928, Laureano G—mez had entered a period of introspection and study destined to extend through his European sojourn. He had a great deal on which to meditate. He who had begun his career convinced of the rightness of conservatism and the wrongness of liberalism, had come to believe that the nation's two political parties were growing more alike and the thought of their leaders was converging. He who got his political start thanks to the Jesuits had begun to believe that the clergy should not mix in politics. Liberals were no

PAGE 167

Money Comes to Colombia | 149longer the Jacobins of old, feeding on the bodies of priests, he said, for they had learned that priests make a poor breakfast. Conservatives poked fun at such remarks, calling G—mez a "pseudo-Conservative."103 In truth, most of his friends were Liberals: Lucas Caballero, L—pez de Mesa, Soto y Corral, the Santos brothers, Alfonso L—pez, and many others. Younger Liberals, like Germ‡n Arciniegas and Alberto Lleras Camargo, looked up to him, and still younger ones, like Carlos Lleras Restrepo, grew violent when G—mez's freedom of speech was denied. Liberal Pedro Juan Navarro went so far as to call G—mez the ideal presidential candidate. Meanwhile his immediate political future looked as bleak as that of his Liberal friends. In spite of their constant and withering critique of Abad’a's spiritless handling of the public weal, the nation bumbled along in the usual way. Nothing seemed to change. Laureano G—mez grew depressed. G—mez turned increasingly to books during his struggle to understand his nation's dilemma. The nature of his reading became clear during his political debates and public lectures of 1926 and 1927, when he began citing Spengler, Ratzel, and Ganivet to underline points that were more optimistic than not. By late 1927 and early 1928, he was reading Sigmund Freud and Thomas Carlyle, and finding their analysis of psyche, society, and public men useful in interpreting Colombia's current malaise. In his Teatro Municipal talk of October 1927, he delivered a lengthy analysis of the country based on Freud's study of sleepwalking, which he said was Colombia's situation under Abad’a. He cautioned his audience against the use of violence, recommending Freud's approach of "softly calling the patient by name, trying gently to awaken him." Anything more than that might cause the patient to lapse into "a disoriented, maddened state . a flailing about that demonstrates loss of control."104 Early in 1928, Germ‡n Arciniegas asked G—mez to comment on Colombia's current situation. He replied that the nation was sleepwalking. Colombians seemed unable to produce other than mediocre leaders; the art of government had been reduced to nothing more than maintenance of the status quo. Graft and corruption flourished. The nation was in peril.105The Liberal and dissident Conservative campaign against Abad’a MŽndez was in many ways a continuation of the assault on Conservative hegemony that had been going on since the failure of Republicanism ten years before. By 1928, however, Laureano G—mez's own participation in the movement was increasingly a function of his political ambition, which after all had been effectively thwarted. His criticism of Abad’a was also linked to the process of intellectual, psychological, and ideological change he was then undergoing. By 1928, G—mez was at once revising his optimistic view of Colombia and its prospects, struggling to halt his personal ideological drift, and coming to terms with the fact that a political generation was passing and that it would soon be

PAGE 168

150 | Toward Modernity, 18891932his turn to lead his partyand perhaps the nation. One can chart those developments in three essays that G—mez composed in early and mid-1928. G—mez published the first essay in Germ‡n Arciniegas's biweekly journal of culture and politics, Universidad.106 Bearing the title "El car‡cter del general Ospina," it was both a panegyric to Pedro Nel Ospina, who had died the previous July, and a lament over the paucity in Colombian history of great leaders like Ospina. The essay also represented an attempt to define the country's chief political debilities, which G—mez identified as a historic tendency toward political corruption, and the domination of local politics by regional bosses, or caciques. Both those traditions, he argued, had done much to keep the republic from entering the mainstream of progress. Caciquism and corruption, coupled with Colombia's historic lack of exemplary figures, were in G—mez's view the principal causes of the republic's "languidness, and its rachitic character." Throughout most of his essay G—mez argued that Ospina had effectively battled the twin evils of caciquismo and corruption, even as he had done an exemplary job of modernizing the nation. In the course of the essay G—mez cited environmental determinist Friedrich Ratzel (18441904), whose works he had drawn upon in his Bucaramanga address a year earlier, and he drew upon "great man" and theoretician Thomas Carlyle as well. He also included references to structuralist historian Lucien Febvre (18781956), evolutionary theorist Henri Beer (18471926), political philosopher and evolutionary psychologist Walter Bagehot (18261877), philosopher of "vitalism" Henri-Louis Bergson (18591941), and American poet of "transcendentalism" Ralph Waldo Emerson. At a time of kaleidoscopic change in Colombia, G—mez was clearly struggling to understand its implications for his country. Within three months of publishing "El car‡cter," Laureano G—mez would extend his analysis of Colombia, and would make revealing remarks about his own philosophic position. Alfonso L—pez provided G—mez a forum for doing so when in April 1928 he organized a series of lectures treating major questions of public concern. Although G—mez was asked to speak on the subject of public works during the Abad’a MŽndez administration, he chose to present an expanded version of the gloomy piece that he had written four months earlier for Germ‡n Arciniegas. The earlier article had addressed the questions, What are the dominant characteristics of our era in Colombia, how are they explained, and what are their possible consequences? In ignoring the subject of public works G—mez made a wise decision. Had he criticized their administration under Abad’a, he would only have repeated the criticisms that so recently had been made of him. G—mez delivered his first lecture the evening of June 5. First he sketched Colombia's broken and mostly tropical terrain, moving on to deliver a highly

PAGE 169

Money Comes to Colombia | 151negative assessment of the nation's mixed-blood population. Drawing on some of the same sources that his friend L—pez de Mesa had presented a year earlier in his study "El factor Žtnico" (The ethnic factor), G—mez described Colombia's citizens, most of whom were mestizos, as belonging to a clearly inferior ethnic subgroup. Citing not L—pez de Mesa, but rather an Argentine ethno-determinist named Lucas Ayarragaray, he concluded that climate, geography, and racial mix had suffused Colombians with a vitiating mix of traits that the Argentine, and now Laureano G—mez, labeled "tropicalism." G—mez had embarked on his pessimistic analysis of national failings in order to conclude, as he did at three points in the lecture, that Colombia was "a kind of hothouse culture." Being a place whose social ecology is exceedingly fragile, said G—mez, "we cannot permit ourselves the luxury of ineptitude, or let ourselves follow the road that leads us to economic subjugation and to the loss of sovereignty."107The talk created a sensation among his audience, and in the nation at large. Colombians, and G—mez himself, had generally been optimistic about the country and its prospects during years of the dance of the millions. Thus, in the words of El Tiempo columnist Enrique Santos, the lecture "fell upon a happy and confident town like a gravestone."108 In spite of some reservations, Liberals tended to accept the harsh diagnosis of national ills, some of them even praising G—mez for his refreshing revisionism. Eduardo Santos labeled G—mez "a superior man," and marveled at the good fortune that seemed inevitably to attend his public acts. A guardian angel, he mused, must watch over Laureano G—mez. Luis Eduardo Nieto Caballero called G—mez "one of the most valuable elements in our democracy," adding, "we applaud the orator with pleasure."109 Nieto Caballero did poke mild fun at G—mez, noting "the jungle of his oratory," expressing happiness that a hothouse flower like G—mez should appear in a desert like Colombia, sharing his fragrance and intelligence with others less fortunate. Not all were as charitable. El Espectador 's editorial writer opined that most of the theories on which G—mez based his talk had been revised and were no longer discussed in serious academic circles. The editorialist continued, arguing that while Colombia might not figure at the head of racially superior nations, and while it would doubtless be many years before light skin would come to predominate there, a "racially excellent type" was at the moment forming in highland areas of the country. "There as yet remain many zambos, mulattoes, and degenerated Indians in Colombia," he admitted, going on to remind that "other [nations] are populated with even worse."110Geographer J. M. Rosales reacted to the talk by disputing most of G—mez's points in a scholarly work, Colombia, tierra de humanidad (Colombia, land of humanity), that he published two years later. Some members of Congress dis-

PAGE 170

152 | Toward Modernity, 18891932cussed the possibility of making criticism of the fatherland a punishable offense. And anti-G—mez Conservatives renewed charges that he had ceased being a Conservative. G—mez answered all this in a second lecture delivered two months later. Whereas most of the second Teatro Municipal talk constituted an answer to criticisms of his first lecture, he touched on two significant new subjects. First he spoke harshly of the selfish individualism that had supplanted Colombia's old "spirit of collective life." He observed that citizens in the new Colombia "are interested exclusively in their businesses and in their individual prosperity," a fact that had reduced politics to little more than an ignoble scramble for tax moneys. "The virtue that triumphs in the country today is hypocrisy," he declared.111Finally, G—mez answered the many members of his own party who accused him of no longer being a Conservative. Particularly painful to him was the charge of an unnamed Jesuit that he had abandoned the values taught him at San BartolomŽ. G—mez vigorously disagreed, saying that he had never forgotten the Christian ethical norms instilled in him by the Jesuits. If he had displeased them, he went on, it was only because he had honored their belief that a free man will never bend to iniquitous laws or to tyrannical authority. Alluding to his defeat by Marco Fidel Su‡rez and the regular clergy in 1916, G—mez recalled how his enemies had reduced him to the status of "an ignorant failure, on whom the light had been turned out." But in spite of all that, the former disciple of the Jesuits had been constantly true to their teachings. "I am where I've always been, said G—mez. It's the others who have changed."112In one of the most interesting portions of his second lecture, G—mez took to task those who would hand national resources over to foreign corporations on the pretext of defending Colombia against communism. It wasn't communism that threatened the nation's independence, he insisted. Rather, it was those who through their own ignorance, incompetence, and lethargy alienated the national patrimony through self-serving business dealings with foreigners. Laureano G—mez scarcely needed to defend his conservatism in the second Teatro Municipal lecture of 1928. The lectures themselves stand as clear statements of their author's conservatism. The Interrogatories on the Progress of Colombia, as they came to be known, stand as milestones on their author's road back to the orthodoxy of his youth. It is clear in them that Laureano G—mez had begun to perceive the effect that growing affluence and the expansion of material culture were beginning to have on traditional attitudes. What he saw in 1928 was the effect of those changes as manifested in the upper echelons of Colombian society. In coming years he would look on with mounting dismay as those self-serving attitudes invaded all levels of Colombian society.

PAGE 171

Money Comes to Colombia | 153The year 1928, and the three essays he published then, marked the halfway point in G—mez's return to the outspoken Conservatism of his youth. Between his departure for Europe soon after the Teatro Municipal lectures, and his return home in mid-1932, he would complete the journey. But that lay in the future. In 1928, Laureano G—mez was still perceived as Colombia's New Man, a Conservative of advanced thought whose closest associates were Liberals who felt strong intellectual kinship with him. "Colombian democracy is indebted to Laureano G—mez for his great services," wrote El Tiempo columnist Enrique Santos, when G—mez left for Europe on September 3, 1928. Santos wished G—mez Godspeed and a quick return to Colombian soil, "where his prestige grows each day and where he is seen as one of the best hopes for the fatherland." It is "the unanimous wish of his friends," Santos concluded, that Laureano G—mez's stay be brief, "for they consider his presence in the country to be indispensable."

PAGE 172

154 | Toward Modernity, 188919326Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional AuthorityThe Specter of BolshevismThe 1920s were a time of social ferment in Colombia. As the decade wore on and as the economy modernized, there were increasing demands for corresponding changes in political and social institutions. Reformers confronted a formidable obstacle in the person of president Miguel Abad’a MŽndez. A sober, uninspiring leader who assumed the presidency in 1926, Abad’a was an orthodox Conservative whose service to party began in 1885, when as a seventeen-year-old, he helped defeat the Liberals in the civil war of that year. Abad’a and those around him stood fast against a constellation of change makers that included Liberals, labor, university students, and a diverse group of socialists running the gamut from social democrats to self-proclaimed Bolsheviks. In the end the forces for change prevailed, though not without help from Abad’a, who split his party prior to the presidential election of 1930. Liberal Enrique Olaya Herrera won that contest, ending forty-five years of Conservative rule. Olaya's presidency was transitional in the sense that while he addressed several of the most pressing reform issues, especially those involving labor, he governed with considerable Conservative support. Economically conservative, Olaya strove to lessen the effects of global economic contraction by maintaining good relations with the United States, and with private sources of capital in that country. Complicating Olaya's task were outbreaks of violence in many remote towns and villages, where Liberals and Conservatives contested the transfer of political power. Olaya was thus able to answer the most pressing demands for social reform, but was unable to control strife of a political nature. Halfway through Olaya's term Colombia remained tempestuous. It would soon become more so. Laureano G—mez, away from home for nearly four years, returned to occupy his seat in the Senate.Colombians who lived through the heady years preceding the Liberal victory in 1930 remember them as a time of fundamental economic and social change. Reflecting on the Colombia of his youth, Liberal writer Alberto Galindo suggested the excitement he felt during the dance of the millions: "That sudden leap from resigned

PAGE 173

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 155poverty to the illusion of opulence, from unconvertible paper money to sparkling wealth, from cotton to silk, from mule to touring car, from aguardiente to champagne, from chronic unemployment to a lack of workers on public works projects, profoundly jolted the mentality of our people and disjointed the structure of our pastoral economy so as to pave the way to a new social consciousness."1 In that single evocative sentence Galindo captured the essence of the 1920s. Especially noteworthy is Galindo's use of the phrase "the illusion of opulence," in which he suggests that beneath the sound and fury of Colombia's economic awakening there lay a substratum of misery that in many ways intensified over the decade. Poverty and inequality tended to increase in the face of rapid economic change. That in turn invigorated the Colombian labor movement, making it an engine of social reform. Incipient modernization produced a significant movement of people into Colombia's larger towns and cities. During the 1920s, Bogot‡ increased by nearly 50 percent, to some 224,000 inhabitants by 1929. And there were corresponding increases in Medell’n, Cali, and Barranquilla. At the same time there was little corresponding increase in housing for workers. Housing was especially tight in Bogot‡, where each dwelling sheltered an average of fourteen people.2 Meanwhile rents rose 350 percent between 1918 and 1928, leading irate tenants in the national capital to protest that half their monthly earnings were consumed by rent payments. During late 1927, Bogot‡ tenants took the unprecedented step of declaring a rent strike. Sanitary conditions in Colombian workers' barrios remained nearly as appalling in the 1920s as they had been a century earlier. Only 5 percent of all Bogot‡ homes had running water, which meant that human waste continued to be disposed of in open sewers. Scarlet fever, diphtheria, and typhus remained endemic in urban centers, where one of five infants died before its first birthday. In 1929, 42 percent of all deaths in Colombia were from undetermined causes, owing to lack of an attending physician. Colombia's average life expectancy had risen to but 34.2 years by 1932.3 In all cases the poor bore a disproportionate share of the suffering those statistics imply. Inflation heightened the misery of Colombia's poor. While prices rose at an annual rate of between 3 and 7.3 percent per year during the 1920s, there were exceptional price rises during the middle years of the decade. Over the first six months of 1926, the nation's cost of living index rose from 147 to 219, and by the end of the decade visitors to Bogot‡ noted that it was more expensive living there than in Buenos Aires, Paris, or London.4Racial prejudice complicated Colombia's social problem. Members of the upper classes looked down on the poor, who generally revealed their indigenous or African ancestry, being swarthy and small in stature. Wealthy Colom-

PAGE 174

156 | Toward Modernity, 18891932bians were frequently taller and fairer in complexion, tracing their descent to European forbears. During the 1920s most educated Colombians believed that dark-skinned peoples everywhere were undergoing a process of "racial decay," a conviction that tended to counter the reform impulse. Most affluent Colombians believed that the poor lived in hovels because they deserved to do so, and that if given more money for their labor, they would simply waste it. Shortly before the tragic shooting of banana workers by government troops in late 1928, Minister of Industries JosŽ Antonio Montalvo, then in charge of labor relations, opined that if granted a pay raise the workers would throw it away in dissolute pastimes. "The banana worker earns five dollars a day and lives on thirty cents; he wastes the rest," wrote another Conservative.5Poor Colombians also bore the brunt of a national education system geared to the needs of the better-off. The prevailing attitude that the poor simply did not need much education was suggested in 1923, when a German educational mission recommended a plan requiring compulsory primary education for all Colombian children. The proposal created a furor that led to its speedy defeat in Congress, and to the resignation of Education Minister Miguel Arroyo D’ez. President Ospina was unable to fill the position until months after the flap. It is hardly surprising that Colombian literacy levels suffered a slight decline during the 1920s.6Colombian artisans and workers were intensely aware of the disdain with which they were held by members of the upper classes, and of the scant concern that the wealthy showed for their plight. They revealed that both in their somber and stoic demeanor before members of the elite, and in the way they warmed to anyone showing a genuine interest in them. They were also capable of acting in defense of their interests when aroused, as they had periodically demonstrated during the preceding century. There was also a tradition of artisanal labor organization in Colombia stretching back through the nineteenth century. The modern Colombian labor movement was born in early 1919 with the formation of the Sindicato Central Obrero (Central Workers' Union), and its political arm, the Socialist Party. Its baptism came in March of that year, when Marco Fidel Su‡rez's presidential guard fired on workers in the Plaza de Bol’var. That incident was a metaphor for labor's interaction with the state up to the Conservative loss of power in 1930. Three things made labor, and issues afflicting the poor, a central issue in Colombian affairs during the 1920s. First was the rise of labor as a political force during the decade. The humble and their spokespersons simply insisted that labor be factored into national life and politics. Second, and a consequence of labor's new assertiveness, was the Liberal Party's embracing the movement, and the "social question" generally, as a means of checking the

PAGE 175

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 157influence of the newly formed Socialist Party. The third factor of importance was labor's impact on Conservatives. Members of the government party were shocked and frightened by the militancy of a group that for the most part had shown deference to those above them in the social scheme and who had generally been accepting of their social and political leadership. Especially worrisome to Conservatives was working-class admiration for the Russian Revolution of 1917. That, and the fact that most labor leaders and a considerable number of rising young social activists proclaimed their commitment to revolutionary socialism, filled many Conservatives with dread. Colombia's Liberals had long shown a proprietary interest in Labor. Party leaders were thus not pleased when workers began showing signs of independence during the early twentieth century. Liberal elites did not approve of strikes, which they viewed as threats to private property. And they beheld the new Socialist Party with concern that turned to alarm when the Socialists trounced them in elections held in Medell’n during November 1921. Labor successes, coupled with Socialist Party adoption of a platform more socially responsible than any the Liberals had ever formulated, moved them to action. In early 1922, Liberals led by General Benjam’n Herrera adopted a party platform that included calls for an eight-hour workday and legal recognition of the right to strike. In this way the Liberals successfully outflanked the Socialists. Labor historian Miguel Urrutia sees these acts as resulting in a "socialization" of the Liberal Party.7Once Colombian workers perceived that the Liberal Party had dropped its historic adherence to laissez-faire principles, they turned away from the Socialist Party. But they continued to hold annual labor congresses, usually in the national capital, during the 1920s. Through such meetings union members could maintain contact, assert a degree of independence from the traditional parties, and remain in the public eye. Colombian labor's chief characteristic during the 1920s was its diversity. Labor historian Mauricio Archila has found three ideologically distinct though complementary traditions present in the early Colombian labor movement. The oldest and perhaps most dominant was Christian communitarianism, which stressed society's duty to care for the human needs of all its members. Referred to in Roman Catholic social doctrine as the concept of the common good, the principle was powerfully restated in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII in the encyclical De rerum novarum. That most famous of modern encyclicals eventually found political expression in Christian Democratic parties which were formed in Europe and in many parts of Latin America beginning in the 1930s. In Colombia it was the workers who attempted, as they put it, to "rescue pure' Christianity" from a largely reactionary clergy and the equally hidebound Conservative Party.8

PAGE 176

158 | Toward Modernity, 18891932The second ideological strain in Colombian labor was founded in classical liberalism, which suffused workers with a rational spirit and a faith that progress would come through scientific culture. Liberalism was the chief source of labor's egalitarian principlesprinciples through which they sought to combat racial and class-based prejudices arrayed against them. "In this sense," writes Archila, "the nascent working class drank first from founts of the Enlightenment. . its members sang the "Marseillaise" before they intoned The International."9Third, Colombian labor embraced the romantic promise of the Russian Revolution. They were taken with the notion that workers like themselves had seized control of a major European nation, and had made equal distribution of property the new state religion. As Mauricio Archila has found, Colombian workers did not know a great deal about the Bolshevik revolution, "but they admired it with true affection." In sum, Colombia's workers, so long scorned and ill treated by society, embraced social teachings that rejected the wisdom that they were members of an inferior, ethnically distinct, and criminally inclined social group doomed to extinction: "They did not shut themselves away from any new idea capable of offering them redemption. While not well read . they were attentive to messages of the new social preachers."10One of the most successful proselytizers of new social thinking in Colombia was Russian ŽmigrŽ Silvestre Savitsky, who opened a print shop in Bogot‡ during the early 1920s. Arriving in Colombia via Siberia and Japan, Savitsky gathered around him some of Bogot‡'s brightest and most articulate young men, among them Gabriel Turbay, Luis Tejada, Roberto Garc’a Pe–a, and Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n. Together they read and discussed Marxist theory and talked of remaking Colombian society. The direction of their revolutionary musings is suggested in the following passage from a letter written by Luis Tejada in 1923: "This morning I spent a long while contemplating the portrait of Lenin that presides over my small communist library. More than ever before I experienced a happy emotion before this clear, sweet, and terrible visage, one profoundly etched by thought, ineffably lighted by invisible flames. Afterward I mused again on what Lenin has done for me, on what I owe to this true man, to this singular savior of the world. I feel tooand this is the most important and useful for methat to his burning word, his rich and dynamic ideas, I owe my faith and my hope, the intimate grandeur of my being, my acquisition of a pure motive for struggle, my reason for living and working, my strong and optimistic vision of the future, my sincere conviction that the world can be made kind and just, and that mankind can bring to the world an attitude of ennobled human dignity."11Other important foreign socialists who proselytized in Colombia during the 1920s were the Italian Vicente Adamo, and Peruvian Nicol‡s Gutama, both of

PAGE 177

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 159whom worked with the labor movement in the Caribbean. In addition, there was Francisco de Heredia, a native-born Marxist who had traveled to Europe to study revolutionary movements on that continent. Thanks to the steady influx of information concerning proletarian movements in Europe and elsewhere in the world, Colombia's labor movement experienced considerable growth during the mid-1920s. Major labor congresses were held in Bogot‡ during 1924, 1925, and 1926, and in each of them delegates approved resolutions of solidarity with Soviet workers, voted homage to Lenin, and expressed their adherence to the Communist International. Colombia's Socialists set their meetings on the same dates as the labor congresses. Typically labor met during the day, and the Socialists at night. That way Socialist intellectuals could participate in both sets of meetings. Ram—n Manrique, who was on hand for the 1924 congress, wrote of the clash between the "hot-country Socialists" centered in Girardot and the "savanna Socialists" of highland Bogot‡. According to Manrique the Bogot‡ group cited Marx, Engels, and Lenin at every turn, smoked pipes, let their hair grow long, and wore flowery neckties and wide-brimmed hats. Members of the Girardot group were "talkative, boisterous, explosive." They were also, in Manrique's words, "practical, and had a good handle on what represented the bottom line." All of them spoke constantly about "revindication of the proletariat" and of "hands callused by work," and they enthusiastically greeted Gabriel Turbay's resolution that the meeting be called Colombia's first Communist Congress and that its members adhere to the Moscow International.12In 1925 some eighty labor and Socialist newspapers were being published in Colombia, and there were fifteen strikes, nine of them in the transportation industry. That year marked the appearance of a remarkable convert to the Socialist cause, thirty-seven-year-old Mar’a Cano, an upper-class librarian and poetess from Medell’n. Inspired by revolutionary socialism's message, and by the example of her contemporary Ignacio Torres Giraldo, she became a fulltime supporter of the workers' cause, being proclaimed the Flower of Labor in 1925, during Medell’n's May Day celebration. The following year Mar’a Cano embarked on a series of speaking tours that took her to many parts of Colombia over a period of some two years. Her eloquence on behalf of labor and social revindication earned her the nickname the Red Flower of Labor. Socialists formed the majority in Colombia's Third Workers' Congress, held late in 1926 in Bogot‡. Debate centered on the question of whether delegates should approve the formation of a new workers' party. A minority of them intransigently insisted that labor's cause was best served through collaboration with the Liberal Party. Thereupon the majority walked out and organized the Socialist Revolutionary Party, which placed itself in the vanguard of militant unionism in Colombia.

PAGE 178

160 | Toward Modernity, 18891932Colombia's Conservative presidents were vexed by the social ferment attending the nation's economic awakening. They were alerted to the beginning of labor radicalism as early as 1910, when workers in Cartagena founded a newspaper they named El Comunista. It proclaimed their intention to combat clericalism, to strive for true democracy, and to seek equality and social equity.13 The unofficial government newspaper, El Nuevo Tiempo, regularly carried articles on foreign revolutionary activity. It likewise gave full attention to the Spartacist uprising in Germany in 1918 and 1919, reporting favorably on the crushing of the revolt. The newspaper also noted with approval the way United States Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer used police and federal agents against radicals in that country during the "Red Scare" of 1919. Thus it was with foreboding that Colombian Conservatives monitored the steady growth of their domestic socialist movement during the early 1920s. Especially alarming were the constant pledges of solidarity with the Communist International and the calls for radical social reform in Colombia. Over the early and mid-1920s, Conservative governments addressed the demands of labor with a few mild reforms. In 1922 a social security law was passed, and in 1924 an Office of Labor was established as a dependency of the Minister of Industries. In 1926 it became law that workers could not be required to work on Sundays. But what the government seemed to offer with one hand it more than took back with the other, passing legislation making strikes illegal and allowing for the use of the army and police in breaking strikes. Avid for foreign capital, Colombia's Conservative governments intended to show North American investors that they brooked no threat to foreign investment. Pedro Nel Ospina's handling of the first major strike against the Tropical Oil Company serves as a case in point. Tropical Oil, a subsidiary of Standard Oil of New Jersey, began production in Colombia in 1922, under a contract negotiated during the administration of Marco Fidel Su‡rez.14 Labor trouble began almost immediately as the company installed a pay scale by which Colombian nationals received less than half the salary earned by foreigners doing the same work. Not only did the foreign workers earn three and a half pesos per day, as compared to the one and a half paid to Colombians, but they also received free room and board. Health conditions were appalling at Tropical's plant, near Barrancabermeja, a steamy, malarial site on the R’o Magdalena some 200 kilometers north of Honda. Forty percent of the workforce fell ill during 1923, and the following year 1,023 of 2,838 workers contracted diseases which were fatal in five cases.15Tropical Oil steadfastly refused to increase pay or to improve working conditions. In October 1924, Tropical's Barrancabermeja facility was shut down by a strike organized by the charismatic labor activist Raœl Eduardo Mahecha.

PAGE 179

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 161Workers demanded a pay increase along with company compliance with a prior agreement to improve sanitary conditions. The company refused to negotiate, saying that Mahecha had no right organizing Tropical workers as he was not one of their employees. The stand-off produced violence, when workers attacked and destroyed company property and paraded in the streets carrying red flags emblazoned with three 8s, signifying their demand for an eighthour workday, eight hours of rest, and eight hours of education. The government acted quickly to crush the strike, which it saw as subversive as well as illegal. Mahecha was jailed and Tropical Oil was allowed to fire some 45 percent of its workforcemore than 1,200 men, whom the government obligingly transported out of the region.16Labor's militancy during the 1920s notwithstanding, the fact remained that there was little industrialization in Colombia and consequently no true proletariat. The country was still rural and agricultural, which meant that the men guiding national destinies during the decade, Su‡rez, Ospina, and Abad’a MŽndez, were never seriously threatened by organized labor or by social revolutionaries. This in part explains the diffident way Conservative governments persecuted labor activists. There was, it is true, constant harassment of persons connected with the movement, peremptory jailings, and other such violations of constitutional guarantees. But government actions against Torres Giraldo, Eduardo Mahecha, and others like them were, as one person recalled, "lethargic and bloodless."17At the midpoint of the decade Conservatives had no reason to believe that their long dominance of national affairs was near its end. A series of meetings in 1925 resulted in the achieving of Marco Fidel Su‡rez's dream of a unified party along largely Nationalist lines, and in early 1926 the party was given its candidates for the coming two presidential terms. That was accomplished when Archbishop Bernardo Herrera Restrepo called the two chief contenders for the presidency, Miguel Abad’a MŽndez and Alfredo V‡squez Cobo, to his private quarters early in 1926. When the two men arrived they were met by the archbishop's coadjutor, Monsignor Ismael Perdomo, who informed them that "superior authorities" had instructed that Abad’a should hold office during the 192630 term, and that V‡squez Cobo should succeed him in 1930. Thus were Conservative presidential candidates selected during the early decades of the twentieth century. When news of the meeting leaked out Bogotanos remarked wryly that the formidable General V‡squez, whose nickname was the Lion of Valle, was domesticated by the archbishop, who had turned him into a circus lion. There was more to V‡squez Cobo's failure to win his party's presidential nomination in 1926 than a simple decision made by Colombia's chief ecclesiastic. The fact was that V‡squez Cobo had failed to win congressional endorse-

PAGE 180

162 | Toward Modernity, 18891932ment of his nomination, a state of affairs rooted in the machinations of his chief rival, Abad’a MŽndez. Elections had taken place prior to the 1925 congressional session, and subsequent to that a dispute arose as to whether delegates pledged to Abad’a or to V‡squez Cobo would be seated. Abad’a, using his power as Pedro Nel Ospina's minister of the interior, challenged the credentials of the Vasquistas, and when they tried to take their seats on the opening day of Congress, had them detained by police. The seclusion of the marshals, as the incident came to be known, represented an abuse of governmental power by Abad’a, if not outright illegality on his part.18 But that was the way the political game was played in Colombia between the War of the Thousand Days and 1930. When Abad’a MŽndez took office in August 1926, Colombia's economic boom had neared its apex. Public works projects moved forward in many parts of the country, and while the Panama indemnity money had been exhausted, there were foreign loans to take its place. Consequently Abad’a abandoned fiscal restraint and borrowed heavily from abroad, using most of the money to fund public works projects. When food prices skyrocketed once farm hands quit the countryside and flocked to high-paying public works jobs, the new government quickly passed an "emergency law" lowering tariffs on imported foodstuffs. Still inflation cut into workers' paychecks, producing an increase in strike activity. V‡squez Cobo earned the respect of workers on the Pacific Railroad when, in 1926, he agreed to a 20 percent wage increase, thus ending a strike against that company.19 Popular unhappiness over Abad’a's economic policies was an ongoing subject of criticism by antigovernment forces. In spite of the general disdain with which he was held by those outside official circles, Abad’a MŽndez had excellent party credentials. He began his political career in the 1880s as a member of the Nationalist Party, writing essays in support of Nœ–ez and of the Regeneration. His talent was such that by 1891, at age twenty-four, he was named editor of Miguel Antonio Caro's newspaper, El Colombiano. When Nationalism declined during the 1890s he joined the dissident Historical Conservative faction, formed by his former teacher Carlos Mart’nez Silva. During the Marroqu’n presidency he served variously as minister of education, the interior, and foreign affairs. During the Quinquenio he opposed Rafael Reyes, suffering exile as a result. Following restoration of constitutional government in 1909, Abad’a held cabinet posts under presidents Gonz‡lez Valencia, Concha, Su‡rez, and Ospina, and when not serving the chief executive, he held office in the Senate or the Chamber of Deputies. Abad’a also served on the nation's Supreme Court and, as noted above, taught law at the National University, an activity he continued through his years as Colombia's president.20Abad’a's political success was owed to his extreme religious orthodoxy, a

PAGE 181

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 163quality that had impressed Herrera Restrepo in 1926. His conservatism was apparent seven years earlier, when, upon accepting the chair Miguel Antonio Caro had once occupied in the Colombian Academy of Language, Abad’a cited German romantic writer and linguist Friedrich Schlegel (17721829) in blasting what he perceived to be an ongoing process of linguistic corruption that left "the modern Athens of South America [Bogot‡] writhing in anguish and shame." He blamed the press for having abandoned its previously high standards, becoming nothing more than "an academy of vulgarity."21The cabinet assembled by Abad’a reflected the state of public affairs in Colombia during the mid-1920s. Minister of Industries JosŽ Antonio Montalvo was a lawyer who specialized in petroleum legislation, and the wealthy paisa businessman Esteban Jaramillo served as minister of finance. Jaramillo's success in negotiating foreign loans earned him the unofficial title "financier of the regime." The patronage-rich post of public works minister was held consecutively by party wheelhorses Sotero Pe–uela and Arturo Hern‡ndez. By far the most controversial member of Abad’a's cabinet was Minister of War Ignacio Rengifo Borrero. Rengifo believed strongly in prerogatives of the military, and in its constitutional duty to maintain the "principle of authority" before any social force that might challenge it. A man of authoritarian temperament who stood ready to pounce on any leftist who menaced social peace, Ignacio Rengifo, man of action, was the ideal complement to Abad’a, scholarly party politician. Once ensconced in his ministry Rengifo busied himself on several fronts, working to thwart the forces of disorder, whether they be striking workers or avowed revolutionaries like Tom‡s Uribe M‡rquez, Mar’a Cano, and Ignacio Torres Giraldo. Among his first acts were to beef up the regular army, which he accomplished by March 1927, raising its regular forces from 1,200 to 6,500 men. Little more than a month later Abad’a enabled him to crack down on labor and leftists by issuing Decree 707, popularly known as the High Police dictate.22 Rengifo used troops to break a second strike called against Tropical Oil in January 1927. The strike's chief organizer was again Raœl Eduardo Mahecha, and the principal grievance of Colombian workers was the one-anda-half-peso pay rate that had been in effect since 1922. Workers rejected the company's offer of a 6 percent increase, holding out for 25 percent, as well as demands for job security, compliance with the new law mandating Sundays off with pay, window screens on company houses, and improvements in working conditions.23The strike dragged on for two weeks, during which time Tropical Oil refused to negotiate. Finally, on January 21, police fired on workers, killing two of them. That touched off fighting between workers and police that moved Abad’a to declare a state of siege, after which Mahecha and other strike leaders

PAGE 182

164 | Toward Modernity, 18891932were arrested. With constitutional guarantees suspended and troops mobilized, the strike collapsed. The government had again sided with foreign management at the expense of labor.24During the middle months of 1927, there was great tumult in Colombia. Mar’a Cano and Torres Giraldo continued their tours through towns and cities, where crowds surged to see the "Red Virgin" and to hear her blast the status quo. Meanwhile there was continued ferment on the labor front. Boyacense legislators tried to halt seasonal migrations through legislation, and Bogot‡'s tailors, desperate for higher wages in the face of soaring food costs, went on strike. Marco Fidel Su‡rez, in the last of his "Sue–os," written a month before his death, fretted that the state of public affairs left him "very preoccupied and uneasy."25 Minister of War Rengifo was even more exercised. In August he had learned that the Social Revolutionary Party (SRP) intended to launch a nationwide uprising of the proletariat. He warned of "storm clouds" gathering on the nation's horizon. When the party announced its intention to hold a convention in La Dorada, Caldas, during September, he alerted the department's governor and told him to watch the meeting closely. Officials in La Dorada were so zealous in carrying out their orders that they clapped the SRP's leaders in jail just as they began their meeting. Thus members of the party's newly formed Presidium were forced to conduct business furtively, as companions distracted their jailers with noisy card games.26An important consequence of the La Dorada convention was formation of a Social Revolutionary Party subcommittee known as the Concejo Central Conspiritivo (Central Conspiratorial Committee [CCC]). That body was charged with planning an overthrow of the government by means of a coordinated popular uprising. Liberals associated with the party's "militarist" faction, General Leandro Cuberos Ni–o being chief among them, also participated in the work of the CCC. By early 1928 members of the group were building bombs for use in bringing down the hated Conservative regime. At the same time Conservative Party leaders like Antonio JosŽ Uribe and Ignacio Rengifo were calling for new legislation that would give them a free hand in striking at dissidents without regard for constitutional civil rights protections. Debate over the government plan to pass what came to be known as the Heroic Law filled Colombian newspapers from February through October 1928, when it was finally pushed through Congress. Ignacio Rengifo headed the effort, arguing heatedly that such legislation was needed to stem an imminent communist revolt. Rengifo alleged that communists were at the point of subjecting the nation to a "social conflagration of frightening dimensions."27Liberals, and a considerable number of Conservatives, attacked the proposition, calling it high-handed and dictatorial, and warning that if passed the law would produce consequences more dire than those it purported to address.

PAGE 183

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 165Conservative representative JosŽ Antonio Hoyos warned that "in fleeing from Bolshevism we must not run the risk of falling into an even worse form of fascism."28The Heroic Law passed on October 30, 1928, but not before a Liberal representative raised the issue of the thousands of workers employed by the United Fruit Company, a constant violator of Colombian labor law. What will happen if those workers tire of waiting for the government to come to their aid, wondered one representative: "What if they decide to join a communist movement; what if Sr. Rengifo sends his troops to smash it?"29 The representative's question would be answered within a very few days. A week after passage of the Heroic Law, which effectively outlawed organizations like the Social Revolutionary Party, labor trouble erupted in the Caribbean coastal area of Santa Marta, where the United Fruit Company had vast plantations employing some 25,000 workers. Favored by a succession of national and departmental governments anxious for foreign investment, the U.S. company had operated its coastal enclave to optimal advantage. Since 1925, United Fruit had enjoyed a ruling from the Ministry of Industries to the effect that as banana harvesters worked on the basis of individual contracts, they were not technically employees of the company. The ruling was an absurdity in every sense of the word, but it gave United Fruit the right to flout all Colombian labor laws. By 1928 the situation of banana workers had become insup11. Ignacio Torres Giraldo, Mar’a Cano, Raœl Eduardo Mahecha (left to right), and Sof’a L—pez (standing). By permission of the Museum of Modern Art, Bogot‡.

PAGE 184

166 | Toward Modernity, 18891932portable, and they resolved to strike unless the company acted to improve working conditions.30 The company refused to negotiate, and between November 12 and December 6 the banana zone was paralyzed. Timing for the strike could hardly have been worse. Over the preceding year members of the SRP and the CCC had feverishly stockpiled munitions to be used in the coming revolt. By April 1928 a plan existed by which members of the CCC would launch a general strike and coordinated military actions against the government. The revolutionaries were so full of romantic faith in the inevitability of the proletariat revolt that they talked incessantly and openly of the coming new order. Early in 1928, Leonilde Ria–o, the "Red Flower of Cundinamarca," warned Colombian women to prepare to march alongside their men "in the coming global revolution."31Members of the Abad’a MŽndez government took the threats of revolution seriously. "I am convinced that Colombian communism is ready to explode," said Minister of Industry Montalvo in early 1928. Montalvo went on to note his surprise at seeing "alarming Bolshevik tracts" being read by workers during a recent trip to the Santa Marta banana zone. During April 1928, Minister of War Rengifo worried that Bolsheviks were infiltrating the army. Archbishop Ismael Perdomo, named to replace Bernardo Herrera Restrepo, who died in January of that year, praised the anticommunist stand of the government and urged workers to back the church-supported Uni—n Colombiana Obrera (Colombian Workers' Union). Defenders of the "principle of order" noted with chagrin the trips of Guillermo Hern‡ndez Rodr’guez and others to Moscow, and of their tendency to give their newspapers names like El Moscovita, Ola Roja (Red wave), and El Sindicalista. There was no coherent force in Colombian public life capable of tempering the coming clash between left and right. The Liberal Party was in disarray, some party members siding with the forces of order, and others supporting the revolutionaries. Highly significant was the fact that most Liberals, and a good many Conservatives as well, dismissed the revolutionaries as innocuous visionaries, and scoffed at the fears of Conservatives like Rengifo. El Tiempo cartoonist Ricardo Rend—n regularly poked fun at both sides, to the general amusement of Colombians. That seemed only to infuriate and to strengthen the resolve of both extremist factions. It was in this setting of leftand right-wing extremism that banana workers staged their strike. The day the strike began, November 12, 1928, United Fruit manager Thomas Bradshaw telegraphed Abad’a MŽndez that "the revolutionary situation here is extremely dangerous."32 Abad’a responded by deploying army units to the Santa Marta region. The strike dragged on for nearly a month, eventually threatening United Fruit with a considerable loss of profits. On December 2, General CortŽs Vargas, commander of the government

PAGE 185

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 167troops, claimed to have intercepted a message from Tom‡s Uribe M‡rquez urging strikers to begin sabotaging company property. Then, two days later, it appeared that United Fruit might lose its entire crop as strikers blocked trains taking the fruit to waiting ships. For an instant it seemed that the strike might succeed. But that fact, coupled with the rumor that the U.S. cruiser Des Moines and the battleship North Dakota were steaming toward Santa Marta, moved the government to declare a state of siege in the banana zone late on the evening of December 5. Upon receiving that information, and inspired by Ignacio Rengifo's urging that he show no quarter to "the enemy," General Carlos CortŽs Vargas decided to disperse workers who had blocked rail shipments through the town of CiŽnaga. Arriving at the town's main plaza at 1:30 a.m. on December 6, he deployed 300 heavily armed troops against several thousand strikers camped out next to the railroad station. He ordered the crowd to disperse, giving them three minutes to do so. When the crowd, many members of which had been asleep, refused to move, General CortŽs Vargas ordered his troops to fire. Some dozen strikers were killed outright, and scores wounded. In subsequent days, as the army forcefully broke the strike amid sporadic skirmishing and attacks on company property, hundreds of banana workers lost their lives.33The banana zone massacre of late 1928 was a terrible lesson to Colombian workers. It helped convince them that revolutionary redress of their grievances was impossible in the face of the central government's military superiority. Whether they liked it or not, most Colombians had to agree with Liberal activist Heraclio Uribe's assessment that had banana workers continued to strive for change through the Liberal Party, rejecting association with the socialists, the result of the strike would have been far different.34The Fateful Year 1929Thoughtful Colombians were disconcerted and saddened the first day of 1929. Greeting them in their morning paper was a long state-of-the-nation message from Abad’a MŽndez in which the president praised the Catholic Church for giving the nation its culture and civilization, and thanked foreign capitalists for having contributed so much to national development. Abad’a as much as said that his government would continue to protect United Fruit, Tropical Oil, and other American companies from the demands of their Colombian employees. As the president explained it, public authority would become a mockery unless foreign industry and capital were extended "the most ample protection."35 He gave special thanks that the forces of truth and justice had triumphed over the spreaders of anarchic and subversive doctrines. Not mincing words, the president called leaders of the recent strike against United Fruit felons and traitors

PAGE 186

168 | Toward Modernity, 18891932who in their eagerness to triumph did not hesitate to "run their daggers through the loving heart of the motherland." The progressive-minded did find a bit of grim humor in that gloomy New Year's morning newspaper. Ricardo Rend—n's cartoon showed Abad’a asleep in bed while all around him alarms sound the danger to the nation from Yankee capitalists, official corruption, and foreign debt. Standing in the shadows is a figure of death, labeled the Banana Zone. Just days earlier a Rend—n cartoon titled "Return from the Hunting Trip" had appeared in El Tiempo. It shows General CortŽs Vargas standing at attention and saluting President Abad’a. Behind the general lies a row of human corpses; behind Abad’a lies a pile of ducks. "I killed a hundred!" says CortŽs. "That's nothing," replies Abad’a, "I killed two hundred!"36Economic fears accompanied widespread unhappiness over Abad’a's insensitivity to the problems of labor. Early in 1928, U.S. lenders cut off credit following reports that loan monies were being squandered, and as a means of protesting recent Colombian legislation protecting national oil reserves.37 Cutbacks in public works spending followed, which forced the laying off of thousands of workers. Coffee prices, which stood near thirty cents (U.S.) per pound a year earlier, had begun to slide. By early 1929 they had fallen to twenty-three cents, and by year's end they would reach seventeen cents. With revenues drying up, renters began demanding relief from their obligations. Among the first to do so were the vocal and assertive tenant farmers of the Viot‡ coffee zone. When campesinos previously employed in public works resumed farming, they found it hard to make money owing to the free import of foodstuffs under Abad’a's "Emergency Law" of 1927. Businessmen had begun to suffer as well. Colombian bond prices were falling steadily, losing 20 percent of their value between 1927 and late 1929.38 A rash of fires in Medell’n during February 1929 suggested that overextended builders were resorting to arson to cut their losses.39 Nearly a year before the stock market crash of October 1929, newspaper editor Eduardo Santos warned that Colombia was in a state of economic crisis.40Early in February national police forces conducted raids in cities around the country and discovered caches of bombs fabricated by members of the Central Conspiratorial Committee. Social Revolutionary Party secretary Tom‡s Uribe M‡rquez was arrested, and not long afterward Liberal leader Leandro Cuberos Ni–o was jailed following the discovery of a pipe bomb in his home. More than a dozen others were arrested in connection with "the conspiracy of the bombs," among them the indefatigable Torres Giraldo and Mar’a Cano. Several of the most prominent conspirators were subsequently freed thanks to their skillful defense by attorneys Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n and Carlos Lozano. Charges against Mar’a Cano were dropped. The Liberal press made light of the

PAGE 187

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 169episode, and El Espectador accused the president of using the incident to promote the presidential ambitions of Ignacio Rengifo. Cartoonist Rend—n characterized the bomb makers as Chaplinesque figures not to be taken seriously, reflecting a popular attitude that moved a New York Times reporter to observe that the Colombian public didn't attach much importance to the "Red threat."41By early 1929 it had become clear that the government party had a problem far more serious than bomb-making revolutionaries, declining economic indicators, or its exceeding unpopularity. Campaigning for the upcoming presidential election had begun and the Conservatives had two presidential candidates. They were Alfredo V‡squez Cobo and Guillermo Valencia, neither of whom indicated willingness to step aside for the other. That was not supposed to have been the case, as four years earlier Archbishop Herrera Restrepo had indicated that V‡squez Cobo should hold the nation's top office from 1930 to 1934. But with Herrera's death, and his succession by the less forceful, less politically astute Ismael Perdomo, the Church's political voice was weaker than at any previous time in the twentieth century. Perdomo's political inexperience might not have mattered had Abad’a MŽndez not hated V‡squez Cobo and had not been determined to block the general's path to the presidency. His antipathy dated at least to 1904, when Abad’a suffered a humiliating exile by order of Rafael Reyes. The troops who hurried Abad’a and his colleagues off to the eastern llanos were commanded by Alfredo V‡squez Cobo, at the time Reyes's war minister. A man who lived the maxim "Revenge is a dish best eaten cold," Abad’a, the clever machine politician, intended to make General V‡squez Cobo pay for the old affront, regardless of the consequences. In mid-1929 Abad’a and the Conservative establishment experienced still another crisis, one that heightened its weakness and disunity. On June 5 the governor of Cundinamarca, Ruperto Melo, fired the mayor of Bogot‡, Luis Augusto Cuervo, who had become obnoxious to the political establishment. Cuervo's offense was that of firing the director of the lucrative city trolley company, whom he accused of a host of offenses, not the least of which was theft. The counterfiring produced a popular outcry because it was widely known that public monies were being stolen and squandered by members of a gang ( rosca ) having close ties to the president himself. That, plus the fact that municipal services were being managed incompetently, sent thousands of Bogotanos, many of them students, into the streets during the sixth and seventh of June. On the seventh the police, commanded by General CortŽs Vargas, shot and killed a student, one Gonzalo Bravo PŽrez. The crowd, by then thousands strong, bore the corpse to the presidential residence and demanded action against all those implicated in the affair. Not only did they ask Abad’a to fire his police chief, but public works minister Hern‡ndez and war minister

PAGE 188

170 | Toward Modernity, 18891932Rengifo as well. Abad’a acceded to the demands. With the departure of Rengifo and Arturo Hern‡ndez, characterized as backbones of the regime, Abad’a's government entered a period of drift from which it never recovered.42July and August were desultory months in Liberal and Conservative Party politics. On the one hand Conservatives floundered toward resolving their problem of settling on a single presidential candidate. Archbishop Perdomo demonstrated political ineptness by first releasing the names of five candidates whom he said would be acceptable as his nominees, and then settled on V‡squez Cobo. "What's most surprising," said the archbishop in a letter of August 20, "is that workers and even communist entities have made it known that they support V‡squez Cobo."43The Liberal Party was at the moment discredited and dispirited, and seemed unlikely to field any presidential candidate. On July 18, Alfonso L—pez had granted a newspaper interview in which he remarked that his party was "absolutely liquidated."44 At that moment the Liberals were split between their "civilist" and "militarist" factions. The civilists followed Paulo E. Bustamante and, up to his death in Paris in July 1929, Nemesio Camacho. The militarists followed the mercurial General Cuberos Ni–o, only recently released from prison following his implication in the February bomb scare. Early in June the civilists had held a meeting in Apulio, Cundinamarca, notable chiefly for the fact that no newly elected Liberal congressmen were allowed to attend. They were barred from the convention because they had disobeyed Bustamante's order to abstain from participating in the February election. Late in August, Liberals having Republican Party antecedents had met in Bogot‡ with former president Carlos E. Restrepo. Among them were Sim—n Araœjo, Eduardo Santos, and Luis Eduardo Nieto Caballero. That group, unofficial representatives of Liberal and Conservative moderates, had hoped they might jointly discover a candidate who would, as Araœjo and the others put it, "orient and save the nation."45 Failing at that, the meeting adjourned and Restrepo returned to Medell’n saying he could see nothing but darkness on the political front. As both traditional parties struggled to resolve their internal problems, the Social Revolutionary Party entered its death throes. By July most of its leaders were imprisoned or in exile. Still, many party members persisted in their dream that the masses would, if given the opportunity, rise as one and abolish capitalism and private property. Following that logic they launched what they hoped would be a nationwide uprising. The effort was abortive. Only in El L’bano, in the coffee zone of northern Tolima, and in two other villages of less consequence, was there a concentrated effort to seize power. L’bano's Bolshevik uprising, led by CCC member Pedro Narv‡ez, was crushed by a hastily assembled bipartisan militia.46

PAGE 189

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 171July was also the month of Bogot‡'s student carnival, a weekend of parades, street dances, beauty pageants, and carousing ostensibly aimed at raising money for the Casa de Estudiante and its charitable endeavors. The high point in the 1929 carnival was the contest for student queen, pitting Mar’a Teresa Rold‡n against Josefina Uribe Portocarrero and Elenita Laserna. El Tiempo reported "enormous nervousness" in the Colombian capital as supporters of one or the other candidate strove to elect her through the purchase of ballots which sold for twenty cents apiece. During the final hour of balloting there was a frenzy of vote purchasing, with wealthy supporters of the young women paying as much as $7,000 to see their candidate triumph. At length Mar’a Teresa Rold‡n was elected with 170,000 votes. The fund raiser earned the considerable sum of $21,545, making the 1929 carnival one of the decade's most successful. According to Alcides Arguedas, the new queen's coronation took place in the Teatro Col—n amid "luxurious dissipation," accompanied by speeches, laughter, and happy students snake-dancing up and down the aisles. Afterward the students turned Calle Real into "a carnival of madmen" in which almost everyone was drunk or feigned being so.47The giddy student carnival of 1929 was the last of its kind. A changed political climate after 1930, accompanied by growing economic austerity, combined to end them. In many ways they were symbolic of the 1920s, when newfound wealth made possible the extravagances that people like Arguedas observed with mixed emotions. But the student celebrations of the twenties were much more than exuberant parties in which children of the privileged scandalized their elders. They were also statements of a student presence that had been signally important in Colombian public life throughout the decade. Colombia's student movement had its formal beginning in 1921, when three young men of twenty-oneGerm‡n Arciniegas, Silvio Villegas, and Augusto Ram’rez Morenolaunched the literary journal Universidad. Their magazine, and the midyear carnivals that soon followed, had their direct inspiration in events taking place in South America's Southern Cone, especially in the University Reform Movement that began in C—rdoba, Argentina, in 1919. In a broader sense they were part of the revolt against bourgeois culture, rigid positivism, and Western imperialism, which had been going on in Europe since the turn of the century. Latin American students found special inspiration in the overthrow of abusive political regimes in Mexico and Russia. And in Colombia the new ideas were all the more energized by the country's economic awakening and overall state of social ferment. Bogot‡'s student carnivals were thus a showy distillation of general and thoroughgoing intellectual awakening. The student movement first headed by Arciniegas and the others quickly broadened, and by the middle of the decade counted scores of young people who began referring to themselves as Los Nuevos (the New Ones).48 In mid-

PAGE 190

172 | Toward Modernity, 188919321925 they launched their own literary magazine, Los Nuevos, and used it as a platform from which they expounded their message of literary, political, and social change. Los Nuevos prided themselves on their nationalism, spirituality, and sensitivity to social inequitiesespecially to the plight of the poor. They wanted to create "a new spirit of human solidarity" by "unleashing a great current entirely ideological in character." Meanwhile they were proud of their ideological diversity, welcoming all those who wished to express themselves freely. Los Nuevos proclaimed their enmity to the older generation, particularly to their immediate seniors, members of the Generation of the Centenary, which they identified with ideological blandness of the sort seen in the old bipartisan Republican movement. They accused the Centenarians of having a mechanical concept of life and "bastardized appetites" that had robbed the older men of their spirituality. As a group enamored of material culture and wedded to the idea of progress, the Centenarians had thoughtlessly mortgaged the nation to foreign capitalists at the expense of their own people, Los Nuevos argued. They were consequently morally and intellectually bankrupt, sickeningly selfcongratulatory, and wholly detrimental to national well-being. "Has the moment arrived to call the previous generation to account, and to assess their role and responsibility in national evolution'?" they asked rhetorically. Their answer was a resounding yes.49 The Centenarians were men of the past, of another era. Their time had come and gone. The Centenarians did not take kindly to the younger generation's attack. As men still in their thirties, and yet still some years away from shaping national destiny, they scoffed at their premature retirement by a group of precocious, callow twenty-year-olds. A month after Los Nuevos began publication, Eduardo Santos denied the charges leveled against his generation.50 Five months later Alfonso L—pez, himself but thirty-seven, jibed at Los Nuevos, whom he said "with a literary, almost musical criterion, were beginning to intervene in national life." He referred to them as "our radical socialists," accusing them of being members of a privileged group who had learned of human suffering from books. He reminded them that they weren't unique in their reforming zeal, but rather, that they stood squarely in Liberal reform tradition, a tradition that made it unnecessary for them to ape Russian Bolsheviks or European labor organizers.51It was Armando Solano who took greatest umbrage at Los Nuevos' assault. A progressive Liberal who in his youth had militated in the Republican Party, Solano attacked "the irrational, incomprehensible hatred" Los Nuevos had for men such as himself.52 He characterized the Centenarians as peace-loving men who had sought to remove ideology from national politics. At the same time he viewed Los Nuevos as products of the ideological fragmentation that

PAGE 191

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 173came in the wake of World War I, a fact that explained their heterodoxy. He found them so caught up in themselves as to be rendered "an almost exclusively literary generation," one that "loves strange emotions and fights with talent to analyze them."53 He challenged Los Nuevos to cease their explorations of self and to go out and do something that would benefit society as a whole. Solano's remarks incensed Alberto Lleras, who responded in a polemical open letter. "Where is the labor of the Centenarians to reform this antiquated fragment of colonial times, this grotesque nightmare called the university?" he fumed. He accused men of Solano's generation of having no sense of the contemporary world, and of scandalously, "lasciviously" using their newspapers for endless self-aggrandizement. "We're more in tune with modern humanity than you ever were or are now," he said: "It's not simply an academic matter. We haven't been afraid to break with the past and rally to new ways."54The generational debate resonated in Colombian public life for some forty years after the hot exchanges of the mid-1920s. Over the short term it had precisely the effect that Los Nuevos desired. As in the case of labor's rise during the 1920s, the younger generation's radicalism and outspokenness drove mainstream Liberalism leftward, heightening its sensitivity to social problems. In April 1928, Armando Solano resigned from the Liberal Party, saying that it had lost touch with the people. He explained that he had embraced socialism, which he understood to be a nonviolent movement aimed at the redistribution of private property, not its outright abolition. Less than a week after Solano's letter was published Alfonso L—pez published a scathing letter to Liberal Party leader Nemesio Camacho, telling Camacho to return from the "mental desert" into which he had wandered arm in arm with the Conservatives. We Liberals have never dared protest the misery in which most of our fellow citizens live, he pointed out, and never felt it in our interest "to show them the roads to economic, social, and political independence." Praising the work of Uribe M‡rquez, Torres Giraldo, and Mar’a Cano, L—pez warned that in a time of social and economic revolution, the Liberal Party must remain true to its values or else suffer dire consequences.55When, some fifteen months later, Alfonso L—pez remarked that his party was "liquidated," he meant it as a criticism of the party's current leadership, not as an indication that he had lost faith in the Liberal Party itself. In fact as 1929 wore on, L—pez and other Liberals began to feel that the Conservative deadlock might work to their advantage. In spite of Archbishop Perdomo's declaration of support for V‡squez Cobo, Guillermo Valencia showed no sign that he intended to drop his bid for the presidency. President Abad’a continued to aid Valencia behind the scenes, while working to weaken V‡squez Cobo. Public estimation of the Abad’a regime sank to new lows during September, as

PAGE 192

174 | Toward Modernity, 18891932Congressman Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n conducted a sensational exposŽ of the banana zone massacre. News of the New York stock market crash of October 29, 1929, intensified Colombia's economic problems. Within a month of that event Alfonso L—pez reported the frantic efforts of Medell’n businessmen to unload their own stocks.56 At year's end 80 percent of those employed in public works had been laid off, and salaries of remaining public works employees had been slashed by nearly 50 percent. Property owners were cutting rents by as much as 25 percent, while tenants demanded that their payments be reduced by at least 40 percent.57The Liberal directorate met in mid-November, and party members smiled in disbelief when Alfonso L—pez announced that the Liberal Party should prepare to assume power. Conservatives, for their part, ignored the activities of old antagonists, who as the February 9 elections drew closer had not even fielded a candidate. The Liberals had, however, made sure that party members registered to vote in the election. As of the November meeting of their directorate (Directorio Liberal Nacional [DLN]), the Liberals believed they had a credible candidate for the upcoming presidential contest: Enrique Olaya Herrera, Colombia's longtime ambassador to the United States. When approached on the matter Olaya had expressed interest in running, but had made it clear that he would not do so on a strictly partisan platform. That disconcerted Liberals like Alfonso L—pez and Gabriel Turbay, who wanted the candidate to demonstrate a more militant liberalism. But it set well with the many Conservatives who liked neither V‡squez Cobo nor Guillermo Valencia. The most important single block of moderate Conservatives were paisas having historic ties to Republicanism, a party neither Valencia nor V‡squez Cobo had countenanced. Another important consideration involved economics. Antioquia was a department likely to suffer economically should either Conservative candidate become president. V‡squez Cobo, from Cali, was certain to favor Cauca valley interests if elected. When director of the Pacific Railroad, the general had dealt the paisas a considerable blow by linking Cali to the port of Buenaventura, taking business away from paisa rail lines linking the lower R’o Cauca to the Magdalena. Olaya Herrera, on the other hand, had significant political ties to Antioquia, having been an enthusiastic Republican Party member and Carlos E. Restrepo's foreign minister. Olaya thus had excellent credentials for bipartisanship, and furthermore gave explicit assurances that he would respect Church prerogatives if elected, and that he would form a government in which Conservatives would have an equal voice with Liberals. All these things made Enrique Olaya Herrera the favored candidate of moderate Antioquian Conservatives and with Liberals who had militated in the old Republican Party. At the end of December even Alfonso L—pez swal-

PAGE 193

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 175lowed his anger over Olaya's lukewarm Liberalism, since by that time all Liberals knew that they stood an excellent chance of resuming power after fortyfive years in the political desert. Olaya returned to Colombia from Washington, D.C., in mid-January 1930. During January and early February he campaigned before enthusiastic crowds as the Conservatives continued to anguish over their party split.58Conservative political fortunes sank in inverse proportion to those of the Liberals. But at least they had President Abad’a's words to console them. In his January 1 message he had encouraged his fellow citizens to be optimistic in the face of adversity. Personal trouble was, he lectured, "a source of undeniable good fortune," for "it steels characters and teaches us to overcome adversity." While Abad’a's words referred to the country's economic decline, they were perfectly applicable to his party as well. Thanks to Abad’a's machinations, Archbishop Perdomo had been ordered by the Vatican to shift his endorsement from V‡squez Cobo to Guillermo Valencia.59 The reversal of his position, coming two weeks before election day, sealed the fate of the Conservative Party. Many clerics disliked and mistrusted Valencia, and consequently disobeyed Perdomo's order. They remembered the unholy alliance he had made with the Liberals in 1918, the poet's bohemian past, and the widely known fact that Valencia was a womanizer whose illegitimate children numbered allegedly some 200. They were neither mollified nor convinced by Valencia's shows of piety over the course of his campaign. Consequently a great many clerics ordered their parishioners to continue in support of V‡squez Cobo. On election day Enrique Olaya Herrera won by a substantial plurality in an election that saw Conservatives neatly split their vote. Olaya's total was 369,934, Valencia's 240,360, and V‡squez Cobo's 213,583. Alberto Castrill—n, the Social Revolutionary Party candidate, polled 577 votes. On February 10, the day after the election, stones were thrown at the presidential residence and at Abad’a's country home. No one knew whether they were thrown by Liberals or by Conservatives.60Olaya Herrera and the Great DepressionEnrique Olaya Herrera's election in 1930 signaled to many that the Colombian republic had come of age. The peaceful alternation of power there was a happy aberration in Depression-era Latin America, a region where palace coups and military dictatorships were the norm. As he began his four year term, Olaya Herrera enjoyed extraordinarily good relations with the Conservative Party, which allowed him to effectively address economic problems produced by the global economic contraction of the early 1930s. Only outbreaks of political violence clouded an otherwise sunny administrative horizon. But

PAGE 194

176 | Toward Modernity, 18891932even then Olaya was fortunate. The violence, which was especially severe during his first two years in office, occurred in a distant part of the country, and did not seriously threaten national stability. It was well that Olaya Herrera enjoyed a high degree of Conservative support between 1930 and 1932, for that was when the Great Depression most severely affected Colombia. The collapse of global trade had an immediate and devastating effect on national finances. Most government revenues came from customs receipts, which fell off sharply after 1929, when they totaled 75 million pesos. Such revenues were down by nearly 30 percent in 1931, to 54 million pesos, and by over 50 percent in 1932, when they produced 35 million pesos. Public works, which had absorbed over half of all government revenues in 1929, shrank to but 15 percent of the minuscule 1931 budget. That signaled the layoff of thousands of workers, who either returned to agricultural pursuits or wandered the countryside in search of employment. Meanwhile agricultural salaries had dropped by 50 to 60 percent. Roving bands of unemployed workers stole food from the better-off and sometimes demanded supplies from frightened landowners.61As the money supply shrank and credit disappeared, renters and property owners fell on hard times. AndrŽs Samper Gnecco remembers that an "infinity of people" lost their homes in Colombian cities. Unable to pay their mortgages, many of them packed up and returned to ancestral farmsteads.62 The upper classes suffered setbacks too. Carlos Lleras Restrepo, himself a struggling young lawyer in Bogot‡, recalled handling bankruptcy proceedings for the capital's Fiat automobile agency.63The new government moved quickly to address the economic crisis. President-elect Olaya traveled to the United States, where he enlisted the help of a friend, Princeton economist Professor Edwin Kemmerer. Kemmerer and six associates, remunerated to the tune of $100,000 in gold certificates, arrived in Bogot‡ three days before Olaya's inauguration. They stayed on in Colombia until late November 1930, during which time they framed a financial plan combining fiscal austerity, moderate revenue enhancement, and economic orthodoxy. The Americans urged Olaya to maintain the gold standard and to expand the state's role in fiscal affairs. Especially noteworthy among Kemmerer-inspired taxes was the first-ever duty on bananas exported by the United Fruit Company. And thanks in part to the influence of Kemmerer and his associates, Olaya was able to negotiate a major new loan from private U.S. banks. The money was immensely useful to the government in servicing its $81 million foreign debt.64Edwin Kemmerer's services did not come cheap, but they were worth the price, if for no other reason than the support they garnered for Olaya's economic program. Because they bore the endorsement of the prestigious Dr.

PAGE 195

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 177Kemmerer, the president won easy legislative approval for a range of measures that alleviated effects of the economic downturn. Early in 1931, Congress approved a law granting the president broad new powers to intervene in economic matters. Olaya moved quickly to overturn the Emergency Law of 1927, which allowed the duty-free import of certain foodstuffs. Domestic food production increased as a consequence, as did farm prices. Other tariff legislation of 1931 sped import substitution by forbidding the importation of materials that might otherwise be produced internally. Agricultural and other interests benefited from formation of three new credit agencies, the Banco Central Hipotecario (Central Mortgage Bank), the Caja Agraria (Agrarian Bank), and the Caja Colombiano de Ahorros (Colombian Savings Bank). Additionally, Olaya stimulated further expansion of the coffee industry by offering farmers a 10 percent bonus for new production.65Labor benefited from several measures enacted during the first year of Olaya's presidency. By Law 83 of 1931, the right of workers to organize labor unions was protected and union breaking made a civil offense. Subsequent legislation mandated paid vacations and other benefits, as well as a forty-hour work week and Sundays off with pay. Thanks to Olaya's encouragement, the number of labor unions formed between 1930 and 1934 exceeded the total number formed between 1920 and 1930.66 Not all were pleased with the flurry of pro-labor measures. When members of the Liberal-Conservative coalition attempted to pass legislation providing for unemployment compensation, Conservative Representative Sotero Pe–uela opined that most of those out of work were simply loafers. Furthermore, said Sotero, "behind them are agitators, demagogues, and other unsavory types who are corrupting the working class to the point of making them commit crimes and abuses, such as those we are presently seeing attempted in the Chamber of Representatives."67Major strides were made in the area of transportation policy during Olaya's presidency. In May 1931, a law was passed by which national transportation policy shifted from railroad building to the construction of highways and secondary roads and trails. The complex project, denominated Law 88, represented the first step toward national planning in the area of transportation. Under the new law's provisions a national railway commission assumed operation of the fragmented rail system, a master plan was developed for constructing integrated rail and road systems in eastern and western Colombia, and funding for the various projects was removed from the departments and relocated in Bogot‡. Critics like Laureano G—mez later found fault with the new transportation bureaucracy, though impartial observers agree that Olaya's initiative was a signally important advance in a vital area of public life.68While the legislative reforms of Olaya's first eighteen months in office held important implications for national recovery and development, problems of an

PAGE 196

178 | Toward Modernity, 18891932immediate character continued to loom. Hunger marches were common occurrences in Bogot‡ and other Colombian cities between 1930 and 1932. El Tiempo 's editorial writer characterized 1931 as "a terrible year," though he also observed that conditions were worse in other countries.69 A month later, in January 1932, angry citizens massed in downtown Bogot‡, demanding that public works jobs be restored. Olaya Herrera felt sufficiently threatened to jail Guillermo Hern‡ndez Rodr’guez and Gilberto Viera, communist leaders of the protest. Public pressure gradually forced the government to abandon the economic austerity prescribed by Edwin Kemmerer. Colombia abandoned the gold standard in October 1931, and the government was under continuing pressure to declare a moratorium on foreign debt payments. Olaya grew increasingly unwilling to stand behind the rigorous Kemmerer program. "I have tried to play the Americans' game," he complained. "I have had the oil law they wanted passed, the Barco Contract signed, have tried to protect American interests in [our] tariffs. . It breaks my heart to have the Americans let me down in the end."70Olaya's difficulty in extracting new loans from U.S. bankers drove him to expand the money supply through exchange devaluation and other measures. He eventually had to declare a partial moratorium on repayment of the foreign debt, most of which was owed to American banks.71 Those measures, coupled with increased government spending, insured that Colombia's economic decline would not persist past 1932. In fact even during that dreary year there were signs of recovery. As early as June 1932, Olaya could brag that the nation's banking system was sound, exports running at normal levels, unemployment rates falling, coffee harvests excellent, and new national credit agencies making new loans available. Public works projects in suspension since 1930 were resumed during 1932, leading economic historian Alfonso Pati–o to call their resumption "one of the most legitimate motives for pride in Olaya's government."72 Colombians were in sufficiently good spirits during 1932 to launch a new social institution, the national beauty contest. On May 19, Ana GutiŽrrez of Antioquia was crowned Miss Colombia, defeating Margot Manotas of Atl‡ntico and Elvira Rengifo of El Valle del Cauca. Colombia's most beautiful woman was crowned in Bogot‡'s Teatro Col—n amid pageantry reminiscent of that surrounding the city's old student carnivals.Why Bipartisanship FailedOlaya Herrera effectively addressed Colombia's economic troubles in large part because of the coalition government he formed on entering office and which served him well for three of his four years as president. Two previous

PAGE 197

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 179twentieth-century Colombian presidents had governed through bipartisan alliances, though neither enjoyed Olaya's success. Rafael Reyes and Carlos E. Restrepo were Conservatives who had ruled with the help of Liberals. But Reyes spent most of the Quinquenio holding opponents in check with military force, and Restrepo was rendered ineffectual by brittle partisanships that crushed his benign Republicanism "like cotton between glass."73Colombia and its new president were doubly fortunate. Not only did Enrique Olaya Herrera govern during an instant of relative harmony between Liberal and Conservative elites, but he did so as leading western states were rushing toward dictatorship and disaster. Thanks to the Conservative Party imbroglio of 192829, Colombia's political elite found itself able to deal with pressing economic problems in an unusually expeditious fashion. Olaya's remarkably effective government of "National Concentration" was thus an accidental one, the product of fortuitous circumstance. This points up a paradox of the Olaya Herrera presidency. Olaya, suave diplomat, friend of American presidents and tycoons, evenhanded and magnanimous leader, was the creature of Colombia's polarized, elite-directed political system. Born into a modest Liberal family in rural Boyac‡, he saw his family ruined by the civil wars of 1885 and 1895. Interparty rivalries and hereditary hatreds led him to bloody the noses of Conservative schoolboys before he was twenty years old, and he had fought in the War of the Thousand Days. But Enrique Olaya Herrera learned to despise partisan militancy. He leapt at the chance to join the paisa-led Republican movement that spearheaded Reyes's overthrow in 1909, and which subsequently made him a career diplomat. Olaya had agreed to run for the presidency in 1930 only when assured that he could do so with significant bipartisan support. Lacking such support, or confronted by a unified Conservative Party, Olaya Herrera would never have become president. What this reveals is that in 1930 Colombia remained a nation in thrall of its two political parties. In that regard Colombia was no different in 1930 than it had been during the previous eighty years. As chief spokesman of a bipartisan alliance Olaya enjoyed great leeway in addressing economic matters. But old political hatreds and traditions consistently and insidiously eroded his bipartisan support. It was a sad fact of Colombian political life that however much Olaya protested his nonpartisanship, his party was bound to prosper at Conservative expense. Colombia's political system was a highly centralized one where in addition to members of his own official family, the national president appointed departmental governors who in turn named alcaldes of the more than 800 most important cities and towns in the nation. Those officials staffed their offices and dependencies with political friends and allies, setting in motion a vast

PAGE 198

180 | Toward Modernity, 18891932bureaucratic reorganization with each change of regime. As in Olaya Herrera's case, when the new regime brought the opposite party to power, few members of the losing collectivity would be asked to continue in their old positions. It was likewise inevitable that as Liberals took up key governmental positions, the composition of elected bodies would begin to favor them. Parties in power had countless ways of winning elections. Colombia's Liberals had studied the techniques of Conservative election fraud over the previous forty-five yearstechniques the followers of Nœ–ez had learned from their predecessors in power, and thus back to the dawn of republicanism in Colombia. The Liberals lost no time in employing every hoary technique of vote rigging to take control of the nation's electoral bodies. By 1933, Liberal majorities existed in more than half the nation's concejos and departmental assemblies. When Olaya left office the National Senate and Chamber of Deputies were firmly in Liberal hands. The inevitable Liberal takeover had filled Conservatives with dread that February in 1930. Rafael Azula Barrera recalled Olaya's election as producing a sense of impending catastrophe among himself and his fellows.74 Conservatives crowded the nation's churches on February 10, the day after the elections. They prayed for divine intervention, for the death of Olaya Herrera, for anything that would spare the nation and themselves the suffering that approached.75 Three civil wars had followed their own accession to power in 1880, and in 1930 no one could be sure that party leaders would not go to war to halt their loss of power. As it turned out no civil war followed Olaya's election. By 1930 the state had grown too powerful to be overthrown by party leaders turned militia generals. However, the state was not yet strong enough to keep bloodshed from marring the harvest of spoils. At the end of Olaya's term in office hundreds of Colombians lay dead, and thousands were driven from their homes. Colombia's change-of-regime violence raises a number of questions. First, what dynamic sent so many citizens to exile or to death at a time when party leaders in Bogot‡ counseled moderation? Second, what gave Colombia's Liberal and Conservative Parties their peculiar dynamism at a time when parties bearing those names had vanished over most of Latin America? Finally, why was it not possible for Olaya Herrera to control political strife so bitter as to cause Conservative police to routinely harass Liberal voters prior to 1930, and Liberal police to return the favor after Olaya's installation? It all suggests that there was more at stake than poorly paying government jobs and control of public policymaking. The peculiar intensity of twentieth-century Colombian politics was rooted in a unique convergence of ecological, cultural, economic, and ideological factors. Colombians were a people who throughout their history had lived iso-

PAGE 199

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 181lated by their mountains and in a situation of relative poverty. Their social setting was one of hierarchy and interlocking dependencies of a painfully local and immediate sort. In the early nineteenth century they cut their ties with Spain, and in so doing lost the force that had unified them politically, the monarchy. Once independence was achieved, and revered heroes of the revolution were gone, a process of territorial dissolution set in that by 1840 through 1842, threatened to reduce Colombia, then called New Granada, to a country of warring regions. Political loyalties extended no farther than the local or regional caudillo or cacique, or to one's patron or immediate social superior. The central government in Bogot‡ was powerless and the nation close to anarchy. Colombians desperately needed some force capable of bridging their regions and enabling them to make their voices heard in Bogot‡. They found their unifying force in the Liberal and Conservative Parties. Latin America's first modern political party, the Liberal Party, was formed by men who wished to carry forward the egalitarian, liberating principles that had given rise to the revolutionary movement itself. They wished to strike at all manner of entrenched privilege and restraints on individual freedom, holding that to do otherwise was both irrational and inconsistent with the democratic spirit of the age. In Colombia and elsewhere liberals approached their task with a zeal that delighted some and horrified others. Members of the latter group tried to counter the liberal reforms by establishing conservative parties. During the 1840s and 1850s Colombian Liberals worked to make their revolutionary program that of the nation. They struck at human restrictions of every sort and promoted egalitarian social programs, arguing from rational and utilitarian premises that the good society was one affording maximum individual freedom. They crowned their achievement in constitutions framed during 1853 and 1863. Those documents separated church and state and guaranteed religious liberty, decreed universal male suffrage, established a federal system for the nation, abolished the death penalty, and guaranteed full freedom of expression. Other laws passed during the Liberal ascendance abolished slavery, established a system of public education, freed trade, and struck at entrenched social and economic privilege. Colombian Liberalism, sprung from Enlightenment rationalism, oriented by the vast literature of European and American political writers, and objectified through national law, set into motion a sorting process that quickly polarized the nation. No man of means anywhere in the country could fail to be pleased or angered by the avalanche of reform legislation thrust upon him during the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Members of the elite either cast their lot with the Liberals, or joined forces to oppose them, becoming members of the Conservative Party. And where they went, family members, friends, followers, and all manner of dependents and clients followed.

PAGE 200

182 | Toward Modernity, 18891932Colombian Conservatives entered the ranks of their party by numerous routes. Many of the most intransigent members were professed Catholics who found Liberal anticlericalism to be wrongheaded and perverse. Others found their economic interests harmed by the Liberal reforms. And a great many Colombians became Conservatives because someone they loved, respected, or feared did so. Through their parties Colombians discovered a way of promoting their interestseven shaping government policy when lucky enough to win power. Hence Colombia's two parties played the same role as political parties in Europe and North America. As in those places, the reasons for individual party affiliation in Colombia were diverse, frequently idiosyncratic. The peculiar durability of Colombia's Liberal and Conservative Parties was in considerable measure a function of the long Conservative dominance stretching to 1930. That in turn was explained in part by the nation's tardy modernization. Because social change was so slow in coming, and the human costs invariably paid through such process slow in becoming manifest, Colombian Conservatives found it relatively easy to keep reformers in check between 1880 and the third decade of the twentieth century. That was the time when Liberalism was coming to the fore over most of Latin America. Their nation's seeming imperviousness to reform was what so frustrated both Los Nuevos and the political activists who tried to launch labor and socialist parties in Colombia. At length, in 1930, the Liberal Party loomed as the logical, indeed the only political conduit to reform in a country whose ingrown political system had ever thwarted easy change. Colombian scholars have pointed to the combined factors of a weak central state and intense politicization as sources of violence and of the glacial pace of social and political change in their country. Luis L—pez de Mesa counts six historic "frustrations" of national destiny stretching from pre-Columbian times through the Violencia of the 1940s and '50s. He traces his two twentiethcentury frustrations, the War of the Thousand Days and the Violencia, to national political elites "who threw the country into the abyss of all imaginable madness."76 Orlando Fals Borda counts three moments in national history when the utopian dreams of social reformers were dashed by the powerful hold of old patterns of thought and action. The socialist utopia propounded during the 1920s failed before a dominant, elite-directed Liberal-Conservative party system that locked Colombia within a "seignorial bourgeois tradition."77 Frustration was precisely the sensation Enrique Olaya Herrera felt as political violence weakened the Republican consensus that had served him well during the early years of his presidency.

PAGE 201

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 183Violence in the Change of RegimesMost vexing to Olaya was the extreme difficulty he had in countering violence when it erupted. Incidents of bloodshed usually occurred far from the seat of national power, in the dusty plaza of some remote village lying at the end of a long mule trail. When special peace-keeping forces were dispatched to such places, they usually reached them days after the incident had occurred. The sorting process that had caused Colombians to follow one or the other party had created innumerable points of potential strife across the cruelly broken national terrain. Over the years since the nation's Liberal and Conservative Parties had formed, Colombians had tended to migrate to municipios where they could count themselves part of the political majority. By 1930 threefourths of all municipios, consisting of their cabeceras (county seats) and surrounding neighborhoods possessed appreciable Liberal or Conservative majorities. In 159 of them, some 20 percent of the total, 90 percent or more of the residents traditionally voted for either the Liberal or the Conservative Party.78Thus when he took office, and began staffing national offices with Liberals, Olaya either directly or indirectly sent fellow party members into places that had not seen Liberal administrators for nearly half a century. Conservatives in such places necessarily viewed the change with alarm. Liberals, on the other hand, frequently saw it as providing them an opportunity for righting old wrongs. As in the case of municipios, most Colombian departments and regions had either Liberal or Conservative majorities in 1930. The Liberal Party was dominant along the Caribbean coast, in the departments of Atl‡ntico, Bol’var, and Magdalena. El Valle and the sparsely populated territories of the eastern llanos were largely Liberal. Conservatism was dominant among the pious Antioquians and the people of Nari–o. Huila, in the upper Magdalena valley was predominantly Conservative whereas Tolima, adjoining it and to the north, tended toward Liberalism. The situation was the reverse in the Santanders, where Santander del Norte was predominantly Conservative and the department of Santander largely Liberal. Rural Cundinamarca was Conservative and Bogot‡, Liberal. In fact all of Colombia's larger towns and cities tended toward Liberalism. Boyacenses were among the more pragmatic, perhaps malleable, Colombians, for they tended to vote for whichever party was in power. Within every department there were regions where one or the other party predominated. For example, Tolima's southern portion was mostly Conservative, save for its mountainous western region, which was Liberal. The reverse was true in the north, where valley towns like Honda, Mariquita, and Armero were notoriously Liberal, and the mountains to the west, settled by paisas, were mostly Conservative. And even within individual departmental regions

PAGE 202

184 | Toward Modernity, 18891932there were always pockets of opposite-party strength. In northwestern Tolima lay the nonconforming municipio of El L’bano, settled by liberal-minded Antioquian pioneers during the 1860s.79 Mountainous El L’bano became a Liberal anomaly among her heavily Conservative sister municipalities, Villahermosa, Casabianca, Herveo, and Fresno, to the north, and Santa Isabel and Anzo‡tegui to the south. Even municipios such as El L’bano, having well-defined and long-standing partisan allegiance, invariably contained pockets of opposite-party strength. El L’bano again serves to illustrate. Settled by and for Liberals, El L’bano had veredas (rural neighborhoods) such as La Yuca, lying along its southern border and adjoining strongly Conservative Santa Isabel. La Yuca had its origin as a colonization project begun by none other than Ismael Perdomo, then bishop of IbaguŽ. Bishop Perdomo planned the rural neighborhood both as a charitable endeavor in the spirit of the encyclical De rerum novarum, and as a convenient way of insinuating confessional Conservatives into El L’bano, a municipio whose founder was a free thinker, and where non-Catholics even had their own cemetery. The nine square kilometers of land that became La Yuca had been owned by Conservative General Manuel Casabianca, governor of Tolima for many years. His heirs sold it to the Church precisely to dilute Liberal strength in El L’bano.80These arcane facts illustrate the truth that each Colombian municipio had its own unique history of settlement and politicization. Liberal El L’bano suffered at Conservative hands between 1885 and 1930. During those years its people saw portions of the municipio annexed to neighboring Villahermosa and Santa Isabel, and they witnessed the assassination of founding father Isidro Parra during the civil war of 1895. When Liberal Libanenses regained power after 1930, they followed the time-honored practice of harassing and occasionally killing Conservatives. One series of election-related outrages during 1933 and 1934 resulted in the deaths of several campesinos from La Yuca, and jailing of the local Conservative leader, JosŽ del Carmen Parra.81It was inevitable that every Colombian municipio would experience some degree of political stress after August 7, 1930, when the new administration took office. As the naming of governors, alcaldes, and other officials moved apace, old patterns of patronage were disrupted. Conservatives began losing jobs to Liberals placing stress upon local clientage networks. Local leaders, caciques and gamonales (local political bosses), were asked to find ways of alleviating or negating impact of the changes.82 Ongoing electoral activity during the months after Olaya's possession also heightened tensions. Voters in every municipio were constantly told to steel themselves for three important contests set for 1931. In February there would be elections for departmental assemblies; three months later, in May, voters would send congressmen to the

PAGE 203

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 185C‡mara de Representantes; and in October they would elect members of municipal concejos. During the weeks leading up to the first contest, set for February 5, voting lists were continually revised in many Colombian municipios. Where that occurred entire neighborhoods were set into motion as campesinos trooped into town to reregister, often behind a patron or cacique. They traveled to the cabecera, to its central plaza, where offices of the jurado electoral, or registrar of voters, was located. That inevitably brought antagonistic groups into confrontation as rival bands mingled on village streets. As every campesino carried a machete, and many bore sidearms, the possibilities for violence were endless. The violence of 1930 and afterward was most severe in northeastern Colombia across several hundred square kilometers of the rugged eastern cordillera. The area in question embraced most of Santander del Norte below the departmental capital of Cœcuta, and ran down through the contiguous mountains of eastern Santander and Boyac‡. An area of old settlement, northeastern Colombia had the reputation of producing strong people of independent spirit. By the 1930s it was both a region in economic decline and overpopulated, its mountainsides deforested and eroded, and many of its most able men and women leaving the region for more promising venues. With onset of the economic decline in 1928 and afterward, northeastern Colombia was especially ill prepared for major political change. There were signs of impending strife in Santander even before Olaya Herrera entered office. In May 1930 young santandereano Rafael G—mez Pic—n watched the rush of events with mounting concern, observing "absolute demoralization" among all those around him. He wrote that the coming political change had awakened a "brutal exuberance" in the hearts of Liberals as well as Conservatives. G—mez Pic—n knew that the Liberals of Santander had readied themselves to exact justice for what he called "the frightening cortege of crimes perpetrated under the aegis of a cardboard republic, which [was] in fact the negation of republicanism." He had listened to his fellow Liberals speak guardedly of their attempts to overthrow the Conservative enemy thirty years earlier, of the glorious and terrible battles of Peralonso and Palonegro. "Will the dark swallows return?" G—mez Pic—n wondered.83 He did not wait long for an answer. President Olaya Herrera tried to be evenhanded in his appointment of departmental governors. Seven of the thirteen men he appointed were Conservatives, sent to those departments known to have Conservative majorities. But he sent members of his own party to preside over Liberal El Valle, Tolima, and Santander, and over Boyac‡ and Cundinamarca as well.84 Alejandro G‡lvis was the best known among the new president's appointees. A staunch party member and a native of Bucaramanga, G‡lvis had published the newspaper

PAGE 204

186 | Toward Modernity, 18891932Vanguardia Liberal there for more than ten yearsa decade during which he had inveighed against the way Conservatives routinely stole elections from the Liberal majority in his department. Those were contests that young G—mez Pic—n, one of his contributing editors, had characterized as "grotesque and drunken electoral farces, cynical and shameless mockeries of the popular will . crude, merciless and brutal persecution of those who don't bend before flattery or threats."85Governor G‡lvis set out to assure Liberals of their majority immediately upon taking office. He began by naming Felipe Cordero his secretary of government, his chief administrative lieutenant. Cordero was a native of the embattled Liberal stronghold of Garc’a Rovira province, an exceedingly mountainous part of the department whose principal town was M‡laga, and whose surrounding communities were Capitanejo, twenty kilometers to the southeast, on the border with Boyac‡; Molagavita, ten kilometers to the west; and San AndrŽs, Guaca, and Cerrito, a day's ride to the north. Fifty kilometers southeast of M‡laga, and dominating the landscape, was the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, whose highest peaks exceeded 5,500 meters. Along its eastern slopes, and just across the departmental border in Boyac‡, were villages with names that would become well known during Colombia's later Violencia: Chiscas, Boavita, GŸic‡n, and Chulavita. Over the eighty years since Colombia's parties had taken shape, Boyac‡'s El Cocuy region became heavily Conservative and Garc’a Rovira in Santander, predominantly and militantly Liberal. Garc’a Rovira's Liberals had been disfranchised there since 1885, though thanks to Governor G‡lvis's efforts the situation was about to change dramatically. Knowing that the Conservatives would not give up their electoral majority easily, G‡lvis named Thousand Day War veteran General Virgilio Amado alcalde of M‡laga. The general could guarantee control of the newly hired Liberal police, sent to Garc’a Rovira to replace the Conservative ones who had done the bidding of the previous administration. Mayor Amado would also keep watch over a militant group of priests whose spiritual leader was the doughty Bishop Rafael Afanador of Pamplona, and whose firebrand clergy in Garc’a Rovira included Father JosŽ Mar’a Castilla in San AndrŽs and Father Daniel Jord‡n in M‡laga.86 Other key Liberal appointees included Liberal alcaldes Ezequiel Herrera in Capitanejo, and Constantino Rueda in Guaca.87With men he could trust in place around Garc’a Rovira, and with them in turn supported by friendly police, Governor G‡lvis knew that voting lists would soon come to reflect the true political makeup of the province. The first step in reestablishing Liberal political dominance consisted in revising the lists of eligible voters in each of Garc’a Rovira's several municipios. And the revision had to be carried out quickly. As Colombian senators were elected by departmental assemblies, the February 1931 assembly elections

PAGE 205

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 187could conceivably give Liberals a majority in the national body. Every Liberal in Garc’a Rovira thus knew that maximum effort would be required in the upcoming contest, which in turn meant helping the new administration insure that Conservative electoral commissions not rig voting lists, as they had since the time of Rafael Nœ–ez. Conservatives from neighborhoods around Garc’a Rovira were prepared for trouble as they trekked down to their corresponding municipal seats that December in 1930. Any time they left the relative safety of their home turf and traveled to town, they entered enemy territory. Their journey over steep mountain trails took them through Liberal veredas and into the cabeceras where members of the opposite party predominated. Now, however, they could not count on friendly police and municipal officials to protect them. All were Liberals now. "To study and try to solve our social problems, especially that of party violence," wrote Santander native Manuel Serrano Blanco, "one must examine diverse phenomena: economic misery, invincible ignorance, human vengeance, hunger for bureaucratic positions, individual egotism, political ambition, and electoral fraud."88 All those factors came into play that Monday, December 29, when a group of Conservative campesinos traveled to the village of Capitanejo. They traveled there from the highlands southeast of town, the lower reaches of the Conservative fastness of El Cocuy. Their enemy, the local police detachment, reinforced by numerous Liberal civilians, knew of their approach and waited along one side of the central plaza, not far from offices of the jurado electoral. The Conservatives were led by one Alejandro Herrera, who, according to a later report of the Capitanejo incident published in El Tiempo, had bolstered his courage, and that of his followers, with generous applications of aguardiente and cocaine. As the heavily armed group approached the registrar's office words were exchanged, weapons brandished, and the Conservatives withdrew across the plaza with the cry "miserable godos [literally, Goths, a pejorative term for Conservatives], we're in charge now!" ringing in their ears.89 None of them registered to vote that day. During the night another group of Conservative campesinos joined that of Alejandro Herrera. Meanwhile Liberals under their cacique Joaqu’n Torres arrived from veredas north of town. All that night and into the next morning members of both groups eyed each other warily in anticipation of the approaching clash. Gunfire erupted that afternoon, felling more than a score of men in the town plaza. The rest scattered, taking refuge in facing buildings and entering into a pistol and rifle duel lasting many hours. So heavy and sustained was the exchange that many of the wounded bled to death where they lay. There was no way to tend to them until the following day, when the firing subsided. At

PAGE 206

188 | Toward Modernity, 18891932least a dozen men died in the plaza of Capitanejo and twice as many were wounded.90 Casualties might have been greater had the Conservatives not cut telephone and telegraph lines, making it impossible for the police to call in reinforcements from M‡laga.91Garc’a Rovira was but one of numerous places across Colombia experiencing violence during late 1930 and early 1931. On February 1, when the elections for assembly posts were held, over a hundred died in a rash of incidents. In Monter’a alone twenty-eight persons died when Conservative police fired on Liberal voters, and rioting Conservative civilians burned many Liberals in their homes.92 Everywhere a host of local factors complicated the inexorable shift from Conservative to Liberal administration. The Capitanejo incident, and numerous killings in Santander during the assembly elections, moved Alejandro G‡lvis to resign his governorship in late February 1931. But he didn't leave the post before entering into an acrimonious debate with Bishop Afanador as to whether Liberal police or Conservative civilians were responsible for the mayhem.93 As leaders of the respective parties protested their blamelessness, the violence continued. In mid-1931, following a gun battle that left fourteen men dead in Guaca, Father Hern‡n F. Sanmiguel, the village priest, wrote his superiors: "We find ourselves in a situation worse than war. Only God can contain the political hatred. . In Conservative neighborhoods there are many men armed with Gras rifles, the same as in Liberal neighborhoods. . The Conservatives of regions around San AndrŽs and there are thousands of themhave good Gras rifles . all of them are armed and, in their words, simply await the moment when they can overthrow the government."94By early 1931, Olaya Herrera had grown alarmed over the spreading strife. He considered making emergency arms purchases from the United States but dropped the plan, which was sure to be misinterpreted by the opposition. Meanwhile another election approached, that for representatives to the C‡mara. Conservative leader Supelio Medina delivered a fiery speech in the departmental assembly of Boyac‡, and days later was shot through the head by a hidden assassin as he walked with his wife down a Chiquinquir‡ street. As the elections drew closer, the Conservative directorate in Chiquinquir‡ warned party members not to be passive before the "traditional enemy": "If you let yourself be beaten by ballots," the directorate warned ominously, "things will be much different here in the future."95Colombia's Conservatives managed to preserve 50 percent control of the C‡mara de Representantes following the May 1931 elections. But they were not so lucky five months later when, in the October 4 elections for municipal concejos Conservatives won majorities in but 361 of 804 town councils. By late 1931 and on into 1932, Garc’a Rovira and adjoining regions in Boyac‡ and Santander were sunk in civil war. Eduardo Santos, who had re-

PAGE 207

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 189placed Alejandro G‡lvis as governor, summarized the situation in Santander at the time: "The Conservatives . feel menaced, persecuted and abandoned, though they exaggerate their plight. Liberals are in a permanent state of crisis. In spite of their overwhelming numerical superiority they believe the slightest incident will cause their ruin. Hence they cause scandals and stage protests [that are] quite reprehensible."96 Bogot‡ newspapers regularly published accounts of multiple killings in towns like Molagavita, Fl—rida, Guaca, and San Antonio. Whole regions were depopulated, as Colombians fled across the border into Venezuela. Manuel Serrano sadly recalled riding through once-flourishing coffee country south of Cœcuta, in Santander del Norte. Houses dotting the hinterland were in ruins, and towns like Arboledas, Ragonvalia, Pamplonita, and Rosario depopulated. Their former residents were either dead or living as refugees.97 Serrano described the mountains of Santander del Norte as "silent and sad, made desolate by barbarism. . The absurd fight had turned it into tragic and cursed ground. Violence made it a no-man's-land."98A particularly ominous aspect of the violence was the formation of militia armies in the most troubled areas. Partisans on both sides felt the need to organize their resistance, and highly placed persons in Bogot‡ and elsewhere often contributed to the effort. Alejandro G‡lvis accused Minister of War Carlos Villamizar of distributing rifles to fellow Conservatives before leaving his post in 1932. That same year Olaya Herrera had to stop Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n's organization of Liberal militias. On March 17, 1932, Olaya ordered the disbanding of all "party armies" in Colombia, specifying the Guardia Civil Liberal, Milicias Conservadoras, and Milicias Rojas in his message.99 Each side blamed the other for helping organize military forces. When the parish priest in San AndrŽs organized a Conservative militia in mid-1932, Bishop Afanador justified his action saying that as the Liberal police were treating Conservatives like criminals, the Church was right in helping such persons protect themselves. The bishop's attitude led Olaya Herrera to remark that militant priests were responsible for "leading many poor campesinos to the slaughter."100The violence had clearly surpassed Olaya Herrera's ability to control it by mid-1932. Conservative militias had become active in both eastern and western Boyac‡, and the stoning of the Conservative directorate in Manizales on June 18 signaled a possible spread of the lawlessness into the central cordillera. But at that moment several things combined to greatly reduce the violence over the succeeding twelve months. First, Laureano G—mez returned from Europe and took charge of the Conservative Party. His attacks on Olaya Herrera, especially regarding the violence, calmed Conservatives living in places such as Garc’a Rovira by convincing them that they at last had a strong advocate in Bogot‡. Second, the war with Peru, which erupted in September 1932, galvanized Colombians and caused them to rally against the invader. It also removed many young men from the troubled zones, sending them into the army. Finally,

PAGE 208

190 | Toward Modernity, 18891932the political raison d'tre for violence faded with Liberal consolidation of power. The Liberals won a majority of the seats in departmental assemblies and in the national chamber of representatives during 1933. They easily overwhelmed Conservatives in Santander, where army and police closely monitored potential trouble spots and where there was heavy Conservative abstention. The effective consequence was that by 1933 Santander's Conservatives were excluded from the body politic.101One of the more outwardly curious aspects of the Conservative disfranchisement in Santander was that few formal complaints were filed following illegal acts, and witnesses refused to testify in legal proceedings. The fact was that when the aggrieved parties were Conservatives, they had no legal recourse in places like Santander, where civil government was controlled by hostile forces. Between 1930 and 1932, some two thousand Conservative police were fired and replaced by Liberals. In Boyac‡, Conservatives charged that departmental police were commanded from Liberal headquarters by Plinio Mendoza Neira, the party leader in the department.102In early 1934, Liberal leader Luis Eduardo Nieto Caballero expressed indignation over the way fellow party members in Santander del Norte connived with a local judge to take valuable coffee farms through the manipulation of land taxes. Nieto Caballero called it "robbery organized in a legal manner, systematic persecution, the reappearance of a cruel sentiment condensed in the phrase hatred of the godo. '"103While incidents like the Capitanejo gun battle of 1930 became infrequent after 1933, that did not mean that peace returned to Garc’a Rovira or to other troubled areas. Conservatives simply fell back to defensive positions and awaited their chance for revenge. Some acted individually, as in the case of Heraclio Ca–—n, a campesino from Boyac‡: "When in 1930 they began killing Conservatives, police commanded by Sr. Siervo Castro arrived at my house one night; they killed my father and burned the house. I managed to hide myself in a nearby creek, and from there I could see the assassins. All of them have paid for their crimes, because I brought each of them down with this very Gras rifle."104 Others became refugees in cabeceras in and around the region they had fled. In Garc’a Rovira the towns of Capitanejo, M‡laga, and Guaca had substantial populations of displaced Conservatives. When elections were held most of them avoided further trouble by refusing to vote. Highly significant in terms of the Violencia of 1946 through 1953 was the movement of displaced Conservatives out of Garc’a Rovira southeast into the El Cocuy region of Boyac‡. There they joined compatriots living in veredas like Chulavita, redoubts from which they battled Liberal police and all others to a standstill. Towns like Boavita, GŸic‡n, La Uvita, Guacamayas, and San Mateo remained uniformly Conservative, full of men and women who dreamt of the day when they could strike back at the hated Liberals.

PAGE 209

Social Change and the Challenge to Traditional Authority | 191 7The Liberal Republic and Its CriticsWaiting for LaureanoLaureano G—mez maintained a significant political presence in Colombia during his nearly four-year European sojourn. Suggestive of that was the newspaper piece titled "How I Interviewed Dr. Laureano G—mez Yesterday," written by columnist Mario Ibero [Fidel Torres Gonz‡lez] in June 1930.1 The article appeared in connection with services commemorating antigovernment demonstrations of June 1929, when students protested corruption in the Abad’a MŽndez government, losing one of their number to a ricocheting police bullet. Not long afterward Laureano G—mez set forth his analysis of those events in a letter to friend and supporter Hernando Uribe Cualla. G—mez fulminated against Abad’a's government"the sickening normality that the nation endures"going so far as to suggest direct popular action to topple Abad’a. Colombian politics had changed dramatically between the bloody student demonstrations and publication of Mario Ibero's "interview" with Laureano G—mez. On February 4, 1930, Enrique Olaya Herrera won the presidency, ending the near half-century of Conservative dominance of politics. G—mez followed those events closely from his European vantage point. As a Conservative he was shocked and dismayed by his party's defeat at the polls, but felt vindicated by repudiation of a Conservative Party machine that he himself had attacked as vigorously as had any Liberal. Far from Colombia when the Conservative fall occurred, he bore no direct responsibility for it. That left him positioned to assume party leadership when he returned home. Colombia was in Laureano G—mez's thoughts during his years abroad, but while he was away, Europe dominated his thinking. The European sojourn constituted for G—mez a never to be repeated time of "quietude and study," not a second of which could be squandered. On departing Bogot‡ in September 1928, he and his family made straight for Paris, arriving there in mid-October. Once settled in a furnished apartment in the Etoile district, G—mez flung himself at the city's cultural attractions. He attended lectures at the Sorbonne, visited museums, libraries, and bookstores, and sought out those whose writings had influenced his own thought and actions. In G—mez's words, he reached Europe "avid for powerful ideological orientation, disconcerted by

PAGE 210

192 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965the contradictions and uncertainties of the contemporary world."2 His friend the Francophile JosŽ de la Vega, found G—mez "obsessed" with the study of European civilization, and of the way culture was replicated in Europe's American territories.3 Alfonso L—pez Pumarejo saw G—mez frequently during his time in Europe. "He continues to study," wrote L—pez in March 1929. A month later G—mez complained, "time flies here with disconcerting rapidity. . Eight months is too little time to savor Paris."4Appalled by the costliness of Paris, by the way Parisians "place amiable and efficient siphons into the pockets of foreigners," he removed himself and his family to extreme southwestern France in June 1929. There, at St. Jean-deLuz, a resort area on the Bay of Biscay, it was possible to live more cheaply.5Just a few kilometers north of the border with Spain, St. Jean-de-Luz was a tranquil spot for study and meditation, and afforded not-too-difficult access to Madrid and to other places of interest in Spain. St. Jean-de-Luz was also home-in-exile for Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno (18641936). G—mez frequently met Unamuno on the beach, where they spoke of Primo de Rivera, who had exiled the philosopher six years earlier. As they conversed Unamuno entertained the G—mez children by making toy castles for them from scrap pieces of paper.6Toward the end of 1929, Laureano G—mez again moved his family, this time north to Brussels, where he enrolled his four children in a private school that offered instruction in both Spanish and French. There was a small group of Colombian expatriates there, one of whom, JosŽ Mar’a de Guzm‡n, helped him locate an apartment. Brussels served as the point of departure for the major phase of G—mez's travels, a six-month tour of Italy and Switzerland. During November 1929, not long before his departure for Italy, G—mez attempted to intervene in Colombian politics by convincing JosŽ Vicente Concha to offer himself as a compromise Conservative Party candidate for the upcoming presidential contest. The effort was abortive. Concha, at the time Colombia's ambassador to the Vatican, was gravely ill; he died December 9, 1929, two months before the election. Laureano G—mez undertook the Italian-Swiss phase of his tour with vigor. He was especially taken with Venice, whose people he admired for their ability to wed commercial acumen with brilliant artistic and architectural achievement. Mar’a Hurtado, described by her children as "not an agile person," recalled Venice chiefly as a place of personal suffering. She loathed the omnipresent gondolas, which she felt were always on the verge of tumbling her into one of the city's canals.7 The couple remained long enough in the Swiss capital for Laureano G—mez to consider publishing a volume titled Babiecas en Ginebra (Dolts in Geneva). The travelogue was never written and no one knows whether the "dolts" were G—mez and his wife, other tourists, or the people of Geneva.

PAGE 211

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 193During his time in Italy, G—mez studied the dictatorial regime that Benito Mussolini had recently established. Just months before he and his wife arrived national elections gave the Fascist Party a huge congressional majority. By early 1930, Mussolini's representatives were completing a series of agreements by which the Vatican would relinquish its claims to the old papal states, in exchange for nearly a billion lira in compensation as well as sovereignty over Vatican City. As an ardent defender of clerical prerogatives, Laureano G—mez was displeased with the Lateran Treaties of February 1930. He scorned both Pius XI, who signed them"the Pope traded the sovereignty of Rome for a bit of cash," he later saidand Benito Mussolini, who in G—mez's view was a comic-opera dictator. In May 1930, G—mez and his wife returned to Brussels, collected their children, and repaired to St. Jean-de-Luz, where they recuperated from their travels and studied the political news from home. Colombian newspapers overflowing with election day photographs of exultant Liberals and anguished Conservatives awaited them there. Like all other Conservatives, Laureano G—mez was disoriented by the impending change in government. He resolved to say nothing until his return to Bogot‡ in September, when the national political scene would be much clearer.8G—mez was spared the necessity of reentering active party politics when word reached him in August 1930 that President-elect Olaya wanted him to accept the post of minister to Germany. G—mez accepted with alacrity. The valises he was readying for shipment home were redirected to Berlin. Olaya and G—mez thus effected a brilliant marriage of convenience that postponed the inevitable clash between them. By bringing G—mez into his government, Olaya insured the silence of his old antagonist while keeping him safely distant. Convincing G—mez to accept the German ministry also brought a tidy savings in transportation costs for the depression-straitened budget of his foreign affairs ministry. The diplomatic posting bought Laureano G—mez time to evolve a strategy for returning the Conservative Party to power under his leadership. Important too, the government posting replenished his personal coffers, sadly depleted by two years' travel on the Continent. Finally, acceptance of the German ministry sent him not merely to a portion of Europe he had not previously visited, but to the continent's most exciting capital. On September 11, 1930, outgoing minister Pablo Emilio Gurado cabled Bogot‡ that the German government expressed pleasure in accepting Laureano G—mez as incoming minister. The following day G—mez cabled Bogot‡ for instructions.9German civilization had reached its most impressive flowering at the moment Laureano G—mez and his family traveled to Berlin in late 1930. Its people were the world's best educated, and its schools and universities the world's finest. Whether the field was architecture, painting, music, drama, or film,

PAGE 212

194 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965Germany set the standard that others strove to emulate. Just a year earlier, in 1929, the Berlin Music Festival had featured performances by Richard Strauss, Bruno Walter, George Szell, Arturo Toscanini, and Pablo Casals. A year earlier Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weil's The Threepenny Opera was performed throughout Germany and across Europe over 4,000 times, establishing a world record. The Bauhaus attracted visiting artists Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, and composers BŽla Bart—k, Paul Hindemith, and Igor Stravinsky. RisquŽ films like Joseph von Sternberg's The Blue Angel could be viewed in Berlin but not in Paris, where it was banned, while drama and stage shows touched on themes that were taboo in other European capitals. Germany of the late Weimar period was, in short, the ideal place for Laureano G—mez to complete his European tour. In spite of its high standing in the arts, Germany was politically troubled in 1930. A month before G—mez arrived, Adolf Hitler's National Socialist Party emerged as a force in national politics, winning 107 seats in the Reichstag. It was Germany's second most popular party after the Socialists, who won 143 seats. The election moved the Nazis ahead of the Communists, who won but 77 seats. Centrist parties lost heavily in the September 14 elections, since global economic decline heightened both popular tension and political extremism. Battles between the political left and right were at their height during the twenty months that G—mez served in Germany. On more than one occasion members of the Colombian mission watched through windows of the ministry building as Nazi and Communist Party members brawled in the streets below.10 Twelve-year-old Alvaro G—mez recalled taking refuge in a Berlin subway along with a playmate when one such altercation erupted around them. On another occasion his father took him to the Sports Palace in Berlin to hear one of Hitler's speeches. Neither the elder nor the younger G—mez understood what the Nazi leader said, though both were impressed by his gestures, by the way he pounded the lectern as he spoke, and by the frenzied delight with which the vast audience received his words. The younger G—mez recalled the event in nightmarish terms. His father expressed amazement that so civilized a people as the Germans could be so moved by Hitler's demagoguery.11Laureano G—mez became indirectly caught up in the political tragedy unfolding there. Seven years earlier, when serving as Colombia's public works minister, he had authorized a 4.5 million peso contract with the Julius Berger Consortium, a German engineering firm employed to conduct an exhaustive study of the R’o Magdalena and afterward to channelize key stretches of it. Although the technical portion of the study was completed, no dredging was ever undertaken. Laureano G—mez later charged that the company's supervising engineer overbilled for imported equipment, exhausting moneys set aside

PAGE 213

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 195for the project. While the most serious abuses took place during Abad’a's presidency, G—mez remained sensitive to the charge that it was he who signed the Berger contract.12The Berlin posting allowed Laureano G—mez to personally investigate the Berger matter. Such action fell within the scope of his instructions, which directed him to expedite Colombian-German commercial relations. According to one of G—mez's more vocal critics, Liberal Pedro Juan Navarro, G—mez went so far as to hire spies to burglarize Berger Company files in hopes that proof of wrongdoing could be extracted from them.13 Pursuit of the Berger matter led to at least one exceedingly unpleasant interview between G—mez and Chancellor Paul von Hindenburg.14 One can but speculate on the heated exchange between the dour German octogenarian and the fiery young South American. Since the Julius Berger Consortium was a Jewish company and Laureano G—mez was known to rail against "foreign shylocks" who seemed to him ever ready to exploit those less crafty than themselves, the matter came to the atten tion of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Goebbels contacted G—mez to see whether he could publish an expose of the Berger matter in his newspaper, Der Angriff. The Colombian minister refused, for reasons of diplomatic etiquette and G—mez's reluctance to air Colombian internal matters beyond national boundaries.15Colombia's chancellery in Berlin constituted a safe haven for Laureano G—mez and his family. G—mez paid regular visits to Berlin's Staatliche Museen, where he was fond of meditating on Rembrandt's The Man with the Golden Helmet (ca. 1650). He paid frequent visits to the museums and galleries of Dresden, Leipzig, and Potsdam and even traveled in Poland, where he purchased several paintings.16 Meanwhile politics grew stormier in Germany, where by early 1932 some six million workers were unemployed, and millions more experienced hunger, uncertainty, and fear. In March, as Laureano G—mez prepared his return to Colombia, a presidential election was held that Hindenburg won handily with eighteen million votes. Still Adolf Hitler garnered eleven million, and his surging popularity led Prime Minister Heinrich BrŸning to outlaw the Nazi Storm Troops. Two months later BrŸning's government fell, and the new chancellor, Franz von Papen, lifted sanctions against Hitler's private army. Laureano G—mez and his family did not witness the fall of BrŸning's government. By June 1932 they were on their way back to Colombia. When G—mez resigned his diplomatic post in early 1932, his own party was disoriented and divided. Prior even to Olaya Herrera's inauguration the old Nationalist-Historical enmity flared again. On July 20, 1930, when Congress convened, Nationalist Alfredo V‡squez Cobo and Historical Guillermo

PAGE 214

196 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965Valencia exchanged hot words in the Senate.17 Olaya Herrera contributed to Conservative division when he revived the old Republican Party by enlisting the support of its only successful presidential candidate, Carlos E. Restrepo. Meanwhile the discredited SuaristaAbad’a MŽndez faction strove to maintain its integrity, relying heavily on its newspaper, El Nuevo Tiempo. As that group's sworn enemy, Laureano G—mez fired epistolary salvos at it from Europe. In his letters G—mez indicted Abad’a's group for educating Conservative youth in "seminars of servility and insincerity, and in the minutiae of bureaucratic intrigue." El Nuevo Tiempo, he thundered, "should go to the grave!"18On the Conservative Party's extreme right wing a group of articulate young men, most of them barely out of their twenties, advocated recasting the Conservative Party along Fascist lines. Calling themselves Los Leopardos, they were led by Silvio Villegas, Augusto Ram’rez Moreno, and JosŽ Camacho Carre–o. But Olaya Herrera did gravest damage to Conservative Party unity by making it his policy to collaborate with its members. His government of "National Concentration" tempted Conservatives with ministries and department governorships, and strove to forge a bipartisan governing coalition. To that end he cultivated the dissident Conservative from eastern Antioquia, Rom‡n G—mez (18791954). Rom‡n G—mez's chief source of power and influence lay in a vast patronage network that he had constructed during twenty-five years of political and commercial activity in and around the municipality of Maranilla, a coffee-growing region forty kilometers southeast of Medell’n. His chief claim to fame was his successful effort to have the national government support construction of a railroad linking Maranilla with the department capital. As well as sealing his reputation as Maranilla's greatest native son, the Tranv’a del Oriente served as a bountiful source of employment for the cacique's extensive family and political clientele.19Rom‡n G—mez became a key figure in Colombian politics following elections for departmental assemblies in February 1931. Liberals did well in the elections, but failed to win a majority of them. This was crucially important, since departmental assemblies elected the members of Colombia's Senate. Results of the assembly elections left Olaya Herrera without control of Congress, suggesting that his legislative efforts would be stymied unless he could find at least one Conservative willing to vote with the Liberals whenever asked to do so. In Rom‡n G—mez the president found his man. Every aspect of Rom‡n G—mez's election to the Senate in 1931 was irregular and productive of discord within his party. During March 1931, the Romanista bloc in the Antioquian assembly allied itself with Liberals to defeat the "conciliation" faction, led by Pedro J. Berr’o.20 Lacking the votes to win a Senate seat in his own department, Rom‡n G—mez and the Liberals of Tolima

PAGE 215

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 197arranged to have the paisa dissident head their senatorial slate. Thus Tolimense Liberals sent an anomalous senatorial delegation to Bogot‡ in 1931: it consisted of the Conservative G—mez and two Liberal suplentes (elected substitutes for a principal candidate). The discord in Conservative ranks produced by Olaya Herrera's bipartisan polity reached its height in mid-1931. Thanks to the votes of Rom‡n G—mez and his supporters, Liberal Pedro Juan Navarro was elected president of the Senatethe first of his party to gain the post in forty-five years. This represented a double affront to the Conservatives, whose directorate had earlier tried to come to terms with their erstwhile colleague. But Rom‡n G—mez's position was such that he dismissed their entreaties, saying the "anarchy" within his own party forced him to work with the Liberals.21 Neither could the Conservative directorate, groping to reestablish party discipline, turn to Laureano G—mez. Not only was G—mez a government employee, but he had gone so far as to congratulate Olaya Herrera following the latter's successful conclusion of negotiations with North American petroleum interests.22In August 1931, congressional Conservatives hosted what was to have been a "unity banquet." But the Romanistas refused to attend, as did General Berr’o and Julio Holgu’n, both of whom had recently resigned from the party directorate. During Manuel Serrano Blanco's plea that Conservatives cease calling for revolution and return to traditional party principles, the Leopardo JosŽ Camacho Carre–o stalked from the room. El Tiempo, which normally reveled in the Conservative opponent's distress, showed compassion, calling the gathering "a banquet of pain."23Three months after the banquet Conservative leaders attempted to resuscitate their dispirited forces by holding a national convention and drafting a party platformthe first in fifty years. The convention was a desultory affair marked by recrudescence of the old Historical-Nationalist strife, personified in bickering between the Valencia and V‡squez Cobo factions. Nearly a quarter of Conservative congressmen declined to attend the event, which was framed against the backdrop of virtual civil war in eastern Santander, Liberal victory in the October 4 concejo elections, and the angry accusation by Pedro J. Berr’o that Liberals were trying to "finish off" his party through violence and vote fraud. Berr’o warned that his party would go to war if Liberal abuses did not cease.24The convention's only achievement was its drafting of the Program of 1931, a lifeless document whose most notable quality was its heterogeneity. The "program" began with a reaffirmation of traditional party principles and a pledge that conservatism stood behind both the Constitution of 1886 and the Concordat of 1887. Next it proposed two political reforms of a mildly technocratic and corporative character: the first involved creation of a Ministry of

PAGE 216

198 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965Social Affairs charged with working to harmonize class interests, and the second recommended streamlining the national Congress. Conservative leaders also called for free, compulsory, and confessional public education, for programs aimed at protecting labor, and for laws broadening the state's protection of abandoned women and child workers. By stressing those points, drafters of the 1931 platform reflected sensitivity to Pope Leo XIII's call for social progress within a setting of social order issued forty years earlier in De rerum novarum, recently reformulated in Pius XI's Cuadragesimo anno. Portions of the document dealing with economics smacked of nineteenthcentury liberalism. Its drafters advocated the democratization of agricultural credit, stimulation of exports, and encouragement of skilled European immigrationall designed to promote growth of an agrarian middle class, "an essential element of social equilibrium and a very important factor in economic and moral progress."25 Other sections of the document addressed business interests, especially those of agro-industrialists. It called for protection of infant industries, continued low taxes, maintenance of the gold standard, continued improvement of Colombia's transportation infrastructure, and a shift away from "traditional diplomacy" and toward what was termed "economic diplomacy"clearly a Nationalist plea that Historicals soften their traditional anti-Americanism. The Conservative Program of 1931 ended with a paean to Colombian democracy, and expression of the hope that the political arena might be kept a "neutral playing field" where political battles might be fought out as "true democratic contests in pursuit of high ideals."26Conventioneers ended their meeting by naming a new three-man directorate consisting of Pedro J. Berr’o, Miguel JimŽnez L—pez, and Laureano G—mez. A few days later Berr’o and JimŽnez L—pez cabled G—mez asking him to return home to "help orient" Colombian Conservatism.27By early 1932, Laureano G—mez was prepared to comply with their request. His investigation of the Berger Consortium had reached a definitive if unsatisfactory closure, and an extensive report on his work was in the hands of Ministry of Public Works lawyer Tulio Enrique Tasc—n.28 Now he could devote his energies to party leadership. It was obvious that he must do so soon. In February he received a telegram from Manuel Serrano Blanco, Silvio Villegas, and Augusto Ram’rez Moreno urging him to resign his ministry and to return home immediately. Three months later Conservative members of the Cundinamarca departmental assembly cabled their "illustrious statesman," begging him to resume party leadership.29The increasingly strident demands for G—mez's return were part of a generalized call for resumption of partisan politics by activists on both sides. Following Manuel Serrano Blanco's speech calling for Conservatives to reaffirm

PAGE 217

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 199their traditional doctrinal beliefs, El Tiempo published several editorials enthusiastically endorsing repolitization along ideological lines. The editorial writer, probably Eduardo Santos, complained that Olaya Herrera's "National Concentration" served only to weaken the traditional parties. "The idea of Liberals and Conservatives doing battle over economic and political principles seduces us," he wrote."30Calls for renewed party competition bore the clear stamp of Alfonso L—pez and Laureano G—mez, both of whom over the years had repeatedly affirmed their steadfastness to party ideals. G—mez and L—pez had often spoken of the need to revitalize partisan politics while in Europe. During one lengthy conversation held in Paris, the two had agreed to fight for electoral reform so as to remove violence from Colombian politics. Allowed to debate program and ideology in a violence-free setting, each was convinced his party would triumph. Secure in the knowledge that he was universally perceived as conservatism's best hope, Laureano G—mez set out to clarify his party's ideological position in a series of essays that he began writing before departing Europe. An important aspect of that work involved his fixing of conservatism's stance before Marxism-Leninism, fascism, and national socialism, ideologies then at war with "bourgeois" liberal democracy. G—mez decided to couch his critique of Europe's left and right extremisms in brief biographies of their chief proponents: Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler. To balance the study he included an essay on Mahatma Gandhi. G—mez included Gandhi in his study because the Indian politician was by the 1930s well on his way to achieving through pacific means what Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini had got through force. And Gandhi's success in leading his followers against the superior might of a political adversary was highly suggestive to G—mez following his own party's loss of power. Laureano G—mez was drawn to the Hindu's self-abnegation, antimaterialism and spiritualism, qualities in harmony with conservative belief in divinely ordered hierarchies and individual acceptance of one's assigned place in them. G—mez found the Mahatma to be "great for his deeds, for his perseverance, and for the steely hardness of his will." "Greater yet is he for his faith," G—mez continued, "which is founded in the power of truth and justice."31Standing in stark contrast to Gandhi were Europe's three dictators. Stalin was described as a "Georgian barbarian" whose governing philosophy violated all Western and Christian values. "Cruel, implacable, active, and cunning . no one loves him," G—mez wrote, "Neither does anyone admire or respect him; they simply fear him."32 Adolf Hitler did not fare any better under G—mez's pen. G—mez described the Nazi leader as a vile assassin who furtively "sinks his dagger into defenseless victims." In Hitler's Germany "there's no

PAGE 218

200 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965code . no law . nor sacred principles." As early as 1932, G—mez knew that Hitler would fail: "The morality that condemns Hitler will endure when nothing remains of the dictator but the same bitter memory that all tyrants leave behind. His name will be forever linked to his thousands of victims, whose voices will never cease to damn the hand that wrongly injured them."33G—mez saved his most thoroughgoing indictment for fascism, the doctrine most dangerous to orthodox conservatism because of certain common elements in their respective ideologies. Mussolini's doctrine, he began, had brought Italy spurious economic progress, and the "long and total eclipse" of human liberty there. Far from restoring Italy's glory, fascism had devastated the nation's intellectual life, substituting in its stead "bloodshed, arson, and violent persecutions." Whereas Mussolini claimed uniqueness for his ideology, fascism was nothing more than "a company for promoting despotism," being in that regard no different than any other form of dictatorship. "The methods of tyrants are ever the same," wrote G—mez.34 He ended the essay on Mussolini by warning that Colombian Conservatives must not seek in fascism an antidote to communism: "The moral question is foremost. Power acquired through violence, material victory achieved through bloodshed and institutionalized upon the ruins of human dignity and liberty, cannot yield blessings. The appearance may be lavish, the facade imposing, and the overall impression one of permanence. But universal human experience reveals that [fascism] will last one human lifetimetwo at most. Then will come the inevitable fall. We know, well we know, that it is thus."35Through his essays on Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini, G—mez spelled out what orthodox conservatism was not. It remained for him to explain what conservative beliefs were. That he would do shortly after his return to Colombia. In the meantime there were a few details to be taken care of. First he must pack and return home to occupy his Senate seat. Next he must end the dissidence of Rom‡n G—mez. Only then could he orient and lead Conservatism. Three weeks before tendering his resignation G—mez wrote a friend in Bogot‡, "I'm going to throw myself into the whirlwind without any illusion; I return perfectly inured against disappointment. . ."36Vaca LocaThere was excitement in political Colombia during weeks preceding the return of Laureano G—mez. The question in everyone's mind was "what position would the fiery tribune' take to confront the current political situation?" G—mez declined to grant interviews, so speculation was rife as to his probable course of action. Members of the Liberal-Romanista alliance feigned indifference to it all, saying that "these times are far from the days when it was easy to

PAGE 219

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 201triumph with rhetoric."37 In truth they felt panic as the opening of Congress approached.38 Some, like Carlos E. Restrepo, did not doubt that G—mez would return "to the violences that have been the chief and only source of his notoriety."39 Others were not so sure. G—mez watcher Luis Eduardo Nieto Caballero (Lenc) wrote of hearing that the "magnificent tribune" had changed, that he had become "judicious, well-traveled, and tolerant." Still, Lenc mused, it was possible that G—mez would suffer some personal criticism and lose his selfcontrol: "Then, when we least expect it, we'll see a cloud of dust and in it Laureano G—mez in hot pursuit of someone. . ."40Enrique Santos, who was just beginning his El Tiempo column "Danza de las Horas" (Dance of the Hours), was optimistic: "The era of petty politics, of violence as the only recourse, has passed for Laureano G—mez and for the nation," he wrote on July 4, 1932. G—mez, his wife, four children, and housekeeper Ana Mar’a Camacho reached Bogot‡ by air on the thirteenth of July, just a week prior to the opening of Congress. Following the party by land were some three dozen trunks, boxes, and suitcasesall the possessions acquired during their years abroad. G—mez continued to refuse interviews, maintaining that he had "resolved to deflate the eternal tropicalism of personalities who arrive making grandiose statements that appear absurd outside Colombia."41 Meanwhile rumors flew that he intended to purge Rom‡n G—mez and others from the Conservative Party. On July 19, the day before Congress convened, the Laureanista newspaper La Unidad of Medell’n published a list of eleven paisas who had been singled out for "treason" to the party. Heading the list was Rom‡n G—mez, "the most hated of the traitors." No sooner was Laureano G—mez sworn in as Conservative senator from Cundinamarca than he called for a closed session in which he accused Rom‡n G—mez of betraying his party, going on to impugn the Senate at large for crimes against the state.42 Later, in open session, Rom‡n G—mez defended his actions and leveled charges against his antagonist. Over the following month Congress was deadlocked and the nation held spellbound by the drama unfolding in its midst. While the debates"G—mez vs. G—mez," as Nieto Caballero termed themwent on for nearly six weeks, they reached their climax during the sessions of August 8 and 9. Laureano G—mez began his speech on the eighth brilliantly evoking Toribio Benavente's famous play Los intereses creados (Special interests). "Here is the stage of the old farce!" said the orator, going on to recall Benavente's Crisp’n, a clownish servant who earned eventual personal salvation by helping his master fulfill his dreams. But, continued G—mez, here we have a modern-day Crisp’n who is not the subject of an interesting morality tale, but rather stands as the personification of naked self-interest. On the ninth, Laureano G—mez intensified the attack on Rom‡n G—mez in

PAGE 220

202 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965a two-hour peroration remembered as one of the most devastating in Colombian parliamentary history. He concentrated on Rom‡n G—mez's business dealings, especially those having to do with the Tranv’a del Oriente, called by G—mez "the most extraordinary case of a public company in the history of the nation."43 At one point he paused to read a long list containing the names of relatives of Rom‡n G—mez holding well-paid positions on the railroad, following which someone in the packed spectators' gallery shouted, "Long live the family of Rom‡n G—mez!" As the long speech progressed, spectators warmed to the speaker, "applauding frenetically" whenever G—mez made an especially telling point. When the charge was made that Rom‡n G—mez had built and operated an illegal distillery in Marinilla, the cacique screamed, "You miserable liar!" That touched off a frenzied ovation among spectators, who waved white handkerchiefs, shouted, whistled and jeered to such an extent that women seated in a special section reserved for them were "overcome with the anguish of uncertainty." Meanwhile senators rushed to surround both Rom‡n and Laureano G—mez, fearing a physical confrontation between them. A furious presiding officer shouted at guards to clear the galleries, evoking "a truly infernal cheer" from spectators that quickly turned into the chant, "Rom‡n no! Out with him, out with him!" At length calm was restored and Laureano G—mez continued, interrupted periodically by applause described alternately as "delirious" and "prolonged." Near the end of his speech Laureano G—mez delivered what stands as his most withering denunciation of another public figure: And you, Crisp’n, evil manhim of the old farce, violator of the Constitution and the laws. You, Crisp’n, peddler of influence in support of your own ambitions and those of your relatives, supporters, and servants! You, Crisp’n, lying trafficker of vile properties, stolen from their afflicted true ownerswho today groan in prison cells! You, violator of privileged correspondence to the end of turning that information to your private and political advantage! You, Crisp’n, who dissimulates clumsily in public offices, as you gather up subsidies from a complacent administration and use them to feed your immense gaggle of uncles, nephews, and other relatives! You, Crisp’n, who violates the sacrosanct silence of the tombwhich must not be violatedto make slime of the ashes which you then try to fling against me, thinking mistakenly that you will slow me in my path toward truth! You, prosaic slanderer, who cannot back your audacious charges with any but anonymous sources! You, upon whose shoulders weigh through all eternity the horrible tragedy of a life destroyed by your criminal greed, whose ears must forever hear incessant reproaches for a crime that victimized an innocent home! You, Crisp’n, who stain the Senate by your presence, who darken our sur-

PAGE 221

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 203roundings with the shadow of your crimes, you have turned the Republic into an abject thing that we cannot venerate. You lower the Republic and make it vile by your unworthy presence here; it can never again be great as long as you are seated here.44Taken together the seven debates between Laureano G—mez and the Conservative cacique from Marinilla were a resounding triumph for the former and an abject defeat for the latter. After August 1932 the hold of Laureano G—mez on his party was secure, not to be seriously threatened for another twenty years. Rom‡n G—mez soon slipped into the political obscurity from whence he had emerged. And as for the "Y tœ, Crisp’n!" of Laureano G—mez, it quickly supplanted JosŽ Asuncion Silva's "Nocturno" as the preeminent piece for declamation in tertulias around Bogot‡ and the nation. Luis Eduardo Nieto Caballero penned a splendid description of the Conservative politician as he appeared in the public forum: "G—mez, as orator, is a marvelous spectacle. He gives one the sensation that he is the King of Beasts. . He does not know pity. He is never satiated. He rends and tears, then licks his lips, enjoying the contortions of his victim. His competitor shrinks to the size of a rat as he [G—mez] speaks. Then the paw falls and he is disemboweled. All the while his voice is a trumpet, a bell, a Tequendama that spills verbal beauty from his lips. . He is a formidable actor who, as such, merits only applause."45As usual Nieto Caballero was squarely on target in fixing upon the entertainment value of Colombian politics. Most Colombians loved the public spectacles that lightened their otherwise humdrum lives. The waving of handkerchiefs in Senate galleries was the gesture of enthusiasm normally seen at sporting events, and the chants of "Out with him!" when Rom‡n G—mez lost his composure were not unlike the "OlŽs!" bestowed on a matador preparing to deliver the killing thrust. Lenc wondered whether the Senate duel had been in some way damaging to Colombia's body politic. While that well may have been the case, it was useless to pose the question. There was no alternative to such displays of political showmanship. Colombia remained a highly politicized place in 1932, and citizens knew that the relative success or lack thereof among their party leaders impinged upon them in direct and often immediate ways. In addition, the still great distance between the public and private realms in Colombia made celebrities of politicians and turned national politics into a subject of national interest. In the more than two years following his discrediting of the Man from Marinilla, Laureano G—mez continued to strengthen his hold over the Conservative Party. So catholic was he in lashing out against political enemies and anyone else not perfectly in accord with his view of what the party stood for and how it should proceed, that all Colombians had to come to terms with him

PAGE 222

204 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965in one way or another. Ideological Historical Conservatives assumed a worshipful attitude, lauding his defense of principle and his unwillingness to concede a single point to the proponents of competing ideologies. The Leopardo Silvio Villegas acknowledged that Laureano G—mez "owed all his prestige within the Conservative Party to the extraordinary task fulfilled in the Senate, as leader of the opposition, between 1932 and 1935."46 Rank-and-file party members in provincial Colombia were inspired by his charisma and his outspoken defense of their interests in the face of political violence. In the eyes of many, the eloquent polemicist was the only person who spoke for them. Their near reverence for him intensified after January 31, 1935, when G—mez was felled by a cerebral hemorrhage. From the 1930s well into the 1960s, it was common to find photos and busts of Laureano G—mez standing next to figures of Christ and the Virgin in the family shrines throughout rural Colombia. Moderate Conservatives were less enthusiastic about Laureano G—mez and his leadership style. Since the late nineteenth century many of them gave economic development and political transaction precedence over partisanship. Often termed "Nationalist" Conservatives, after the short-lived party of that name founded by Rafael Nœ–ez and Miguel Antonio Caro, they counted many Antioquian entrepreneurs among their number as well as cosmopolitan types such as Roberto Urdaneta Arbel‡ez. Urdaneta, a personal friend of Laureano G—mez, was the only Conservative of stature who dared serve in President Olaya's cabinet after mid-1932. It was Urdaneta who in the fashion of Conservative moderates rebuked G—mez for his extreme partisanship, in the process giving the volatile politician one of his more humorous nicknames. The occasion was the Senate debate of October 17, 1932, just two months after G—mez's demolition of Rom‡n G—mez and one month after Peruvian troops had seized the Amazon River town of Leticia. G—mez was haranguing Olaya Herrera for failing to properly garrison Leticia, an accusation that while undoubtedly true could have been leveled equally at every Colombian president back to and including Sim—n Bol’var. At one point during his defense of the government, Foreign Minister Urdaneta likened Laureano G—mez to a kind of rocket popular at backcountry fireworks displays. The object in question was the vaca loca (crazy cow), which, in Urdaneta's words, "runs everywhere, attacking all it encounters. It explodes against women, against children, against posts and walls. It doesn't respect anything, and nothing stops it; it has no set trajectory. Sometimes it poses a slight danger . though when all is said and done, it's harmless." Casting a penetrating glance at Laureano G—mez, Urdaneta concluded that in time of war Colombia could ill afford the antics of its "vaca loca."47Over the months following G—mez's return from Europe, Liberal attitudes toward him changed dramatically. In July 1932 assessments were friendly,

PAGE 223

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 205though after September they became increasingly hostile. As G—mez's attack on Olaya gained momentum the Liberal attitude became one of loathing. Columnist Enrique Santos took to calling G—mez "our Hitler," while El Tiempo writer Antol’n D’az preferred "El Monstruo" (the Monster). In early 1933, Nieto Caballero blasted G—mez as a traitor, and on February 11, 1933, El Tiempo 's editorial writer made one of the first references to G—mez as a "fascist." For his part Laureano G—mez showed no quarter in attacking Olaya and everything the president stood for. The ferocity of those verbal assaults sug gests the ingrown, intimate character of Colombian politics. Laureano G—mez had always been physically intimidated by Olaya, who was tall and fair. As a child of ten G—mez had looked on as nineteen-year-old Olaya and his Liberal schoolmates brawled with Conservative students of San BartolomŽ. In 1911, when Olaya served as Carlos E. Restrepo's youthful foreign minister, G—mez fumed impotently that his foe was an uncultivated person given to delivering poorly conceived speeches "copied from IregŸi and other rank authors. . ." Olaya was a friend of the United States, a nation that G—mez detested, and was instrumental in reestablishing good relations with the United States in 1921. G—mez debated Olaya in the C‡mara several times during December 1929, at one point sarcastically referring to Olaya as "the foremost orator in the nation, [whom] from this time forward I'll make every effort to try to imitate."48 Only this long history of personal and political competition with its mix of psychological and partisan factors can explain the depth of G—mez's aversion to Olaya, the mild-mannered Liberal moderate to whom so much had come with seemingly so little personal effort. G—mez's verbal attacks on Olaya became more strident as the Liberal Party consolidated its hold on power through successive violence-marred elections. By the time Olaya ended his term G—mez openly blamed him for the bloodshed. Olaya's regime was one "running with blood, sunk in the blood of Colombians," he said in July 1934, calling murder "the most effective [Liberal] ploy and the burning of its adversaries' property a habitual phenomenon."49Enrique Olaya Herrera was of course not responsible for the violence, which he had condemned from its onset. But neither had he tried hard to stop it through use of the army or police. Indeed Olaya's position relative to the bloodshed was clearly an impossible one. He had intentionally not intervened in the provinces so as not to jeopardize his tenuous Concentraci—n Nacional. He lamented the violence, but denied responsibility for it, attributing it rather to "historical processes."50As the Liberals won majorities in local, departmental, and national governing bodies, some Conservative Party leaders began to talk of electoral abstention. They argued that their followers should be kept away from the polls until

PAGE 224

206 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965guaranteed protection from election-day violence. Calls for abstention became more intense after the Liberals won majorities in the Chamber of Representatives on May 14, 1933. Still some members of the Conservative directorate objected to abstention on the grounds that soon Alfonso L—pez would be president and that G—mez and L—pez had talked extensively of reforming the electoral process so as to eliminate fraud and violence. Anti-abstention Conservatives were led by Guillermo Valencia and Augusto Ram’rez Moreno. Valencia, senior member of the Historical faction, viewed Alfonso L—pez as a moderate Liberal whose anticipated constitutional reform would not threaten Conservative interests provided that Conservatives could oppose it in Congress. Valencia himself professed to be in favor of moderate reform, especially in the area of landownership. His fear was that Conservative abstention would play into the hands of "leftists" who might force L—pez to endorse truly radical measures.51Laureano G—mez led the group favoring abstention because since his return from Europe he had worked against Liberal-Conservative collaboration and for the revival of traditional partisanship. Even before his resignation from Olaya's government in early 1932, Colombia had been rife with rumor that G—mez and L—pez would cooperate to their mutual benefit once the latter became president. Such reasoning was especially popular among those who believed G—mez to be unscrupulous and narrowly self-interested. Thus, if for no other reason than to put these suspicions to rest, Laureano G—mez had no recourse but to pursue a policy of noncooperation with the L—pez government. Anything less would make it impossible for him to maintain party discipline. G—mez forced his abstention policy on the party in dramatic fashion. On June 9, 1933, he announced his retirement from active politics. For the next several weeks he ostentatiously puttered around the yard of his newly constructed home, Torcoroma, in Fontib—n, and spoke of returning to his old profession of engineer. The ploy worked exactly as G—mez knew it would. Conservatives of all descriptions rushed to support him. A party plebiscite was held which revealed an overwhelming desire among party members that G—mez return as their supreme leader. Delegates of young Conservatives trekked to Fontib—n during July begging him to rejoin the directorate. G—mez refused, saying in a "Manifesto to His Political Friends" that he could not collaborate with Guillermo Valencia, a man who had helped draft the Rio Protocol, which sanctioned Peru's "act of piracy" against Colombia, and who, furthermore, had never spoken up on behalf of "the thousands of Conservative victims of Liberal violence."52 Guillermo Valencia understood the message G—mez was sending him. On July 29, 1933, he announced his retirement from politics. Not long afterward he resigned his Senate seat and returned to his family estate outside Popay‡n.

PAGE 225

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 207The Liberal press responded to those events by cartooning G—mez as a Colombian Hitler, complete with swastika armband, imposing dictatorial hold on his party. The questionable appropriateness of the Hitler imagery aside, Laureano G—mez was still not in fact in complete control of his party. Nor was he certain how the emerging policy of noncooperation should proceed. Municipal elections of October 1, 1933, helped bring the issue into sharper focus. Most Colombian Conservatives did not vote in the elections, which allowed the Liberals to win control of a majority of the nation's municipal concejos. That solidified their hold on all levels of Colombian government. The new electoral defeat helped convince most members of the party directorate that it would do no good to vote in the upcoming presidential election. Only Augusto Ram’rez Moreno remained opposed to political abstention. Over the following months Conservatives would pursue the dual policy of refusing to participate in the upcoming election while doing nothing to oppose the candidacy of Alfonso L—pez. During the consolidation of its abstention policy the Conservative Party directorate sent mixed signals to the nation. On October 15 it held out the possibility of eventual collaboration with L—pez's government "should that become necessary." Four days later Laureano G—mez stated that L—pez would be an "illegitimate" president if elected without Conservative participation. Four days after that G—mez suggested that Conservatives would employ a Gandhian sort of passive resistance to the new regime which would include a refusal to pay taxes, thereby making it impossible for L—pez to govern.53 At last, on November 14, 1933, the National Conservative Directorate (Directorio Nacional Conservador, DNC) formalized its abstention program, informing that members would neither vote in future elections nor accept posts in the L—pez government.54There was ample reason to question whether G—mez and other Conservative leaders would stand firm in their resolve not to cooperate with the incoming government. Two weeks before his inauguration, L—pez publicly reaffirmed his "profound and deep friendship" for G—mez, and four days before entering office he renewed an earlier offer of cabinet posts to ranking Conservatives.55 Inauguration day was a love feast in which G—mez, serving as the Senate's presiding officer, administered the oath of office to a man whose friendship had been "a special honor in [his] life." Yet those who studied the speeches of G—mez and L—pez noted that each man balanced affirmations of personal friendship with frank acknowledgment of their ideological differences. "Sir, you adhere to doctrines that the Conservative mind cannot share with you; you endorse philosophic and political systems that neither excite nor seduce us," said G—mez. L—pez responded that while he eschewed "revolutionary adventurism," he intended to preside over a

PAGE 226

208 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965mass movement that would "jolt the Republic's ideological structure."56 In this fashion the two friends proclaimed their intention to do political battle on their own terms. Laureano G—mez had been preparing Conservatives for ideological battle from the moment he returned from Europe two years earlier. One of his first major doctrinal speeches was the one he delivered at a party convention held at Ch’a, Cundinamarca, in September 1932. In that talk he stressed the Roman Catholic underpinnings of Colombian Conservatism, describing Catholicism as "an ideological and sentimental treasure that constitutes mankind's purest religious belief."57 All of G—mez's doctrinal statements contained the message that true Conservatives were confessing Roman Catholics guided by natural and divine law. This was the truth Spanish Jesuits had delivered to him at Colegio San BartolomŽ thirty-five years earlier. All other ideologies not in conformity with Conservative doctrine were wrong and therefore dangerous to one degree or another. Meanwhile persons for whom ideology was not importantEnrique Olaya Herrera, for examplemerited not the respect owed a worthy adversary, but, rather, contempt. This attitude helps explain both the dismissive tone of G—mez's anti-Olaya remarks, and the difficulty Olaya had in understanding the scorn G—mez heaped on him. G—mez explained Olaya's supposed indifference to natural law as functions both of his liberal relativism and to his long residence in Anglo-America: "Olaya . isn't a man of deep convictions, or of deep and coherent philosophic thought. . His long residence in the United States has been his misfortune, and that of the Nation. Should he have lived elsewhere, he would have been convinced that there are upon the face of the earth values distinct to those peculiar to North America, values that one can love and respect."58Liberals were frequently caught off guard by the philosophical G—mez, as in late 1934, when the Conservative leader rose to engage Minister of Education Luis L—pez de Mesa in erudite debate on the issue of educational reform. The elevated tone of the exchange was all the more surprising since just two weeks earlier G—mez had been at the center of a stormy Senate debate that threatened to deteriorate into physical violence, and which ended with G—mez and his colleagues chanting, "No more outrages!" as they left the chamber en mass.59But when he debated L—pez de Mesa, G—mez adopted a reasoned, scholarly tone in his defense of classical education. G—mez contrasted classical education with what he termed modern "scientifistic" education. The latter might cause a man to become educated, he stated, but it could never make him cultivated. G—mez went on to hold up Germany as a nation suffused with the modern, relativistic "Kantian spirit" which made possible Hitlerian slaughters "that would be exotic in a Latin nation whose juridic structure was founded on Roman law." Luis Eduardo Nieto Caballero was charmed by the erudite ex-

PAGE 227

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 209change, praising Laureano G—mez for his subtle, gallant, and ironic remarks that enhanced, rather than diminished, his prestige.60Lenc's praise of G—mez was premature. On December 3, 1934, Alfonso L—pez called Congress into special session to approve the Rio Protocol, which when signed would normalize Colombian-Peruvian relations. Laureano G—mez was violently opposed to the accord, which had been signed prior to L—pez's accession to the presidency. The debates were as tempestuous as any in which G—mez had been involved, with the Conservative leader haranguing all those who had taken part in negotiations leading to the agreements. At one point the normally pacific Luis Cano attempted to strangle G—mez, who had just called him a traitor. G—mez unmercifully berated Eduardo Santos, who had laid Colombia's case against Peru before the League of Nations in February 1933, charging Santos with rank ineptness. He was almost as hard on his fellow party member, Foreign Minister Roberto Urdaneta Arbel‡ez. In fact Urdaneta bore the brunt of G—mez's ire through a seemingly interminable series of debates described as possessing a "hammerlike" quality.61As January 1935 wore on the strain of his more than two years' party leadership began to tell upon Laureano G—mez. By the latter part of the month G—mez began to ask for rest periods during debates. On January 17 he suffered a fainting spell while at a dinner honoring Conservative congressmen. Nieto Caballero noticed the deterioration in both G—mez's physical condition and his speechmaking. He seemed "fat, flushed, and unkempt, and his gestures those of a madman," said Lenc, going on to describe G—mez's speeches poorly phrased and repetitious, with words like "torpid," "imbecile," "doltish," "docile," and "cretin" tiresomely repeated.62 A near mob attack on G—mez as he left the Senate session of January 26, and the pummeling of his fifteen-yearold son Alvaro by several youths his own age added to the stress of those days.63But on January 28 and 29, Laureano G—mez debated Urdaneta yet again, delivering what many felt to be his best speech of the session. His declining health notwithstanding, it appeared that thanks to G—mez, Congress would remain deadlocked. Laureano G—mez was single-handedly making good his party's vow to obstruct his friend's grandiose plans for reform. As that likelihood became clear, a despairing Alfonso L—pez turned to the single person who he felt could challenge and defeat Laureano G—mez on the floor of the Senate: Enrique Olaya Herrera. Olaya was made foreign minister on January 30, and scheduled to debate G—mez the afternoon of the following day. On the morning of the thirty-first, Laureano G—mez seemed pleased at the prospect of crossing swords with a man at least whose oratorical gifts he respected. "There's no doubt that [Olaya] is a brilliant man and a notable ora-

PAGE 228

210 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965tor," G—mez had said some months earlier, "he has a beautiful voice and his gestures are arrogant; he improvises skillfully and is adroit in his use of oratorical techniques."64 Before leaving home that morning he had discussed the strategy he intended to employ with son Alvaro. Later that morning his old mentor JosŽ Vicente Casas met G—mez leaving the Ministry of Foreign Relations carrying documents and speaking confidently of defeating Olaya on the strength of his superior arguments. Casas noticed that G—mez did not look well and that his face was flushed.65At three that afternoon G—mez arrived for the Senate session complaining that he did not feel well. By 4:30 p.m. G—mez felt decidedly unwell. He beckoned to two of his colleagues for help in leaving the Senate floor. Suddenly the chamber fell silent. Here was a spectacle no one had seen before. As G—mez struggled to stand, helped by Senators Francisco Angulo and Ricardo Tirado Mac’as, he slumped forward on his desk. The Senate session was quickly adjourned and spectators were cleared from the hushed galleries. As the chamber emptied one Conservative senator was heard whispering to another, "There goes the brigantine. Man the lifeboats!"66For the next two hours Laureano G—mez lay unconscious on a stretcher in the Capitol as physicians attended him and preparations were made to transport him to a nearby clinic. Meanwhile there was excitement outside. Word had spread quickly through the streets of Bogot‡ that Laureano G—mez had collapsed, and people ran toward the Plaza de Bol’var. Many of them had been listening to Senate debates over Conservative-owned HJN Radio, the "Voice of Colombia," when they heard the announcer say that G—mez had collapsed after drinking a glass of water. The inference was clearly that he had been poisoned.67Thousands of onlookers crowded the Plaza de Bol’var at 7 p.m. when Laureano G—mez was taken away. He would recover, but not for a full year. During that time Alfonso L—pez and his government would craft the most thoroughgoing set of political reforms Colombia had seen in fifty years. As for the Rio Protocol, it was approved by the unanimous vote of a uniformly Liberal Senate on August 20, 1935.The Revolution of the 1930sThe first administration of Alfonso L—pez Pumarejo (19341938) was by any measure the most successful in twentieth-century Colombian history. L—pez's Revolution on the March was avowedly reformist, aimed at speeding national modernization through the vigorous action of an interventionist state. An admirer of Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom he knew personally,68 Alfonso L—pez presided over a regime that had much in common with the U.S. chief

PAGE 229

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 211executive's New Deal. Both reform programs employed Keynesian economic principles; both were expedited by bright younger politicians committed to the vision of their extraordinary chiefs; both the Colombian and the American programs were crowned by rationalization of an agrarian sector fallen into crisis through excessive adherence to laissez-faire economic principles. Perhaps the greatest difference in the Colombian and the North American efforts was that Franklin Roosevelt saw major portions of the New Deal struck down almost immediately after implementation, while Alfonso L—pez suffered no such reversal of his legislation during his term in office. Three factors explain the success of L—pez's reforms. First and most important was the absence of formal Conservative opposition thanks to that party's boycott of the legislative process during the entirety of L—pez's first term. Second was the happy coincidence that L—pez entered office just as Colombia put the Depression behind it and entered a period of economic growth destined to extend far beyond his administration. Third was L—pez's personal charisma and the inherent dynamism of his program. Unlike the several men who preceded him in office, Alfonso L—pez was an exciting figure who promised to make things happen quickly. "My government wants to stimulate all public and private activity benefiting the general public," he said in his inaugural message of August 7, 1934. In that same speech he addressed the social question, alluding to what he termed "the monstrous injustices" weighing upon Colombian society, many of them supported by laws favoring oligarchic interests. "Equality before the law certainly is not a juridic or moral innovation on my part," said L—pez, adding, "I am certain that concept will produce surprising results when practiced honorably."69 Colombians heard his words and were convinced by them. Once in office L—pez acted quickly to address Colombia's most pressing social problem, an agrarian movement of major proportions centered in the coffee-producing mountains south and southwest of the nation's capital. For two years the president cajoled, lectured, and berated the political establishment, at length wringing from it his celebrated agrarian reform embodied in Law 200 of 1936. The reform was encapsulated in the president's phrase "the campesino seeks stability, not revolution; he wants his own farm. . ."70 It thus set in motion a process through which greater equity in landownership was introduced to the coffee heartland. Consequently the uncertainty about existing landownership and titles was laid to rest and the last of the nation's coffee haciendas were broken into small and medium holdings. As the vigorous political response to a demand for greater justice and clarity in the area of land disputes, Law 200 put to rest a serious and potentially disruptive issue. Since the late nineteenth century non-elite Colombians had complained that government and the courts stood idly by, or worse, partici-

PAGE 230

212 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965pated, as the wealthy and well-connected trampled their rights. Such was invariably the case in disputes over landownership as well as those involving the rights of agricultural workers. At length, more than ten years before enactment of Law 200, a series of government actions and court decisions during the administrations of Pedro Nel Ospina and Miguel Abad’a MŽndez set into motion the agrarian revolt that reached its peak the year Alfonso L—pez was elected president. The agrarian movement of 19281936 marked a historic juncture in the life of the nation. It signaled the transition away from widespread popular acceptance of social hierarchies and notions of distributive justice, toward popular acceptance of individualistic and egalitarian values. Along with the labor movement that slightly preceded it, Colombia's agrarian revolt announced to those astute enough to perceive it that a metamorphosis in popular attitudes had been forged by the social change taking place over the preceding quarter century. Luckily for Colombia that moment of transition occurred when the nation possessed a political regime willing and able to accommodate the popular demand for change. Colombia's revolution of the 1930s was twofold. First, and most significant, it was a genuinely popular movement. In its earliest phase the uprising was not led by political elites seeking partisan advantage; nor was it led by counterelites driven by ideological visions of radical social change. It was produced by landless campesinos who perceived that their government was at last receptive to their demand for land reform and who acted decisively on that presumption. Thus the agrarian revolt was democratic and populist in character. Second in importance to its democratic aspect was the unique way political Colombia responded to the agrarian movement. The national government moved quickly and expeditiously, and in a manner satisfactory to the vast majority of those affected. Such response was both unprecedented and unique in the scant history of Colombian popular movements, and it would not be repeated over the remainder of the nation's stormy twentieth century. The revolution of the 1930s was rooted in economic change following the War of the Thousand Days. Those years were marked by rapid growth driven by progress-intoxicated elites whose desire to earn money quickly became generalized throughout the nation. Rafael Reyes (19041909) was the first of several president-entrepreneurs who devoted their energies to modernizing the country. Like his successors Carlos E. Restrepo (19101914) and Pedro Nel Ospina (19221926), Reyes was a businessman whose fortune was produced through the exploitation of Colombia's vast and largely untapped natural resources. As a youth Reyes had joined family members in extracting quinine and rubber from the tropical forests of the Amazon watershed. Restrepo and

PAGE 231

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 213Ospina were Antioquian industrialists who also owed their success to the land. Their enterprises were financed by monies earned through the cultivation and export of coffee. As men whose personal success was owed chiefly to the exploitation of natural resources and agriculture, it was logical that Reyes, Restrepo, and Ospina, and Colombia's other Republican-era presidents, should concentrate their development efforts on the land. Once Rafael Reyes became president he sponsored a number of government initiatives designed to spur agricultural production, especially in the areas of coffee, banana, and sugar cultivation. To raise capital for his projects he leased government-owned emerald mines and sold expanses of the national domain to individuals and land companies. Between the War of the Thousand Days and 1917, he and the two men who followed him in office awarded 400,000 hectares of public land to anyone who promised to bring it into production.71Transfer of public lands to the private sector through the sale of bald’o grants was hardly an innovation of Republican-era Colombia. During the nineteenth century over two million hectares of such lands were sold or granted to individuals, the lion's share of them in hopes of stimulating the formation of a self-sufficient and productive yeomanry. That was the avowed goal of the Liberal governments of the 1860s and 1870s, under whose aegis well over a million hectares of land were distributed. Lamentably only a small number of the grants passed directly into the hands of smallholders. One study, embracing the period 18271931, found that grants smaller than fifty hectares made up but 3.3 percent of public land sales in coffee-producing regions of Antioquia and Caldas.72Sales of public land in nineteenthand twentieth-century Colombia may not have fulfilled the democratic aspirations of philosophic liberals, but they did meet the secondary goal of stimulating economic development. Historian Marco Palacios points to a fivefold increase in the price of choice coffee land between 1865 and 1891, a process of valorization that continued after the civil wars of 1895 and 18991902.73 Once peace was reestablished following the War of the Thousand Days, Colombia's coffee boom began in earnest, with production increasing annually at between 4 and 10 percent amid constantly rising prices for the lucrative export.74Students have differed in their views of the process through which rural Colombia became commercialized during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Geographer Francisco Javier Vergara y Velasco, who witnessed massive privatization of public lands prior to and following the War of the Thousand Days, was appalled by the speculation it produced. He damned the trade in bald’o (unpopulated, publicly owned) lands as "the cancer of the territory."75 Historian Catherine LeGrand has called attention to the "petty

PAGE 232

214 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965speculation [that] ran rampant through colono society," finding in it a chief source of strife throughout all of frontier Colombia.76Not all have seen Colombia's frontier experience in a negative light. While historian Charles Bergquist finds that large and small interests in the coffee zone battled it out within the context of their available options, he finds too that it was the small interests that ultimately emerged victorious. By the middle of the twentieth century, writes Bergquist, "property ownership in the coffee economy was widespread . and increasing numbers of viable family farms existed." Money earned through coffee cultivation "helped confirm in the minds of individuals of all classes the viability of an economic system based on the tenets of capitalism."77Writing in a similar vein, anthropologist Nola Reinhardt reveals that in Colombia's dynamic rural economy of the early twentieth century not only did small farms compete successfully with large commercial operations, but that through careful budgeting of cash salaries even landless day laborers were eventually able to acquire land. Her study, focusing on the mountainous Dagua region of western Valle, traces the career of one Juan Alvarez (1889 1957), who migrated to the area with his family in 1897. With monies he earned as a jornalero, or agricultural day laborer, he first rented land on which he produced a variety of crops for local markets. Eventually, through careful use of his earnings from agricultural sales, he was able to buy several small farms totaling sixty hectares. Thus he entered the ranks of Colombia's middle yeomanry.78 The story of Juan Alvarez paralleled, though on an infinitely lesser scale, that of Jesœs Sarmiento, a somewhat older contemporary who began his career as a peddler of plantains in the Valle del Cauca. Sarmiento was so shrewd a merchant that he went on to become one of the wealthiest men in western Colombia. At the time of his death the phrase "he has nearly as much money as don Jesœs Sarmiento" was commonly used in the Valle del Cauca.79Thanks to its coffee-driven prosperity, and to widespread landownership in coffee country, Colombia's rural population in zones of commercial agriculture quickly acquired a capitalist mentality. In that sense the Andean nation occupied a unique place in early-twentieth-century Latin America, a region most of whose rural-dwelling peoples were landless peasants. But Colombians Jesœs Sarmiento and Juan Alvarez were neither men of a peasant mentality nor did they live as peasants. They were commercial farmers who while frequently illiterate did not need to be taught the lesson contained in a popular school text of the day: "Profit is just and legitimate for him who owns capital."80 Hundreds of thousands of campesinos like Sarmiento and Alvarez already knew much of commerce and moneymaking, having transcended the peasant status of their fathers and grandfathers. Thanks to the rapid commercialization of rural central Colombia they had come to exercise absolute ownership of land

PAGE 233

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 215they exploited commercially. They possessed geographic and social mobility in proportion to the degree of their commercial success, and they presided over nuclear families. They also enjoyed the prospect of almost limitless long-term economic differentiation. None of those were conditions prevailing in true Latin American peasant culture. There extended households, corporative ownership of land, little market rationality, and little social or geographic mobility were the norm. By the early twentieth century most Colombians of the coffee frontier had ceased being peasants and were men and women of modern mentality, which explains their quick and sometimes violent response to abuses of the sort true peasants traditionally endured stolidly. As the twentieth century progressed, ambitious settlers throughout Colombia registered increasingly strident complaints against the aggressions they suffered from those more powerful than they. A fairly typical example is contained in a petition to Colombia's minister of public works in 1910, demanding that he intercede in a dispute between a colono and one Jorge Walker: "I am a settler living on a piece of land that Sr. Walker wants to grab. I have a little house there which shelters my wife and children, and it would be an injustice to throw us out just to give fourteen more plazas [approximately .3 hectares] of land to someone who already owns hundreds." A similar complaint was submitted some years later by campesinos in western Valle: "We do not think it reasonable that simply because our property shares a common boundary with land claimed by the heirs of el se–or [Pepe] Sierra, they have the right to call themselves owners of public lands that have never belonged to them."81 Yet another petition warned that "if the law will not respect our property rights . we know which roads we must follow: either the path of crime or that of migration."82 All were the expressions of ambitious settlers determined not to be denied access to the land from which all national prosperity flowed. The growing demand for equity on the part of Colombia's emerging yeomanry eventually found echo among that nation's least fortunate campesinos, service tenants ( aparceros ) employed on the coffee estates of southwestern Cundinamarca and eastern Tolima. These agricultural workers lived on holdings acquired by their owners during the boom in bald’o grants between 1870 and the War of the Thousand Days. Forbidden to grow coffee on the small plots they rented or were permitted to occupy, or if permitted to cultivate coffee on their plots, forced to sell it to the hacienda at below market prices, they watched as the coffee trees they tended made absentee landowners rich. Service tenants on the coffee estates stood even lower in the rural hierarchy than the peripatetic jornaleros, who exchanged their labor for cash. Jornaleros in coffee-rich Viot‡ "looked down on the tenants with disdain and sadness," writes a student of that region.83

PAGE 234

216 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965Owners of the coffee estates evolved their labor system during the late nineteenth century, before Colombia began its pell-mell rush toward modernity, propelled by the coffee bonanza. In those early days, when the haciendas of Viot‡ and Sumapaz were established, few landowners could pay their workers in cash. Consequently most of them took the easy though ill-advised route of securing their workforce through sharecropping, rentals, and other forms of tenancy. By the 1920s, thirty years after they had opted for what was an inherently premodern labor system geared to men of peasant mentality, hacienda owners continued to maintain and defend it, though with increasing difficulty. Continued democratization of landholding in the coffee zone drained the pool of available labor and commercialization of the campo introduced a complex of attitudes that eroded traditional attitudes throughout in the coffee zone. Meanwhile Colombia's burgeoning yeomanry closed in on the coffee haciendas. As the 1930s approached, the large holdings of Viot‡ and Sumapaz loomed as institutional dinosaurs, ringed by thousands of small farms run by owner-operators. They had become, in the colorful metaphor of one student, "islands in a sea of small and medium holdings of independent peasants."84Service tenants on the estates of Viot‡ and Sumapaz partook of the coffeedriven prosperity as best they could during the first three decades of the century, producing a variety of foodstuffs on their plots, starting small, usually clandestine businesses, and doing whatever else occurred to them to tap into wealth generated by coffee. Still hacienda owners remained steadfast in denying them direct participation in the coffee boom. This was all the more galling as tenants knew that landowners had illegally established claim to vast stretches of bald’o lands far beyond their ability to cultivate. In one of the most flagrant cases, that of 300,000-hectare Hacienda Sumapaz, the putative owners held clear title to just 9,300 hectares.85 Only a fraction of Hacienda Sumapaz and others like it were given over to coffee production, the vast extent of it lying fallow, unoccupied, and off-limits to settlement. Adding to the discontent on Colombia's coffee estates was the fact that owners continued to treat their employees with a degree of disrespect suggested by their widespread refusal to grant written service contracts, failure to provide for education of the children of tenants, and unconcern that workers on coffee-covered mountainsides had no protection from the elements. The service tenants of Viot‡ and Sumapaz were, in short, aware that the estate owners treated and regarded them as peasants. At length the service tenants of Viot‡ and Sumapaz received the encouragement they needed to challenge the oppressive conditions under which they labored. That encouragement came from none other than their own national government, which during the 1920s began enacting a series of laws aimed at placating the bellicose young labor movement. Even as they jailed labor lead-

PAGE 235

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 217ers and used the army to break strikes, Presidents Sœarez, Ospina, and Abad’a sponsored laws providing for an eight-hour workday, and improving working conditions and health care for workers. In 1924 a National Labor Bureau (Oficina de Trabajo) was authorized, and within two years it had formulated a National Labor Code. Most who witnessed the spate of labor legislation clearly perceived that it was defensive in character, designed to counter what a foreign reporter described as "the growing socialist sentiment in Colombia."86 But few perceived that the laws would provide legal justification for Colombia's agrarian revolt. Colombians were a conservative, legalistic people, and the service tenants and colonos of Viot‡ and Sumapaz were no exception. For decades they had waited and watched for some sign that the government might help them rather than forever siding with the influential men for whom they worked. Suddenly, thanks to the labor legislation described above, their patience was rewarded. No sooner than President Ospina's accident and health legislation became law in 1925, service tenants in Viot‡ and Sumapaz began asking that hacienda owners abide by the new work rules. Most landowners were aghast when unschooled peones began making demands of them, and they wasted little time in rejecting the requests out of hand. Only in the municipios of Quipile and Cachipay, embracing a region north of Viot‡ and west of Bogot‡, did hacienda owners comply with the new labor legislation. In 1925 they signed with their tenants the Pact of Quipile, under whose terms employers agreed to shorten both the workday and work week and to improve the workers' food allotment.87At the same time the Pact of Quipile was being negotiated, service tenants on Hacienda El Chocho, in the municipio of Fusagasug‡, in northern Sumapaz, were demanding similar concessions from their employers. Unfortunately the brothers Carlos and Manuel Caballero, co-owners of El Chocho, ignored them. The matter stood at an impasse for more than a year. Finally the renters traveled to Bogot‡, where they laid their grievances before Minister of Industry JosŽ A. Montalvo. The eleven-point Manifesto of Renters of El Chocho clearly reveals the El Chocho tenants as thoroughly modern in their approach to things economic, and aware of their rights as Colombian citizens. Seven of the articles relate specifically to money, reflecting the renters' understanding of money's power to liberate them from the humiliating and antiquated labor system to which they were subjected. "We demand," they wrote, "the liberty of commerce consecrated in our national constitution. . That rent on land . be collected solely in cash. . That readjustment of rents be conducted only at three-year intervals. . That the hacienda pay a just price for improvements [in the event of eviction]. . That the hacienda suspend the system of fines. . That the

PAGE 236

218 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965hacienda pay the going rate for a workday. . That should the Messrs. Caballero not accept these articles, a plan be drawn up by which the renters can purchase their parcels by way of ordinary bank loans." Other articles asked that hacienda owners provide workers written contracts, shelter from inclement weather, the privilege of taking housing materials, notably lumber, from hacienda lands, and that the eight-hour workday, mandated in national law, be respected.88Carlos and Manuel Caballero reacted predictably to their renters' declaration of independence: they tried to expel them from their propertyfrom land that many of the renters had occupied for decades. But the Caballeros' effort was ultimately futile. The time of large, poorly exploited holdings in central Colombia was ending as both landless campesinos and the state rose up against them. Soon even the Caballero brothers recognized that fact. After resisting the demands of their renters for some eight years, until 1933, they sold El Chocho to the government of Cundinamarca, which subdivided and sold it off at modest prices.89The coincidence of popular demand for change in Colombia's land tenure system and willingness of government to respond was owed to the widespread perception that national progress was being hindered by an antiquated agricultural regime, typified by Hacienda El Chocho. Even before labor legislation set the agrarian revolt in motion, thoughtful members of the political elite criticized a political economy that tolerated the ownership of large, poorly exploited tracts of land. Liberal theoretician Alejandro L—pez was one such enemy of what he termed the "feudal" attitudes of his nation's large landowners. By 1931, L—pez was calling for agrarian reform founded in the concept that property ownership entails certain social obligations, a radically new concept in Colombian jurisprudence, though one having antecedents in both liberal and conservative social thought. Through his writings Alejandro L—pez helped popularize the principles later elaborated in Law 200 of 1936. "The Liberal Party is an agrarian party," he wrote in 1931, going on to propose that fellow Liberals endorse radical land redistribution: "We propose to subdivide the land in Colombia through legal, rational, and scientific means, at the expense of the large landholdings. This will be done through fiscal pressure, and in such manner that no land in Colombia fails to fulfill its social function of feeding and maintaining the population. Every family . desirous of possessing good land for development through individual effort shall enjoy the protection of the state. Such families shall thus be insured independent and lucrative development."90 L—pez was so successful a propagandist, and his ideas so attractive to Colombia's rural majority, that by 1931 campesinos justified their invasions of hacienda and bald’o lands in terms of the social function of property. Alejandro L—pez's plan for agrarian reform was rooted in the traditional

PAGE 237

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 219liberal belief that widespread property ownership in the countryside enhanced stability in democratic societies. "In all civilized nations," he wrote in 1926, "it is the yeoman farmer" who anchors the middle class, which is "the backbone of society, the sinew of stability."91 By the 1920s, many Conservatives accepted that idea as well. In 1929, Minister of Mines JosŽ A. Montalvo called it "imperative" that landownership be widespread, as small, intensively cultivated farms increased land values and thus contributed to the "collective enrichment of society."92 In 1931 delegates to the Conservative Party convention pledged themselves to "the stimulus of small landownership and to the family farm," through the provision of government-insured loans to aspiring landowners.93In spite of the considerable support for land reform at high levels of government and in the population at large, representatives of landed interests did attempt to preserve the old system. In 1933 right-wing Liberals combined with Conservatives to defeat President Olaya Herrera's proposed agrarian reform. Two years later, in March 1936, large landowners formed their antireform lobbying group, the Asociaci—n Patronal Econ—mica Nacional (APEN). But even had APEN been more than the ineffectual organization it was, spiraling rural unrest and the fears it produced among elites would have negated it by driving its erstwhile supporters into the reform camp. Between 1930 and passage of Law 200, rural unrest increased geometrically. By 1933 the ferment had reached such a state in Sumapaz that El Tiempo reported "guerrilla warfare" throughout the region.94 Well-to-do Colombians feared that their country was on the verge of social revolution. Prior to the agrarian revolt of the 1930s, service tenants on the large coffee estates had routinely combined to challenge the political system by evading taxes, refusing to answer legal summonses, and smuggling. But once the agrarian revolt began, their opposition became more forthright, as in the case of Hacienda Tolima, in the municipio of IbaguŽ. In mid-1934 the owners of Hacienda Tolima began legal action to evict one Santos Vergel and his family from a rented parcel that they had occupied for some years. Vergel's fellow tenants joined forces to help him resist the eviction. There ensued an armed confrontation between renters and local police during which two police and thirteen renters died. The Hacienda Tolima killings, and similar episodes taking place during the early 1930s, heightened public sentiment for the renters and strengthened the hand of pro-reform politicians. On August 15, 1934, the day after the tragedy, both Liberal El Espectador and Conservative El Pa’s defended the tenants' actions and castigated the police of Tolima. That same day fiery young Liberal reformer Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n rose in Congress to blast "the moth-eaten laws written to sustain a feudal situation . enforced by oppressive and criminal authorities."95 Within a month of the tragic confrontation newly inaugurated

PAGE 238

220 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965President Alfonso L—pez Pumarejo pointed to inflamed public opinion in refusing to enforce what he termed "antidemocratic laws favoring landowners."96Gait‡n and other left-wing social critics played an important dual role in ensuring success of the agrarian movement. Articulate, charismatic, and usually trained in the law, they offered sorely needed leadership to squatters and service tenants. As members of an avowedly socialist counterelite advocating outright confiscation of large estates, they served the useful additional purpose of driving fearful landowners to support the government's much more moderate reform. Alfonso L—pez pledged that the state would reimburse owners for all private property that his government confiscated and would require that campesinos pay for all such lands received. At the height of the agrarian movement, 19331935, Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n and another left-wing lawyer, Erasmo Valencia, organized political parties dedicated to more radical programs of land reform than the one advocated by Alfonso L—pez. But neither Gait‡n's Revolutionary Leftist National Union (Uni—n Nacional Izquierdista Revolucionaria, UNIR) nor Valencia's National Agrarian Party (Partido Agrarista Nacional, PAN) was long lived. UNIR, founded in 1933, was dissolved by its founder in 1935, following a crushing defeat in congressional elections. PAN was even more ephemeral. Organized in 1935, PAN was abandoned by its founder little more than a year later. Still both collectivities, drawing their support principally from squatters and smallholders in Sumapaz, contributed to the multifaceted agrarian reform movement. One noteworthy organizational success of UNIR and PAN involved Hacienda El Chocho. In August 1933, Gait‡n and Erasmo Valencia encouraged 3,000 party members to invade the hacienda. Two months later the government of Cundinamarca purchased El Chocho and began subdividing it. UNIR members were also active in organizing the tenants of Hacienda Tolima. The Colombian Communist Party (Partido Comunista de Colombia, PCC) also played a useful role in the reform effort. Founded in 1930, following the dissolution in late 1928 of its parent body, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, it operated principally in Viot‡, where it helped organize peasant leagues, sponsored land invasions, and helped league members defy hacienda owners by planting coffee on their rented plots. Alfonso L—pez could not have asked for a more propitious setting for his reform initiative of 193536. The mushrooming rural unrest gave special weight to the call for land reform standing at the center of his address to Congress of July 20, 1935. A week after the address L—pez borrowed a page from Alejandro L—pez's Idearium liberal in asking his party to adopt the following declaration: "The Liberal Party is an agrarian party. It proposes to subdivide the land in Colombia . at the expense of large landholdings. It will

PAGE 239

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 221exercise fiscal pressure to achieve the goal that no lands fail to fulfill their social function. . The Liberal Party considers small landholding to be a necessary and indispensable element of economic freedom." L—pez's mostly urban fellow party members rejected the request that they redefine theirs as an agrarian party. They also refused to endorse L—pez's call that their party go on record as favoring tenants and squatters at the expense of large landowners. Supporting the president's populist call, they knew, would further alienate Liberal members of both the antireform lobby, APEN, and the equally conservative Colombian Society of Agriculturalists (Sociedad de Agricultores Colombianos, SAC). Still, a majority of the Liberal conventioneers favored reform, agreeing with their president that latifundia be broken up and made available to the landless. Through the remainder of 1935 and all 1936, proreform Liberals, led by Dar’o Echand’a, Carlos Lleras Restrepo, and Francisco JosŽ Chaux, combined to push Law 200 through Congress. As the law moved toward final approval new events combined to further ease its passage. Over the course of 1935, left-wing opposition to L—pez's land reform program ceased abruptly. In March, Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n abandoned UNIR following the party's resounding defeat in national elections. He subsequently reintegrated himself into the Liberal Party and shifted the focus of his reform efforts to urban Colombia. Symbolic of Gait‡n's change in orientation was his acceptance of the mayoralty of Bogot‡ fourteen months later. Communist opposition to L—pez and his reform program ceased in November 1935, when party members in Colombia were told by their leaders to join with "progressive bourgeois" elements in the global struggle against fascism. Communist Party members obeyed, becoming supporters of Alfonso L—pez and opponents of all political factions to the right of him.97Erasmo Valencia's Partido Agrarista Nacional suffered a fate similar to that of UNIR, except it was Valencia's party that deserted him rather than vice versa. A year after PAN members sent their leader to the assembly of Cundinamarca, Valencia angered them by opposing departmental parcelization programs. As PAN disintegrated, its members emulated Gait‡n by returning to their old parties. Former members wrote to Valencia expressing their disillusionment: "We are naturally confused, as we don't know whether you are a Liberal, a Conservative, a socialist, or a Unirista. And we certainly don't know whether you're affiliated with what they call today the leftists or the rightists."98Law 200 achieved final passage December 14, 1936. Most importantly, it clarified titles throughout the area of land invasions. Landowners who had experienced land invasions prior to 1935, and who failed to prove legal ownership, were made to return such holdings to the nation, which in turn declared the lands bald’os eligible for colonization. Campesinos who had invaded such

PAGE 240

222 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965lands thus gained the status of colonos eligible to hold title to the land they occupied free of charge. All others, including landowners within the coffee zone and elsewhere in the country, could establish legal ownership by producing written evidence of legal ownership extending back at least thirty years before the passage of Law 200. In that regard Law 200 overturned the Supreme Court decision of 1926 that had required all landowners to produce the original title of ownership to a given piece of land. Law 200 also established special courts for adjudication of disputes over landownership. In legal cases where landowners prevailed over tenants, and then proceeded to evict, owners were required to reimburse their former employees for any improvements made during the time tenants had occupied the land. Should owners be unable to pay squatters for such improvements, tenants had the right to purchase their parcels. Helping them do so was the Caja de CrŽdito Agrario, Industrial, y Minero (Caja Agraria), established in 1931. At the time of passage of Law 200, more than 133,000 Caja Agraria loans had already been made. Over the following seven years, 19361943, an additional 453,618 loans would be approved.99 Whereas the Caja Agraria loans averaged but 450 to 650 pesos each, such sum was sufficient to purchase a finca of from five to six hectares at the prevailing rate of 70 pesos per hectare in areas of government parcelizations. Thus a Caja Agraria loan bought a farm larger on average than the typical coffee finca in Cundinamarca, Tolima, or Caldas. In summary, a government parcelization program complemented Law 200 and sped the process of land redistribution in central Colombia. By 1940 the government and the Banco Agr’cola had purchased 470 large holdings that were subdivided into 20,140 family-sized farms.100The multifaceted government response to agrarian revolt diffused what many viewed as the most serious social problem the nation had faced over the course of its history. Once the archaic coffee haciendas were parcelized and land titles were clarified the agrarian movement collapsed, although neither Law 200 nor the accompanying loan and parcelization programs brought tranquility to rural Colombia. They simply changed the character of rural strife. If anything, agrarian reform heightened strife in rural areas by further individualizing the struggle for land there. Later events would reveal rural Colombia as a place where the competition for land frequently reached Hobbesian dimensions. A few critics on the left and on the right spoke out against Colombia's agrarian reform, either decrying its bias in favor of private property, its requirement that campesinos pay for lands acquired through parcelization, and its failure to expropriate large holdings legally held, or blasting it as a "communistic" assault on the sacred right to private property. But the words of such critics were lost in the din created by campesinos scrambling to establish their

PAGE 241

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 223own homesteads. Erasmo Valencia presents perhaps the saddest case of an agrarian leader left behind by the movement to which he had devoted so much effort. Valencia was one of the first among educated, urban-dwelling Colombians to assist the landless campesinos of Viot‡ and Sumapaz. He began his organizational efforts in 1928, the same year Abad’a MŽndez inadvertently touched off massive land invasions in western Sumapaz with his Decree 1110, encouraging the colonization of certain bald’o lands. Like many of his fellows, Valencia articulated the Marxist philosophy that had been adopted by so many young social critics of his generation. Passionately committed to the cause of the downtrodden renters, service tenants, and colonos, he promoted a strategy of linking the struggle of urban workers with what he perceived to be that of their rural counterparts. Like many of his fellow activists, Valencia did not fully appreciate the consuming goal of the campesinos he led. They wanted to own a piece of farmland and to set it to producing a cash crop that in turn would allow them to raise the living standard of their families. Erasmo Valencia was an idealist who had dedicated his life to the cause of proletariat revolution. Hence he had opposed the subdivision and privatization and the sale of coffee estates as contradictory to collectivist principles and destructive of the movement which he led. Meanwhile his followers were horrified that Valencia seemed intent on throwing away the very thing they had fought for. In 1937 a group of PAN members from Hacienda El Chocho wrote Valencia: "You helped us file petitions for the Messrs. Caballero and the government ministers, telling them that we did not want to be renters any longer, asking that they either sell us the land or pay us for our improvements to it. . Thanks to those petitions the land was placed at our disposal so we could buy it. Then you, as counselor of the rural masses, became an enemy of land purchases, permitting outsiders to come in and buy it . often leaving those of us who had fought most for it without anything, and without any honorable way to oppose the newcomers because they too were campesinos."101The service tenants of Hacienda El Chocho, the squatters of Sumapaz, and the thousands of other land-hungry campesinos who benefited from the agrarian reform completed a process of democratization in landholding that had been under way in central Colombia from the beginning of the coffee boom. "The process of parcelization," writes historian JosŽ Antonio Ocampo, "did nothing more than fix a tendency that was at base much more profound." Well before the passage of Law 200, more than half of all coffee in Colombia was produced on holdings of under ten hectares. Twenty years after the famous law nearly two-thirds of all coffee exports were produced on medium and small holdings of ten or fewer hectares.102Agrarian reform was fated to take place in Colombia, and the members of

PAGE 242

224 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965all social classes knew it. Even large landowners ultimately accepted Law 200 in much the way one takes bitter medicine to cure a potentially life-threatening illness. "These new land laws of L—pez and the Liberals have just cost me six hundred of my best hectares," complained one of them in 1937, over drinks in Bogot‡'s Jockey Club: "I've always had the idea that I could shift those Indians if I wanted to. But now I find that I can't. They tell me that they own the land. That's the new rule, they say. Some of them won't even let me go near it. What can I do? Call in the troops to dispossess them? Not likely. This present L—pez government wouldn't back me up. . Well, there's lots of land in Colombia. When I ride over my land now, I give those Indians a wide berth."103Colombia's agrarian reform was not revolutionary, based as it was on a process that was largely evolutionary and legislative. A groundswell of popular discontent caused political Colombia first to tremble and then to respond. Colombian history offers no finer example of political accommodation than that provided in Law 200 of 1936. The process producing the law was at once conflict ridden and democratic. Colombia's agrarian revolt would stand as one of the first in a continuing series of popular demands for social reform filling the remainder of Colombia's twentieth century. However, unluckily for the nation and her people, events would not soon conspire to smooth the course of change as they had during the first administration of Alfonso L—pez Pumarejo.Anatomy of a TrickIn spite of the social transformations that were beginning to take place there, Colombia remained an undeveloped and socially undifferentiated rural nation in the early 1930s. More than a century after independence it continued to confront the paradox of weak national control of outlying regions and political centralization that drew most tax revenues to Bogot‡. Consequently regional Colombia had little ability to deal with immediate needs, being rendered economically dependent on a neglectful, sometimes abusive national government. During his four years in office Alfonso L—pez intensified the already strong centralization imposed on Colombia fifty years earlier through the Constitution of 1886. Both efforts drew strength from 300 years of colonial rule geared explicitly to removing political power and tax revenues from the provinces. Meanwhile there was still little social pluralism in Colombia. Industrialization was only beginning, the labor movement was in a formative stage, and there were few important nongovernmental organizations of a socioeconomic character that were removed from gross political manipulation. The two most important among them were the national coffee growers federation, FedcafŽ, and the Bank of the Republic, with its bipartisan governing board.

PAGE 243

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 225Only the Liberal and Conservative Parties rivaled the national government in their power to influence and to shape the lives of citizens. In some respects the parties surpassed the government in their integrative power. Colombians revered their traditional parties, whereas they tolerated the national government only to the extent that it reflected correct partisan orientation. The exceeding importance of party allegiance lent a somewhat tribal character to political Colombia, a fact explaining why great public attention was lavished on leaders of the Liberal and Conservative Parties. This is why all Colombians were fearful when Conservative leader Laureano G—mez collapsed in the Senate amid rumors that he had been poisoned by the Liberals, why they were reassured when G—mez recovered quickly from what proved to be a mild stroke, and why they reacted with foreboding to G—mez's first public utterance following his recovery: "Alfonso L—pez has tricked me." Their fear was well placed. G—mez's words marked the beginning of an estrangement between himself and Alfonso L—pez that quickly became open enmity. "Alfonso tricked me" was the opening salvo in a contest of wills that soon involved the entire nation. Before the year was out L—pez and G—mez were locked in a contest having dire long-range consequences for Colombia. Laureano G—mez tried repeatedly to explain how Alfonso L—pez had tricked him in the months and years after May 1935. First he said that the trickel enga–o, as it was calledinvolved L—pez's failure to control fraud in the issuing of new national identification cards, or cŽdulas, required for voting in future elections, and in his reneging on a promise to effect electoral reform.104 In September 1935, G—mez referred to L—pez's sponsorship of the Rio Protocol, which the former termed an enga–o on the entire nation.105 Later in 1935, G—mez referred to acts of Liberal violence against Conservatives, especially in Boyac‡, as clear indication that a deceitful L—pez spoke of peace while allowing party hacks to persecute his followers with impunity.106 By March 1936, G—mez was castigating L—pez for having used their friendship as a ploy for gaining the presidency, and in October 1936 he accused L—pez and his supporters of having ceased being true democrats by reason of their corruption by Bolshevism.107 All the while L—pez stoutly protested that he had never tricked G—mez. El enga–o became no clearer over time. Twenty years after the caudillo's death in 1965, G—mez's friend and admirer Arturo Abella told an interviewer, "Laureano never explained to me how he had been tricked."108The difficulty in understanding just what Alfonso L—pez had done to Laureano G—mez, coupled with L—pez's denial of the charge, suggests that el enga–o was complicated and multifaceted. At the most obvious level it was a euphemism for the sense of betrayal G—mez felt when his old friend turned to one of their mutual enemies, Enrique Olaya Herrera, to achieve passage of the Rio Protocol over G—mez's heated objections. This action was in turn based in

PAGE 244

226 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965the president's pragmatic desire to get on with his reformsparticularly reform of the national constitution, announced in L—pez's message to Congress of July 20, 1935, when G—mez was recuperating from his stroke. Alfonso L—pez had, in short, put personal considerations aside in order to begin the reforms for which his party clamored. El enga–o was also a function of a certain naivetŽ to which Laureano G—mez freely admitted. "What I've always been is a simpleton," he said late in his political career, adding that "in more than one political campaign they've taken advantage of my naivetŽ."109 On other occasions G—mez protested that he was "not a politician," or was "a bad politician," because he disliked the intrigues common to politics.110 Alfonso L—pez acknowledged as much when, in 1938, in an obvious reference to G—mez and el enga–o, the president praised politicians "for whom politics hold neither surprises nor tricks."111 Augusto Ram’rez Moreno was less oblique in his assessment of G—mez's purported deception at the hands of L—pez: "Laureano G—mez taught us to believe in Alfonso L—pez," wrote Ram’rez in 1937, adding, "it is true that L—pez tricked G—mez, and no less exact that G—mez tricked [his own] party."112 G—mez's naivetŽ, founded in a tendency to seek the Platonic ideal in all things, was common to Jesuit-taught Conservatives of his generation, especially those of an ideological turn of mind. While perhaps laudable on moral and ethical grounds, the habit of thinking in terms of ideological constructs made for bad practical politics. G—mez's break with L—pez was also a function of the Colombian tradition dictating that national party leaders could never be bosom companions. As such el enga–o was a convenient and necessary construct allowing G—mez to get about the business of opposition leadership that history and tradition demanded he play. Nearly a year earlier L—pez had tried to avoid strife by offering the Conservatives three important ministries in his new government. But the offer was declined under terms of the Conservative abstention policy. Once the Rio Protocol was passed, and L—pez proceeded to implement his reforms, G—mez knew he must go on the attack or run the risk of losing control of his own party. The growing stridency of G—mez on the twin issues of his supposed betrayal by Alfonso L—pez and that of abstention highlight the inexorable way Colombia's partisan tradition worked to distance Liberals and Conservatives. As late as February 1935, some two years after Conservatives announced their abstention, there was uncertainty as to whether the policy should be extended. G—mez himself doubted its wisdom. When he spoke by radio from his sickbed on March 6, 1935, he urged followers to continue voting, saying that he considered abstention bad for the country. One month later a still ailing G—mez declined to meet with his party directorate because he believed that its mem-

PAGE 245

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 227bers should have a free hand in deciding whether to participate in congressional elections set for May 4. On April 8, 1935, the directorate voted unanimously for abstention.113 Liberals were delighted with that development, for it meant that their constitutional reform would face no Conservative opposition in Congress. Laureano G—mez went along with the decision, although the unhappy look on his face as he read the declaration of continued abstention suggested that he agreed with El Tiempo 's assessment that the policy spelled disaster for the Conservative Party.114 Over the ensuing months, as a uniformly Liberal Congress moved forward with its reforms, increasing numbers of Conservatives began to feel that the decision to abstain from voting had been a mistake. But by then the die was cast. Party leader G—mez had embraced abstention, enlisting the support of his entire party in attacking L—pez and the Liberals. In trying to understand el enga–o, it is also important to consider the generation to which G—mez and L—pez belonged. Both men were members of the Generation of the Centenary and their earliest memories were of friends, relatives, and personal heroes battling to the death in the War of the Thousand Days. As schoolboys both were steeped in the fiery ideals that drove their loved ones to fight that devastating, fratricidal war. As youngsters G—mez and L—pez embraced the antithetical philosophies that figured prominently in most of Colombia's nineteenth-century civil wars, remaining forever faithful to them. Each recognized their mutual ideological incompatibility even before they became friends. Prior to their first formal meeting Laureano G—mez had criticized Alfonso L—pez in the pages of La Unidad as being "of the extreme left," referring to L—pez as "the only Representative of the radical party in parliament."115 A week later he referred to L—pez as "this brilliant new legislator descended from commission merchants."116 As for L—pez and his youthful Liberal contemporaries, none doubted that G—mez, "the beloved leader of a combative younger generation," was any the less a Conservative and staunch defender of clerical privilege for being their friend.117Mutual admiration and a common interest in politics first attracted G—mez and L—pez. Those two most flamboyant members of the Generation of the Centenary found common ground first in their enmity toward the Conservative old guard, represented by Marco Fidel Su‡rez, and later in their opposition to members of their respective parties who had committed the sin of lse-parti by joining the Republican Union coalition during 1909 and 1910. Their mutual dislike of Enrique Olaya Herrera was founded precisely in the fact that the Liberal Olaya had benefited personally by serving the government of Carlos E. Restrepo, Conservative founder of the short-lived Republican Union and its only national president. Until the Conservative fall from p ower in 1930, and on through Olaya's government of "National Union," G—mez and

PAGE 246

228 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965L—pez had fought for the reemergence of partisan politics along traditional ideological lines. Finally, in 1935, with open Liberal-Conservative competition reestablished and all of their collaborationist fellow party members vanquished, G—mez and L—pez stood ready to renew the partisan struggle on their own terms. Men of towering egos and dominating personalities, they perceived politics in terms of crusaders battling for the true faith. For reason of personality alone they could hardly have failed to turn on one another in political combat, like fighting cocks placed in close proximity. Liberal leader L—pez was as much trapped by his upbringing and by Colombia's political idiosyncrasy as was Laureano G—mez. For that reason he was forced to reform the nation's constitution upon entering office. Colombian political tradition demanded reaction against institutional reforms taken by the preceding regime, when it was one of the opposite party. Laws passed by the political enemy were necessarily to be replaced with politically correct ones, beginning with that most fundamental code of laws, the national constitution. At least from the Constitution of Cœcuta of 1821, Liberals and Conservatives had taken turns giving their ideals constitutional form and then attempting to impose them on the nation. The result of that exercise, which was founded in the Roman search for theoretical perfection in legal codes, was that Liberals and Conservatives rewrote or substantially revised their constitution with metronomelike regularity, each succeeding revision in reaction to its predecessor, on the average of once every decade between 1821 and 1936. As the conservative Constitution of 1886 had existed in a largely unrevised form longer than any other, it had been hated by the opposite party for longer than any other in Colombian history. It was thus with good reason that Alfonso L—pez and his party came into power with the burning desire to revise the 1886 document. They obviously had a historical mandate to do so. The reform impulse may have been rooted in Colombia's partisan tradition, but a good deal of its motive force came from political actors not present in Colombian politics a half-century earlier. Outside the halls of Congress militant workers and land-hungry campesinos employed strikes and land invasions to force changes. Inside Congress Socialists and Communists joined with left Liberals to push through fundamental legal changes highly satisfying to President Alfonso L—pez, who was on record as wishing "in a certain way to disavow the existing social order."118Labor benefited from new Articles 40 and 44, the one declaring work to be a social obligation enjoying special protection by the state, and the other guaranteeing labor the right to strike. Those constitutional innovations were complemented by laws of 1937 and 1938 requiring employers to provide paid Sunday holidays, to offer special protection to pregnant workers, and to limit the number of foreign workers. Article 140 assured state protection and pa-

PAGE 247

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 229tronage of labor congresses. Under that encouragement the number of Colombian labor unions more than doubled during the four years of L—pez's presidency. True to his word, L—pez and his fellow reformers struck hard at vested economic interests through constitutional revisions and accompanying legislation having the dual purpose of addressing national social problems and spurring social development. New Article 15 declared that national authorities were to "assure the compliance of social obligations," thus dramatically revising the 1886 constitution's stricture that authorities insure the protection of "natural rights," especially that of property. The notion that property possesses a social function was addressed in new Article 26. Those articles drew inspiration and substance from the French essayist and social thinker LŽon Duguit, whose "solidarist" philosophy of socialist savor kindled the imagination of progressive-minded Colombian Liberals.119Another foreign concept, that of scientific managementor the stimulation of industrial production through automatic and assembly line techniques engendered new Article 28, which declared that the state can intervene in private business and industry to the end of "rationalizing production, distribution, and consumption of natural wealth, and to give the worker the just protection that is his right." That article, along with others enhancing the power of the state in private economic affairs drew inspiration from other foreign sources as well. Among them were the Mexican and Spanish constitutions of 1917 and 1931, the socialist and indigenist APRA movement of Peru, the social democratic and communist initiatives taking place in Europe, and the New Deal of the United States. As a consequence of his reform program Alfonso L—pez was known in some quarters as the Roosevelt of the Andes. Alfonso L—pez and his lieutenants were very much Keynesians in their insistence that the state tax private wealth, and redistribute the revenues through state programs aimed at stimulating economic growth and promoting public welfare. New laws passed during L—pez's first term more than doubled taxes on incomes, moving them from 8 to 17 percent, and substantially increasing taxes on foreign and domestic corporations. As quickly as the additional revenues were received they were plowed back into programs ranging from social welfare to highway construction. The national education budget nearly quadrupled between 1934 and 1936, thanks to the influx of new tax dollars.120The political reforms of the 1930s embraced the notion that modern liberalism demanded vigorous state action to control the destructive effects of unregulated laissez-faire capitalism. While that represented the rejection of nineteenth-century party principles founded in extreme individualism, it was a position Colombian Liberalism shared with all Western liberal parties at that historic moment. Minister of Government Alberto Lleras Camargo succinctly

PAGE 248

230 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965stated the rationale for state centralization during the first administration of Alfonso L—pez: "The people entrusted to us instruments of action, which were the agencies of the state. But the state that we received was not free; rather, it was chained, diminished, and subject to limitations and mutilations. We have begun to liberate it, and now we can announce that a goodly portion of the weighty task is complete."121The collectivist thrust of Alfonso L—pez and his coterie of zealous young reformers generated powerful centrist opposition. Colombia's political parties had always possessed influential moderate wings sharing the common belief that national economic development took precedence over all other considerations, especially ideological ones. Periodically over the preceding hundred years Liberal and Conservative centrists had collaborated in the interest of national development. Those intervals of bipartisanship had typically followed extended periods during which Liberal and Conservative extremists had subjected the nation to a damaging period of ideologically inspired social experimentation typically ending in civil war. Earlier in the century the moderates found common ground in the Republican Union movement. Thirty years earlier Liberal Rafael Nœ–ez had joined with Miguel Antonio Caro to organize another moderate bipartisan collectivity, the Nationalist Party. However, in both cases the moderates steadily lost ground to their more ideological partisans, who repolarized national politics with unfortunate consequence to the nation. In the earlier period "Peace Liberals" and "Nationalist" Conservatives, representing the moderate wings of their respective parties, failed in their attempt to avoid war. In the latter period members of the old Republican coalition, made up of Liberal and Conservative moderates, were unsuccessful in halting repolitization of the nation along ideological lines, a process presided over by Centenarians Laureano G—mez and Alfonso L—pez. In spite of their inability to halt L—pez entirely, procapitalist moderates in both parties managed to slow the rush of reforms that in addition to damaging their economic interests frightened many of them into believing that their social peer L—pez, son of a merchant capitalist and banker, was mounting a socialist revolution. Liberal moderates like Ricardo Charria Tobar spoke for many of his cohorts when he wrote that the L—pez revolution "galvanized the nation more through fear than through enthusiasm."122 Other right Liberals were shriller. The president's own brother, Eduardo L—pez Pumarejo, a mainstay of the antireform lobby, APEN, was one of the administration's harshest critics, as was statesman and senior party member Laureano Garc’a Ortiz, who castigated those "who have called, and continued to call themselves Liberals, [but] who are not Liberals but rather are communists."123 Conservative moderates who fought L—pez were, like the centrist Liberals with whom they made common cause, businessmen and industrialists who in the past had been

PAGE 249

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 231associated with the Republican Union Party and who were identified with the Nationalist Conservative faction. Prominent among them was Carlos E. Restrepo, Colombia's only Republican Union president. In Restrepo's view the 1886 constitution was being turned into something that was "neither national nor a constitution."124 Mariano Ospina PŽrez, another Nationalist Conservative who, like Restrepo, harbored the paisa's inherent dislike of Bogot‡'s interference in regional affairs, was especially scathing in accusing the Liberal constitutional reformers of being moved by "bastard political interests." As a member of the National Conservative Directorate, he had helped draft a statement that damned "this revolution on the march," which "is nothing but an attack on private wealth, not to mention capitalism itself."125At length the centrist opposition to L—pez's reforms, seconded by attacks from the ideological right, bore fruit. On January 1, 1937, shortly after final approval of the constitutional revision, L—pez formally announced a "pause" in the area of institutional reform. He said that he wanted to give the nation time to assimilate the new programs and initiatives.126 Eighteen months later, in the last major address of his first administration, L—pez admitted that the pause had been a mistake, having resulted in the failure of most measures pending at the time he made the announcement. The consequence for Colombia had been, L—pez said, "decomposition, discouragement, and disorder."127The unhappiness that Alfonso L—pez felt at the end of his 19341938 term was a function both of the opposition mounted by business interests threatened by his economic reforms, and of the antigovernment campaign directed by the Church and by Conservative defenders of Roman Catholic prerogatives. L—pez and his fellow Liberals had given priority to striking the confessional content from the 1886 constitution, something they did by deleting the four articles which declared Roman Catholicism the state religion and which mandated state control of education (old Articles 3841). Two new articles replaced them, Articles 13 and 14, which established freedom of conscience and of instruction in Colombia, and charged the state with overseeing public education. While the changes may have seemed innocuous, they set in motion a fateful and tragic chain of events. Religion had been the chief bone of contention in Colombian politics for a century prior to the L—pez reforms. Since the early nineteenth century, doctrinaire liberals in Colombia and other Latin American nations had worked to weaken the Church, which they viewed as both out of touch with the modern age and the chief supporter of a retrograde status quo. Conservatives, on the other hand, defended the Church as both the formulator and defender of fundamental human rights, and their principal institutional bulwark against immorality and social disorder. Both sets of views formed the ideological bedrock of the Liberal and Conservative Parties in Colombia and elsewhere. For that

PAGE 250

232 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965reason it was inevitable that Liberals should attack the Church when in power, and that the Conservatives should strengthen it when they won the presidency. Constitutional reform became the order of the day after July 20, 1935, when Alfonso L—pez inaugurated the new all-Liberal Congress with a ringing call for constitutional revision. Anticipating the coming assault on clerical privilege, Laureano G—mez spearheaded organization of an ecumenical congress to be held in Medell’n during August, at the moment Dar’o Echand’a presented the government's position on what Liberals termed "the religious problem." In Congress, Minister of Government Echand’a echoed his president's pledge to "break the [religious] vertebrae of the Constitution of 1886."128As Liberal congressmen in Bogot‡ debated how best to secularize the national constitution, several 100,000 Conservatives in Medell’n accompanied Colombia's fiery young Archbishop Coadjutor Juan Manuel Gonz‡lez Arbel‡ez in swearing to defend their faith even at the cost of their own lives. During numerous processions and public meetings hecklers supported by Liberal police raised the hackles of more than one speaker. At one point a furious Augusto Ram’rez Moreno charged that the "atheistic" reforms of Alfonso L—pez were aimed at turning the sisters of all Colombians into prostitutes. Luis Serrano Blanco reacted similarly to a red banner held aloft by Communist delegates to a workers' congress being held simultaneously in Medell’n: "Red rags symbolize bed sheets bloodied during the first nights of marriage," he said, adding "but that red sheet lies because no one in the Popular Front is a virginneither the wife, nor the mother, nor the daughter, nor the fiancŽe."129Serrano's words achieved the desired result as the vast crowd hooted at the Communists and their fellow Popular Front members. A fight ensued in which the Communists, Liberals, and Liberal police fought with and injured numerous Conservatives. Shortly thereafter police fired on a Conservative crowd, killing two persons, one of them the son of Conservative Pedro C. Arango. A few hours later Laureano G—mez, who was in Bogot‡ at the time, received the following telegram: "Police have just murdered my son. This is my contribution in blood. Long live the Conservative Party! Pedro C. Arango."130Debate on the religious question escalated through 1935 and into January 1936. On October 26, the Conservative directorate published a bulletin signed by Ignacio Rengifo, Pedro Mar’a Berr’o, Laureano G—mez, Mariano Ospina PŽrez, Augusto Ram’rez Moreno, Pedro Mar’a Carre–o, and General Amadeo Rodr’guez, in which the party leaders declared that Conservatives would not be bound by constitutional reforms they had no part in formulating. They specifically criticized the religious reforms as detrimental to social health and stability.131 The following month Archbishop Ismael Perdomo sent letters to Alfonso L—pez and to the Colombian Senate lodging his protest against the

PAGE 251

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 233reforms in general, and singling out the provision guaranteeing religious freedom as having potentially "fatal consequences" for the nation.132 Meanwhile the Senate committee charged with drafting its version of the reform labored over its task. The position it would take on the church-state issue is suggested by a remark of JosŽ Vicente Combariza, who chaired the commission dealing with the religious problem: "The object of the revolution . must be to liquidate feudalism, a historic goal of Liberalism not heretofore achieved in this country, which has always been consecrated to theocracy. In that regard it seems to me that the [constitutional] revolution of '86 was eminently antiliberal. It also seems to me that our party must eliminate this theocratic aspect of the state. In principle and in doctrine I favor abolishing the article[s] relating to the Roman Catholic Church."133On January 9, 1936, the Senate unveiled an entirely rewritten constitution so secular in character that even the name of God was deleted from its preamble. Senator MoisŽs Prieto, a Communist, defended the document in the debate that followed, saying his committee had produced a new fundamental charter, rather than a revision of the 1886 document, as requested by the government, because "the great majority [of Colombians] wish it."134 The exceedingly secular character of the Senate document was founded in the idea that if Colombians remained wedded to their traditional religion, they would never become good citizens of progressive mentality. Earlier in the debate Senator Manotas Wilches had voiced the sentiment giving rise to that presumption: "across the length and breadth of this nation the illiterate follow the bishop and the priest."135 Socialist Gerardo Molina elaborated on another aspect of the secularizing intent of fellow senators. Referring to the purging public education of clerical influence, Molina said he and others believed Roman Catholic teachings provided fertile ground for the growth of "fascistoid" corporate doctrines.136There were weeks of heated debate on the proposed new constitution following its presentation on January 9, 1936. Liberal, Communist, and Socialist senators defended the document as in keeping with the anti-individualist tenor of the times, while moderate Liberals and members of the L—pez government argued that it was too radical. At one point Timole—n Moncada defended striking the name of the deity from the preamble as consistent with the principle of public law that public power emanates from the people, not from a metaphysical construct. Leaving God in the preamble, he said, would help perpetuate the theocratic tendency that he and many of his colleagues saw enshrined in the Constitution of 1886.137As the Senate debated whether the reform should be a recodification of the 1886 document, as Alfonso L—pez wanted, or an entirely new charter, as Congress preferred, Conservatives mounted a potent defense against both alterna-

PAGE 252

234 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965tives. On February 1, Laureano G—mez and JosŽ de la Vega launched El Siglo, an avowedly doctrinaire newspaper that soon supplanted the more moderate El Pa’s. In the first editorial of the new party organ Laureano G—mez answered those who believed the nation's salvation lay in "defanaticizing" the citizenry through forced secularization: "In various ways, on numerous occasions, and almost uninterruptedly, the directors and collaborators of El Siglo, have consecrated their activities to the defense of those divinely inspired philosophic principles that bind the individual, with finished logic and the seductive precision of reason, to the luminous system of rights and privileges that fortify, sustain, and nourish the human personality. . We pledge not to willfully disparage them, nor to diminish them, nor to abandon them before an absolutism that the modern age necessarily locates in the state, as in ancient times it did in the despot."138Six weeks later, on March 14, the war of words intensified with the inauguration of a series of attacks on the constitutional reform broadcast over the Conservative radio station La Voz de Colombia. Laureano G—mez introduced the series with a short talk that stands as one of the best examples of his scathing oratory: "The nation is being pushed into a whirlpool at whose center is homicidal violence, the arsonist's torch, abject irreligious passion, the rancorous envy of all who have failed at life, civil war, the disintegration of our nationality, and the end of Colombia. . The barbarians have tried to destroy God. They have erased His name from the Constitution. Still the Divine Essence should never be evoked on behalf of so malignant a work."139 The following day public discourse in Colombia deteriorated yet further when an El Tiempo columnist attacked G—mez as "the great public sick man," "the illustrious crazy," "a man created for hatred and diatribe," "the hyena orator," and "the creole Hitler." Shortly thereafter the government levied a stiff fine against La Voz de Colombia, and began drawing up legislation to control the content of radio broadcasts. In the meantime Colombia's bishops published an open letter lamenting, among other things, the fact that the new constitution "begins by eliminating the name of God, the source of all authority, from its preamble."140On March 17, amid rumors that former directorate member Amadeo Rodr’guez was plotting revolution, Conservative leaders sent Alfonso L—pez a letter warning him that unless he halted the reform, Colombia's democratic equilibrium would be lost, which in turn would "make harmonious and peaceful coexistence of the parties impossible, would provoke social and religious conflict and sow insecurity . and multiply the government's problems."141Conservative warnings served only to infuriate Liberals. On April 15, the Senate voted final approval of the reform, in accord with the wishes of Alfonso L—pez. On August 18, 1936, fifty years to the day after the Constitution of

PAGE 253

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 2351886 went into effect, the revised charter was presented to the nation as its fundamental law. On that same day Conservatives across Colombia commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the Constitution of 1886 in celebrations symbolizing their rejection of the Liberal reform. Not long after the new constitution became law, Alfonso L—pez announced the celebrated "pause" in his revolution. That was just as well, for the momentum for reform had already died in Colombia. During 1937, and into 1938, opposition forces stymied further changes. Centrist and rightist Liberals rallied around their moderate partisan Eduardo Santos, whose forces trounced the president's handpicked successor, Dar’o Echand’a, in the congressional elections of April 1937. A thoroughly dispirited Alfonso L—pez attempted to resign the presidency the following month when it became clear that the new, more conservative Congress would not act on his legislative agenda. All the while doctrinaire Conservatives led by Laureano G—mez castigated the government daily in the pages of El Siglo. Laureano G—mez forced his party to continue its political abstention through the entirety of L—pez's first presidential term, though in the face of increasing opposition from moderates and young turks of the extreme right. G—mez's position as Conservative Party leader grew much more difficult with passage of the constitutional reform. By mid-1936, the party's moderate wing became convinced that abstention had been a terrible mistake and mounted increasing pressure on G—mez to drop the policy. Meanwhile a younger generation of party militants, who had recently formed the fascistic Acci—n Nacional Derechista (National Rightist Action group), demanded that Conservatives take direct revolutionary action against the L—pez government.142The moderates and the rightists found common cause in their dislike of G—mez's authoritarian party leadership. They mounted such pressure that it produced open revolt during the party convention of July 1937. Laureano G—mez handled the crisis by reading the fascists out of the party, and by "expelling" Fernando G—mez Mart’nez, director of the Medell’n newspaper El Colombiano and leader of the paisa anti-G—mez moderates.143 While it did them little good in the face of G—mez's determination not to abandon abstention, Acci—n Derechista leaders Silvio Villegas and Gilberto Alzate actively promoted the candidacy of party notable Mariano Ospina PŽrez as Conservative presidential candidate for the 19381942 term. While Ospina PŽrez did not reject the candidacy proffered by Villegas, Alzate, and other rightists, neither did he actively support it. Following the party split of July 1937, the Conservative dissidents combined to attack G—mez through books, speeches, and newspaper articles. Fascists Silvio Villegas and Daniel Valois Arce published their No hay enemigos a la derecha (There are no enemies on the right) and Itinerario espiritual (Spiri tual

PAGE 254

236 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965itinerary) within months of the turbulent party convention. The first volume, which praised Hitler's violent campaigns against the German left, criticized G—mez for his passivity: "Dr. G—mez, who is impotent for violence, is even more reluctant to engage in civil action. His dogmatic temperament does not permit the slightest contradiction. He feels himself possessed of absolute truth, as much before his friends as before his enemies. Anyone who disagrees with his whims and ideas is [considered] a betrayer, a trafficker, a criminal, a pyromaniac, a son of the night. He never discovers a noble motive in anything anyone else does."144Augusto Ram’rez Moreno also broke with G—mez in July 1937. In his volume La crisis del partido conservador (The crisis of the Conservative Party), Ram’rez argued that Laureano G—mez was an inept politician whose leadership had gravely injured his party. G—mez weathered the storm within his party in typical fashion: he went on the attack. In the weeks preceding the party convention of July 1937, he published a series of El Siglo editorials condemning fascism as "a mistaken tactic" because its penchant for violence and preference for authoritarian government contradicted Conservative principles. In a speech of June 1938, G—mez called fascism "a rightist deviation that implies the destruction and death of liberty," warning that "the fascist dictatorships prevailing in several great nations today offer material well-being in exchange for servitude."145Conservatives opposing abstention argued that the policy was bad for their party because it had given free hand to Alfonso L—pez and "the leftist youngsters" who had helped him carry out his reforms. Those supporting abstention argued that the policy was necessary to reduce Liberal electoral violence against fellow party members, pointing to Boyac‡ and Santander as places where Conservatives had suffered a great deal of election-related abuse before abstention had relieved them of the obligation to vote. They further pointed out that with the Conservative vote dropping nationwide, a function of the traditional and well-understood electoral chicanery accompanying every change of power at the national level, Liberals could and would have pushed through their reforms whether or not Conservatives were present in Congress. The political abstention exercised during Alfonso L—pez's first presidency was in fact a brilliant political strategy in the short term, though a painful and frustrating one for Conservatives. With Conservatives outside the formal political process, moderate and right-wing Liberals combined to force the "pause" in the president's progressive reform program soon after it got underway. Meanwhile the policy allowed G—mez and others to launch unmerciful attacks on the administration from outside the formal political system. By the last year of L—pez's administration, G—mez drew freely on examples of atrocities committed against priests during the Spanish Civil War, on the Stalinist

PAGE 255

The Liberal Republic and Its Critics | 237purges in the Soviet Union, and on political chaos in France under the Popular Front regime, to warn Colombians of what was in store for them if Alfonso L—pez were not checked. "We swear to form a stout wall against the Muscovite infection . that afflicts those who support the stupid government we presently endure," wrote G—mez in El Siglo, January 29, 1938. It was but one of dozens of such histrionic indictments leveled at L—pez and his government during 1937 and 1938. One need look no farther than Alfonso L—pez's message to Congress on July 20, 1938, for proof that political abstention served the interests of the Conservative Party and all others who wished to slow reform. The long, bitter, and bellicose address dwells on the destructive effect of Conservative opposition to his regime. If, however, abstention was a good strategy for stopping the Liberal reforms in their tracks, it was bad for Colombia over the long term. Abstention, and G—mez's attacks on L—pez, turned the two men into enemies and rekindled partisan hatreds that had abated over the preceding thirty years of Republican bipartisanship. L—pez and G—mez understood their power to rally Colombians through partisan appeals. They also knew that such appeals had produced violence in the past. Laureano G—mez frequently characterized his country as a "hothouse culture," a delicate tropical environment requiring careful management by its leaders. Yet when in middle age he and his Liberal counterpart had the opportunity to exercise national leadership, they were unable to put aside ideology and polemics. They not only failed to moderate their actions and rhetoric, but they scathingly denounced colleagues who wished to revive the old Republican consensus. In his July 1938 address to Congress, Alfonso L—pez repeatedly stressed the doctrinaire character of his regime, boasting that he had been able to mount a "party government" thanks to Conservative abstention. He reviled Republicanism as "a conformist ideology . with neither masses nor tradition at the local level." He reveled in the fact that he had succeeded in establishing a "Liberal Republic" in Colombia.146For all their lofty intentions, Alfonso L—pez and Laureano G—mez embittered and lowered the tone of political discourse in Colombia. That ultimately proved disastrous for the rapidly modernizing nation. The anger generated by both political leaders was like a poison weakening civic culture in Colombia. Laureano G—mez must bear his share of blame for Colombia's slide into political incivility, though as a political "out" and as opposition party leader it was his duty to attack the regime in power. One is forced to ask whether he should be blamed for being born into a culture that rewarded political orthodoxy and skill in polemics. G—mez might have moderated his public statements, it is true. But why should he have done so, believing as he did that ungodly forces were threatening his country? That was hardly a modern view;

PAGE 256

238 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965yet G—mez made no bones of the fact that his was a metaphysically informed worldview, one that he had sworn to defend at all costs. Given the rules of the political game as understood in early-twentieth-century Colombia, one wonders to what extent G—mez is to be condemned because he played harder and to greater effect than did his opponents. And what of Alfonso L—pez and his reforms? Could L—pez have been more circumspect in reducing the religious content of the 1886 constitution? Perhaps not. Ideological Liberals could in no way tolerate the pro-clerical document imposed on them fifty years earlier. However, L—pez and his fellow reformers insured the fanatical reaction of doctrinaire Conservatives when they struck at the Church in the name of defanaticizing the nation. If blame is to be attached for the passionate exchange that sent Colombian politics into decline, then it must be apportioned, with Laureano G—mez receiving the larger share. He moved more easily than any of his peers in the supercharged, polemical, and punitive atmosphere of Colombian party politics. That being the case, one is perhaps best advised to lament the power and pervasiveness of a political tradition that robbed intelligent men of their power to dampen ideological exclusiveness in the interests of the common good.

PAGE 257

A Society in Flux | 2398A Society in FluxGlobal Depression and World War: Colombia's Economic BoomBetween the early 1930s and mid-1940s, Colombia entered a period of remarkable economic growth that in turn produced equally dramatic social change. Textiles set the pace, leading Colombian industry to a spectacular 10.8 percent annual rate of growth between 1930 and 1945, while gross national product increased at an extraordinary annual rate of 4.7 percent between 1933 and 1939, and at a respectable 3.5 percent between 1939 and 1946.1 These advances occurred amid shocking disorder in national political life during the late 1930s and the 1940s. Splendid growth in the private sector and increasing chaos in Colombia's public world became constant features of national life over the middle decades of the twentieth century. Four elements combined to set Colombia on the road to speedy economic modernization during the Depression and World War II. First were the gains of the 1920s, during which an influx of foreign capital allowed local, regional, and national elites to upgrade the country's transportation network. Second was the war with Peru (19321933), which forced a burst of government spending that effectively countered deflationary and Depression-induced economic contraction. Third were a host of international events and developments, the Great Depression and World War II principal among them, that brought into play a series of economic measures most of which ultimately worked to Colombia's advantage. Fourth was a bias toward the capitalist model of economic development that was shared by most Colombians and which was especially marked among the national leadership elite. Prior to the onset of the Depression national leaders made effective use of the monies that poured into their country during Colombia's dance of the millions. They invested the then incredible sum of $280 million80 percent of total public investment between 1925 and 1930in improving and extending rail, highway, and other transportation links.2 While the 1,211 kilometers of railroads and 6,000 kilometers of highways resulting from their efforts were not sufficient to produce an integrated transportation network, they vastly facilitated the export of coffee to world markets and opened the nation's heartland to internal trade in local manufactures and foodstuffs. Thus when Colom-

PAGE 258

240 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965bia approached its industrial boom early in the 1930s, it possessed at least an adequate transportation infrastructure.3 Over the succeeding fifteen years national administrations more than tripled highway mileage, at the same time expanding railroads by some 25 percent. That in turn led to great expansion in transport services, especially trucking. By 1945, Colombia had 250 trucking companies, whereas in 1930 it could count fewer than twenty.4 The unlocking of interior Colombia by trucks and buses inevitably heightened popular aspirations. By mid-century, writer Eduardo Caballero Calder—n observed that everywhere in the countryside "young campesinos dreamt of becoming the drivers of buses and trucks."5 Others doubtless harbored the more grandiose desire of someday piloting one of the airplanes that passed overhead with increasing frequency. By 1931 the nation's German-owned SCADTA airline operated 3,410 kilometers of scheduled service, making Colombia the Latin American leader in that regard. In 1931, Medell’n became the first Colombian city to put a modern airport into operation, while El Tiempo initiated daily air shipment of newspapers to Medell’n, Cali, and other major cities.6Colombia's system of roadways, rail lines, river and air communication, without which the remarkable growth of 193045 would have been impossible, was the product of infinite sacrifice and effort by a phalanx of national leaders extending back to Bol’var and Santander. Not so the war with Peru. That contest, which began in September 1932, just as Colombia reached the depth of the Depression, produced a burst of patriotic zeal that banished the gloom produced by economic hard times. Unemployment lessened dramatically as thousands of young men rushed to answer the call to arms, and deflation ceased as money was found to repel the perfidious Peruvian. The national government printed new currency issues and sold government defense bonds to pay for the war. Private citizens oversubscribed the bonds and went so far as to contribute their jewelry to the war effort. "Instead of hurting the economy," writes Miguel Urrutia, "the war with Peru pulled the economy from the Great Depression. . The war was in reality a Keynesian remedy applied three years before the publication of Keynes's General Theory. It had the perhaps unforeseen but beneficial effect of renewing aggregate demand before that happened in industrialized countries."7Bankers in Colombia had abandoned orthodox economics fully a year before the war with Peru forced them into a Keynesian stance. On September 24, 1931, directors of the Banco de la Repœblica abandoned the gold standard. They did so because the similar action of Great Britain three days earlier had touched off a run on Colombian banks by clients demanding gold in exchange for banknotes. As bank manager Julio Caro recalled, at the very moment citizens besieged his offices demanding gold for their paper currency, "foreign bankers, especially those in the United States, cabled us that they had canceled the credits earlier approved for Colombia. It was a full-blown panic."8

PAGE 259

A Society in Flux | 241The actions of the British and Americans worked very much to Colombia's advantage. They allowed President Olaya Herrera to drop the orthodox and monetarist position to which he had sworn his government in September 1930, under urging of the American advisor Edwin Kemmerer. With the gold standard no longer in force the government embarked on a policy of exchange devaluation and monetary expansion that, when coupled with government spending resulting from the war with Peru, effectively lifted Colombia from the Depression. Among the measures that Olaya adopted once he shed economic orthodoxy were the suspension of foreign debt payments, the raising of taxes and tariff duties, the imposition of exchange controls, and the opening of new sources of domestic credit. During 1931 and 1932, three new national banks were founded, the Central Mortgage Bank (Banco Central Hipotecario), the Agrarian Bank (Caja Agraria), and the Colombian Credit Corporation (Caja Colombiana de Ahorros). All three provided sorely needed loans to Depression-straitened businesses and individuals, and became a major source of monetary expansion.9 Thanks to these measures the nation put the Depression behind it in 1934 and 1935, and resumed the economic growth and development interrupted between 1929 and 1933. At the broadest level Colombia's turn to extensive state intervention after 1930 was but one example of a revolt against laissez-faire capitalism that was generalized throughout the Western world. European nations like Italy, Spain, and Portugal sought to moderate capitalistic excesses through authoritarian, corporative political reforms. Great Britain and the Scandinavian nations experimented with social democratic solutions to the problems created by earlier capitalist excess. Germans subordinated their economy to the interest of violent national expansion, while the Russians replaced capitalism with state control of the economy in accord with Marxist-Leninist theory. Western Hemisphere nations were more moderate in their reaction against laissez-faire economics. A common tradition of republicanism and respect for democratic forms, coupled with generalized belief in the efficacy of capitalism, especially among the middle and upper classes, tempered the actions of political leaders. Politicians in Brazil and Argentina experimented with single-party corporate governance during the third and fourth decades of the century, while Mexico's Constitution of 1917, and subsequent evolution of that nation's dominant revolutionary party, provided a unique, enduring example of the wedding of single-party corporativism and capitalist developmentalism. In other countries, Colombia and the United States among them, where the tenets of laissez-faire economics were more deeply rooted in national tradition, political reforms were milder. There they took the form of increasing state intervention in the economic realm, mostly to the end of spurring development. The willingness of Colombia and the United States to pursue developmentalist ends explains why Alfonso L—pez Pumarejo and Franklin D. Roosevelt are often

PAGE 260

242 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965compared. Both were Keynesians who, while sensitive to the plight of the downtrodden in their respective societies, willingly sacrificed the interests of the poor to the cause of economic growth when called upon to do so. The agricultural reforms of L—pez and Roosevelt are cases in point. In each instance the reform was aimed at protecting and encouraging the small property owner, rather than distributing land to the landless. Hence a considerable proportion of the marginal rural population in both Colombia and the United States was forced from the land during the 1930s and afterward. Economic historian Jesœs A. Bejarano agrees that during the 1930s and '40s, Colombian leaders were more concerned with development than with public welfare. He points out that over the entire period of the Liberal Republic monies spent on economic development ran from two to three times that expended on public health, education, and welfare. "Far from creating a welfare state,'" writes Bejarano, state interventionism in Colombia "was restricted rather to expanding legal control over economic activities and to the encouragement of development."10Another international development working to Colombia's economic advantage from 1930 to 1945 was the rise of the United States to world dominance and its growing commitment to making Colombia a faithful ally. The strengthening of Colombian-U.S. friendship was a development many national leaders had anticipated and toward which they had worked. At least since the mid-nineteenth century prominent Colombians had believed that their nation's economic well-being was linked to that of the United States. Early in the twentieth century development-minded politicians like Marco Fidel Su‡rez waxed eloquent about the "Polestar," and its significance for Colombia. But not until the third decade of the century did anger over U.S. complicity in the separation of Panama abate sufficiently to permit improved relations between the two states. With the change of government in 1930, Colombian-U.S. relations warmed appreciably. Enrique Olaya Herrera was a longtime friend of America, as was his successor, Alfonso L—pez. And L—pez's successor, Eduardo Santos, embraced Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy, seeing to it that Colombia became one of the United States' firmest hemispheric allies.11 The leaders of both nations knew full well that geopolitics and the doctrine of comparative advantage argued powerfully for Colombian-U.S. friendship. And the fact that both republics were directed by philosophic liberals who embraced democracy, economic freedom, global interdependence, and economic growth and development under capitalist forms made warm relations all the more natural. The objective bases of Colombo-American friendship became increasingly clear over the late 1930s. In 1936 the two nations signed a trade agreement by which Colombia agreed to freeze tariffs on 161 specified U.S. imports, while the U.S. guaranteed that Colombian coffee would enter its markets duty free.

PAGE 261

A Society in Flux | 243While the agreement has been damned by economic historian Alfonso Pati–o as one of the worst of its kind ever signed by Colombia because of its adverse effect on infant industry, the trade pact reflected the belief of Alfonso L—pez and other national leaders that insuring Colombian coffee free access to the U.S. market warranted ignoring the interests of a nascent industrial sector.12As World War II approached, Colombo-American relations grew warmer, increasingly to Colombia's benefit. By the early 1940s the two nations were cooperating in the exploitation of Colombian strategic materials such as petroleum, gold, platinum, cement, and natural rubber, and the U.S. government was encouraging its own industries to help Colombian counterparts upgrade their technology.13 In this way Colombian-U.S. interests became ever more closely linked at the economic level over the middle decades of the twentieth century. World War II, which shut off the supply of most traditional imports to Colombia, had the effect of further stimulating the growth of import-substituting industry. The happy fact was that Colombia was forced into import substitution just as it was eager and able to move in that direction. Since 1931, Colombia had been pursuing what Finance Minister EstŽban Jaramillo described as a "rigorously protective" trade policy, complemented by fiscal practices designed to favor domestic industrial growth.14 A substantial devaluation of the peso between 1930 and 1935, and a 10 to 12 percent annual rate of inflation over the war years, resulted in a 220 percent increase in the money supply by 1941, which made for a favorable investment climate. Revenues from coffee exports, not easily spent on foreign imports during the war, were channeled into import-substituting domestic industries, a practice that followed the tradition, well established during the 1920s, of transferring coffee earnings into industrial investment. Owing to these factors Colombia witnessed a 62.8 percent increase in its number of manufacturing establishmentsfrom 2,805 to 4,462between 1930 and 1939. Nearly all the new plants were devoted to the elaboration of nondurable goods and foodstuffs which had previously been imported. Accordingly, such products shrank from 30 percent of total imports in 1930 to 9 percent in 1940.15 Most of the new plants were small and labor intensive, but they nevertheless enjoyed great potential for growth. The Haceb Company, for example, which was founded in a Medell’n repair shop by two brothers named Acevedo, grew into one of Colombia's major manufacturers of electric appliances over succeeding decades. The dynamics of industrial growth were perhaps clearest in Antioquia, where the Depression made paisas more amenable to state intervention in their economic affairs, especially when it was directed by one of their own, the prudent EstŽban Jaramillo. After the new national mortgage bank stepped in

PAGE 262

244 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965and saved many foundering businesses, Antioquian entrepreneurs quickly moved to launch a host of new industrial concerns. Among the more notable were Imusa (aluminum); Cementos Samper and Cementos Agros; Cauchoso and Croydon (rubber); and Pepalfa, Indulana, and Pa–os SantafŽ (textiles). The Bavaria Brewery of Bogot‡ was reorganized and fused with the largest beer producers of Antioquia and Caldas.16 Meanwhile on the Atlantic coast the Santodomingo family began building its industrial empire through the brewing of beer. By the last decade of the century the Santodomingo Group would stand as Colombia's largest and most diversified corporation.17Corporate formation began in Colombia during the burst of import-substituting industrial growth of the 1930s. There was a fivefold increase in corporate holdings (from $20 to $109 million) between 1932 and 1938, and an elevenfold increase (to $1,368 million) by 1941. That encouraged the creation in 1932 of a stock market which enjoyed a tenfold increase in the value of stocks traded (from $4.6 to $55.5 million) between 1932 and 1939.18The growth of incipient industry in Depression-era Colombia produced a ripple effect across the economy. Building trades and construction were invigorated everywhere in urban areas. Data collected in Bogot‡ reveal that construction between 1933 and 1936 exceeded by 40 percent that of the heady 1926 1929 period.19 Energy consumption rose steadily between 1930 and 1945, increasing 40 percent by 1935, and growing another 140 percent by 1945.20A final source of Colombia's economic boom during the 1930s and '40s, was the developmental bias shared by most members of the national political elite. Most politicians were also businessmen, a fact explained in part by the necessity of earning money during periods of involuntary exclusion from public office sometimes extending over a lifetime. Prominent Liberals like Rafael Uribe Uribe and Pedro A. L—pez, active during the half-century of Conservative hegemony (ca. 1880 to 1930), dedicated themselves to the coffee industry except during relatively brief intervals when they were either participating in or fleeing civil war. Similarly, after 1930, and over the ensuing sixteen years of the Liberal Republic, Conservatives such as Mariano Ospina PŽrez necessarily devoted most of their energies to nonpolitical affairs. That most Colombian public figures were both businessmen and politicians helps explain the easy osmotic way in which they passed back and forth between the worlds of business and politics. Colombia was replete with businessman-politicians during the years of its industrial boom. The most prominent of them were Alfonso L—pez Pumarejo and his son, corporate lawyer and president-to-be Alfonso L—pez Michelsen; president-to-be and coffee entrepreneur Mariano Ospino PŽrez, nephew of Colombia's greatest businessman-president, Pedro Nel Ospina; and corporate lawyer and president-to-be Carlos Lleras Restrepo, nephew of the nation's leading banker, Julio Lleras Acosta.

PAGE 263

A Society in Flux | 245Carlos Lleras illustrates better than most the public-private dynamic of Colombia's leadership elite. Trained as a lawyer, and in private practice during the early 1930s, Lleras was elected to Congress in 1933 and played a pivotal role in crafting the constitutional reform of 1936. Later he joined the cabinet of Eduardo Santos as minister of finance and public credit. In that capacity, and true to his commitment to the principle of state interventionism, he sponsored creation of the Instituto de Fomento Industrial (IFI; Industrial Development Institute), a government agency charged with promoting the growth of new industry. When Lleras ended his stint as finance minister, he founded and directed the School of Industrial and Commercial Administration at Bogot‡'s Gimnasio Moderno. Two years later, in 1944, Lleras accepted employment with the newly formed industry group Asociaci—n Nacional de Industrias (ANDI), organized to lobby government agencies, particularly the IFI. Later, with formation of the Frente Nacional in 1958, Lleras reentered government service, going on to become one of Colombia's more successful presidents (19661970), especially in the realm of economic management. The fluid movement of businessmen, politicians, and intellectuals in and out of one another's respective spheres has led most academics to employ Marxian class analysis in trying to explain the phenomenon. Over most of the twentieth century terms such as "dominant class," "oligarchy," and "oligarchic bourgeoisie" have served to describe a powerful few who, in the words of one historian, created a "system of privilege and injustice . [that] they have wanted to preserve at all costs."21 Such interpretation loses much of its persuasive power, however, when considered in terms of the great fluidity of Colombian society during the twentieth century. In fewer than a hundred years the population has progressed from 80 percent illiterate to 90 percent literate. The middle class has expanded from 20 to 50 percent of the population. These data suggest an open and dynamic society, not one dominated by a greedy elite that has deprived the masses of their patrimony. The liberal-developmentalist philosophy dominant among Colombian leaders from the mid-nineteenth century onward is clearly observed in the handling of national agricultural policy between 1936 and 1944. Alfonso L—pez, a president whose background in private business was extensive prior to 1930, had initially reassured his peers that the agrarian reform embodied in Law 200 of 1936, was aimed at encouraging capitalist transformation of rural Colombia through the freeing of resources immobilized in latifundia. Frightened by the leftist rhetoric accompanying the passage of Law 200, L—pez's peers blocked further reform and proceeded to replace him with the more moderate Eduardo Santos. Subsequent to leaving the presidency in 1938, and as if to demonstrate his moderation on the agrarian question, L—pez agreed to head the landowners' principal interest organization, the Sociedad de

PAGE 264

246 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965Agricultores de Colombia (SAC; Society of Colombian Agriculturalists) in 1941. Soon thereafter he restated the developmentalist logic that underlay the agrarian reform of 1936 when he told an audience that "the reform was designed merely . to protect the rights of property owners, at the same time limiting them . [in order to] keep them from impeding national development."22Commercialization and regional specialization moved apace in rural Colombia in the years following the passage of Law 200. By the early 1940s choice agricultural zones of Valle, the llano of Tolima, the highlands of Cundinamarca-Boyac‡, and the Caribbean coast were increasingly devoted to the mechanized cultivation of sugarcane, cotton, rice, sesame, and sorghum. In cattle-producing areas technification was increasingly the norm. New breeds of cattle, such as the heatand pest-resistant Brahmans, began appearing in many places, thanks in part to technical aid missions from abroad.23 While Colombia's agricultural sector remained unable to supply all products needed for human and industrial consumption, food production consistently outpaced population growth. Agricultural prices increased modestly through the 1940s, and imports of foodstuffs declined from 63.3 percent of imports in the early 1930s, to 37.3 percent by the mid-1940s. On the other hand, Colombia's industrial growth outstripped the nation's ability to satisfy demand for raw materials.24 Meanwhile marginal populations became urbanized or else moved or were sent into the eastern llanos, where most became involved in cattle raising.25Coffee, Colombia's great income producer, received the ongoing attention of national elites in the years following the passage of the agrarian reform in 1936. Law 200 achieved its principal goal of swelling the coffee yeomanry; but it also caused landowners to fear that their tenants might stake claims to parts of their farms under terms of the law. That led many landowners to expel tenants from their property, producing uncertainty and even violence in many rural areas. The expulsions also produced a sharp fall in private-sector investment in agriculture as well as a decline in the supply of yuca, corn, beans, plantain, and many other foodstuffs previously grown by tenants on their rented plots. By the early 1940s, prominent Colombians were calling for revision of Law 200, citing the "alarming" decrease in locally grown staples. Politicians like Carlos Lleras Restrepo, who had figured prominently in drafting the agrarian reform, charged that a mistaken interpretation of Law 200 "was destroying the juridic notion of land rental in Colombia."26Political Colombia addressed these problems in a series of laws that at once strengthened the hand of landowners against their renters and militated against proletarization of rural labor. Laws 6 and 100 of 1944 clarified and regularized rental procedures, and exempted landowners from the payment of

PAGE 265

A Society in Flux | 247social benefits to their employees. An earlier attempt to guarantee overtime pay and workmen's compensation had failed to receive congressional approval. In that manner political Colombia assured the private sector that investment in rural property would be protected. With the agrarian counterreform of 1944, private investment capital returned to rural Colombia.27World War II initially hurt Colombia's economy, taking away lucrative European marketsGermany alone consumed 15 percent of the nation's coffee exports by 1939and drastically reducing the flow of imports. But as was the case in the early thirties, the economy emerged from its travail much strengthened. The war's chief effect was to accelerate industrial growth of import-substituting industry. Rivaling that in importance was the war's effect of drawing Colombia and the United States yet closer. The economic value of U.S. friendship became manifest even before that nation became directly involved in the war. When coffee prices fell by nearly 50 percent in 1939, to a ruinous 7.5 cents per pound, the U.S. stepped in to reverse the decline through sponsorship of the Inter-American Coffee Agreement, negotiated over the course of 1940.28 That accord, which established import quotas for coffeeproducing nations, guaranteed Colombia the sale of 80 percent of its annual production in the American market. Within months of its signing prices rebounded to 35 cents, thus ending the panic among coffee interests. The agreement also produced an important subsidiary effect. After signing the accord, Colombia was faced with the necessity of storing most of the coffee not purchased by the United States. As that country was virtually Colombia's only overseas customer during the war years, 18 percent of the annual harvest had to be warehoused until such time as European markets were restored. The national coffee growers' federation raised funds for construction of the costly storage facilities through creation of the National Coffee Fund (Fondo Nacional del CafŽ), underwritten by taxes and bond issues. As those moneys accrued rapidly, FedcafŽ was able not only to construct hundreds of warehouses throughout the coffee zone, but was able to greatly expand its services to producers and processors, all of whom were its affiliates.29Another way the United States helped Colombia withstand war-induced economic reverses was through a series of Export-Import Bank loans granted between 1940 and 1945. Those loans totaled more than $100,000,000 in portfolio investment, and another $100,000,000 in direct investment in mining and petroleum extraction and in the upgrading of public services and highways.30The nation derived additional benefit from the U.S.-directed assault on German companies operating in Colombia when the war began. Under American urging the Colombian government blacklisted all German businesses in the country, replacing their managers with Colombian nationals. In most cases

PAGE 266

248 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965those businesses were eventually purchased by Colombians at a fraction of their book value. The two most important of them were the nation's principal airline, SCADTA, and its second-largest private bank, the Banco Alem‡n Antioque–o, in Medell’n. The former became Colombia's quasi-public air carrier Avianca, and the latter, renamed the Banco Comercial Antioque–o, became a chief underwriter of Antioquian economic growth.31 The interests of foreign nationals living in countries occupied by Axis powers were placed under fiduciary management of the Banco Central Hipotecario. Most of those, such as the Dutch-owned Handel Maatschappij, a major stockholder in the Bavaria beer group, also quickly passed into Colombian ownership. Yet another way in which U.S. interests aided Colombian economic growth during the war years was through the mounting of joint ventures with local businesses, principally in the production of strategic materials. Thus Corn Products of America combined with Maizena, Container Corporation of America with Cart—n de Colombia, Burlington Mills with Fabricato, and the Grace Company with Coltejer. North American involvement was particularly important to the textile industry, which greatly expanded its manufacturing capacity during the war years. During that period the U.S. government let contracts to Colombian firms for the manufacture of military uniforms and aided in the import of requisite machinery. "There were machines operating under tents while around them buildings were hastily constructed to house them," recalled manufacturer Carlos J. Echavarr’a.32 Between 1933 and 1943, Colombian textile plants tripled their capacity to the extent that they were able to produce twelve million square meters of cloth over the course of World War II. One consequence was that the Coltejer Corporation, which had 65,000 shares of stock outstanding in 1937, had more than 3,000,000 shares outstanding by 1945.33 Its physical plant, valued at $760,000 in 1936, was assessed at $8.7 million at war's end. Thanks to its success Coltejer had entered the fields of banking and insurance by the mid-1940s. So extensive was Coltejer's operation that by 1945, 16 percent of Medell’n's population was either employed by the company or were dependents of Coltejer workers. The Colombian government itself played a significant role in stimulating the growth of import-substituting industry from 1940 to 1945. As early as the 1890s it had been national policy to stimulate business activity through encouraging the formation of chambers of commerce and other such interest groups, and by inviting their participation in government decision-making councils. That corporative approach to national development flowered after 1930, when Liberal regimes embraced state interventionism. Enrique Olaya Herrera's banking reforms and Alfonso L—pez's tax program were expressly designed to insinuate government into the economy to the end of rationalizing capitalist processes. Eduardo Santos continued in that tradition by supporting Carlos Lleras's organization of the Instituto de Fomento Industrial in 1940.

PAGE 267

A Society in Flux | 249Thanks to grants from the IFI, which a writer termed "one of the finest Liberal achievements,"34 factories were founded for the manufacture of steel, tires, and chemicals. A shipbuilding industry was launched, and milk-processing plants and similarly complicated food-processing plants were begun.35The knowledge that they could count on government help for risky and costly undertakings buoyed Colombia's business class during the 1940s. Over the first half of the decade its members founded two powerful new interest organizations designed to promote further collaboration between public and private sectors. They were the National Association of Manufacturers (Asociaci—n Nacional de Industrias, ANDI) and the National Federation of Merchants (Federaci—n Nacional de Comerciantes, FENALCO), established in 1944 and 1945. Those associations, having branches in all major cities, joined the chambers of commerce, FedcafŽ, the Federation of Wheat Growers, the Sugar Distributors, the National Federation of Land Transportation, and others, in lobbying government for treatment favorable to their respective groups. An El Tiempo article of September 9, 1942, suggests the corporative dynamic at work in the public-private partnership so important in Colombian economic development. Reporting on the initial attempt to organize ANDI, the writer said that the group's steering committee was made up of "some of the most distinguished figures of our industry, by the minister of the economy and the minister of labor, as well as by directors of the Caja Agraria and of the IFI." Among those representing the private sector was Miguel L—pez Pumarejo, younger brother of Alfonso L—pez, at that moment a month into his second presidential term. Carlos Lleras, who had just left the Ministry of Finance, was unanimously elected to head the group. He urged his peers to "recruit the membership of manufacturers in all parts of the nation."36Colombian business had every reason for confidence by 1945. The preceding five years had witnessed a 50 percent growth in industry amid moderate inflation and price rises favorable to domestic investment.37 Meanwhile a 300 percent increase in the money supply and a 1,000 percent increase in foreign reserves over the preceding ten years, coupled with government sympathy to the cause of industry, suggested that growth would accelerate over the postwar period.38 Colombian corporate growth had endowed the nation with an aggressive and successful executive classmen like Fernando Mazuera Villegas, who returned from New York early in 1945, bragging of having spent twenty minutes on the telephone there brokering the purchase of rayon for a Medell’n textile mill and earning $74,000 for his trouble.39 Nor did businessmen need to leave Colombia in order to make money. Domestic entrepreneurs experienced their own dance of the millions, as suggested by Carlos Lleras's remark in 1943 that "the lure of earnings received without work awakened in innumerable people who had never invested before the desire to speculate."40Colombia's economic modernization produced the additional benefit of

PAGE 268

250 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965advancing national unification by linking regional elites through their new commercial associations. French sociologist Daniel PŽcaut has alluded to the integrative effect of business growth: "Money circulated from one activity to another. . It served as a link between the diverse dominant factions."41 But the economic change linking regions and interests was not limited to members of the elite. The commercial ethic ran deep in Colombian culture, down through all economic strata, taking on the character of a new national ideology. This point is brought home by historian Charles Bergquist, who writes that during the 1940s, "the success of coffee smallholders, and that of industrial capitalists of the manufacturing sector, along with the general growth and development of the Colombian economy, helped consolidate in the minds of individuals of all social classes the fundamental viability of an economic system based in the principles of capitalism."42To say that the coffee smallholder shared in the heady optimism of the period is also to say that a majority of Colombians did so. The coffee industry supported many thousands of persons involved in its harvesting, processing, transportation, sale, and marketing, as well as a host of peripheral activities not directly involved with coffee growing. During the 1940s, coffee held its place as the nation's great producer of national wealth, bringing in between 75 and 80 percent of all foreign exchange. Coffee prices had held steady after 1940, averaging nearly 20 cents per pound over the first half of the decade. All the while production increased steadily, doubling to nearly six million sixty-kilo sacks harvested in 1945.43 It augured well, too, that the United States, purchaser of 96 percent of Colombia's coffee exports, had emerged largely unscathed from the war. Furthermore, that nation possessed a large population avid to purchase Colombian coffee at handsome prices. The immediate economic future was indeed bright for the millions of Colombians whose interests were bound up with coffee. Only the worsening national political situation cast shadows over the happy prospect of economic prosperity.Visions of Social ChangeSignificant social change took place in Colombia between 1930 and 1945. Society became more diverse, individualistic, and cosmopolitanin short, more open and democratic. Growing affluence had the effect of swelling the middle class and increasing its political influence. All those developments meant that Colombia was evolving in a manner satisfactory to its national leaders, most of whom had sought such progress for decades. Still there remained stubborn structural and attitudinal problems that kept a majority of citizens from participating fully in the social transition. Modern-

PAGE 269

A Society in Flux | 251ization was principally an urban phenomenon. Yet only a third of all Colombians lived in towns and cities by 1945. And the benefits of modernization were unevenly distributed, even in urban areas. Admission to the white-collar occupations, and thence to the middle class, required literacy, and nearly 60 percent of Colombians could neither read nor write. Tension was inevitable in such a setting, where poor, urban-dwelling Colombians saw themselves lagging badly in the scramble for personal advancement, a perception that made them increasingly sensitive to social inequities. Their dissatisfaction was sharpened by dissident politicians who shifted the blame for social inequities and all other social problems to a Liberal Party leadership widely perceived as venal and self-serving. No member of Colombia's counterelite was more effective in tarring the political establishment than Laureano G—mez. Between 1935 and 1945, G—mez elaborated a damning critique of philosophic liberalism and the party that was its institutional manifestation in Colombia. His attacks played a key role in dividing Liberals and paving the way for their loss of power in 1946. Social indicators improved markedly between 1930 and 1945, thus continuing a trend dating from 1904. Colombia's population shifted from onefifth to one-third urban over those years, while the total population grew by 40 percent, from 7.5 million to 10.5 million. An internal shift of population occurred simultaneously, as young and ambitious campesinos left eastern and southern parts of the nation and moved into the economically dynamic coffee zone of Antioquia, Caldas, Tolima, and Valle.44 While 75 percent of the economically active population worked in agricultural and extractive occupations in 1945, only one-third of all new jobs were in those fields. The remaining twothirds were in the rapidly expanding manufacturing sector.45 Infant mortality declined over the period, falling from 201 deaths per 1,000 in 1930, to 122 in 1950. Concomitantly, average life expectancy rose from 36.1 years to 48.9 years. Illiteracy in Colombia also declined, from just under 70 percent to slightly less than 60 percent.46The improvement in Colombia's social indicators was closely linked to urbanization. Declining rates of infant mortality, rising educational levels, and all the other signs pointing to an improvement in general living conditions were bound up with accessibility to physicians and hospitals, teachers, and schoolsall in short supply in the campo. Likewise in short supply, outside of urban areas, was the sense of excitement present in the city. The campo seemed primitive and unchanging. The city offered movement and economic opportunity along with the possibility of upward social mobility. Furthermore there were those in the city who seemed sincerely interested in helping the poor man and his family, politicians like the Liberal Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n, who during a brief term as Bogot‡'s mayor not only promoted free public education but

PAGE 270

252 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965opened school restaurants, providing free breakfasts for needy children.47 Such things were miraculous to campesinos, whose patr—n's interest in their welfare seemed to manifest itself only around election time. As the century progressed, Colombia's cities increasingly spearheaded national progress. Dynamic leaders like Bogot‡'s mayor Gait‡n and his successor, Carlos Sanz de Santamar’a, responded to their city's rapid growth by extending electric, sewer, and water lines, improving streets and public transportation, and promoting the construction of new residential areas. Under the regime of Sanz (19421944), the capital surpassed its traditional northern limit, Calle 26 (Twenty-sixth Street), bordering the R’o San Diego. He extended Avenida Caracas, a major north-south route, so as to link Avenida JimŽnez (13th Street) with Avenida Chile, fifty-nine blocks farther north, thus speeding the capital's northward expansion.48The direction of urban change in Colombia was manifest in traffic moving along streets of the national capital. Early in the 1930s, buses appeared as an alternative to the popular but slower municipally owned electric streetcars. In 1935, the last of Bogot‡'s horse-drawn hacks disappeared, replaced by taxis owned by entrepreneur Leonidas Lara. The number of privately owned autos also grew steadily, rising from 1,100 in 1927, to 4,899 by 1940, and 11,884 a decade later.49 The city's first traffic lights were installed in 1935, and six years later a stringent set of transit regulations was imposed. By 1945, when the city's population stood at half a million, Bogotanos complained that next to the problem of drinking water, transportation was their chief concern. They were especially critical of the publicly owned streetcar line, whose expansion had manifestly not kept pace with the city's growth. By 1945 the lumbering tranv’a, increasingly surrounded by swarms of speedier buses and taxis, was, in the words of urban historian Juli‡n Vargas, dangerously close to being "run over in the process of the privatization of public transportation."50The increasing availability of radios quickly democratized that important medium of information and entertainment. Early in the century the "wireless" was enjoyed only by the rich, who shared it with friends. During the 1920s, President Pedro Nel Ospina hosted white-tie socials in order that his guests might hear radio programs broadcast from Europe and the United States.51Just two decades later Colombia had fully entered its golden age of radio, with millions of listeners tuning in on the adventures of locally produced comedy and music programs, soap operas, and detective thrillers like The Adventures of Charlie Chan (in Colombia, Yon-Fu), adapted from a Cuban program of the same name. The tragic death, in 1936, of tango idol Carlos Gardel, in a fiery Medell’n runway collision, gave birth to on-the-spot news reporting. By the 1940s politicians had seized upon radio as an excellent complement to their newspapers for spreading their political messages. During his second adminis-

PAGE 271

A Society in Flux | 253tration Alfonso L—pez broadcast a weekly program called La Repœblica Liberal, and Conservatives answered with their own station, La Voz de Colombia. Meanwhile Liberal maverick Gait‡n employed radio personality R—mulo Guzm‡n to disseminate his message through the program Ultimas Noticias. And it was no longer necessary to crowd the Senate galleries to hear the exciting debates of Laureano G—mez, Gait‡n, and others. By the 1940s, Colombians could hear every word in the comfort of their living rooms simply by tuning in The Voice of the Senate.52As with radio, motion pictures played a growing role in homogenizing Colombian culture. Members of the religious establishment feared movies precisely for the cosmopolitan and nontraditional images they brought to unsophisticated viewers. One Roman Catholic writer warned in 1934, "Cinema is your terrible enemy . it robs you of time and money, and it perverts your consciences: flee from it!"53 But Colombians of all descriptions did just the opposite, flocking to the movies in growing numbers in the thirties. There they thrilled to the mighty ape in King Kong, admired Hedy Lamarr's nude figure in Ecstasy, and were amazed to hear Greta Garbo's voice in Hotel, the first "talkie" shown in Colombia. During the early forties they filled theaters to see Walt Disney's Fantasia, to admire Humphrey Bogart in the Maltese Falcon and Casablanca, and to feast on a steady diet of films starring the Mexican comedian Cantinflas.54The globalizing, individualizing, and democratizing thrust of popular culture was nowhere more evident than in sports. During the early decades of the century, team and individual sports were the purview of the elite, who competed for personal enjoyment in the isolation of their country clubs. But by the thirties sports had escaped those narrow confines and had become popular in a highly symbolic way. Foreign crews from ships transporting coffee and bananas out of the port of Barranquilla commonly passed time at dockside tossing a baseball or kicking a soccer ball, depending on whether they were North Americans or Europeans. The Colombian stevedores with whom they worked soon learned both sports and became proficient in them. Soccer quickly took possession of schoolyards and vacant lots throughout Colombia, while baseball flourished in towns and cities along the Caribbean coast. By the 1940s, Colombian baseball teams were playing international competition in the World Amateur Baseball League, all of whose teams were from the Caribbean region. In 1947, Colombia won the league championship. Soccer was even more successful. Professional teams sprang up in major cities during the thirties and forties, and by the latter decade Colombia was sending teams abroad to compete in the World Cup.55 Highly significant in the spread of spectator sports is the fact that they were democratic. Members of Colombia's athletic hierarchy earned their fame through individual merit, not through inherited

PAGE 272

254 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965wealth or family connections, as was the case with most other public figures. And Colombia's top professional athletes formed a racially mixed group representative of the nation's mixed-blood population. The rise in the popularity of sports, whether practiced individually or enjoyed as a spectator, was bound up with the increasing privatization and individualization in Colombian society. Sporting activities distracted Colombians, drew their attention away from the public world and its gladiatorial exchanges in congressional chambers. Spectator sports flourished in reciprocal measure with the expansion of free time, especially after 1934, when a presidential decree granted factory workers paid Sunday holidays. Suddenly it was possible to be a fan, to spend Sunday afternoons at the municipal sports stadium or at home listening to the game by radio. Radios and other such consumer items took on added importance with the expansion of leisure time. And with the growth of national industries like Haceb and Centrales (producers of consumer electronics), it became increasingly possible to satisfy the growing demand for consumer goods such as radios, record players, refrigerators, and water heaters. Moreover, the end of World War II released a flood of imports from the United States. Magazines and newspapers were suddenly full of ads depicting Hollywood stars touting new products. Starlet Yvonne de Carlo recommended purchase of the luxurious new Musophonic radio-phonograph offered by General Electric. In promoting its new products, RCA advised that "with the advent of peace, many who had been occupied in making instruments of war now work to bring pleasure to the world's free men and women." Colombians read those messages and were convinced. When the merchants V‡squez and Lalinde announced in December 1945 that a planeload of Philco appliances would arrive in time for Christmas, Bogotanos responded by lining the runway at El Techo Airport with buses and autos, whose headlights helped guide the precious cargo to a safe landing.56Urbanization and industrialization, and the occupational diversification they produced, along with the country's rapid expansion of material culture, made possible the most significant social development in Colombia in the twentieth century: the rapid growth of the nation's middle class. The importance of that development has been amply noted by Colombian writers. Scholar and social activist JosŽ GutiŽrrez writes, "When historians examine events taking place in Colombia during the long period of social agitation beginning in 1942 . they will surely find explanatory power in the sudden appearance in national life of the economic middle class."57 Social historian Carlos Uribe Celis describes "the explosion of the middle class" in Colombia during the 1940s.58Colombia's middle class made known its arrival on the political scene in 1936, when it founded its own political lobby, the Action Committee of the

PAGE 273

A Society in Flux | 255Colombian Middle Class. Drawing membership from government offices and from the ranks of small merchants, it called for the democratization of credit so that "men of work" might achieve "the realization of their economic independence through personal effort and the help of public entities." The committee's lobbying activities quickly bore fruit. One of its chief objectives was to enlist government support in the form of low-cost loans for the construction of middle-class housing. Their appeals caught the ear of banker Julio Lleras Acosta, who became a leading force in improving middle-class housing. By the late 1930s, a significant portion of loans granted by the Banco Central Hipotecaria, which Lleras Acosta directed, were being earmarked for that purpose. Symbolic too of growing middle-class influence was the example of future president Julio CŽsar Turbaywhose father was a petty merchant forming a part of the committee's leadership. He represented a group calling itself the Union of Nonorganized Middle-Class Associations.59The insurgent middle class found its most aggressive spokesman in former agrarian activist and reform mayor of Bogot‡, Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n. Gait‡n symbolized the able and ambitious individual of modest means who by dint of personal sacrifice has risen from poverty to wealth. Thanks to his and his mother's efforts Gait‡n earned a law degree at the National University, going on to take advanced study in Italy under the eminent criminologist Enrico Ferri. Returning home he entered politics, where he quickly gained fame as spokesman for banana workers slain by the army in late 1928. During the early 1930s, he broke with the Liberals to form his UNIR party, which was dedicated to aiding campesinos in their struggle for land. When, in 1935, it became obvious that they were on the verge of achieving that objective thanks to Alfonso L—pez's land reform legislation, Gait‡n abandoned UNIR and rejoined the Liberal Party. In recognition of that act L—pez appointed Gait‡n alcalde of Bogot‡ in June 1936.60As a self-made man of the middle class, it is little wonder that Gait‡n placed great store in that class and its potential. He correctly judged it to be the most dynamic class to emerge from the modernization process, and he dedicated his life to instilling its values in rank-and-file Colombians.61 Gait‡n viewed society as an entity made up of individuals possessing varying degrees of potential. Acutely aware of prevailing social prejudices and the many inequities rising from themhis own dark skin earned him the nickname El Negro Gait‡nhe strove to extend educational opportunity to the neglected popular classes. If afforded equal educational opportunity, he reasoned, the poor could compete with the rich on a more equal footing. Thus the meritorious among them could, as he himself had, improve their social position. Gait‡n believed that private property offered the individual protection, even as property demonstrated one's progress upward through the social hierarchy. That sort of thinking had led the Communists to brand Gait‡n a fascist

PAGE 274

256 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965during his UNIR period, and the young left Liberal Germ‡n Arciniegas to damn UNIR as a right-wing movement dedicated to the cause of small landownership rather than to the nobler one of communal ownership.62 But Gait‡n was neither a fascist nor a rightist. He was an unabashed proponent of the middle-class lifestyle, who dressed his upper-class wife in furs, drove latemodel autos, and installed his family in a fine home in one of Bogot‡'s tonier neighborhoods. Nor did Gait‡n's followers resent the caudillo for it. They merely hoped someday to emulate his example. It was a foreign visitor who, through his account of Bogot‡ in 1937, suggested the social contradictions that would fire Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n's populist movement of 19441948. Negley Farson describes the sense of unreality he felt on reaching the Colombian capital after extensive travel through the hinterland. He was amazed to find the streets full of "purring limousines," trucks, and taxis, and lined by shops "not much inferior to those of Picadilly or the Boulevard des Capucines." In the midst of the glitter he observed "wry Indians" dodging the traffic, "trotting past shops they never went into . bandy dwarfs, with a resentful look."63 Colombian writer Joaqu’n Tamayo seconds Farson's vision of urban Colombia between 1930 and 1945 as a place of contrasts: "Never before did Bogotano society enjoy more luxury, nor were its parties more elegant, nor its autos more numerous and costly, nor did the public enjoy more diversions."64The changes at work in Colombian society were felt by the members of all social classes. Poorer citizens increasingly abandoned customs identifying them as members of the "inferior" Indian underclass, and socially concerned members of the middle class worked to support that transition. As alcalde of Bogot‡, Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n had toured the city's poorer neighborhoods preaching the virtues of oral hygiene and regular bathing, and explaining their relationship to a decorous and dignified lifestyle. In that way he acted on his belief that proper hygiene was "the backbone of the modern state."65 He declared war on traditional modes of dress, especially the ruana, a garment he considered "a disseminator of disease" in his city. He was likewise an enemy of the alpargata, the indigenous hemp-soled sandal worn throughout rural Colombia. Gait‡n required the suppression of alpargatas in favor of leather shoes which the city purchased and sold to its employees on installments. His avowed goal to achieve "the total civilization of the people" through moral and physical uplift brought his downfall after only eight months on the job. His decree of January 1937, requiring that Bogot‡'s taxi drivers substitute uniforms for their alpargatas and ruanas, provoked a transportation strike leading Alfonso L—pez to fire him. Eventually the urban poor were convinced to abandon their traditional dress in favor of modern attire. Merchants like Sim—n Guberik rejoiced over

PAGE 275

A Society in Flux | 257what he saw as his success in causing ordinary Bogotanos to change their mode of dress: "Finally the triumph was achieved, and say what you will, it improved popular taste."66 Technological change made it increasingly easy for the upwardly mobile poor to achieve the modern look. Machine-made Everfit suits began appearing in factory outlets in all Colombian cities. And they could be bought on credit, the granting of which signaled that one had achieved middle-class status. By the 1940s the notion of consumption as an indicator of personal and national advancement was fixed in the minds of Colombians. Arguments were being mounted to the effect that heightened personal sophistication justified increased personal expenditures. Hence consumption was in itself a social good. As political economist Guillermo Torres Garc’a put it in a textbook published in 1942, "the necessity of art in a cultured and wealthy person requires abundant expenditure that for another would constitute excessive consumption, and so on down through society. Thus one cannot absolutely condemn [consumption], as it awakens, attracts, and sustains many activities, and from a certain point of view encourages social development."67 Torres strengthened his argument by pointing out that the world's leading countries, "the Scandinavian and Saxon nations," happened also to be peopled by the world's foremost consumers. Upperand middle-class Colombian consumerism found its most dramatic expression in new residential housing built in Bogot‡ and other cities during the 1930s and '40s. Disdainful of "old-fashioned houses" whose red tile roofs and ample corridors gave them an air of "monotonous uniformity,"68 they indulged in "a folkloric outburst of eclecticism" that filled suburban neighborhoods with homes of Tudor, Norman, Mediterranean, and California colonial design, as well as with more fanciful structures featuring the modern Art Deco, Moorish, and Egyptian looks. For historian Silvia Arango, the stylistic explosion signified "a sort of architectonic schizophrenia clearly revealing the transitional character of the time."69 Seen from another perspective the proliferation of styles symbolized the self-indulgence of consumption-driven, upwardly mobile Colombians. Their new houses reflected the narcissism peculiar to the nouveaux riches. That quality is also suggested in the following passage by social historian Patricia Londo–o: "The advertisements for makeups and products for personal hygiene were everywhere. Soaps, dusting powders, unguents, and dentifrices promised every woman extraordinary beauty,' tender lips,' relief from periodic pain.' The model of taste was the U.S. lifestyle."70To the extent that Colombia's well-off urban minority hurried toward cosmopolitan eclecticism, it distanced itself from the old communal patterns of national life. Whereas Colombian neighborhoods traditionally looked inward on rectilinear central plazas dominated by symbols of civic authoritychurch,

PAGE 276

258 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965courts of law, city hallnew neighborhoods like La Merced possessed neither central plaza nor streets constructed in the traditional grid pattern. Those awakening suddenly on one of its curving, tree-shaded streets, and gazing on its close-set and stately Tudor mansions, might think themselves in a posh London suburb where, curiously, everyone spoke Spanish. Barrios such as La Merced were not built in accord with the abstract communitarian principle conceived in colonial times by an authoritarian and omnipresent Spanish state. Rather they were the product of a rational plan aimed at affording their residents aesthetic pleasure. Their designers strove for "integral self-containment," for the pleasant look of the English "garden city." Through the random placement of green spaces, the construction of curved and transverse streets, they "sought to flee the image of the past, to change their style of life."71Such architectural turning away from the traditional was but one aspect of the ongoing privatization at work in Colombia from the early twentieth century onward. The principle at work was perfectly illustrated in the design of the new homes. Gone were the lofty and spacious corridors that had united the rooms of colonial homes with central patios. Modern home design accentuated "independent spaces," specialized, functional, and discrete from one another, reached by way of connecting hallways. New houses provided secluded bedrooms and studies to which their owners could withdraw whenever they wished. Gone too were the old free-standing wardrobes. They were replaced by built-in closets affording the space required to house expanded quantities of clothing and an accumulation of consumer goods unknown to Colombian households of earlier times. Garages too were de rigueur. Automobiles were required for homeowners in the new neighborhoods, who demanded a fast and private mode of transport. During the 1930s and '40s, members of Colombia's artistic community interpreted and fed the iconoclastic spirit of their times. In the field of pictorial art there appeared a group of young painters calling themselves Los BachuŽs (BachuŽ was a pre-Columbian goddess), dedicated to the exploration of Colombian themes. Led by Antioquian Pedro Nel G—mez, they created murals, sculpture, and canvases dealing with the nation's indigenous past and with the struggle of rural workers. In that sense they paralleled and emulated the work of their Mexican contemporaries Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros.72Colombian plastic art received a great boost in the 1940s thanks to the initiative of then Minister of Education Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n, who, in mid1940, organized the first National Salon of Art. Thanks to the salons, which were held annually thereafter, younger artists like Enrique Grau, Alejandro Obreg—n, and Fernando Botero were able to win public recognition. Controversy marred the second salon after judges rejected as inappropriate for the

PAGE 277

A Society in Flux | 259exhibition Carlos Correa's painting The Annunciation, depicting the Virgin as a voluptuous reclining nude. This led many of Colombia's better-known artists to withdraw their works from the competition. Resubmitted and accepted for the third salon under the title Nude, Correa's painting was judged the best of the exhibit. Nevertheless, the award, and the work itself, produced an outcry. Members of the Church judged it a "precocious irreverence," and a work of "insensitive perversity [and] blasphemy." Writing in El Espectador of October 14, 1942, Emilia Pardo Uma–a remarked, "This painting should not be exhibited. . One should not so easily forget that Colombia is a Catholic country. . The act of changing the title in no way lessens the malign, vitriolic impact of juxtaposing sacred stained-glass windows and a more than disagreeable nude."73No group was more outspoken in its critique of the old ways than Colombia's poets. As members of the generation of Los Nuevos, they celebrated the new freedom, diversity, and eclecticism perceived in contemporary society. Their reaction against their seniors ran from Rafael Maya's restrained criticism of modernists like Guillermo Valencia for their uncritical acceptance of theories and doctrines "that fought against individual sentiments," to Le—n de Greiff's damning of foreign traditionalists as "harlequinesque figures, prodigies of vacuousness, slaves to a precise model."74 Others, like Luis Vidales and Porfirio Barba Jacob, directed their iconoclasm at society at large. The former frequently worked in an anticlerical mode, proclaiming his goal to be "the negation of the sacred," while the latter, a bohemian who spent most of his life outside Colombia, described his poems as "diabolical" works in "defiance of traditional morality."75The reaction to such departures from poetic and social convention was predictably strong among the traditional-minded. Conservative Laureano G—mez, writing under the pseudonym Jacinto Ventura, responded to Le—n de Greiff's earthy free verse with a series of humorous articles parodying his poetry and suggesting that anyone could learn to emulate it through correspondence courses. G—mez was less gentle with poet Dar’o Samper, whom he considered a follower of de Greiff. After panning Samper's Cuaderno del tr—pico, G—mez concluded referring to it as a "detestable pamphlet, bad smelling, repellent," one "that cultured persons will hasten to toss into the garbage." G—mez dismissed Barba Jacob's poetry as "worthless." When word came of the poet's death in Mexico, G—mez damned Barba Jacob's oeuvre as "the cry of a criminal or madman, the appropriate place for its recitation the madhouse or the prison." The entirety of his poetic production, wrote G—mez, "should be thrown onto a manure heap."76During the thirties and forties Colombian society and culture clearly teetered between two worlds, one of tradition and the other of change. While

PAGE 278

260 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965individuals committed to questioning old ways seized the initiative, many others clung to ingrained attitudes and prejudices. Among the notions to which they clung were a range of racial and sexual stereotypes, chief among them ideas concerning women. Women's issues received unprecedented attention following the change to Liberal government in 1930. During the regime of Olaya Herrera women were granted both the right to inherit property and to enter into contractual agreements. Thus the traditional concept of woman as a ward of her father, husband, or closest male relative was suppressed. Under the administration of Alfonso L—pez, discrimination on the basis of sex was declared illegal, and laws were passed granting women equal access to professional programs. The National University received its first female student in 1936, and five years later, the National School of Mines. Following Alfonso L—pez's belief that the democratization of education would lead to a weakening of "the spirit of caste" in Colombia, a number of steps were taken to broaden curricula and to integrate women into publicly supported education programs. High school degree programs were broadened to allow specialization in the social sciences, and the Female Pedagogical Institute was made part of the new coeducational National Superior Normal School.77 Private efforts at raising the educational level of women had been going on for some time. Educator Agust’n Nieto Caballero's Gimnasio Femenino graduated its first class in 1932.78Notwithstanding these early efforts to enhance the position of women in Colombian society, progress toward that end was painfully slow. Few women took advantage of the enhanced opportunities. At the end of L—pez's first administration only fourteen of 127 students in the National University's school of education were female. And by 1954, thirteen years after women were admitted to the School of Mines in Medell’n, only four had graduated.79The hesitance of women to enter the professions was in large part a function of the near universal male prejudice against women entering the workforce. Even so, such an otherwise liberal-minded public figure like Germ‡n Arciniegas had tried to block the admittance of women to the National University, arguing that "women are not competent to enter certain occupations and professions that belong and correspond to men."80 Following the pause in reform after 1936, progress toward equality for women in secondary education slowed, and was in some cases turned back. Eduardo Santos's minister of education, Guillermo Nanneti, implemented a special high school program for women featuring sewing, home economics, interior design, and moral formation. During the first year of Santos's presidency the state high school in Tunja ceased admitting females "because the girls did better than the boys, and that caused problems." Six years later, in 1944, Minister of Education Antonio Rocha asserted that "unless we force the campesino back to his plot and women back to the home the integrity of the nation will be in jeopardy."81

PAGE 279

A Society in Flux | 261Progress was more disappointing in the effort to extend women's rights in areas other than education. When, in 1935, Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n requested legislation granting women the right to vote, his colleague Armando Solano responded in an article holding that "the interests of democracy would be gravely menaced should women receive the right to vote," because in Colombia "religious sentiments weigh too heavily on the public and private conduct of women."82Germ‡n Arciniegas, Armando Solano, Antonio Rocha, and Guillermo Nanneti were all Liberals whose social thought reflected that of more forwardthinking Colombian males. Others adopted positions as extreme as that of Antioquia's Monsignor Builes, for whom women's riding astride constituted a mortal sin, and who viewed the custom of women dressing in slacks as evidence of a Masonic plot "to rob women of their modesty."83Certain attitudes concerning sex and sexual preferences remained unaltered during the 1930s and '40s. Prostitution flourished as economic prosperity increased during the thirties and afterward. Antioquian women attending the Third Congress of Public Improvement held in Medell’n in 1935 were so shocked by the scandalous commerce that they lobbied for strict regulation of the city's red-light district.84 Homosexuality remained a social taboo not mentioned in public. When on New Year's Eve, 1938, JosŽ Camacho Carre–o's brother-in-law Rafael V‡squez called Camacho a queer ( marica ) and beat him in public, the Conservative politician armed himself, went to V‡squez's home and shot him dead. Camacho later penned an eloquent defense of his action, stressing the impropriety of V‡squez's public and repeated use of phrases such as "he is a queer, a bugger," "this son-of-a-bitch queer," and "this disgraceful degenerate."85 In his statement Camacho never denied V‡squez's charge of homosexuality. A sympathetic judge acquitted Camacho of manslaughter and freed him on the grounds that his brother-in-law had threatened to kill him. Less than a year after his release Camacho Carre–o drowned while swimming in the sea near Barranquilla.86Racial prejudice, and the underlying belief that racial mixing created inferiority, was another burden that accelerating social change had not lifted from Colombians. Fifteen years and more after European racist theories were first debated in the country, El Tiempo writer Alfonso del Corral fretted that "the race mixing produced when Europeans arrived on this continent kept our people from developing a sound psychological makeup." Del Corral was especially hard on his country's nonmestizo population: "Undoubtedly our anthropological and ethnic heritage leaves much to be desired. Still that does not mean we must cease fighting against these ethnic elements. . When we observe Indian communities we see that the people there live the almost exclusively vegetative existence characteristic of persons possessing psychologically inferior attitudes. They are almost completely instinctual, showing few signs of

PAGE 280

262 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965having evolved."87 The persistence of such thinking prompted the founding in 1942 of the Instituto Indigenista, whose chief purpose was to combat the racial decay theory.88Official Colombia reflected the anti-Indian bias of greater society when it renewed the assault on communally held Indian resguardo (reservation) lands during the Santos administration. Throughout the nineteenth century it had been an article of liberal faith that turning resguardos into individual land holdings would transform indigenous peoples into socially productive yeoman farmers. In July 1940, Congress signed Acuerdo 1421, a measure designed to speed the breakup of Colombia's remaining resguardos. While Minister of Agriculture Miguel L—pez Pumarejo assured his colleagues that the agreement would "stimulate indigenous workers," its real effect was to speed the transfer of resguardo lands into the hands of non-Indians. By early 1943, the intrepid Indian leader Manuel Quint’n Lame complained that he and his people "were being ruined without their lands . because [the resguardos] are being auctioned off by the municipal treasurer of Ortega [Tolima]."89Yet another prejudice that stubbornly resisted modification was antiSemitism. When Hitler's persecutions sent Jews fleeing Germany, Colombia was reluctant to accept them. This was in part the fault of Foreign Minister Luis L—pez de Mesa, who, when consular officials cabled from Berlin asking that Colombia accept an increased flow of refugees, responded that the "five thousand Jews presently established in Colombia constitutes a figure impossible to augment." At that time Colombia's Jewish population stood at 0.05 percent. In official dispatches L—pez de Mesa referred to the asylum seekers as "Jewish elements," the majority of whom were "presumed merchants of doubtful morality," harboring "a parasitic orientation toward life." In 1941, when a Jewish industrialist from the United States offered to build a tinfoil factory in Colombia, L—pez de Mesa responded that "Colombia would be enchanted to receive [the investment] but not the Jewish businessman."90Colombian social change was played out against a backdrop of global war that also shaped the Andean nation between 1939 and 1945. Colombia sided with the Allies during World War II, breaking diplomatic relations first with Japan after that nation attacked the United States in late 1941, and then with Germany after the sinking of the Colombian schooner Resolute in June 1942. Most Colombians endorsed their country's support of the United States and its European allies. A common republican tradition and a shared dislike and fear of the German dictatorship gave Colombia and the United States ample ground for cooperation and collaboration. Cultural and commercial links with France, Belgium, Great Britain, and the other nations suffering Nazi aggression further strengthened Colombia's commitment to the Allied cause. While it is true that Colombia could hardly have done other than support the

PAGE 281

A Society in Flux | 263Allies, given the dominance of the United States in hemispheric affairs, it is also true that economic considerations alone would have demanded the pro-Allied stance. Axis markets were closed to Colombia after 1939. The United States was not only anxious and able to purchase virtually any raw materials Colombia could produce, but was also willing to supply badly needed economic and technical aid. There was, finally, the fundamental affinity between Colombia and the capitalist democracies at war with Germany and her allies. When the war began, Colombia, the United States, and the nations of western Europe stood united both at the level of economic self-interest and that of their shared faith in liberal free-market capitalism. Only the more extreme Conservative factions were unhappy with their country's support of the American-led war effort. Those included the traditional-minded Historical wing of the party, whose principal spokesman was Laureano G—mez, and the few belonging to the National Action faction located even further to the right and associated with Gilberto Alzate Avenda–o. Their opposition might not have troubled Colombia's Liberal government or its wartime allies but for the fact that chief formulator of the anti-American and neutralist position, G—mez, was also titular head of the party to which nearly half of all Colombians claimed allegiance. It is also significant that G—mez's opposition went beyond simple anti-Americanism and constituted criticism of modern Western civilization as a whole. The passion and skill with which G—mez presented his dissenting vision of social change had the dual effect of inspiring Conservatives and disconcerting Liberals. By the early 1940s, when internal dissension rent the government party, G—mez's message of universal cultural decay owing to pernicious liberalism deepened national demoralization. G—mez's blasts against Western liberalism were rooted in the doctrine of philosophic conservatism, deriving specific intellectual content from the encyclicals of Pius IX and Leo XIII and from the ideology imparted to him by the Jesuit faculty of San BartolomŽ. His earliest public statements reflected an ongoing attempt to explain national and global problems in terms of liberalinspired subversion of the orderly, hierarchical society depicted in Roman Catholic social philosophy. G—mez's belief in the beneficence of traditional social norms deepened between 1928 and 1932, when he observed firsthand the threat that fascist and communist dictatorships posed to a Europe fatally weakened by two centuries of liberal error. Soon after his return from Europe, Laureano G—mez delivered a series of doctrinal messages in which he explained the Roman Catholic underpinnings of Conservative belief, and vigorously denounced the competing fascist and communist philosophies. In 1938 he began an elaboration of what Colombian Conservatism was not, in a series of speeches whose general theme was that modern society was poisoning the

PAGE 282

264 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965human spirit. Thus he anticipated by a full year Pius XII's encyclical Summi pontificatus, in which the pontiff decried the "spiritual emptiness" of the age and lamented that society's "denial and rejection of a universal norm of human morality" had led humankind to the brink of a terrifying abyss.91The critique of Liberalism that Laureano G—mez developed between 1938 and 1942 began with an indictment of the Enlightenment rationalism that had undermined the Western world's belief in divine law. This erosion of faith had produced a confusion in moral standards that made possible the French Revolution and its excesses, a "nightmare for humanity" during which a "diabolical and persistent persecution was carried out aimed at undermining the Catholic and spiritual bases of humanity, forcing mankind toward atheism, Jacobinism, and the cult of the Goddess Reason."92Modern liberalism was, in G—mez's view, the bastard child of French revolutionary anticlericalism, the liberal himself a relativist when not an outright skeptic, and an inveterate persecutor of the Church. As law and justice had their fundamental expression in divine law, the liberal's anticlericalism rendered him an enemy of civilization, in short, a barbarian.93Because Laureano G—mez perceived philosophic liberals as relativists lacking in sound judgment, he believed them to be easy dupes of persons wishing harm to the fatherland. By 1938 he had come to see that the secularism making rapid strides in Colombia obeyed the master plan of subversives anxious to disorient Catholics and lure them away from their Christian traditions. Writing in El Siglo of January 19, 1938, he identified Jews, Masons, and Communists as the three chief groups dedicated to bringing Colombia low. Referring to them variously as "the fatal trinity," and "the sinister tripod," he informed readers that Jews, Masons, and Communists were "sustaining the revolutionary activity destined to spread the mantle of desolation and death over the nation." He made specific reference to the government's modernization of curriculum at the public high school in Tunja, which de-emphasized religious instruction and required that the school accept female students. He saw such changes as a "crime against religion" aimed at stripping children of their religion at an early age, thus embittering their spirits. Such a child would inevitably mature into "the man who raises the clenched fist, the cold and cruel incendiary, the cold-blooded murderer, a machine for destroying and killing." He attributed those changes in part to the influence of Jewish refugees recently hired by the Ministry of Education, a "monstrous act, a great treason against the national spirit," for which the name of Alfonso L—pez would be forever execrated. By 1942, Laureano G—mez had developed a hierarchy of the three evil forces drawing Western peoples away from their Christian beliefs. During a Senate speech of that year he pointed to the "universal phenomenon" of Juda-

PAGE 283

A Society in Flux | 265ism as having evolved the philosophy of communism, through which it proposed to advance its program of conquest, with the help of the "shadowy social phenomenon" known as Masonry. Jews, he said, were enemies of Christianity and hence dangerous undesirables forever conspiring against the peoples among whom they lived. That is why nations having Jewish populations faced two stark options: "either turn the country over to the Jews, or expel the Jews."94G—mez did not employ conspiracy theory to explain Europe's slide into war. Rather he attributed that debacle to modern man's abandoning moral law in favor of "positive law" based in Kantian rationalism and moral relativism. As early as 1934, in his scathing denunciation of Adolf Hitler's political tactics, G—mez had argued that those excesses were explained by the fact that nineteenth-century Germans had adopted Kantian "scientism," which formed the basis of empirical positive law. Thus they fell away from the Roman law tradition common to Latin and Catholic nations. It was thus liberal, relativistic positive law that made Hitler's excesses juridically possible. Eight years later G—mez was still arguing that point. Writing in El Siglo of June 21, 1942, G—mez held that the war was but one consequence of "the fundamental opposition between the Catholic notion of morality and the positivist one." The war, for G—mez, simply stood at the end of a long process beginning in the seventeenth century, when Cartesian rationalism encouraged Westerners to deny natural law. That in turn unleashed a "savage naturalism" upon the earth among whose consequences were the French Revolution and subsequent European wars. When France fell to Hitler's armies in mid-1940, G—mez held up the event as proof that the liberal Third Republic, shot through with Masonic influence and corruption, persecutor of the Catholic Church for fifty years and more a "regime of blood and pus"had been fatally weakened by anti-Christian subversion. He pointed that out in three near exultant El Siglo editorials of June 11, 14, and 18, 1940, the last of which was titled "La troisime ha muerto!" Franco's Spain was for G—mez the great success story of wartime Europe. Spain was the single European nation whose people had been able to halt the process of decay under the Republicans, and, through a terrible civil war, preserved its Roman Catholic underpinnings. General Francisco Franco, leader of the Spanish Nationalists, was for G—mez the "solitary paladin in the battle for Christian culture," a man who had done battle with and defeated the National Front regime that earlier had "bloodied and dishonored Spain." Under the liberal regime that had, in 1933, overthrown the Spanish monarchy, the country had become a "spiritually arid place" where "the people's will [had been] rendered impotent, and their bodies bent beneath the yoke of barbarism." She

PAGE 284

266 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965had been "dominated by a communist revolution, dominated more completely than she had been by the Moors." G—mez made these remarks in a speech that ended as follows: "Praised be God, who allows us to witness this unexpected moment of national transformation! Praised be the events that day by day cause to well from deep inside us the fervent salute: Up with Catholic, imperial Spain!"95The cultural vision that Laureano G—mez presented to his followers was a highly ideological one aimed at convincing them that there was one proper sort of society for Colombia, the harmonious one described in Roman Catholic social philosophy. In such a society the good citizen always placed spiritual concerns above physical ones, directing his actions so as to place the common good over narrow personal considerations. No wonder Laureano G—mez was upset by the yeasty change besetting Colombia during the late thirties and early forties. He could not help but view that process as one orchestrated by nonCatholic enemy cultures that wished his country ill. G—mez's belief that materialism and spirituality were locked in mortal conflict throughout the world inevitably led him to oppose Colombia's growing economic and diplomatic contact with the United States. For years he had been more strident than those of his country's political left in denouncing the U.S. territorial, commercial, and cultural imperialism that allowed Yankee capitalists to enrich themselves at the expense of Latin America. When, in mid-1940, Foreign Minister L—pez de Mesa asked the Senate to approve a declaration of hemispheric solidarity, G—mez argued against it on grounds that Anglo and Latin America were culturally distinct regions having nothing in common beyond geographic proximity. He further argued that far from constituting "sister republics" and "good neighbors," the relationship between the two regions was a predatory one in which a Moloch-like United States historically revealed an insatiable appetite for Latin American lands from Mexico to Panama and beyond. He asked his colleagues to resist being "influenced by the bad faith and tendentious propaganda of enemy cultures."96As was typical of him, G—mez turned his defense of Colombia into an attack on the predatory Americans, at the same time broadening his argument to embrace the entire Western world. The United States, he said, was a typical "mechanical civilization," forced to colonize weaker peoples in order that its own sons might live in the typical "supercivilized" fashion afforded by modern science. But as that style of life was costly, it was necessary that "a great proportion of humanity . be required to live in inferior conditions in order to help pay the cost of those who have achieved it."97 This was why a minority of the world's peoples, Colombians included, had been reduced to the status of servants by selfish imperialist powers. On the basis of that argument G—mez was able to conclude that "mechanical civilization has failed; it has filled the

PAGE 285

A Society in Flux | 267conscience of man with dreams of a style of life that Mother Earth is incapable of providing."98In the final analysis the argument that Laureano G—mez mounted was antimaterial and metaphysical. Speaking to the party faithful in 1938, he said that the materialist drama was reaching its fatal denouement, having produced "an incomplete human being, a mutilated one . [who] has no way of resisting the temptations of the demon." Confronted by the dilemma of having to earn his freedom through suffering or to achieve pleasure at the expense of liberty, modern human beings would inevitably choose the latter. Thus they entrusted to Satan the patrimony received from Christ. That, concluded G—mez, "is the tragedy of modern man."99By the early 1940s, Laureano G—mez had succeeded in painting a frightening picture of a country whose spiritual underpinnings had been eaten away by the disassociative forces of modern life. While his specific analysis of Colombia's ills may not have convinced other than doctrinaire Conservatives like himself, it did nothing to lessen the growing sense of malaise besetting Colombia's public world as the 1940s progressed.To Make the Republic UnlivableNot long after the Conservative Party directorate proclaimed its abstention from electoral politics in late 1933, Laureano G—mez put forth the Gandhian principle of civil resistance to state power that would henceforth guide his actions and those of his followers: "Our duty is to make the atmosphere of the Republic almost unlivable," he wrote in an El Pa’s article of early 1944.100G—mez was as good as his word. Over the period of Alfonso L—pez's first presidency the Conservative Party leader steadily increased the stridency of his attacks on the L—pez regime and all things Liberal, until it became clear that he would employ any tactic short of outright violence to hinder L—pez's "Revolution on the March" and further his own party's return to power. "I was born to throw stones," said G—mez, and throw verbal and written stones he did, unmercifully pelting Alfonso L—pez and his successor, Eduardo Santos, between 1935 and 1942. When L—pez won reelection in 1942, G—mez redoubled his assault, in the process making the political nation truly unlivable for L—pez and many other Colombians. At length G—mez's unrelenting obstructionist campaign took its toll, driving L—pez to resign his presidency in July 1945, a full year before his term expired. "I don't think I have sufficient energy to put [new legislation] into effect," L—pez said a month before stepping down, adding, "and even if I did I wouldn't have the will power to put the new laws into effect."101 Alfonso L—pez left behind a divided and dispirited party. Laureano G—mez was brilliantly successful in his decade-long campaign of

PAGE 286

268 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965political opposition, though he and Colombia ultimately paid a high price for that success. G—mez earned the hatred of most Liberals. Furthermore, he taught them by example how relatively easy it is to render a complex civil society unlivable. Less than a year after L—pez's resignation Colombia's Liberals would make use of the same divisive strategies they had learned from Laureano G—mez. After Eduardo Santos assumed office on August 7, 1938, Colombians had reason to think that a return to political normality might be at hand. Conservative leader G—mez, long under pressure from party moderates to drop the policy of political abstention, finally did so. Eduardo Santos had given repeated assurances that should the Conservatives return to active political participation, he would extend them every protection over the months preceding the mid-term congressional elections set for March 1939. Accordingly, Laureano G—mez ended abstention shortly after Santos's inauguration. Shortly thereafter, while campaigning in northeastern Colombia, he paused to telegraph the president: "We have enjoyed all the guarantees promised by your illustrious government while traveling through the Santanders."102 Tragically that harmonious climate did not last. No Colombian president was able to control the excesses of his copartisans everywhere in the nation, as became clear eight weeks before the election in the mountain village of Gachet‡, Cundinamarca. On January 8, 1939, Conservative Party leaders held a political rally there, not knowing that local Liberals had conspired with municipal police, also Liberals, to violently disrupt the event. When the rally began Liberal militants began harassing and beating the Conservatives who stood in the crowd, all of whom had previously been searched and disarmed. When the victims fought back, police opened fire, killing nine outright and wounding numerous others. The Gachet‡ massacre produced an angry confrontation between Eduardo Santos and Laureano G—mez, the latter charging the former with betrayal of his pledge to protect Conservatives. Santos expressed his own shock over the incident, promising to investigate it fully and to punish those responsible. But his actions left G—mez and top Conservative leaders of Cundinamarca, several of whom had witnessed the killings, determined to exact revenge for the cowardly attack. In their party convention of January 21, 1939, they pledged themselves to a policy of armed self-defense which Eduardo Santos promptly labeled Intrepid Action. Laureano G—mez heartily endorsed the policy, which he himself termed the Right to Self-Defense of Collectivities. The character of the new policy, and the anger producing it, can be gauged by an El Siglo editorial signed by G—mez and published February 14, 1939. Alluding to the legal principle of self-defense, he posited that political collectivities have the same right to defend themselves as do individuals. He termed the parties "tran-

PAGE 287

A Society in Flux | 269scendental associations," for which generations of Colombians had gladly sacrificed their lives. That being the case party members had a legitimate right to kill persons who threatened their party, for in doing so they were "defending something that [they] value more than life itself." Next G—mez developed a theory of prophylactic killing that deeply shocked many Colombians. "Experience tells us who the criminals are in each region who massacre our fellow party members," he wrote, adding, "upon these criminals it is necessary to exercise the right of self-defense in a preemptive manner so as to frustrate their plans." Persons who supply them with firearms, he continued "also may be eliminated, if there is no other way of impeding their criminal endeavor." Laureano G—mez concluded his editorial by stating the guidelines which Conservatives were to follow before applying their definitive solution to the problem of Liberal violence: "We must not strike preventive blows against such persons unless we are absolutely sure they are plotting violence. For the violent defense of the collectivity to be licit the following conditions must be met: (1) Public authorities do not wish to, or cannot defend it effectively; (2) There must be solid probability of effective results. . ; (3) One must be able to locate with certainty, subject to the approval of directors of the collectivity, the individuals who plot aggression against it in order that defense be exercised upon them." The implications of the Right of Self-Defense of Collectivities doctrine frightened Colombians. It was certainly not popular with other Conservative Party leaders, who refused to endorse the concept when they met in their national convention during early February 1939. A substantial bloc of them, led by Antioquian Pedro J. Berr’o and anti-G—mez dissident Augusto Ram’rez Moreno, walked out of the convention in protest. Laureano G—mez must have known that he stood no chance of convincing his colleagues from departments other than Cundinamarca to espouse violent self-defense against Liberals, for he left the country on vacation to Panama and Ecuador in the midst of the meeting. The party platform that emerged from the convention also reflected rejection of G—mez's extreme position. It contained no mention of the policy adopted by Cundinamarca Conservatives and limited itself to deploring Liberal violence, which would, if not ended, produce "catastrophic consequences" for national peace and prosperity.103The March 19, 1939, elections were held in an atmosphere of calm, with the Liberals winning 77 seats in the Chamber of Representatives to the Conservatives' 40, and 142 seats in departmental assemblies to the Conservatives' 94. Many Conservatives believed their showing to be satisfactory, given the fact that they had not voted in any national contest for six years. Clearly Liberal and Conservative moderates had prevailed over their more militant fellows. At least that was the conclusion drawn by Ram’rez Moreno, who, while his dis-

PAGE 288

270 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965sident slate did not win a single C‡mara or assembly seat, could write on March 20, "I won the election in that I made Conservatism return to peaceful coexistence [with Liberalism]."104 Another implication of the March 19 election was that Laureano G—mez would return to the Senate. Senators continued to be elected by departmental assemblies, and the Conservatives' strong showing in departmental contests meant that they would be well represented in the upper chamber through the remainder of Eduardo Santos's presidential term. Liberals were no less divided than Conservatives when Eduardo Santos took up his presidential duties in 1938. Santos had entered politics at the height of the Republican Union movement (19091914), going on to defend Republican bipartisanship in his newspaper El Tiempo which he turned into the nation's most influential journal. Santos's old Republicanism reasserted itself when Olaya constituted his bipartisan government of National Concentration, and the newspaperman went on to serve as the new president's foreign minister. Four years later, when Alfonso L—pez launched his presidential campaign, promising to conduct a "revolutionary" government, Santos found himself in the position of being, after Olaya Herrera, the chief counterweight to L—pez's brand of militant, reform Liberalism. With Olaya's death in 1937, Eduardo Santos inherited the mantle of moderate Liberal leadership. It bore him into the presidency a year later on a platform aimed at placating Liberal centrists. Thus in 1938 the Liberal Party was divided between Santista moderates drawing heavily from the nation's business classes, and the Lopistas, representing left Liberals, along with a great many rank-and-file party members. The Lopistas made clear their opposition to Santos and his go-slow policies by launching their own newspaper, El Liberal, the first day of the new administration. Its editor, Alberto Lleras Camargo, soon emerged as L—pez's heir apparent. Eduardo Santos demonstrated his willingness to combat the Lopistas by filling his government with anti-Lopistas spanning the political spectrum from the change maker Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n, who had never forgiven L—pez for the preemptory way the president had dismissed him as alcalde of Bogot‡ in 1937, to right-wing Liberal Miguel L—pez Pumarejo, the former president's younger brother. Another exceedingly conservative Liberal briefly included in Santos's government, one of Alfonso L—pez's harshest critics during his first term, was Juan Lozano y Lozano. During the first year of Eduardo Santos's presidency there emerged a third Liberal faction expressly dedicated to blocking Alfonso L—pez's return to the presidency. It organized an anti-reelection committee in mid-1940 and set about exploring the possibility of promoting an anti-Lopista Liberal candidacy in 1942. Politicians mentioned prominently in that regard were Gabriel

PAGE 289

A Society in Flux | 271Turbay, Carlos Lozano, and Carlos Arango VŽlez. Chief among the concerns of the "anti-reelectionists," as they were called, was whether they could count on Conservative support in blocking a return to the presidency of Alfonso L—pez. And within that question loomed a yet greater one whose answer, if negative, doomed their endeavor. Could their fellow party members muster sufficient enthusiasm to vote for a candidate who was also supported by Laureano G—mez? It was the same old G—mez, enemy of all things Liberal, who returned to Congress in mid-1939. The Conservative leader threw himself into partisan debate with an Žlan belying his fifty years, verbally lashing the Santos regime for a range of sins and errors described as only Laureano G—mez knew how. Following adjournment of the congressional session, as the Liberal Party made plans to celebrate the centenary of the death of Francisco de Paula Santander, whom they revered as founder of their party, G—mez began publishing a series of essays holding that Santander was a malevolent figure, not the godlike one of Liberal myth. While the true Santander lay somewhere between either extreme, Eduardo Santos and his fellow party members were sorely vexed by the Conservative leader's gratuitous attack on their hero. In succeeding years more than one Liberal opined that his party could bring itself to forgive Laureano G—mez everything save his unprovoked assault on the reputation of Santander.105Passions had not cooled following the polemic over Santander when the 1940 congressional term began. During the first week of debate Laureano G—mez criticized government activities ranging from its distribution of benefits for veterans of the war with Peru, to its use of additional powers granted the president for dealing with international affairs related to World War II and its forcing the Jesuits from a government-owned building used to house the Colegio San BartolomŽ. It was not those issues, however, but rather one that came up in a private conversation between G—mez and three Liberals that became the cause cŽlbre of the 1940 congressional term. On September 19, G—mez was chatting in a Senate hallway with Alfonso Romero Aguirre, Alvaro D’az, and Roberto Dur‡n Dur‡n, members of the newly formed committee working to thwart the reelection of Alfonso L—pez. In the course of their conversation G—mez was heard to say that a L—pez reelection would produce renewed Liberal attacks on Conservatives, which in turn would lead to "civil war and personal attacks." The furor that his words produced forced Laureano G—mez into a rare defensive posture. Later that day when Liberals accused him of threatening civil war and criminal assaults, G—mez attempted to downplay the remark. He said that he had been misunderstood, that the Liberals were wrong in equating "personal assault" with murder and assassination, "because its true technical name is self defense,' or

PAGE 290

272 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965collective defense,' according to the case." He went on to point out that while he did not advocate violence, he and his followers would fight if made to do so. For good measure he added, "and if we are forced to resort to violence, let us carry it out against the higher-ups, not against the followers." That was a clear reference to Alfonso L—pez. Two days earlier, during debate on September 17, G—mez had cited the writings of Spanish theologians Domingo de Soto (1494 1570), Juan de Mariana (15361624), and Francisco Su‡rez (15481617), in justifying the killing of any head of state who permitted violence to exist in his realm: "one whose underlings disregard his orders is a tyrant."106A month before the "personal attack" imbroglio Laureano G—mez delivered his celebrated "Conflict of Two Cultures" speech, in which he compared Anglo-American culture unfavorably with that of Latin America, going on to remind his listeners that the United States had bullied its weaker Hispanic sister republics over the preceding hundred years. He had raised that subject in order to castigate Santos for what in G—mez's view was his kowtowing to U.S. demands at a recent meeting of Western Hemisphere foreign ministers in Havana. There Colombian Foreign Minister Luis L—pez de Mesa had pledged his nation to cooperate with the United States in the event of aggression from any power outside the Americas.107 G—mez's speech, his threat to launch a civil war should Alfonso L—pez be reelected, and his long history of anti-Americanism earned him the enmity and mistrust of the United States government. Laureano G—mez's dislike of the Americans was founded in the fury he had felt when, as a lad, he witnessed that nation assist in the separation of Panama. By the time of World War II, when the United States moved to shore up hemispheric defenses, G—mez became Colombia's leading proponent of strict neutrality and a critic of the growing ties with the United States. When in late 1938 Colombia had agreed to accept a U.S. military mission whose goal was to protect the Panama Canal from Axis attacks, G—mez claimed that the Americans opposed fascist dictatorships only when their own interests were at stake. Otherwise they happily supported tyrants like Venezuela's Juan Vicente G—mez as long as such persons were sufficiently pro-U.S.108 A year later, in December 1939, shortly after Colombia had endorsed a U.S.-sponsored proposal declaring a 300-mile "neutrality zone" around the Panama Canal, G—mez ridiculed the notion. Why, he asked, should his country endorse the U.S. defense of territory the Americans had originally stolen from Colombia.109Prior to the "Conflict of Two Cultures" speech G—mez had lashed Santos for his pro-American stance in El Siglo editorials bearing titles such as "In the Wolf's Gullet," and "Foreign Orders."110 Through late 1940 and on into early 1941, G—mez and his colleague JosŽ de la Vega persisted in their verbal warfare. When in October G—mez learned that Colombia had accepted financial aid in exchange for granting landing rights to U.S. military aircraft, he accused

PAGE 291

A Society in Flux | 273his country's government of prostituting itself. In January 1941 he referred to the United States as a "tearful wolf" bent on deceiving Latin American leaders with "Jewish-inspired propaganda" so that it could continue exploiting the region to the benefit of its greedy "machine culture."111 Meanwhile JosŽ de la Vega published his criticism of Colombo-U.S. foreign policy in El buen vecino (The good neighbor).112The United States did not look kindly upon the hostility of G—mez and his followers, especially at a time when many Americans feared that Nazi aggression was imminent in Latin America. Over the course of 1940 the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, Spruille Braden, concluded that the Conservative leader's anti-Americanism was founded in a pro-Nazi attitude. G—mez's statement that his party was prepared to declare civil war should Alfonso L—pez regain the presidency moved Braden to warn U.S. Secretary of State Sumner Wells, "There is good reason to believe [G—mez] has an understanding with the Nazis for them to back him in a possible coup d'Žtat."113 Colombian Liberals like JosŽ Uma–a Bernal happily fed the Americans' suspicions and fears. In late 1940, Bernal told U.S. Third Secretary Vernon Fluharty that he was "absolutely certain there will be a Conservative-Nazi attempt to seize power."114 By year's end U.S. officials were referring to El Siglo as "the other Fifth Column" in Colombia, warning their superiors back home that it must be quickly brought to heel. Suddenly, on March 23, 1941, El Siglo readers noted a striking change in the editorial position of their newspaper. Figuring prominently on page one was an article praising a speech on hemispheric solidarity made the previous day by Ambassador Braden. The following day the ambassador received an invitation to dine with Laureano G—mez, his wife, and friends at the G—mez home. One day later Braden arrived for a meeting at the home of diplomat Francisco Urrutia only to discover a smiling Laureano G—mez and JosŽ de la Vega awaiting him there.115 Meanwhile, G—mez had telephoned the editor of stridently anti-U.S. La Patria of Manizales, asking him to soften his rhetoric. Laureano G—mez did the same. While he did not abandon his critical attitude toward U.S. interference in Colombian affairs, he turned from attacking to praising the Americans. In Senate debate on September 12, 1941, he said "we are friends of the United States . we are absolutely committed to the proposition that in our territory there will never be a conspiracy against their interests."116 A month later, in an El Siglo article taking the U.S. to task for its blacklisting of Colombian companies and disputing Ambassador Braden's insistence that there was a Nazi presence in Colombia, he wrote, "We have said that we are friends of the United States and we stand by that: the capital, power, and talent of the Americans are necessary for our progress. They are welcome here, and we receive them with open arms. But this capital must

PAGE 292

274 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965respect Colombian sovereignty and Colombian laws. It must seek cordiality, not hostility or unjust advantage."117The source of Spruille Braden's success in silencing El Siglo 's attacks on his government lay in U.S. economic might and its willingness to wield it to further national goals. In late March 1941, El Siglo was on the verge of closing thanks to the loss of advertising from U.S. firms and, still more serious, the cutting off of U.S.-produced newsprint. Faced with the prospect of losing his most powerful political weapon against Colombian Liberalism, G—mez humbled himself before the symbol of U.S. authority, Ambassador Spruille Braden. Once he did so, subsequently making good on his promise to cease his attacks on the United States, El Siglo 's paper supply was restored and the advertisements for American cigarettes, beauty aids, and household appliances reappeared in its pages. Spruille Braden's memo to the U.S. Department of State the day after his meeting with G—mez and de la Vega at the home of Francisco Urrutia recommended El Siglo 's removal from the American blacklist. Three days later, on March 29, 1941, U.S. embassy Secretary Gerald Keith wrote to Sumner Wells, "I think it would be well for American manufacturers again to advertise in [ El Siglo and La Patria ], always providing that they continue their friendly attitude towards us."118The case of Laureano G—mez and his followers, who were tarred as proNazi and forced to support U.S. policy through economic pressure, was a typical example of the overwhelming presence of the United States in Colombian affairs during the war years. Luckily for Colombia its friendliness toward the allied cause saved it from the Americans' wrath. Only at the level of domestic politics did Colombo-American wartime collaboration, and economic consequences thereof, produce certain baleful effects. Toward the end of World War II it became clear that U.S. interference in Colombia's internal affairs bore some responsibility for scandals contributing to the Liberal fall from power in 1946. One of Ambassador Spruille Braden's first actions on taking up his post in Colombia in 1939 was to ask the nation's cooperation against German business interests deemed dangerous to hemispheric defense. Some of the businesses in question, such as the German-operated airline SCADTA, were genuinely important. Others, like the Trilladora Tolima (Tolima threshing mill), owned by a Nazi military officer, were innocuous. Nevertheless, all of them were blacklisted or otherwise placed under Colombian control, ultimately passing into the hands of Colombian nationals. Should any action of a resident alien be deemed unfriendly to the United States his name and that of his firm soon appeared on the embassy blacklist and that usually signified financial ruin. Colombian nationals weren't immune to blacklisting, as the case of El Siglo demonstrated. Because Braden had paid informants scattered through-

PAGE 293

A Society in Flux | 275out the country, no anti-American or enemy of the war effort could be sure when an inadvertent action might bring him low.119 For example, one such informant wrote that drunken Colombian youths in Barranquilla had destroyed a photograph of Franklin D. Roosevelt, shouting as they did so, "To hell with the democracies! Viva Hitler!" That landed their family's company on the blacklist for the duration of the war.120The American-inspired pressure on firms owned or controlled by Nazi Germany, coupled with the extraordinary economic measures brought through Colombia's close collaboration with the Americans, placed tempting business opportunities before members of the nation's economic elite. That created an exciting though not altogether healthy business environment. Socialist Antonio Garc’a remembered it as a time of crisis and uncertainty, of "the anarchic growth of capitalism": "The war produced a . proliferation of state-run agencies [that] had the effect of diminishing the state's political effectiveness. . Meanwhile those agencies heightened the influence of members of the upper class who were charged with directing them."121 Garc’a describes the unchecked profiteering of "amoral economic upstarts" who gleefully took advantage of "a privileged system of self-enrichment." The acquisition of a government-authorized import license, or permission to engage in currency exchange, wrote Garc’a, enriched people more quickly than at any other time in Colombian history.122 Alfonso L—pez Michelsen, himself a young lawyer caught up in the frenzy, soon to be a chief figure in the scandals that brought down his father, captured the spirit of those days in his novel Los elegidos (The chosen), written seven years after the war's end. The younger L—pez wrote of the class he knew best, which he described as "completely divorced from the rest of the nation in education and aspirations," living in exclusive Bogot‡ neighborhoods "where the only thing that mattered was money."123 Los elegidos is as much an indictment of heavy-handed U.S. interference in Colombian affairs as of the monied class. The novel's protagonist, a German businessman forced to flee his country, eventually runs afoul of the infamous blacklist, is reduced to poverty, and ultimately is imprisoned in a concentration camp near Bogot‡ built to house German nationals suspected of being Nazi sympathizers. Novels like L—pez Michelsen's, and academic studies like that of Antonio Garc’a, depict a nation driven to excess both by the impersonal forces feeding a turbulent wartime economy and by the demands of its powerful ally. By the end of the war Ambassador Braden and his successor, Arthur Bliss Lane, had forced the Colombian government to violate the rights of resident Germans in a variety of ways, ranging from the preemptory firing of SCADTA employees, to the seizure and forced liquidation of German-owned property, to the physical incarceration of Germans in the concentration camp described by L—pez

PAGE 294

276 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965Michelsen. They had promoted police surveillance of resident foreign nationals and Colombians with the effect that, by Spruille Braden's own admission, the Colombian government had dramatically improved its ability to monitor the actions of its own citizens. This war-induced social tumult, enlivened by the paranoid atmosphere fed by rumors of Nazi-inspired coup attempts, weighed heavily on Colombian domestic life as the decade of the 1940s progressed. Alfonso L—pez won easily in the 1942 presidential election. He was opposed in the election by Liberal Carlos Arango VŽlez, candidate of anti-reelection Liberals, who was endorsed by Laureano G—mez and Conservatives in February 1942. L—pez's victory confirmed opposition fears that Liberals would refuse to vote for a candidate supported by the Conservatives. By election eve many citizens, President Santos among them, were sure that election day would be marred by violence. Luckily those fears were unfounded. One of the few casualties was Conservative militant Silvio Villegas, who was stabbed in a buttock as he departed the voting booth. Painful though the wound was, it provided Colombians one moment of humor during an otherwise tensionfilled day. Not knowing the nature of his injury two of Villegas's admirers sent him a telegram that read, "For all of us your wound will shine like a decoration."124Alfonso L—pez's reelection to the presidency did not negate the fact that he confronted a constellation of forces determined to frustrate any resurgence of his reform program. First there was the emergent business community, wedded to laissez-faire economic principles and dedicated to blocking any return to the interventionist policies of L—pez's first administration. Made up of moderate and right-wing Liberals, and bolstered by Conservatives from the moderate wing of their party, that group gained political coherence and power during L—pez's second administration through their newly organized interest groups ANDI and FENALCO. Two other powerful groups arrayed against L—pez were the ideological Conservatives led by Laureano G—mez and the Colombian army. The army and the Liberal Party had not been on good terms since 1930, when the Liberals came to power determined to counter Conservative influence in the military. Alfonso L—pez had been especially insistent that he possess an armed force of whose loyalty he was assured. His naming of militant Liberal Plinio Mendoza Neira as minister of war in mid-1936 so intimidated the military that a faction headed by retired General Amadeo Rodr’guez considered the possibility of launching a coup.125 Nothing ever came of it, and tensions between the army and the L—pez government lessened following the decline of the president's reform activity subsequent to 1936. Military-government relations were amicable through the Santos administration, and only with L—pez's return to the presidency did the old antagonisms flare again.126

PAGE 295

A Society in Flux | 277L—pez took up his presidential duties resolved to deal sternly with the army and the Laureanista Conservatives, for he believed the two groups were plotting to overthrow him. One of his first actions upon reentering office was to restate his belief that the army was a parasitic body that would better serve national interests by supervising colonization in frontier regions.127 Soon thereafter he challenged the military by hinting that he intended to reduce it in order to finance a reorganization of the police. Early in his second administration Alfonso L—pez also challenged the Conservatives by reviving the church-state issue. As soon as Congress reconvened in 1942, Minister of Government Dar’o Echand’a, recently Colombia's ambassador to the Vatican, presented his government's plan for revision of the Concordat of 1887. The new document permitted an expansion of state power in areas traditionally controlled by the Church.128By introducing religion as a subject of debate, the government insured that the 1942 term would be an especially exciting one. Laureano G—mez led the pro-clerical faction in defending the 1887 document, defying all who wished to reform it, up to and including Pope Pius XII himself.129 Minister of Government Dar’o Echand’a, who not long before had successfully negotiated with the Vatican revision of the concordat, served as the government's chief spokesman. Debate on the government initiative began in the press in mid-1942 and continued in Congress during October and November of that year, ultimately becoming so heated that it pushed war news to the interior pages of Colombia's newspapers. Laureano G—mez railed that the document's revision was a Masonic plot aimed at eroding national morality, thus speeding the inroads of godless rationalism and "mechanical civilization." On the Liberal side, Alfonso Romero Aguirre defended Masonry as not at all subversive, while Echand’a insisted both that he had not been a practicing Mason for years and that Masonry had nothing to do with the concordat's revision in any event. Ultimately the new document passed in both houses of the Liberal-dominated Congress. Laureano G—mez ended his portion of the debate denouncing Colombia's political system as a tyranny in which minority rights were invariably trampled by the "one-half plus one." Proclaiming majoritarian democracy to be fatally flawed, he vowed never to return to Congress, the scene of his greatest oratorical triumphs for more than thirty years. As for the new concordat, it was not immediately put into effect owing to the supercharged political atmosphere of the moment. Thus even in failure Laureano G—mez had for the time being satisfactorily responded to the government initiative. The year 1943 began on an uncertain note for Alfonso L—pez, and grew steadily more intolerable for the president, his family, and his government. During January and February rumors of conspiracy gained new intensity,

PAGE 296

278 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965culminating in March with the arrest of General Eduardo Bonitto, chief spokesman for military officers who were fearful that the army budget was about to be slashed and angered by public remarks of L—pez to the effect that army officers were "out of touch with political opinion [and this constituted] an isolated and useless class."130 L—pez's harsh words, and harsher charge of treason against Bonitto, came at the end of a long chain of rumors, fed by Nazihunters attached to the U.S. embassy, that the general was plotting with an outlawed nationalist group, one of whose members was the boxer Francisco A. PŽrez, "Mamatoco." Bonitto and PŽrez had been questioned about the alleged conspiracy in early 1942, and PŽrez was held under arrest for several months. The affair was ridiculed in the Conservative press as the "Mamatoco Conspiracy." The boxer himself made fun of the charges, which were never substantiated, in a poem reading in part, "On the Senate floor there sounded a sonorous voice . a minister who said, And there stands Mamatoco, who has driven us loco.'"131 Even Liberals tended to make light of the constant government alarms over an impending coup d'Žtat. Early in 1943, El Espectador writer Dar’o Bautista had poked fun at Laureano G—mez as "the chief of conspirators," and at Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n as "uneasy and revolutionary.'"132Only the government was not amused. For President L—pez, his supporters, and U.S. embassy personnel, rumors of right-wing revolt were, however unfounded, no laughing matter. And that was just as Laureano G—mez wanted it. Years earlier he had accepted Alfonso L—pez's challenge to turn back the Revolution on the March if he could and had vowed to make the republic unlivable until such time as he achieved that goal. The growing despair G—mez observed in Lopista ranks convinced him that his assaults were weakening the Liberal edifice. In August 1943, Alfonso L—pez delivered a lengthy state-of-the-nation address to Congress. While most of the talk dealt with Colombia's economic health, a considerable portion of it contained the president's analysis of his country's ongoing political malaise. The speech is especially important in helping interpret the hopes of Lopista reformers and in explaining why they could never hope to deal with the brand of ideologically inspired opposition practiced by Laureano G—mez. L—pez used the occasion of his speech to advance the idea that Colombia had moved beyond ideology, to the point at which "the dividing line between our two historic collectivities is disappearing," rendered insignificant by economic forces that were rapidly modernizing the nation and wedding it to the global community. "Let me say it once more," he continued, "it seems to me that the outstanding aspect of contemporary civil life resides in the fact that we are moving from the dogmatic ground of religious controversy to that of economic preoccupations . to the point that our parties are voluntarily exchang-

PAGE 297

A Society in Flux | 279ing their old campaign issues [for] new ones." He explained that some of his fellow citizens continued to cling to passŽ political ideas only because they suffered from an "uncertainty as to concepts," a "lack of mature appreciation of the new terrain of political aspirations."133Thus Alfonso L—pez neatly dismissed ideologically held convictions at variance with his own as the product of "imperfect understanding," a polite way of saying ignorance. By taking the position that ideological traditionalists who peopled the Conservative right were simply unenlightened, he could disparage their concerns as irrelevant to the contemporary nation. This explains the inability of L—pez and others like him to take seriously the religiously founded critique of liberalism, and of modern society generally, that Conservatives like G—mez and his predecessors had been raising for over a hundred years. Alfonso L—pez's address of August 1943 was delivered at a moment when two great scandals were growing that would at length drive him from the presidency. The first involved the murder on July 14, 1943, of the former boxer and political gadfly Francisco PŽrez. The second was a series of financial transactions involving the president's son Alfonso L—pez Michelsen that, while not involving blatant wrongdoing, reeked of private gain through personal favors granted by a constellation of public officials headed by the chief executive himself. Between them, and their merciless exploitation by Laureano G—mez and his followers, the scandals created what one observer catalogued as follows: "an atmosphere of decomposition and insecurity; sensational financial scandals involving personages who enriched themselves unconscionably beneath a sheltering administration; bureaucratic sensualism; a government impotent to set right a critical situation."134Mamatoco was murdered in an exclusive Bogot‡ neighborhood, and his killers were later identified as minor officials of the national police. The boxer had made enemies among top police officials through his publication of a modest newspaper geared to exposing their misappropriation of funds and other forms of malfeasance. Beyond that, he was a known malcontent who had been implicated in rumored conspiracies against the government. For these and other alleged indiscretions high-ranking police officials determined that Mamatoco should be eliminated. Accordingly they dispatched underlings who stabbed him to death.135Conservative newspapers seized on the murder of Mamatoco with verve, insinuating that it was a crime of state ordered by Alfonso L—pez himself. Those charges were never proved, but in Colombia's political atmosphere of that time rules of evidence did not figure prominently in political discourse. Additionally, the incident was a godsend for Conservatives as it served to support their long-standing charge that the Liberals had politicized the police to serve their own ends.136 Conservatives in departments such as Boyac‡ had

PAGE 298

280 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965suffered the heavy hand of Liberal police since the change of government in 1930, and in Cundinamarca the shooting of Conservatives by Gachet‡ police still rankled in Conservative hearts.137 The problem of impunity in cases involving Liberal police who had abused Conservatives, and cases in which police did not effectively prosecute Liberal civilians, also angered Conservatives. Those responsible for the Gachet‡ massacre were never brought to justice. And in the equally celebrated case of Manizales Conservative Cl’maco Villegas, who in 1935 was shot in the back and mortally wounded by Liberal cacique Colonel Carlos Barrera Uribe, the justice meted out was slow and paltry. Nearly five years dragged by before Barrera Uribe was jailed. At that he ultimately served but fifteen months of a twenty-month sentence.138 All these events help explain the merciless way Conservatives exploited the Mamatoco case in Congress and in the press. The Mamatoco affair served Conservatives as an ideal backdrop against which to highlight the financial scandals tainting the president and his closest family members. Most damaging was a stock speculation scheme in which the president's son used privileged information to help himself and other family members make an extraordinary profit over a short period of time. Alfonso L—pez Michelsen's speculation involved stock of Handel Maatschappij, the Dutch concern that owned a controlling interest in the Bavaria Brewery. As one of Handel's lawyers, L—pez Michelsen became its fiduciary agent after Holland fell to the Nazis. When Handel stock fell on the New York exchange, L—pez family members bought it and later, thanks to government intervention, exchanged it for Bavaria stock valued nearly 100 percent more. Meanwhile the president issued a decree reducing the penalty for such speculation from 100 percent to 15 percent.139Friends of the government were aghast when details of the Handel affair leaked out over the course of 1943. Carlos Lleras Restrepo had warned a year earlier that L—pez Michelsen's involvement with Handel boded ill for the Liberal Party. The then finance minister had told Eduardo Santos that unless the complicated transactions were settled prior to L—pez Pumarejo's inauguration, a scandal might erupt and "the Liberal Party will run the risk of falling."140During September and October 1943, the president and his eldest son struggled to combat the scandals. On October 3, Alfonso L—pez Michelsen forwarded a letter to Minister of Government Dar’o Echand’a informing him that he had resigned his vice presidency of the Bavaria Brewery, rented out his coffee mill, and retired from business.141 Meanwhile the president stoutly maintained that there had been no wrongdoing on his part, or on that of any member of his family. Seven months later he elaborated on his view of wealth and privilege and of the use of public influence to enhance private interests. In his message to Congress on May 15, 1944, much of which was devoted to

PAGE 299

A Society in Flux | 281defending the business dealings of his eldest son, L—pez wrote, "I do not see any valid reason why, as they enter the struggle of life, my sons should not benefit from their family antecedents and from the education and preparation that I have fortunately been able to give them." He continued, "in the liberal capitalist regime people speculate on the basis of government rulings, whenever they are believed to be possible, whenever they are said to be probable."142Some months later Dar’o Echand’a found himself defending the L—pez family's financial dealings in a celebrated debate with Enrique Caballero Escobar that came to be known as The Clean Hands Debate. During that exchange Echand’a made the point that thanks to the actions of L—pez Michelsen lucrative property previously owned by foreigners passed into Colombian hands. In Echand’a's words, "the wealth was [thus] socialized."143On November 16, 1943, Alfonso L—pez Pumarejo requested and was granted permission to abandon the presidency in order to take his ailing wife to the United States for medical treatment. Alfonso L—pez Michelsen traveled with his parents as he had been invited by the United States government to undertake a college lecture tour.144 The presidential party left behind an administration under heavy attack by enemies ranging from Laureano G—mez to Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n. Administration supporters like Carlos Lleras Restrepo, who again occupied the post of minister of finance, now under acting president Dar’o Echand’a, admitted that his constant testimony before a hostile Congress had become hateful to him. Lleras recalled in his memoirs that he too had come to sense the atmosphere of political and social decomposition that grew heavier as the year progressed.145Of those who have tried to explore the implications of the Handel affair, historian Rafael Serrano Camargo comes closest to suggesting how it was perceived by the average citizen: "Once Congress ended its investigation the man in the street kept asking himself what Handel had been all about, because neither he nor a majority of citizens could get clear in their minds what was or was not crooked in such complicated intrigues."146 Serrano also calls attention to the fact that of all who had been involved in the Handel matter, ten had occupied, or were destined to occupy, the presidency: Liberals Eduardo Santos, Alfonso L—pez Pumarejo, Alfonso L—pez Michelsen, Dar’o Echand’a, Carlos Lleras Restrepo, Julio CŽsar Turbay Ayala, and Alberto Lleras Camargo defended the transactions. Conservatives Laureano G—mez, Mariano Ospina PŽrez, and Guillermo Le—n Valencia attacked them. While the average citizen may not have understood the intricacies of Handel, all knew that one way or another it linked their most prestigious leaders to financial dealings of a questionable nature. Once ensconced in the United States Alfonso L—pez let it be known that he was not anxious to return to Colombia. Word reaching him from home did

PAGE 300

282 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965little to convince him otherwise. Laureano G—mez, sensing that his long campaign against the Liberals was bearing fruit, had heightened his invective. On January 9, 1944, he published an El Siglo editorial stating, "We believe there is sufficient reason to declare civil war, but given that we are physically unable to do so, we merely hold up this regime for the condemnation of history, this regime that has made robbery, murder, and theft a system of government." A month later, when Minister of Government Alberto Lleras filed libel charges against G—mez, the wily Conservative allowed himself to be jailed so he could pronounce histrionically from his cell, "When assassins, thieves, and liars are in the government, the only place in the country for me is prison. From there I shall speak until the end!" Seeing that its jailing of Laureano G—mez had infuriated even Conservative moderates, the government quickly freed him.147When frantic Lopistas at last prevailed on their chief to return home, L—pez arrived in a fighting mood, though not so much that he was ready to resume his presidential duties. In a series of speeches replete with hints that he would never return to the presidency, he gave the Conservatives a taste of their own intemperate rhetoric. Speaking in Barranquilla the day of his return, L—pez said: "In 1942 the Conservative Party not only opposed the government . but it tried to block the election of the Liberal candidate, to combat my name with a series of threats. The same Intrepid Action that had been ordered against the government of Santos, the same civil war that had been declared in the Santanders against Olaya, was augmented by a new form of violence: personal attacks to impede the person elected."148 He followed with similar indictments of the Laureanista opposition in addresses delivered later in Medell’n and Bogot‡. Political Colombia remained chaotic through early 1944. Alfonso L—pez refused to resume the presidency, Laureanistas continued their assault on "morally bankrupt" Liberalism, and organized labor and followers of the increasingly vocal Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n loudly and sometimes violently promoted their respective agendas. At last, on May 15, Alfonso L—pez presented Congress a formal request that he be allowed to resign the presidency. As he did so on the eve of a general strike called on his behalf by the nation's workers, who were his most fervent supporters, it was obvious that he knew his request would be refused. That proved to be the case. Accordingly L—pez resumed the presidency, to the relief of his Liberal followers and to the joy of labor and the political left. The nation continued to drift over the two months following L—pez's return as chief executive. Congress was ill disposed to implement any new reforms; its members were divided, their attention focused on the 1946 presidential contest. Laureano G—mez and his followers vociferated that L—pez's party had committed suicide, and that the president had fallen prisoner to the commu-

PAGE 301

A Society in Flux | 283nistsmeaning to labor and the left.149 Severe discontent continued to run through the ranks of the military. Ironically it was the army that indirectly helped Alfonso L—pez salvage the third year of his second presidency. On July 10, 1944, while traveling in the department of Pasto in southern Colombia, L—pez was arrested by soldiers who presented him with a sheet of paper containing a statement of his resignation in favor of one Colonel Di—genes Gil. L—pez angrily refused to sign the document. Because in legalistic Colombia no transaction was possible unless accompanied by a sheet of official legal paper, which Gil had not used, the president's military kidnappers became disoriented and their coup attempt collapsed. Di—genes Gil later explained that his action was a spur-of-the-moment impulse born of frustration over the sad state of the Colombian army. Except for isolated incidents in IbaguŽ and Bucaramanga, the military remained loyal to L—pez and hostile to Gil and his supporters.150The Pasto incident gave new life to L—pez and his administration. Organized labor staged demonstrations in Bogot‡ and elsewhere celebrating L—pez's return to the presidential palace on July 12. In the meantime a state of siege was declared under whose terms it was possible for L—pez to push through the last two major reforms of his presidency. In September 1944 he issued Decree 2350, which served as the model for Law 6 of 1945, on comprehensive labor. And in early 1945, L—pez pushed through a constitutional revision notable in its effect of increasing political democratization and further strengthening the state at the expense of the departments. Both the labor legislation of 1944 and 1945 and the constitutional reform reflected ongoing progressive Liberal commitment to the advancement of democracy and social welfare through the guiding hand of the state. The most notable feature of the constitutional revision was its removal from departmental assemblies of the right to elect senators; this privilege was now made subject to popular vote. At the same time departmental assemblies lost other powers, and the state was granted new ones to intervene in business and industry through the creation of new consultative and regulative bodies. Meanwhile labor was granted the right to written contracts, severance and retirement pay, sickness and accident insurance, as well as to protection from unfair practices on the part of management. The new legislation also restricted labor by declaring strikes in transportation and public services illegal, by prescribing the procedures to be followed in collective bargaining, and by prohibiting parallel unionism.151The year 1945 dawned with Alfonso L—pez returning to his theme that party differences"unreasonable hatreds . fiefs mystically rooted in ancient soil"were rapidly becoming a thing of the past in Colombia. Political parties, he said, are transactional institutions based on the pragmatic, immediate concerns of their members, their programs arrived at through rational interest

PAGE 302

284 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965aggregation rather than "by acts of faith."152 But each time L—pez assured the nation that Liberals and Conservatives were forgetting their old differences, Laureano G—mez responded that ideological Conservatism was alive and well, ever disposed to combat the "unabashed Liberal concept of materialistic politics" responsible for the "spiritual decline of our people."153Laureano G—mez was far from alone in opposing the Lopista vision of a Colombia moving rapidly toward political consensus. Liberal members of the informal anti-L—pez coalition continued their harassment of his administration. On February 6, 1945, Laureanista Guillermo Le—n Valencia read an open letter from former police officer and Liberal Carlos G‡lvis G—mez on the Senate floor. The letter accused high administration officials of complicity in the Mamatoco killing. Lopistas called the charges "as vile as they were inept." Yet the exchange signaled that politics were again descending toward the level of a year earlier.154Succeeding months were marked by a series of incidents that Santista congressman Atilio Vel‡squez remembered as creating "a sensation of tumult, of latent menace and of dangerous instability."155 The March 1945 congressional elections were accompanied by new rumors of conspiracy that soared to new heights when a cache of explosive devices was discovered hidden in Bogot‡'s cathedral. Liberals were at one another's throats over the presidential succession, both for the 194650 term and the last year of Alfonso L—pez's term. The president had again resolved to retire from public life, spurred by the incessant criticism of his commingling the public and private spheres, and fearful of another coup attempt by the military. It was a tired and discouraged Alfonso L—pez who addressed a special session of Congress on June 26, 1945, which he had called to announce that public order had been restored and to describe his government's actions following the Pasto incident. While the president lauded the constitutional revision and the new measures concerning labor, L—pez bitterly condemned all who had opposed them. He complained that the labor initiative had touched off an anticommunist crusade among its opponents that had the effect of "reigniting the torch of class warfare" in Colombia.156Near the end of his address Alfonso L—pez again voiced his desire to quit the presidency, expressing the hope that Congress might find someone to replace him "whose life was not forever being threatened on the floor of the Senate in terms founded in doctrines of Spanish theologians bent on justifying the assassination of peninsular tyrants."157 That was an explicit reference to the speeches Laureano G—mez had made nearly five years earlier, concerning the likelihood of renewed attacks on Conservatives in the event Alfonso L—pez were reelected in 1942. G—mez had insisted that such violence would justify assassination of the diabolical L—pez Pumarejo. Those words had played a

PAGE 303

A Society in Flux | 285major role in making the republic unlivable for Alfonso L—pez and the rest of the nation. In his resignation message forwarded to and accepted by Congress three weeks later, on July 20, 1945, L—pez referred to the "systematic effort to foment discomfort and tumult" in Colombia that had produced a "deformation of political spirit" throughout the nation.158 It was his admission that a dedicated political opposition had been able to bring his democratically constituted regime to its knees. In that manner Laureano G—mez triumphed over his former friend Alfonso L—pez Pumarejo, maker of the despised Liberal revolution. But G—mez was not yet done castigating the Liberals. Soon his campaign would achieve its longintended end of pulling the Liberal Party from power. With that it would be the Conservatives' turn to experience the misery of attempting to lead a society half of which was dedicated to frustrating and impeding the governmental process. Following their fall in less than a year's time, Colombia's Liberals would demonstrate that they had learned well the obstructionist tactics taught them by Laureano G—mez over a period of sixteen years. They would also demonstrate their ability to perfect new strategies for making Colombia unlivable.

PAGE 304

286 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 193219659Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand DaysIntroduction: The Early ViolenciaWhen Alfonso L—pez resigned his presidency in 1945, Colombia's political elite embarked on a self-destructive course that within five years had subjected the nation to civil war and the suspension of democratic government. The inability of leading public figures to work together, and their willingness to enlist the citizenry in their partisan and personal struggles, spread violence and death over extensive portions of the nation. The armed struggle, first noted in sporadic incidents taking place in 1946, intensified over succeeding years, ultimately causing the suspension of civil liberties and the imposition of authoritarian rule in late 1949. The social upset that commenced in the mid-1940s, known to Colombian history as La Violencia, was destined to plague Colombia for nearly two decadesseven times longer than the civil war of 1899 1902, called the War of the Thousand Days. The Violencia eventually consumed some 200,000 lives and considerable national treasure. A complex phenomenon, it could not be effectively addressed until its traditional partisan aspect was neutralized in 1958, through the Liberal-Conservative power-sharing agreement called the Frente Nacional. Colombia's civil turmoil of the 1940s and succeeding decades has proved difficult to assess, in part because it occurred against a backdrop of burgeoning economic prosperity and social modernization. Thus, as politicians argued and campesinos died, Colombian social change moved apace. The coexistence of violence and rapid economic progress is not necessarily contradictory. That was manifestly the case in Colombia. One important reason that the Violencia and social progress could occur simultaneously was that the bloodshed was peripatetic and rural, and thus only rarely prejudicial to economic modernization. As an eminently rural phenomenon, restricted to the most inaccessible parts of departments where it existed, the Violencia never directly affected more than a minority of Colombians even in hard-hit departments such as Tolima. And as a phenomenon extending over two decades during which Colombia urbanized and industrialized, the atrocious and destructive Violencia clearly played a peripheral role in national life. When examined on a year-by-year basis, the Violencia is seen to have produced the

PAGE 305

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 287deaths of only a tiny percentage of the Colombian population. No wonder, then, that as the Violencia progressed, the great majority of Colombians both managed to keep their distance from it and to remain ignorant of its severity. This seeming paradox has made Colombia's recent history difficult to comprehend, a condition aggravated by the tendency of analysts to focus almost exclusively on the Violencia, and later manifestations of social nonconformity, along with the political system that produced them. Meanwhile the greater nation has been little studied, its dramatic social and economic changes either ignored or accepted unreflectively.The Gait‡n PhenomenonOnly occasionally have perceptive Colombians drawn attention to the unfortunate ascendance of Colombia's public realm over its private one and tried to bridge the gap between them to the benefit of both. Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n was one of the first to speak of the dichotomy between the "political nation" ( pa’s pol’tico ), as he called it, and the "popular nation" ( pa’s nacional, literally "national nation"). He made much of the fact that the few members of society who dominated politics abused their power at the expense of the vast majority of Colombians, citizens of the "popular nation." During the 1940s Gait‡n built a political movement dedicated to the proposition that most of Colombia's public figures were machine politicians having no vision of the commonwealth. Members of the political establishment, said Gait‡n, were members of a plutocracy who viewed public offices "as a cash cow" rather than as "a place of work for contributing to national greatness."1 Gait‡n's pledge was to rescue Colombia's public world and to insure that the average citizen received social justice. He damned most national figures, Alfonso L—pez included, as members of the "political nation," men ever willing to move the levers of public power to their own advantage and to that of family and friends. Gait‡n's message that greater Colombia must free itself from the domination of its political establishment resonated powerfully throughout the nation, especially in urban areas, where the striving for personal advancement worked to blur traditional partisan hatreds. But those hatreds remained strong in the countryside, where a majority of Colombians continued to live during the 1940s and where the Violencia began. Ultimately not even Gait‡n could escape the fact that he was a Liberal as well as a populist. Once he gained control of the Liberal Party in 1947, he found it impossible to reconcile his liberalism with his populism. As Liberals began dying in the countryside, Gait‡n increasingly turned to the partisan rhetoric of traditional political discourse. He thus ended sounding much like members of the "political nation" whom he had earlier castigated.

PAGE 306

288 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965When Gait‡n was assassinated in early 1948, his followers in the Gaitanista heartland of Bogot‡ struck out against those whom they accused of murdering their leader. The spontaneous Gaitanista riot of April 9, 1948, the Bogotazo, as it came to be known, failed in its immediate objective of overthrowing the Conservative government in power at the time. When after two hours that failure became apparent, the rioters quickly shifted their attention to the pursuit of personal ends through an orgy of looting that extended up to the moment public order was restored four to five hours later. As the riot and looting ran their course, political counterelites tried to channel popular anger and energy along partisan channels. The rioters ignored those appeals, pursuing immediate personal goals as public order lay prostrate before them. Gait‡n's murder convinced many Colombians that their public world was not worth saving. While the assassination had the effect of intensifying partisan violence in outlying regions, the death of Gait‡n led urban Colombians to adopt a position of indifference to public affairs. Students of Colombian history point to Gait‡n's assassination and to the violent reaction it produced as hurrying the nation toward political breakdown and civil war. Yet even more significant was the way it advanced the affective chasm dividing ordinary Colombians from their public leaders and causing a significant proportion of citizens to exchange traditional partisanship for political indifference. Those Colombians who on April 9, 1948, ignored calls to turn their anger to political ends were among the first to turn their backs on an ineffectual and self-destructive political world that did not serve their interests. The frustration that progressively alienated Colombians from their political establishment became apparent around the time Alfonso L—pez resigned the presidency in 1945. L—pez was brought down by two intractable problems. First, the economic progress he and his fellow Liberals had done so much to bring about had a negative by-productinflation. Inflation running at about 12 percent per year hurt the common people in their struggle to survive.2 Second, there was the widespread belief that the government was rife with corruption, a belief L—pez himself did much to foment in his 1944 remarks in defense of the economic advantages enjoyed by himself and his family. In a liberal democracy such as Colombia, he said, citizens compete equally for individual advantage, with those who were better off logically becoming more prosperous than the rest.3The popular dissatisfaction with those two problems served the interests of populism and L—pez's bitterest enemy within the Liberal Party, Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n. As L—pez and his supporters struggled to answer the charges of official corruption being hurled at them during 1943 and 1944, Gait‡n skillfully turned popular anger against the political status quo to his advantage. Gait‡n was ideal as leader of the campaign against Colombia's political

PAGE 307

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 289establishment. Risen from humble origins, he had cut a brilliant figure in congressional debates during the late 1920s, attacking the Conservative regime in power at the time. But his aggressiveness and high opinion of his own abilities, both characteristics of the generation that entered politics during the 1920s, sorely tried his elders within the Liberal Party, chief among them Alfonso L—pez. By the late 1930s and early '40s, Gait‡n had established his reputation as a Liberal maverick who stood ready to battle his party's leaders at every turn. When Liberal leaders threatened to exclude him from the party directorate during their 1939 convention, a rowdy group of Gait‡n's followers entered the hall and threatened violence if their chief were slighted.4 During the party convention of 1941, when Alfonso L—pez was put forth as Liberal candidate for the 194246 term, Gait‡n led a walk-out protesting the "dictatorial" manner in which the L—pez candidacy had been won.5 L—pez's subsequent reelection to the presidency so angered Gait‡n that he again contemplated bolting the Liberal Party as he had a decade earlier. Late in 1942 he warmly greeted the proposal of a bipartisan group which proposed that he head a national crusade aimed at replacing Colombia's constitution with a corporative one of technocratic cast, thus replacing Colombia's "parliament of politicians" with a "moral" apolitical one.6 But Gait‡n was too astute a politician to embrace corporatism at a moment more propitious to mass movements of a populist savor. Three things combined during 1943 to set Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n on the path that led him to sole leadership of the Liberal Party. First was the sudden rise and shocking fall of Francisco A. PŽrez, "Mamatoco." PŽrez, who like Gait‡n had been tarred as a fascist, and who was mocked for vainglorious statements such as, "I am one who is predestined, who intends to redeem [the people] from the oligarchy of money," and, "I promise to stand with the people [ pueblo ] and to fight its battles," had begun to make political waves in Bogot‡, when he was struck down by assassins.7 The fiery populism of PŽrez impressed Gait‡n, as it did other enemies of Alfonso L—pez and his clique. Simultaneous with the Mamatoco assassination, and second among factors leading Gait‡n to launch his final assault on the Liberal old guard, was the rash of financial scandals tainting the administration during 1943 and lending added weight to the question, Who killed Mamatoco? The Handel, Trilladora Tolima, and other incidents, seized upon by the Conservative opposition, convinced Gait‡n that the administration was vulnerable to attack on ethical as well as moral grounds. The third and final political development helping Gait‡n define his subsequent strategy for winning the presidency was the furious quasi-populist assault on L—pez and his government by Conservative congressmen in late 1943. During the congressional session of that year, while serving as president of the Senate, Gait‡n watched as Silvio Villegas attacked top administration

PAGE 308

290 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965officials as venal and corrupt oligarchs, noting the way delighted Villegas supporters in the visitors' gallery cheered the Laureanista senator with cries of "A la carga!" (Charge!). Gait‡n unofficially announced his intention to challenge the Liberal leadership yet again when in August 1943 he criticized L—pez for operating on the basis of simple "machine politics" rather than transcendent social ideals.8Early the following year Gait‡n formally launched his presidential campaign with the formation of Gaitanista committees in major cities and the establishment of his headquarters in Bogot‡. Liberal Party regulars tried to ignore Gait‡n's challenge, not an easy thing to do as fanatical Gaitanistas, known as the Jega (an acronym drawn from the initial letters of Gait‡n's name), disrupted party meetings in which their caudillo was slighted, and they stoned establishment newspapers that failed to give Gait‡n coverage.9 Such incidents were possible because the police of Bogot‡, sympathetic to Gait‡n's populist message, stood idly by when the Jega struck, enjoying the discomfort of Bogot‡'s political "oligarchy." One early victim of Gaitanista violence was Carlos Lleras Restrepo, who announced his candidacy for the presidency in a Teatro Municipal conference held March 24, 1944. The Jega packed the hall and disrupted Lleras's speech. When Lleras and his supporters left the auditorium they were threatened by a Gaitanista mob that followed them to Lleras's home, which they then stoned. Lleras renounced his candidacy a week later and soon left the country to represent Colombia at the Bretton Woods Conference. Late in 1944, as Dar’o Echand’a gamely defended the administration against charges concerning the Handel transaction in his Clean Hands Debate with Enrique Caballero Escobar, Gait‡n launched what he christened his ProDemocracy and Moral Restoration Movement. In congressional elections of March 1945, Gaitanistas demonstrated their growing strength by winning as many seats as Lopista and Santista Liberals. On the eve of the Liberal convention of June 22, dominated by Gait‡n's enemies and consequently boycotted by him, Gait‡n blasted the Liberal Party as "a closed oligarchy" bent on thwarting popular aspirations.10 Meanwhile conventioneers had their revenge by failing to mention Gait‡n's name during their proceedings, nominating Gabriel Turbay as the official Liberal Party presidential candidate for 1946, and designating Alberto Lleras Camargo their choice to serve out the last year of Alfonso L—pez's presidential term. Two months later, in September 1945, Gait‡n answered party regulars by organizing his own nominating convention in Bogot‡. Billed as the first truly open and democratic party convention in Colombian history, the event demonstrated Gaitanista power through impressive torchlight parades, marches, and demonstrations that paralyzed traffic in downtown Bogot‡ for the better

PAGE 309

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 291part of a week. In his acceptance speech Gait‡n lauded those who achieved social and economic mobility through hard work and personal merit, while damning members of the "political nation" for corrupting public morals through their cronyism and venality. "An inadmissible marriage prevails between business and politics," he said, adding that "the corruption within our parties has risen to disconcerting levels. The selection process of candidates through assemblies, conventions, and committees is becoming a black market of every vice."11 As thousands of Gaitanistas filed out of the open-air bullring where Gait‡n had delivered his speech they chanted, "En el C’rculo de Santamar’a muri— la oligarc’a!" (In the Bullring of Santamar’a the oligarchy has died!).12Political Colombia had never seen anything like the Gaitanista convention of September 1945. The mass demonstrations, torchlight parades, and harangues against the nation's sociopolitical establishment "at last opened the eyes of the Liberal press," wrote El Tiempo columnist Enrique Santos on September 24, 1945. But what was it that Liberal leaders and the spokesmen of other political groups saw in Gait‡n? To Liberal moderates of the Santista persuasion Gait‡n was "more dangerous to Colombia than Laureano G—mez," being a man who would lead the nation down the path of "personalist ambition, antidemocracy and totalitarianism."13 Conservative moderates appreciated Gait‡n's anticommunism and his promise to restore morality to public administration, but like their Liberal counterparts they feared his followers, whom one of them characterized as "Negroes, Indians, mulattoes, and mestizos; rancorous, vengeful men of knives and clubs; frustrated and ambitious tricksters."14Lopista Liberals, who resented Gait‡n's attacks on their leader, refused to name him in the pages of their newspaper El Liberal. Those on the left were at least as hostile to Gait‡n, who had consistently been more successful than they in mobilizing the masses and who made anticommunism a key element in his political platform. Their typical response was to denounce the populist leader as a fascist. Those on the extreme right, Laureano G—mez and his followers, appreciated the way Gait‡n helped them split the Liberal Party. But beyond that they found things to praise in Gait‡n's program. G—mez liked the "Maurras-like" way Gait‡n lashed the government with the term pa’s pol’tico and the organic conception of society implicit in the term pa’s nacional.15G—mez also approved of Gait‡n's call for moral restoration. A decade earlier the two men had been political allies in a battle against political corruption in their home department of Cundinamarca. During that campaign they had praised one another fulsomely.16The material appeal of Gait‡n's program lay in its promise of upward mobility within a setting of social democracy. Through mechanisms such as state

PAGE 310

292 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965intervention to benefit labor and the middle class and state regulation of economic activity, Gait‡n proposed to level the economic playing field. His movement is thus subject to class analysis, though not in a way acceptable to Marxists. Historian Herbert Braun points out that Gait‡n's principal clientele were members of a rising petit bourgeois class, as was the caudillo himself, and that he accepted his and his nation's subordinate place in the international capitalist order. Because it was predicated on helping the disadvantaged achieve upward social and economic mobility in a country entering a period of vigorous capitalist growth, Gait‡n's open-ended, populist movement bore the seeds of its own destruction. Once his followers joined the middle class they left their 12. Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n, 1946. By permission of Lunga.

PAGE 311

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 293militancy behind, as they began to identify their interests with those of the status quo. Leftist Gaitanistas, who took control of Gait‡n's movement following the caudillo's assassination, complained bitterly of the constant desertions of those who had most benefited by it. Writing in 1949, one such Gaitanista lamented that "when a young man of the economically deprived classes demonstrates outstanding ability, his success signifies his acceptance of all the ideas of the oppressors of the people, when he does not actually place himself at the service of oligarchic interests."17There was a mystique in Gaitanismo that members of Colombia's hardpressed urban lower and lower middle class found hard to resist. Gait‡n established a personal link between himself and his followers, drinking beer and playing tejo18 with them, and employing organic metaphors when he spoke in ways strikingly similar to the familiar terminology of Roman Catholic social discourse. During those speeches Gait‡n punctuated his phrases with dramatic gestures, brandishing a raised fist, sweating through his clothing. Critics said Gait‡n merely aped the speaking style of Benito Mussolini, and they made fun of the way he lightly oiled his hair in order that "it not present resistance to the force of his eloquence."19 While such criticisms were certainly true, they made little difference to loyal Gaitanistas, who fully identified with their hero. Gait‡n even resembled his followers. Stocky and dark-skinned, the young Gait‡n had impressed schoolmates with remarks such as, "I owe my success with women not to my great intellectual aptitudes, but rather to my gypsy eyes and my dark beauty."20 The sight of Gait‡n haranguing a multitude of wildly enthusiastic and equally swarthy followers was intimidating to the staid members of Colombia's pa’s pol’tico. Even Gait‡n's teeth intimidated his political enemies. Large and slightly protuberant, they were seen by some as metaphors for the menacing movement he led.21The 1946 Presidential ElectionRace and skin color played a significant role in Colombia's 1946 presidential election. As the May 5 voting day drew near, members of the largely white upper class worried that they might suffer physical harm if "el negro Gait‡n" and his chusma (rabble) won the contest.22 Gait‡n and his followers countered by pointing with pride to their dark skin and Spanish surnames as constituting irrefutable proof that they were one-hundred-percent Colombians and therefore more deserving of public trust than was Gabriel Turbay, to whom they referred disparagingly as the Turk. The race issue made the 1946 presidential campaign especially unpleasant for Gabriel Turbay, a son of Syrian immigrants. It was in fact Turbay's chief supporter, Eduardo Santos, who first made an issue of his candidate's "foreign-

PAGE 312

294 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965ness" in an imprudent remark of September 25, 1945. "If only he had been named Juan Ram’rez," said Santos. Turbay's enemies turned those words into a weapon, charging that he was not worthy of governing the country as "not a drop of Colombian blood" flowed in his veins. They accused Turbay of not having been born on Colombian soil; he therefore was barred from occupying the nation's highest office on constitutional grounds. Their charge was unprovable.23 Baptized in Bucaramanga and reared a Roman Catholic, Turbay's citizenship was in fact unimpeachable. Laureanista Conservatives were especially vehement in exploiting the race issue against Gabriel Turbay. There had been bad blood between G—mez and Turbay since they had exchanged words in the Santander assembly during 1927. The two debated each other seven years later in the Senate, when Turbay represented the Olaya government as minister of government. "You merit only my profound disdain," said Laureano G—mez, irate over Turbay's insistence that Conservatives killed in political violence deserved their fate because they had rebelled against Liberal authorities.24 Six years after that, when Turbay served as ambassador to the United States, Laureanistas published a humorous though barbed spoof about a leftist Middle Eastern immigrant named Bengal’, who spent his life trying to save an unnamed Western nation from its backward ways.25 The novel's humorous and ineffectual protagonist wore a fez and looked strikingly like Gabriel Turbay. As the presidential contest grew heated in 1946, Conservatives went so far as to employ anti-Muslim rhetoric in their attacks on the Turbay candidacy, professing to see "the Koran and bloody scimitars" lurking behind it. Let us unleash "a new crusade against the Turk," a "new battle of Lepanto," fulminated Guillermo Le—n Valencia.26 On other occasions Conservatives made fun of the Arabic surnames of Turbay's mother, Avinader Cafure. Nor were Gaitanistas above using Turbay's foreign ancestry against him. Hecklers constantly interrupted Turbay's speeches with shouts of "Turco no!" and campaign workers insisted that while their own candidate was viscerally Colombian, Turbay was Colombian only "by the skin of his teeth." Once Gaitanistas went so far as to charge that the Turbay candidacy was an affront "to the wombs of Colombian mothers."27There were abundant political and personal grounds for the vehement assault on Turbay's candidacy. The Santander Liberal was a proud and arrogant man, as well as a consummate machine politician who, it was said, managed his party "like a theater of marionettes."28 It was precisely that tight hold over party machinery that led Gait‡n to boycott the Liberal convention in 1945, the gathering which unanimously named Turbay its candidate for the 194650 term. At that meeting Turbay had also engineered the naming of Alberto Lleras first designado, to serve out the remainder of Alfonso L—pez's presidency.29

PAGE 313

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 295Part of a complex maneuver to block a Lopista-Conservative effort to elect an anti-Turbay designado, the gambit backfired when Lleras did nothing to promote Turbay's candidacy, and in fact hurt it by forbidding Liberal office holders to participate actively in the campaign of either Gait‡n or Turbay. Thus Turbay later complained that Lleras had surrounded him "with a barbed-wire fence of guarantees."30While Gabriel Turbay may have perceived Alberto Lleras as harming his candidacy through the exercise of excessive impartiality, Conservatives were pleased with the way Lleras worked to dampen political passions prior to the October 7, 1945, election for municipal concejos and with his effort to combat the plague of vote fraud.31 Late in 1945 Laureano G—mez announced that his party would collaborate with Lleras's government, while it praised the president's evenhandedness. The Conservatives could afford to be magnanimous in the face of the Liberal Party's self-destruction. Early in 1946, Alfonso L—pez deepened and complicated the Liberal division by announcing from retirement that while he could support neither Gait‡n nor Turbay, he would endorse a Liberal presidential candidate acceptable to both moderate Liberals and Conservatives. That candidate, to be selected by Conservatives from a list of six prominent Liberals, would subsequently form a "national front" government in which Conservatives were guaranteed a third of all appointive posts.32 L—pez's suggestion was a political bombshell. Eduardo Santos said that the National Front scheme represented hara-kiri for the Liberal Party, and Juan Lozano said it would "revive treason upon the ashes of [Rafael] Nœ–ez."33 And Gabriel Turbay attacked Alfonso L—pez and Alberto Lleras as "Nazi-fascists" bent on wrecking his candidacy along with their party.34 Even the Conservatives scoffed at L—pez's idea. Writing in El Siglo of February 23, 1946, Laureano G—mez opined that his party would be stupid to enter into such an agreement. The Conservatives were in fact growing increasingly confident that it was they, not the Liberals, who would win the upcoming contest. They had not fielded a presidential candidate for sixteen years and, through the early months of 1946, steadfastly insisted that they had no intention of breaking that tradition. Still from time to time Conservative leaders let slip hints that the approaching election would produce surprises, as when at a social gathering Laureano G—mez wagered Liberal Abelardo Forero that Gabriel Turbay "would cry real tears" on election day.35 The remark raised a few eyebrows but touched off no panic in Liberal ranks, since G—mez had for months insisted that he intended to vote for Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n. Up to the eve of their March 23, 1946, party convention, Conservatives lulled Liberals into thinking that they would not put forth a candidate. On March 4, Laureano G—mez wrote in El Siglo that "the National Front tempts

PAGE 314

296 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965us more than the idea of fielding our own candidate," and on March 15, he feigned surprise over El Tiempo columnist Enrique Santos's suggestion that he might not have all his political cards on the table, a remark G—mez termed neither patriotic nor high-minded.36On March 24, 1946, Conservatives meeting in convention produced their own political bombshell. They selected Mariano Ospina PŽrez, nephew and grandson of presidents, to be their candidate for the May 5 contest. Their selection of Ospina was a brilliant one. A wealthy Antioquian businessman and industrialist representing the moderate Nationalist wing of his party, Ospina did not present an image of Conservative sectarianism. In fact Ospina was far more acceptable to moderate and right-wing Liberals than either of their own candidates. Turbay, for example, had proclaimed his Marxist sympathies in his youth and was now supported by the Communist Party, while Gait‡n had angered and frightened moderate Liberals with his talk of popular revindication at their expense. To further assuage Liberal fears that a Conservative return to power might result in violence and persecution, Ospina announced that if elected, he would govern in accord with a power-sharing formula more generous than the one proposed by Alfonso L—pez. It would be one of "National Union," in which the Liberals would enjoy equal representation with Conservatives. During March and April 1946, Liberal Party leaders redoubled their efforts to convince Gait‡n to renounce his candidacy in favor of Turbay. They seemed to be on the verge of success thanks to lengthy meetings held between the two candidates during early April. But Turbay's arrogance"I am more qualified than you to be president of the republic," he told his rival at one point in their discussionsand Gait‡n's knowledge that by stepping aside, even with assurances of his party's presidential nomination in 1950, he would alienate many of his followers, doomed the talks.37 Consequently Gait‡n renewed his attack on the pa’s pol’tico and its lackeys at the Teatro Municipal two days after the talks failed. "Here there can no longer be any conversations," he said in a speech that historian Braun describes as "breathless, confused, and directionless." Characterizing Turbay and other party regulars as "cold people" and "calculating chess players" who had attempted to toy with him, Gait‡n concluded the harangue by swearing to his followers that "in the moment of danger, when the call to battle has been proclaimed . I will be present in the streets leading you!"38The last weeks of the 1946 presidential campaign were difficult ones for Liberalism. Alfonso L—pez restated his resolve to support neither candidate, while Gait‡n and Turbay redoubled their attacks on one another. Ironically some of Colombia's earliest Violencia involved the stoning of Turbay by Gaitanistas in Barranquilla, an incident to which the candidate responded by

PAGE 315

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 297brandishing a revolver, and the injury of Gait‡n's wife by a stone-throwing Turbay supporter in Medell’n. Meanwhile Gaitanistas attacked Liberal headquarters and the El Tiempo building in Bogot‡ in the course of a riot that had to be broken up with tear gas.39 All the while Conservative candidate Ospina PŽrez projected a presidential image, traveling about the country delivering addresses on national economic problems. Election day found Gabriel Turbay confident of victory. He had invited friends and top supporters to monitor election returns with him at home the afternoon of May 5 and planned to fete them with an elegant victory banquet that evening. But Turbay's ebullience vanished when returns from urban centers showed voters giving Gait‡n comfortable leads over him. Then later in the 13. Laureano G—mez at home, mid-1940s. By permission of Lunga.

PAGE 316

298 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965day results from outlying regions showed Ospina PŽrez establishing an unbeatable lead over both Liberal candidates. At length it became clear that the victory belonged to Mariano Ospina PŽrez. Turbay's gloom became depression, and one by one his friends expressed their condolences and disappeared into the night. The banquet was canceled, and the servants dismissed. Gabriel Turbay ended the evening seated alone before his fireplace, weeping as he burned his personal archive containing the record of twenty five years' service to party and nation.40Ospina's victory caused "stupor and surprise" among Liberals, many of whom attributed it to vote fraud.41 Meanwhile Conservative leader Laureano G—mez interpreted the vote as clear evidence that the "traditionalist masses" in fact constituted a national majority, his logic being that many of the Liberal votes were fraudulent.42 In spite of those conflicting claims it is likely that the 1946 presidential vote was a fairly accurate reflection of Liberal and Conservative voting strengthAlbert Lleras had, after all, done what he could to insure that the election was honest. Ospina PŽrez won 41 percent, Turbay 32 percent, and Gait‡n 27 percent. In succeeding elections not marred by vote fraud or abstention the Conservatives would win in the neighborhood of 40 percent of the vote and the Liberals around 60 percent. Liberal division continued over the months following the election. Alfonso L—pez retired from politics, and a year later his chief lieutenant, Alberto Lleras Camargo, left the country to head the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C. A deeply embittered Gabriel Turbay renounced politics, turning his back on Colombia as well. He left for France soon after the election, taking up residence in Paris. There he died in early 1947, at the age of forty-six, from complications arising from chronic asthma. Only Eduardo Santos and ranking Santista Carlos Lleras Restrepo remained behind to represent moderate Liberalism in the struggle for party leadership with Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n. Both Liberal factions, the Santistas and Gaitanistas, looked to the March 1947 congressional elections to decide which of them would orient Liberal opposition to Ospina PŽrez's government. Meanwhile Gait‡n made it known that he did not favor Liberal collaboration with the Conservative regime to take power on August 7, 1946. Accordingly Ospina did not invite Gait‡n or any of his followers to join his first cabinet. Through his actions Gait‡n showed fellow party members that he would not rest until Liberal Party control rested in his hands. Five months after Ospina took office, in January 1947, Gait‡n held a second national Gaitanista convention. During the convention he hammered out a program which required that any Liberal who won elective office or accepted a position in the government of Ospina PŽrez must abide by the Gaitanista document. Far from revolutionary, the 1947 Gaitanista pro-

PAGE 317

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 299gram restated the traditional left-Liberal goals of increasing state intervention in national life, of extending economic protections and benefits to the lower and middle classes, and of maintaining good relations with the United States and reformist governments throughout the hemisphere. The moderation of Gait‡n's 1947 party platform in fact represented a sop thrown to nonGaitanista Liberals, who were expected to accept it in the event that Gait‡n triumphed in the March congressional elections. Gait‡n's followers went on to defeat their Santista rivals in those elections, thus insuring their control of Congress over the next two years and Gait‡n's control of the Liberal Party. The magnitude of Gait‡n's triumph was suggested in the caudillo's trouncing of Carlos Lleras Restrepo in the Cundinamarca senatorial race, 32,780 votes to 9,761.43Eduardo Santos announced his retirement from politics shortly after the 1947 congressional elections, and Carlos Lleras returned to his law practice. Gait‡n had at last achieved his goal of dominating the Liberal Party. The only question that remained to be answered was whether he could reconcile his role as populist caudillo with that of leader of a multiclass party in which considerably more than half of all Colombians claimed membership.To Make the Republic Unlivable, RepriseChanges in political regime were never easy for Colombia during its first century and a half of national existence. Transfer of power at the national level always produced strife. First came a presidential election that the party in power managed to lose in spite of its control of the machinery of government nationwide. Upon taking office the new president replaced all departmental governors, who in turn sent alcaldes of their choosing to each of Colombia's many hundred municipalities. All the new appointees soon hired friends, relatives, and political supporters to staff state and municipal offices, sending all those appointed by the previous regime to join the ranks of the unemployed. Meanwhile in Bogot‡ the new regime commenced formulating a set of reforms usually culminating in drastic modification of the national constitution. The new legislation was justified on grounds that it corrected errors of the previous regime springing from its wrongheaded, pernicious political ideology. Since all those bureaucratic and juridic initiatives required the approval of elective representative bodies at national, state, and local levels, it became imperative to win working majorities in each of them. This was never difficult thanks to vote fraud and to the often violent intimidation of individual voters by zealous new political appointees. Elections were constantly being held in Colombia. The election of city councils and the Chamber of Deputies came at two-year intervals; departmental assembly and Senate elections were held every four years.

PAGE 318

300 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965All these contests, along with the quadrennial presidential elections, were held independently of one another. During the nineteenth century the political renovation just described normally resulted in the losing party's eventual declaration of war against a government that it rightly claimed had become hegemonic. Leaders of the losing party donned military uniforms and became the commanders of armies that rarely toppled the government but invariably desolated wide expanses of the country. After the turn of the century Colombia became more prosperous and its government more powerful. Its army became better equipped and thus too formidable for citizen-soldiers to challenge as they had during the preceding century. As the twentieth century progressed all that leaders of a losing party could do was look on as the winners moved inexorably to fix their hold on the nation. After the Liberal victory in 1930, Conservative leader Laureano G—mez had responded as best he could to the Liberal bureaucratic housecleaning and attendant violence, mounting a kind of civil resistance aimed at making the republic unlivable for members of the governing party. Sixteen years later, when the Conservatives returned to power, Liberal leaders returned the favor. The political change of 1930 had produced violence in extensive portions of the eastern cordillera north of Bogot‡, a densely settled and highly politicized region. Several thousand citizens, most of them Conservatives, died in fighting that was mercifully cut short in 1932 by the brief war with Peru, which rallied citizens to the flag and sent many young men off to fight Peruvians rather than one another. Colombians were not so lucky in 1946. In addition to having no foreign aggressor to distract them from the painful political transition, four additional factors combined to make change-of-regime turmoil much worse than under Olaya Herrera. First, Liberals viewed Ospina as a nonentity whose victory was accidental; hence they could regard his regime as not fully legitimate. Second, Colombia experienced unprecedented economic growth and heightened affluence throughout the entire Violencia period. That gave a decidedly pecuniary cast to much of the Violencia, particularly in its latter phases. Third, since the Violencia coincided with the onset of the Cold War, many Conservatives came to believe that international communist conspiracy underlay it, and this fear made their response to it especially vigorous. Fourth, and by far the most important factor feeding change-of-regime violence, was the revolutionary atmosphere at large in Colombia at the time of the Conservative takeover. Militants representing a wide range of counterelites made their chief goal that of driving Ospina from power. One day after the election militant Gaitanistas begged their caudillo to lead a coup d'Žtat, while the small but strident Social Democratic (Communist) Party charged that a "fascist criminal" like Ospina PŽrez had no right to be president.44 The labor

PAGE 319

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 301movement did its best to force Ospina's resignation by mounting hundreds of work stoppages and calling two general strikes within the first two years of his presidency. All such opposition was carried out against a backdrop of mostly anti-Liberal provincial violence, further convincing political counterelites that Ospina and the Conservatives must be deprived of national leadership. During Ospina's first months in office opposition groups found little to contradict their belief that the new president was a weak leader and thus easy to unseat. Ospina appeared anxious to avoid antagonizing any social group, an attitude he took into meetings of his bipartisan cabinet, over which he presided without attempting to dominate.45 On October 28, 1946, ex-president Alberto Lleras confirmed suspicions of the new chief executive's weakness when he wrote in the first edition of his new weekly news magazine Semana, "[When] Mr. Ospina makes a decision he is indecisive; he turns his back at moments requiring resolve." Three days after Lleras's harsh analysis of Ospina, and as if to test its validity, a series of strikes and riots broke out in Cali and Bogot‡, quickly spreading to the oil-producing center of Barrancabermeja. Labor leader Gilberto Zapata Izasa described the actions as part of the plan of radical unions "to create conflicts in order to hobble the government, and, if possible, to bring about the resignation of a president who represented a national minority."46The Bogot‡ rioting of October 31 to November 1 was especially frightening. Gaitanista police looked on as union members, street people and petty criminals"an amorphous delinquent mass," as Zapata Izasa described thembroke shop windows, looted stores, and burned a number of autos.47As the riot gathered momentum in streets outside the presidential mansion, a tense scene was enacted inside. Director of Police General Carlos Vanegas, a Liberal, declined to obey Ospina's order to halt the rioting, explaining that he was "a good friend of those boys [the rioters]" and assuring the president that they would soon tire of their rowdiness.48 Faced with Vanegas's refusal to take action in the face of an upset that unnerved his superiors, Ospina replaced him soon afterward with a police commander he could trust, General Delf’n Torres Dur‡n, a Conservative. It also produced a remark by Laureano G—mez that foreshadowed the coming transformation of Colombia's largely Liberal police force into a body uniformly Conservative: "We've inherited a police force that is an enemy of the new regime, that believes itself to be at the service of the Liberal Party and not of the government. To transform that body is not the work of a single day. . But we must begin the process."49Ospina PŽrez's reaction to labor unrest was to impose a state of siege in Valle, which in turn produced a cabinet crisis. Luckily the labor troubles soon subsided, the state of siege was lifted, and Ospina was able to reconstitute his bipartisan cabinet during December 1946. Ospina's next test came during the congressional elections of March 1947.

PAGE 320

302 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965That contest was more turbulent than normal, as it marked the first time senators were to be elected by popular vote. Two nights before the voting, Ospina invited Liberal Party leaders Eduardo Santos and Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n, and Conservative spokesman Laureano G—mez, to address the nation by radio from the presidential palace. The three men did so, asking their followers to act with restraint. In spite of the plea twenty Colombians died on election day, one of them a priest.50The 1947 congressional contest strengthened extremists on both the left and right and made Ospina's bipartisan consensus increasingly difficult to maintain. Conservative anticollaborationists like Gilberto Alzate Avenda–o, Silvio Villegas, and Guillermo Le—n Valencia were heartened by returns showing their party winning majorities in Boyac‡, Norte de Santander, and Nari–onearly doing so in Santanderand substantially reducing Liberal majorities in both houses of Congress.51 Meanwhile, Liberal moderates lost badly to their Gaitanista foes. The moderates were little comforted when Gait‡n crowed that Liberalism had clearly voted with "a leftist criterion."52Once the March 1947 elections confirmed him party chief, Gait‡n seemed uncertain whether to continue his populist attacks on oligarchs of the pa’s pol’tico or to assume leadership of a party in which such persons were well represented. The vacillation harmed both his party and his reputation. After the election Ospina invited three Gaitanista ministers into his cabinet; Gait‡n refused to support them. When the labor movement attempted to overthrow Ospina by means of a general strike in May 1947, Gait‡n remained silent until it was clear the strike had failed, only then denouncing it. That produced a flurry of criticism in the non-Gaitanista Liberal press. "You clammed up like a fish during the strike, waiting to see what would happen," accused Juan Lozano in his newspaper, La Raz—n, holding up Gait‡n's action as an example of the party chief's malicia ind’gena.53 Meanwhile rural violence rising from change-of-regime violence hardened Liberal and Conservative attitudes resulting in legislative paralysis. In late August 1947, Gait‡n briefly joined hands with the Conservatives in an attempt to slow the spiraling rural violence, on August 29, he and Laureano G—mez issued a complicated proposal aimed at reducing violence through vigorous government intervention. Sadly neither party chief was capable of maintaining his equanimity as levels of violence grew, nourished by preparations for a new round of elections in early October. On September 7, Gait‡n denounced Ospina's National Union Government as encouraging regional caciques to assassinate workers.54 Six days later he attacked Ospina for importing tear gas, which he claimed would be used by the government to establish dictatorial rule. Meanwhile Conservative Party chief G—mez rebutted the Liberals by insisting that "the political violence is engendered by fraud" perpetrated by Liberals through their stockpile of more than a million fake voting cards.55

PAGE 321

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 303Colombian politics became even more chaotic toward the end of 1947. The October 5 elections, like the March elections, further strengthened extremist factions in both parties. While they did not win a majority of municipal concejo seats, Conservatives closed the gap in the number of city councils they controlled, while Gaitanista Liberals replaced most of their more moderate colleagues in Colombia's 779 municipal city councils.56 In Congress the followers of Gait‡n continued using their majorities to harry Ospina's government. Late in 1946 Congress had pushed through a revision of the electoral law that benefited Liberals, and in September 1947 it launched an investigation of Ospina in conjunction with the tear gas purchase. That produced yet another cabinet change whereby the urbane Minister of Government Roberto Urdaneta was replaced by the hot-tempered JosŽ Antonio Montalvo. Following the October city council elections, congressional Liberals responded to the problem of rural violence by proposing legislation that would move the national police from executive to congressional jurisdiction. Liberals believed that the violence was chiefly the work of sectarian Conservative police acting on order of Conservative Party officials.57 Ospina and all other Conservatives were outraged by the proposal and the assumption that underlay it. Thus he sent his new minister of government to answer the congressional challenge. On November 6, JosŽ Antonio Montalvo uttered the phrase that ever after would be held up by Liberals as confirmation that the Conservatives intended to destroy them. "If the police are charged with maintaining public order," said Montalvo, and "if the police are the government's and the president's best instrument for achieving these constitutional ends," then "the government must defend with blood and fire democratic institutions, the authority of the president, and of the police, all essential elements of order and stability of the state." Montalvo's ill-chosen words created such an outcry among Liberal leaders, and struck such fear into the hearts of the rank and file, that the government distributed the text of his speech in an effort to demonstrate that he had not in fact said that the government intended to exterminate Liberals with blood and fire.58When JosŽ Antonio Montalvo delivered his heated speech in late 1947, political violence had already poisoned Colombian public life. From early in the year reports that Liberals and Conservatives were dying at each other's hands in the countryside set party leaders at one another's throats in a series of highly publicized exchanges that only served to heighten tensions. By the end of 1947, some 14,000 Colombians had died, making that year the fourth worst in what soon became universally known as the Violencia.59Colombia's fraternal slaughter began even before the inauguration of Mariano Ospina PŽrez set in motion the familiar action-reaction process traditionally accompanying regime changes. As soon as they learned of their loss in the May 5, 1946, presidential contest, shocked, outraged, and frightened Lib-

PAGE 322

304 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965erals in departments that had suffered serious violence between 1930 and 1933 struck out in anticipation of the persecution they knew was sure to follow. In Bucaramanga a riot broke out on May 6; rioters burned the Conservative newspapers El Deber and El Frente and looted shops, homes, and offices belonging to prominent Conservatives.60 Army patrols kept postelection rioting to a minimum in Cœcuta, the capital of Norte de Santander. Nevertheless, only a week after Conservatives there gave thanks for their victories during a Te Deum in the cathedral, the building was badly damaged by a fire of suspicious origin.61Following their first panic-inspired reaction, Liberals in the Santanders, Boyac‡, and elsewhere turned to civil resistance as a means of heading off approaching loss of power. Even before Ospina's inauguration members of the Liberal majority in the departmental assembly of Norte de Santander taunted members of the minority by voting to honor Santander writer JosŽ Mar’a Vargas Vila by having his anticlerical books placed in school libraries across the department. Conservatives reacted as expected, denouncing Vargas Vila as a "pornographic writer" and claiming that the Liberal action showed the people of Santander to be "kaffirs, ignorant mulattoes, and people lacking civilized principles."62Following Ospina's inauguration, Liberal civil resistance increased. When the president named a Conservative to the governorship of Santander, the departmental assembly voted to reduce the police force from 500 to sixty men, to reduce the salaries of gubernatorial appointees from pesos to centavos, to raffle off official vehicles, and to abolish several official posts under the governor's jurisdiction.63 Late in 1947, Gaitanistas in the national Congress began discussing strategies for impeaching Ospina, a ploy El Siglo denounced as "revolutionary fascism."64Colombia's Violencia had an air of inevitability about it and government efforts to slow it had little effect. One such effort involved placing neutral military alcaldes in towns where political violence threatened. As soon as he took office, in August 1945, Alberto Lleras Camargo began dispatching military alcaldes to known trouble spots, and by the end of his brief term more than 100 had been so designated. Not long before the 1946 presidential election Lleras bitterly denounced the local dynamics of violence, pointing to "the sectarian obligation" imposed on ordinary citizens by all manner of local leaders.65Ospina PŽrez followed Lleras's example: he doubled the number of military alcaldes to 200 during his first term in office, hoping thereby to reduce sectarian strife. For a while vigorous young officers like twenty-two-year-old Lieutenant JosŽ Matallana, who presided over San Vicente de Chucur’, Santander, maintained peace by confiscating and destroying the weapons of Liberal and

PAGE 323

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 305Conservative militants.66 But at length such measures were insufficient to counter the constellation of forces bent on quickly Conservatizing the bureaucracy. Those forces ran from Conservative militancy represented by Boyac‡'s new governor Alfonso Rivera Valderrama, who bragged that after the March 1947 elections, "Conservatism would begin to rule," and Gilberto Alzate, who gloated that his party would "exhume the remains of the Liberal Republic" slain in the previous year's presidential election, to Conservative revenge for past offenses, as in the case of impoverished campesinos of Valle who began killing Liberals who had taken their land during the previous Liberal regime.67Some of the worst early violence was in the department of Boyac‡, whose overwhelmingly rural population had the reputation of being gobernista, or willing to vote for whichever party happened to be in power at the moment. The gobernista stereotype had led the department's Liberal Party chief, Plinio Mendoza Neira, to spare no effort in quickly Liberalizing the department during the early 1930s. Fifteen years later Mendoza's counterpart, Boyac‡ Conservative Party leader JosŽ Mar’a Villarreal, returned the favor. Both men assumed that Boyac‡ possessed "natural majorities" favoring their respective parties, but that owing to their docile natures voters in the department had been forced to vote against their true inclination by unscrupulous politicians of the opposite party. During the 1930s, Mendoza Neira had not hesitated to bring forth Boyac‡'s "natural" Liberal majority through force and intimidation. Thus, writes one student of the department, "official violence exercised by the Liberal government [of Olaya Herrera] planted a thirst for violence that flowered years later with the Conservative return to power in 1946."68 JosŽ Mar’a ("Chepe") Villarreal helped Boyacense Conservatives slake their thirst for revenge during 1947 and early 1948 when he used his power as governor to organize a sectarian police corps known as the Chulavitas. As soon as he was appointed governor in early 1947, succeeding fellow Conservative Alfredo Rivera, Villarreal quickly moved forward with his plan to neutralize Liberal influence within the police and elsewhere. His express intent was to insure that Conservative Boyacenses could freely exercise their right to vote in the two general elections of 1947. To find the men he needed the governor turned to his patria chica (hometown, province) of El Cocuy, in highland northeastern Boyac‡, where he knew he could find "rough and humble young men not easily intimidated" by Liberals.69 The men from heavily Conservative municipios along the slopes of El Cocuy had shown their valor fifteen years earlier when they, along with refugees from war-torn Garc’a Rovira in neighboring Santander, had declared the region off-limits to Liberals. Any Liberal policeman who dared to enter a town like uniformly Conservative Boavitaespecially its vereda of Chœluvaduring the violence of the early 1930s was unlikely to leave there alive. One of Villarreal's men acknowl-

PAGE 324

306 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965edged that heritage when, in early 1948, he described himself and his fellows: "We're old-time Chulavitas . those from 1930, those who went to Chœluva and waited for the fall of the damned Reds, those who went with Governor Chepe Villarreal and did what he told us to do, those who [would] let them kill us before being humiliated by a Liberal. . They persecuted us after they got power and almost wiped us from the face of the earth. . [But] we're in charge now."70Given their background, it was not hard to convince the men of northeastern Boyac‡ that their duty was to punish the Liberal enemy. One Chulavita recruit described the sort of training he received at police headquarters in Tunja: "They said You've got to go out and harass and kill because remember what they did to us in 1933.' In the police they said to us, How many here had their grandfathers or other family members killed?' The recruits answered, I did, Captain! I did, Lieutenant!' Well, the moment finally came! To arms! Then they sent us out, some to this place, others to another. That was the assignment. When they sent policemen to do whatever, first they filled them with aguardiente or beer. That was like unleashing wild animals, as you can imagine. They were people who could not even sign their own namesand drunk!"71Boyac‡ and the Santanders were hotbeds of Colombia's Violencia during 1947. On January 4, Semana magazine, which just a week before had editorialized that the nation had escaped serious violence during 1946, featured Boyac‡ as the most highly politicized and violence prone of all Colombia's departments.72 One week later, on January 11, 1947, an El Siglo writer complained that Boyac‡'s bureaucracy, still overwhelmingly controlled by Liberals, was persecuting members of the Conservative minority in thirty of its 128 municipios. Over succeeding weeks Boyacense violence increased markedly as Conservatives bent on vindication and revenge battled Liberal police and officeholders intent on protecting their persons and their jobs. And through it all ran the theme of personal economic self-interest that would emerge as an increasingly prominent feature of Colombia's political upset as the Violencia dragged on. Even as Boyac‡'s Conservatives planned their return to power, members of their party directorate sold rifles and ammunition to the highest bidder, even to Liberals, who in all probability would turn them against Conservatives.73Political leaders at all levels fanned the flames that consumed the lives of their followers in outlying areas. The year 1947 was marred by the threat of gunplay in several departmental legislatures as well as in the national Congress itself. On May 17, Conservatives and Gaitanista representatives in the departmental assembly of Valle trained pistols on one another during an especially tense vote. During the August 24 session of the national Chamber

PAGE 325

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 307of Representatives, Gaitanista CŽsar Ord—–ez Quintero, a representative from Santander, became so incensed that he hurled a trash basket at a Conservative colleague and then made as if to draw a pistol.74 That created pandemonium, leading radio listeners to conclude that a slaughter was about to take place. An even more serious incident involving Ord—–ez Quintero occurred during C‡mara debates of December 13, 1947, when he first challenged Minister of War Roberto Urdaneta to a machete duel and later placed a pistol on his lectern as he leveled charges against Conservatives Augusto Ram’rez Moreno and Pablo A. Toro. Toro drew his own revolver and pointed it at Ord—–ez as representatives flung themselves to the floor to escape the bullets they feared were about to fly. Photographs of the revolver-wielding Toro subsequently appeared in most of Colombia's newspapers. As in the incident of the previous August, thousands of Colombians listened to the scandalous and frightening exchanges over their radios. The year 1948, the second most deadly year of Colombia's Violencia, dawned with Liberals and Conservatives at war with one another over the entire southern third of Norte de Santander, and in other parts of the country as well. In the Santander fighting thousands of Liberal refugees fled to nearby Venezuela in tragic repetition of the strife that sixteen years earlier had displaced thousands of Conservatives. A sympathetic Venezuela fed the conflict in 1948 by providing substantial quantities of military supplies to the Liberals.75 So too did the Colombian Communists, who formed bands of anti government guerrillas, dubbed Popular Committees against the Reactionary Violence, and sent them into the combat zone.76 President Ospina placed the department under military rule on January 17, 1948, and the army was at length able to position its units between the combatants, thus halting the worst of the fighting.77During those stormy months party leaders Gait‡n and G—mez showed no sign of moderating either their rhetoric or the mutual animosity that played such an important role in nourishing the passion of their followers. One day after Norte de Santander was placed under military rule, El Siglo blamed the trouble on Gaitanista violence.78 Ten days later Gait‡n and other Liberal leaders presented President Ospina a "Memorial of Grievances" that detailed in graphic fashion hundreds of Liberal deaths attributed to administration henchmen. Political Colombia became increasingly turbulent during February and March of 1948. As Ospina and his government attempted to cope with the Violencia, they were also busy preparing to host the Ninth Inter-American Conference, set to open on March 30. It was generally known that the meeting's chief activity would be the drafting of an anticommunist resolution to be sponsored by the United States and put forth by General George C.

PAGE 326

308 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965Marshall, that nation's chief delegate to the meeting. For months Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n had criticized Marshall's initiative, suggesting that while the Americans gave Europe the lucrative Marshall Plan, all Latin America could expect was American opposition to the movement for popular vindication. Thus the upcoming Inter-American Conference became yet another point of contention in the struggle between Gait‡n's Liberal-populist movement and the national government that it tarred as reactionary and oligarchic. Ospina PŽrez did not ask Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n to serve as a delegate to the meeting, but rather nominated moderate and right-wing Liberals led by Dar’o Echand’a, Luis L—pez de Mesa, and Carlos Lleras Restrepo, to join Laureano G—mez and Roberto Urdaneta Arbel‡ez in representing Colombia at the meeting. Ospina's refusal to ask Gait‡n to join the group was a tactical error on his part, an understandable one, however, in that not long before the meeting, on February 7, Gait‡n had staged a massive torchlight rally in Bogot‡ during which he implied that the president could halt the Violencia if he wished to do so. On March 1, Gait‡n responded to his exclusion from the Inter-American Conference and the worsening political violence by ordering Liberals to cease all collaboration with Ospina's government. The loss of Liberal delegates to 14. Laureano G—mez and Mariano Ospina PŽrez shortly before April 9, 1948. By permission of Lunga.

PAGE 327

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 309the conference embarrassed Ospina. And the resignation of Liberal officeholders following Gait‡n's call for noncollaboration further heightened political turmoil. As the Ninth Inter-American Conference approached, life in Bogot‡ and many other parts of Colombia became insupportable. Organized labor added to the confusion by staging strikes aimed at disrupting the national transportation system. There were riots and student demonstrations in Bogot‡ in midMarch, serious violence in the countryside, and a steady arrival in the Colombian capital of leftists from sister republics whose goal was to protest the anticommunist resolution. On the eve of George Marshall's arrival in Bogot‡ signs appeared on the walls of buildings reading, The People Must React against the Jackals of Yankee Imperialism. Ordinary Bogotanos were angry because lavish preparations for the meeting had driven up costs in the city; and meeting organizer Laureano G—mez's edict banishing all street people from the center city angered many as a slap at the Gaitanista pueblo. Thus it was not a happy Colombia that greeted delegates to the Ninth InterAmerican Conference of 1948. As the meeting commenced a somber atmosphere pervaded Bogot‡ and greater Colombia, making it seem that nothing could worsen that strife-filled and unhappy nation.Assassination, Self-Interest, Civil WarIt was just after 1 p.m. on April 9, 1948, when Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n, accompanied by Plinio Mendoza Neira and three other associates, left his law office at the corner of Carrera SŽptima and Avenida JimŽnez, the capital's busiest intersection. No sooner had the group emerged from the building than an obscure drifter named Juan Roa Sierra stepped up behind Gait‡n and fired two .38 caliber bullets into his back and another into his skull. Gait‡n was rushed to a nearby clinic where he was pronounced dead at 1:55 p.m. Meanwhile a crowd seized Roa Sierra and kicked him to death. The Gait‡n assassination touched off a riot of proportions previously unknown in Colombia. By the time it ran its course some 2,500 people lay dead in the streets, many thousands were injured, and nearly 200 private businesses, government buildings, parochial schools, and churches lay in smoldering ruin.79 While the riot, or Bogotazo, as it soon became known, did not bring about any change in the social or political status quo, it did speed Colombia on its way to the political collapse and civil war that awaited it nineteen months later. The Nueve de Abril tragedy also widened and deepened the breech between Colombia's pa’s pol’tico and its pa’s nacional. Gait‡n's shooting threw his followers into a frenzy. Even before the caudillo's death was announced, the cry "They've killed Gait‡n!" flew through

PAGE 328

310 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965city streets that quickly became jammed with thousands of people. Bogotanos who experienced those first anger-filled hours recalled that in the confusion close friends passed unrecognized in the street, their faces transformed by grief and rage.80The initial assumption of the rioters was that the Conservative government had ordered Gait‡n's murder. In symbolic expression of that conviction they dragged Roa Sierra's lifeless body five blocks down Carrera SŽptima, leaving it on the doorstep of the presidential palace. The Liberal-versus-Conservative cast of the riot was captured by the lone figure who stood sobbing on a street corner, crying to no one in particular, "Come on, you cowards, kill me! I defy you. I'm a Liberal. Kill me!"81A dual impulse laid hold of the Bogot‡ rioters. One was the desire to arm themselves; the other was to exact justice for the crime. Accordingly one of the crowd's first acts was to break into hardware and gun shops in search of pistols, shotguns, machetes, and anything else that might be of use in striking out against the government and its minions. It was the sense of many in the crowd that a political revolt was under way, its inevitable result to be establishment by force of the Liberal, Gaitanista regime that the slain leader had failed to achieve through democratic means. Hence the cries of "Long live Colombia!" and "Down with the Conservatives!" Most of the city's police were caught up in the frenzy, supporting the uprising and turning their weapons over to apparent leaders of the mob. By mid-afternoon the entire ninth precinct station, located at the edge of the heavily Gaitanista working-class neighborhood of La Perseverancia went over to the revolt, inviting a "revolutionary junta" to establish itself there. Rifles and munitions were distributed with instructions that they were to be used "to kill godos. "82The rioters were drawn irresistibly to the presidential palace, just down Bogot‡'s main street from the assassination site. A group of some hundred Gaitanistas walked in that direction as soon as their leader's death was confirmed, moved by the desire both to ask President Ospina's explanation for the murder and to demand his resignation. As the leaders of the crowd, Gaitanista lieutenants Gabriel Mu–oz and Jorge Uribe M‡rquez, reached the presidential palace, someone snatched a rifle from a soldier and was promptly shot dead by another member of the Presidential Guard. Not long after that the crowd swelled and surged toward the two dozen troops positioned in Carrera SŽptima just a block north of the presidential residence. The soldiers opened fire, killing and wounding many in the crowd. Those deaths occurred less than an hour after Gait‡n's death was announced.83Within minutes of the shooting, Gait‡n's followers, militant Liberals, Socialists, and Communists seized radio stations and began a series of impassioned broadcasts informing Colombians of the caudillo's death and the atten-

PAGE 329

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 311dant uprising. They spoke in the most incendiary of tones, creating fanciful scenarios in which the bodies of Laureano G—mez, Guillermo Le—n Valencia, and JosŽ Antonio Montalvo were swinging from lampposts, and Ospina PŽrez driven from power, replaced by a Liberal revolutionary junta. All of Bogot‡, they said, was in flames. Those radio broadcasts were enormously damaging to Colombian public life, sparking many localized revolts against the government and considerable violence against Conservatives. The broadcasts had the effect of transmitting the Violencia to hundreds of places not previously affected. One Conservative succinctly stated the connection between the radio broadcasts emanating from Bogot‡ and the violence he suffered at Liberal hands on Nueve de Abril: "The radio invited everyone to the slaughter. They wanted to make their comrades participants."84Radio broadcasts had the effect of intensifying the Bogotazo itself. The public assertion that prominent Conservatives had ordered Gait‡n's assassination led to much destruction of Conservative property in and around the city. Less than half an hour after Roa Sierra's fateful shots, a large crowd gathered in the street outside El Siglo, the quasi-official government newspaper owned by Laureano G—mez. One man wept hysterically as he tore at the building's brick wall with his fingernails.85 The mob battered down the door, set fire to the building, and subsequently dynamited it. In the village of Viot‡, Gaitanista mayor Joaqu’n Tiberio G‡lvez gathered several men and made straight for G—mez's home in Fontib—n, which they burned.86 Others did the same to the posh restaurant El Venado de Oro, which G—mez had constructed for the purpose of feting delegates to the Inter-American Conference. Still others broke into and sacked the Palacio de San Carlos, recently refurbished by G—mez, headquarters of the conference. Its elegant furnishings were tossed from the windows, piled in the streets below, and burned. As that took place a passerby salvaged a cushion from the fire and tried to carry it away. The cushion was taken from him and tossed back into the heap with the explanation, "We have come here to destroy . to end everything, not to steal!"87Other government buildings singled out for attack were the national capitolwhere delegates to the Inter-American Conference narrowly escaped being trapped by the mobthe Gobernaci—n of Cundinamarca, the attorney general's office, and the ministries of education, government, and justice. The latter building housed prisoners who were freed in the course of the riot. Before fleeing, the escapees were careful to destroy all record of the judicial proceedings being conducted against them. Churches and other religious structures also constituted popular targets of the mob. The Church was traditionally associated with the Conservative Party; thus when snipers began firing on passersby from church towers, many

PAGE 330

312 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965concluded that priests were doing the shooting. In the course of the Bogotazo, La Salle High School was burned; the Jesuit school San BartolomŽ barely escaped the same fate thanks to the timely arrival of the military. The archbishop's palace, church offices, Bogot‡'s cathedral, and numerous other religious structures were burned. West of Bogot‡, in the village of Apulio, eighty-four priests and nuns were imprisoned, and farther west, in Armero, Tolima, priest Pedro Mar’a Ram’rez was lynched.88Foreign-owned businesses were yet another target of Gaitanista anger. Popularly referred to as "Turks," or "Polacks," the Syrian, Lebanese, Jewish, Turkish, and European merchants whose small shops lined Carrera SŽptima south of the assassination site saw their businesses not merely looted and burned, but dynamited as well. Herbert Braun, whose German immigrant father lost his hardware store in the rioting, explains that the xenophobic outburst was justified by the foreign merchants' high markups and unsympathetic policies.89 Historian Gonzalo S‡nchez takes a similar position, finding the singling out of foreign businesses both functions of social protest against the foreigners' speculation and the high cost of living.90 Psychiatrist JosŽ GutiŽrrez sees in the attacks on foreign property evidence of the racism to which populist movements are prone, and which, in the case of Gaitanismo, was the expression of "atavistic resentment engendered by social and racial discrimination."91After two hours of rioting the first, ostensibly political, phase of the Bogotazo ended when army trucks and tanks arrived to reinforce the beleaguered Presidential Guard, which had repulsed three attacks by the rioters since Gait‡n's assassination. It was 4 p.m. when the last of the column of three tanks stopped at the Plaza de Bol’var and turned its guns on the rioters. At that instant all hopes for a successful Liberal Gaitanista rebellion died. The rioters withdrew from the increasingly militarized area around the government buildings, which at the time of the tanks' arrival was littered with corpses, and turned to looting undefended shops and stores north of the Plaza de Bol’var. Most Colombian politicians have misinterpreted the second phase of the Bogotazo, during which citizens of all classes helped themselves to merchandise in stores left vulnerable when the city's police joined the riot. Communist Party secretary Gilberto Viera viewed the looting as akin to a premature victory celebration staged by persons who thought the revolution had succeeded.92 His party's Central Committee took the position that the "orgy of pillaging" which "robbed the rebellion of its true nature" was the fault of the several thousand prisoners unleashed on the city when rioters opened prison doors.93 Most Conservatives agreed with Laureano G—mez's assessment that "the horrible events were produced according to infamous [Communist] plan" and "carried out by the Liberal masses." The Liberals had, in short, "placed themselves at the service of the beast.'"94

PAGE 331

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 313Both those visions ignored the fact that Gait‡n's followers were not revolutionaries but rather members of Bogot‡'s upwardly mobile poor and petit bourgeois classes. They had heard Gait‡n's promise to represent their political interests in a government headed by himself and had believed he could do so. Gait‡n had, in the words of Herbert Braun, "taken his followers from a life in which they were excluded from the decisions that affected them to another in which they felt they were participating in those decisions."95 In that sense he discovered a populist route to reconciling the pa’s nacional and the pa’s pol’tico. The Bogotazo's symbolic importance is found not so much in the Gaitanista riot occurring between 2 and 4 p.m. on that April day, but rather in the looting of Bogot‡'s business district that followed. When rioters moved away from the Plaza de Bol’var, Colombia's political epicenter, and fanned out into the business district to take what they could, they served notice that from that time forward the pursuit of individual goals would dominate the thinking of a citizenry increasingly alienated from its public world. That was the real sense in which the Bogotazo symbolically ended one phase of Colombia's national history and introduced another. Perceiving its only political option to be closed, the Gaitanista mob figuratively shrugged its shoulders and set about attending to its own immediate physical needs. That moment marked the end of Gaitanista populism.96Witnesses marveled at the alacrity with which Bogotanos of all classes turned to looting. Newsreel footage reveals men and women snatching stolen items from each other. A young girl watching from the relative safety of her parents' rooftop saw a drunken rioter, his arm covered with looted wristwatches, set upon by a fellow rioter who hacked at his arm with a machete.97As word spread through Bogot‡ that goods could be had for the taking, Bogotanos flooded the business district. U.S. Ambassador Willard Beaulac, whose embassy was at the edge of that neighborhood, recalled the heavy traffic flowing toward the shops and stores from midafternoon of Nueve de Abril, reversing hours later as looters returned home lugging their booty. "Amidst the sickening tragedy we were witnessing," wrote Beaulac, "we could not help but be amused at the businesslike manner in which those people were carrying on their new trade, and at some of the objects they had selected to liberate' from downtown shops. . Barefoot women trudged by, their arms loaded with fur coats or fancy lingerie. One ragged individual carried an electric stove on his back. Bathroom fixtures, floor lamps, sofas, calculating machines, all found their way into hands of the looters."98 Put in the language of social philosophy, the looters took advantage of a prostrate public world to enhance their private ones. One photograph taken that day illustrates the social dynamics of the looting. It shows three women, two of them tall, fair-skinned, and welldressed, obviously of the upper class, chatting as they carry away fur coats and

PAGE 332

314 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965an elegant floor lamp. Three paces behind, bent under the weight of a burlap bag, is a third woman, short and swarthy, wearing a hat and ruana. The contents of the bag aren't visible, but it obviously does not contain fur coats and floor lamps. It likely contains more mundane items that she carried away to a home probably not wired for electricity. A great many photos taken in downtown Bogot‡ during the rioting of April 9, 1948, show the burning or charred wreckage of the city's municipally owned trolleys. Those slow-moving and idiosyncratic electric vehicles had served the city for thirty-eight years and were regarded affectionately by Bogotanos as symbols of the quaint old city of premodern times. Destruction of the trolleys was initially thought to be a function of mob vengeance on the symbols of public authority. However, recent scholarship maintains that the fiery demise of Bogot‡'s street railway was a calculated act of economic opportunism. Half of all the trolleys destroyed that day were burned by employees of Bogot‡'s privately owned bus companies who used the upheaval of April 9 as a convenient cover for eliminating their chief source of competition. Immediately after Nueve de Abril, bus fares doubled. The bus companies were also given permission to import new buses for their fleets.99If Gait‡n's assassination hastened the alienation of ordinary citizens from politics, it had a no less detrimental impact on national politics itself. Members of Colombia's balkanized political elite rushed to capitalize on the caudillo's death in ways highly destructive to civic and political culture. Liberal centrists, Gait‡n's enemies in life, used the murder as an excuse to demand Ospina PŽrez's resignation, going so far as to wire Eduardo Santos asking him to assume the presidency when it fell vacant. Right-wing Conservatives became even more intransigent after Nueve de Abril, holding up the assassination and reaction to it as proof of the need for stepped-up repression of those who opposed the government. Laureano G—mez, from his refuge in the Ministry of Defense, phoned Ospina PŽrez with the demand that he relinquish power to a military junta. Even foreigners turned Colombia's Nueve de Abril to their own purposes. United States policymakers cited events of that day as proof that communist subversion was rife throughout the hemisphere and used the supposed threat to justify stepped-up covert activities. Gait‡n's assassination was thus an indirect stimulus for formation of the Central Intelligence Agency, which became active in Latin America shortly after 1950.100Left Liberals, Socialists, and Communists, most of whom were enemies of Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n, also made use of the caudillo's murder in a way injurious to the social order. When they seized Bogot‡'s radio stations and proceeded to tailor news broadcasts to fit their political agendas they incited regional politicians to form "revolutionary juntas" in scores of places around the country. Many of their listeners later paid stiff penalties for believing the radio broad-

PAGE 333

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 315casts emanating from Bogot‡. In Tolima, Governor Gonzalo Par’s Lozano, an Ospina appointee, joined the revolt and thereby ruined his political career. The leader of Cali's Revolutionary Junta, Humberto Jord‡n, had no sooner telegraphed fellow Liberals around the department of Valle, urging them to "confront with courage and resolve the bandit assassins who have sacrificed the caudillo of the pueblo" than he and a thousand others were placed under arrest and packed off to military prison in Pasto. The revolutionary optimism of Jord‡n and others was entirely a function of radio broadcasts made during the brief interval prior to the retaking of the Bogot‡ stations by army units. The Cali junta's actions ignored the fact that outside the government building, which they had seized, soldiers under the command of Colonel Gustavo Rojas Pinilla were easily restoring order to the city.101Misled by the inflammatory radio broadcasts, Liberal rebels in Medell’n made elaborate plans to liberate the entire department of Antioquia from government control, plans that even included destruction of bridges leading into the department. Unbeknownst to them, Liberal Party leader Dar’o Echand’a was at that moment reconstituting the bipartisan National Union government that had broken down just ten days earlier. When, on the evening of April 10, Echand’a addressed the nation by radio from the presidential palace to ask all Liberals to support the reconstituted bipartisan accord, erstwhile rebels across 15. Looters in Bogot‡, April 9, 1948. By permission of Focine.

PAGE 334

316 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965Colombia shuddered. "We knew from that moment forward," wrote one of them, "that nothing short of the most . tremendous persecution would befall us."102Political Colombia was a grim place in the months following Gait‡n's assassination. While Dar’o Echand’a, who replaced Laureano G—mez as minister of government, worked with Ospina to restrain the militants in both their parties, their labors were largely in vain. Before departing Colombia for voluntary exile in Spain some weeks after Gait‡n's assassination, G—mez warned Ospina that he must cease his attempts to collaborate with the Liberals and must instead build an entirely Conservative government. His logic was that the Liberals had shown themselves to be anything but trustworthy on Nueve de Abril. Congressional Liberals, who made up a substantial majority of that body, did little to contradict that judgment over the ensuing months. On July 20, 1948, they remained seated when Ospina inaugurated the session. Their first official act was to send greetings to "political prisoners of Nueve de Abril," among them Cali's Humberto Jord‡n and Medell’n's Gilberto Zapata, who were still under arrest. In spite of the intransigence prevailing in both their parties, Ospina and Echand’a labored through the 1948 congressional term to effect reforms that they believed would lessen political violence. Key among them were the nationalization of Colombia's police forces, promotion of bipartisan administration at every level of government (termed "crossed" administrations), and passage of an electoral law whose chief purpose was to reduce vote fraud. Another of Ospina's actions designed to reduce political tension was the postponement of congressional elections from October 1948 to June 1949. Unfortunately that only extended the period of time over which militants in both parties could taunt and bait each other. Thus 1948 ended with the nation's political class seemingly having learned nothing from the bloody events of April 9. Seasoned politicians warned that unless passions cooled, the nation faced even more turmoil. On December 4, Antioquian Conservative Fernando G—mez Mart’nez sounded a cautionary note to the citizens of his department. "In Colombia we live the act of governing with too much passion," he said; he went on to ask parents to teach their children "that politics is not hatred, that parties aren't corps of gladiators, that the exercise of government is not a function of reprisal . that to vote is not a manner of expressing rancor until the moment to kill arrives."103Sadly his words were heard but not acted on. Young turks in both parties began girding their loins for the June 1949 elections. "The Liberal Party is armed, and if it does not triumph in the elections it will declare civil war," trumpeted Liberal senator Gilberto Moreno, while his Conservative counterpart, Gilberto Alzate, warned his copartisans, "We must gain victory, because if not, Conservatives, you will be wiped from the face of the earth!"104 Those

PAGE 335

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 317were challenges disturbingly reminiscent of the ones exchanged immediately before the War of the Thousand Days. Colombia rushed toward civil war over the course of 1949. Except for brief lapses, as when Carlos Lleras and Guillermo Le—n Valencia signed a bipartisan peace accord on March 17, the leaders of both parties maintained postures of intransigence and mutual antipathy whose consequence could be nothing less than the suspension of democratic government. The Liberal strategy was based on their belief that, as theirs was the nation's majority party, they had the right to direct the government. In May they indicated the course they would follow by withdrawing a fourth and final time from Ospina's government in protest against his inability to control the Violencia in several departments. They reconfirmed their majority status in the June congressional elections, which they won handily, and when Congress convened on July 20, 1949, Liberal leaders set out to use their legislative power to control Ospina PŽrez, whom they continued to regard as a weak and accidental president. The Liberal strategy was in fact severely flawed. It rested on two assumptionsthat Colombia's political institutions were solid enough to withstand ongoing warfare between the legislative and executive branches of government, and that, as Liberal Party leader Carlos Lleras believed, in true republics minorities must never dominate majorities. What that strategy failed to consider were the formidable powers vested in the presidency, among them the power to suspend Congress when, in the president's opinion, public order was disturbed. As it turned out the Liberal directorate had committed itself to a course of action during 1949 that produced the party's total exclusion from the formal exercise of political power once Ospina PŽrez imposed a state of siege on November 9, 1949. After that date, the Liberal leadership believed it had no other recourse than to arm guerrillas, especially in the llanos. The Conservative government and the Liberal opposition thus found themselves in a state of open civil war. In consequence Colombia experienced its worst Violencia during 1950, when 50,000 citizens fell in fighting between government troops and the largely Liberal guerrillas. If the prologue to Colombia's political tragedy was the Liberal withdrawal from Ospina's government in May 1949, its first chapter began with the inauguration of Congress on July 20. For the first time since 1823, Liberal congressmen refused to rise when the president and his ministers entered the chamber. The traditional welcome message to the president was at first delayed by a shouting match between members of opposite parties, and then was not read at all. Following the briefest presidential address ever delivered to Congress, there was an attempt to banish Ospina PŽrez from all further congressional proceedings. When that failed, Alfonso Romero Aguirre rose and said to Ospina, "Mister President, you have tricked the party that is the great majority in Colombia. When this party extended its hand and offered the collaboration

PAGE 336

318 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965of its leaders . you responded ignobly, allowing your subalterns to assassinate its members."105Following that inauspicious opening session congressional Liberals proposed a package of laws whose effect would be to strip the president of his power by removing the police and military from his control, requiring prior approval of his cabinet appointments, and eliminating his power to name governors and other department officials. Congressional Liberals also advanced the coming presidential election from June 1950 to November 27, 1949, explaining that they did so in order that government employees, "little better than emissaries of death," as one of them said, would have less opportunity to steal the election through fraud.106 Two days later, in the session of July 22, Liberals proposed the formation of an investigatory commission to look into the violation of civil rights, managing to do so with such aggressiveness that Conservative members physically attacked President of the C‡mara Francisco Eladio Ram’rez. Later in the session Representative Manuel JosŽ Gait‡n, brother of the slain caudillo, rose and said that he had evidence proving the complicity of Representative Enrique G—mez Hurtado, son of the Conservative Party leader, in the caudillo's assassination. The following day, when Enrique G—mez rose to defend himself against the charges, he was denied the right to speak.107 When Congress next convened, members of the Conservative minority, led by Alvaro G—mez, oldest son of Laureano G—mez, disrupted business by blowing a police whistle. That led to the hurling of ashtrays, one of which badly lacerated the scalp of Conservative Representative Eusebio Cabrales.108Colombians who wondered to what depths their national Congress would fall received their answer on September 8, when a gun battle erupted in the C‡mara. The deadly exchange, which was transmitted live to the nation via radio, was a product of the supercharged political atmosphere of the moment and two decades of animosity sprung from past acts of political violence. Principals in the shoot-out were representatives from the martyred department of Boyac‡. Conservative representative Carlos del Castillo touched off the exchange when he rose to defend himself against an earlier attack by Liberal Julio Salazar Ferro. Salazar had charged that Boyac‡ Conservative caciques (like del Castillo) were responsible for girls as young as eleven and twelve being raped in the presence of their parents.109 Del Castillo answered by attacking Salazar as an assassin for having helped plan the Gachet‡ massacre of 1939. At that, presiding officer Julio CŽsar Turbay Ayala called a recess. His hope was that tempers would be calmer when the session resumed. Sadly that was not to be the case, as most representatives spent the break at the congressional bar fortifying themselves for the coming debate. No sooner had del Castillo resumed his tirade against Salazar than Gaitanista Gustavo JimŽnez, who had drunk heavily during the break, rose

PAGE 337

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 319and accused the Conservative of being nothing more than the son of common campesinos. "I am the son of humble campesinos," replied Castillo, "but I am not a natural son, as are you, sir. React, react!" At that both men reached for their weapons and a five-minute gun battle ensued during which most representatives emptied their weapons wildly in the direction of their political opposition while hidden behind their respective desks. One who did not hide as he fired was General Amadeo Rodr’guez, who stood, took aim, and shot Gustavo JimŽnez dead. For years afterward a popular toast among Conservatives was, "Long live Amadeo's pistol!" The tragic toll of that day was one killed outright, another mortally wounded, and two others with flesh wounds.110The Cold War descended on Colombia with full fury in 1949, further complicating the disastrous political situation. Slightly more than a month before the Chamber of Representatives incident Laureano G—mez returned from Spain after an absence of thirteen months, bearing the warning that communist subversion was rife in his country. In typically flamboyant fashion G—mez electrified Colombians with the message that the Liberal Party had fallen under the influence of communists bent on turning Christian Colombia into a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship. G—mez held up Gait‡n's assassination as unquestionably the work of communist agents provocateurs, and the Liberal uprising it provoked as proof that Colombia's minuscule Communist Party had learned how to make the Liberals do their bidding. He evoked the basilisk, a mythical reptile with a gross and terrifying body and a tiny obscene head. "Nueve de Abril was a typically communist phenomenon," said G—mez, "and it was carried out by the basilisk. . The tiny, nearly invisible head planned it, and the body carried it out, to the shame of the nation."111G—mez's insistence that Colombia had been subverted by international communism infuriated Liberals, many of whom were as ardent in their anticommunism as was G—mez himself. At the moment G—mez raised the issue, Liberal leader Carlos Lleras Restrepo was rooting communists out of the nation's largest labor union in compliance with wishes of the United States.112In the weeks following what came to be known as the Basilisk Address, Liberals attacked G—mez and his thesis, along with Ospina PŽrez, for making Colombia the first nation in Latin America to accept U.S. "Point Four" moneys for the purpose of combating Soviet-inspired communism.113 Their fear was that money and equipment received through the program would be used to persecute Liberals, who, thanks to G—mez's offensive, were being tarred as communist fellow travelers. From the moment Laureano G—mez set foot on Colombian soil in June 1949, fear gripped Liberal hearts. It was clear to them that their old adversary intended to take control of the nation by winning the upcoming presidential contest. Moderate Conservatives, chief among them Mariano Ospina PŽrez, also feared that a G—mez victory on November 27 would worsen the already

PAGE 338

320 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965atrocious Violencia. These considerations set moderates in both parties scrambling to reduce bloodshed in the countryside and to frustrate G—mez's presidential bid. In early August a bipartisan peace commission was formed, among whose members were Liberals Luis L—pez de Mesa and Antonio Rocha, and whose Conservative representatives were Eduardo Zuleta Angel and Francisco de Paula PŽrez. Two months later Ospina PŽrez launched a major initiative to calm passions by reviving Alfonso L—pez's idea of a bipartisan power-sharing scheme that if put into effect would have postponed the election for four years and entrusted the nation to the direction of a plural executive whose two Liberals and two Conservatives would alternate in office at one-year intervals.114 Unfortunately the peace initiatives came to nothing as extremists on both sides continued to attack one another both in public fora and in thousands of private venues across the country. Laureano G—mez phrased his endorsement of peace in terms seemingly designed to anger Liberals: "When Conservative lips proclaim peace, they do so with sincerity; our hearts are not poisoned with hateful desires to destroy the Christian order and replace it with Communist tyranny."115 Liberals like Gaitanista CŽsar Ord—–ez Quintero responded that G—mez alone was responsible for the Violencia, calling him a "deflowerer of virgins and a destroyer of cities." Shortly after Laureano G—mez accepted his party's presidential nomination, Carlos Lleras characterized the Conservative leader as a man whose destiny was to transform hateful invective into "incendiary flames [and] tremendous massacres."116Lleras made his intemperate remarks in an epochal speech of October 28, 1949, in which he ordered Liberals to sever all ties with Conservatives, even at the personal level. This was in part a reaction to the ghastly slaughter of Liberals by Conservative gunmen at the site of a party rally in Cali six days earlier. The "Casa Liberal" massacre negated efforts to save the country's bipartisan democracy. Nothing more was said of bipartisan power sharing until early 1956, when Alfonso L—pez Pumarejo revived the notion as a way of ending the onerous military rule of General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla. The simple fact was that in October 1949, even experienced politicians like Alfonso L—pez, whose commitment to power-sharing arrangements was amply demonstrated in 1946, were incapable of compromising with the political enemy. When Ospina PŽrez announced his plan for a plural executive, L—pez brushed it aside as an invitation to a "dictatorship through compact."117The next step in Colombia's dismal journey toward civil war came in early November, when Liberal leaders proclaimed abstention from the November 27 election and began planning the impeachment of Ospina PŽrez for permitting "political assassinations carried out by mayors and by police in the most savage orgy of blood recorded in national history."118 However, the plan failed

PAGE 339

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 321when, on November 9, Ospina PŽrez closed Congress and placed the nation under a state of siege. Carlos Lleras, Dar’o Echand’a, CŽsar Ord—–ez Quintero, and other Liberal leaders were rapidly exhausting the means through which they could legally oppose the regime on which they placed sole blame for the Violencia. Writing during the late 1950s, leftist historian Enrique CuŽllar Vargas refers to the period from late 1949 to early 1950 as "the second patria boba in Colombia."119 It is difficult to fault his judgment. In their desperation to topple Ospina as a way of ending the Violencia, Liberal leaders evolved a two-part plan that only served to worsen it. First, they worked to arm their followers in anticipation of an uprising set for November 25, two days before the election; second they called a general strike for the same day. Both parts of the scheme failed. Rather than thwarting the election of Laureano G—mez, the attempted Liberal revolution merely produced a new harvest of dead, among them Dar’o Echand’a's brother. The action-reaction dynamic inherent in Colombia's Violencia was appallingly clear in November 1949. In the Santanders, the llanos, Tolima, Antioquia, and elsewhere, Liberals and Conservatives answered their leaders' calls to arms with an alacrity that pushed the Violencia to its highest level in the nearly two-decades-long conflict. Incidents of November 16, in El Carmen, Norte de Santander, and of November 27, in San Vicente de Chucur’, Santander, illustrate the point. In late October 1949, Minister of Government JosŽ Antonio Andrade notified Governor Lucio Pab—n Nœ–ez that Liberals were stockpiling weapons and harassing Conservative police throughout the region of El Carmen, 100 kilometers northwest of Cœcuta. Pab—n, who like Andrade was a militant and sectarian Laureanista, dispatched police and detectives to seized the munitions stored in El Carmen. But the police were unable to do so in the face of guerrilla resistance. Pab—n then sent a detachment of 117 police, who entered and secured the town during November 16 and 17 following a day-long battle during which two police and at least two dozen Liberals died.120As in Cali's Casa Liberal massacre a month earlier, Liberals across Colombia condemned the El Carmen killings as the product of unconscionable Chulavita excesses. While most of them expressed their outrage verbally or in writing, guerrilla leader Rafael Rangel answered the affront in a more direct way. Ten days after Pab—n Nœ–ez sent his police into El Carmen, Rangel assaulted the plaza of San Vicente de Chucr’, killing more than 100 citizens of all ages, most of them Conservatives who were there to cast their vote for Laureano G—mez.121The year 1950 began on a surreal note. A confident president-elect Laureano G—mez delivered a new year's greeting to the nation in tones of a loving

PAGE 340

322 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965father whose children could anticipate a bright future if only they followed time-tested truths. "Our immense difficulties will disappear," he said, "when it is possible to instill in each citizen the conviction that he must do unto others as he would have others do unto him."122 The speech was full of G—mez's optimism that 1950 would be a splendid year for the nation if everyone worked together in a spirit of patriotic harmony. The president-elect's optimism was sadly misplaced. Rather than a year marked by Colombia's sons "working for the well-being and greatness of the country," their warfare with one another produced 50,000 deaths, a quarter of all those killed over the course of the Violencia. Over much of the national territory a thoroughly Conservatized police force conducted a reign of terror, beating, raping, and killing Liberals at the slightest provocation, or on no pretext whatever. "How they killed, burned, insulted, stole, raped, and did so many things because we were Liberals!" said Tolimense Te—filo Rojas of the Chulavita police who arrived in his village during late 1949.123Thoughtful Conservatives, even those who had experienced the Liberal harassment of sixteen years earlier, were unable to explain the ferocious persecution of Liberals during 1949 and 1950. "I was perplexed before the outpouring of sadism unleashed by Conservative vandals, protected by official weapons, who staged midnight attacks on their political adversaries trapped inside their homes," wrote Antioquian Conservative Miguel Zapata Restrepo. In his eyes, "the persecution against Liberals was turned into a kind of holy war."124Liberals could hardly accept such persecution without fighting back. Party leaders like Carlos Lleras Restrepo traveled to the United States in search of support for the guerrillas; other leaders sought armaments closer to home, in neighboring Ecuador, Venezuela, and Panama. Meanwhile other party leaders worked at forming alliances with any group whose members were willing to take up arms against the government. In December 1949, Plinio Mendoza Neira approached Communist Party leaders for help in manning guerrilla units.125 As a consequence of those efforts the Liberals were able to establish guerrilla units in Antioquia, Caldas, Tolima, Huila, Cundinamarca, Boyac‡, the Santanders, and the llanos. By mid-1950 the llanos force stood at some 2,500 men operating under a central command. Elsewhere guerrilla units totaled roughly 2,000 men operating independently of one another in the several departments of central Colombia.126 Hence as Ospina PŽrez's presidency drew to a close there were at least 4,500 Liberal guerrillas battling Chulavita police throughout Colombia. From the onset Colombia's Liberals made it clear that they would not recognize as legitimate any government constituted on the basis of the November 27, 1949, election. Their directorate stated their position in a message of November 9, 1949, which read, "Liberalism declares that the electoral farce of

PAGE 341

Orchestrating the War of Seven Thousand Days | 323November 27 will give no one the right to exercise power without valid title, nor will it require the obedience or compliance of a free people."127 Liberal activists maintained that attitude over the first half of 1950, concentrating their efforts on building a fighting force capable of resisting government police. Even the mildest suggestion that the party might consider negotiating with the government was dismissed out of hand. That was something Alfonso L—pez Pumarejo learned to his dismay when, during the Liberal convention of April 1950, younger party members jeered and hooted when he remarked that his colleagues should not fear renewal of their collaboration with the Conservatives. A shaken and ashen-faced L—pez went on to say that he did not demand agreement from his fellow party members, merely courtesy. His statement was answered by renewed jeering.128The intransigence of Liberal Party leaders before the election of Laureano G—mez was in part a function of the old Generational Quarrel (Pleito de las Generaciones) that had bedeviled Colombian politics for more than a quarter century. Party leader Lleras and his contemporaries were members of the group known as Los Nuevos, that during the 1920s had battled the Conservative government of Abad’a MŽndez, as well as the "elders" of their own party, men at the time in their thirties and forties. But Los Nuevos had been consistently frustrated by members of the political generation that preceded them, most notably by Alfonso L—pez and Laureano G—mez, leaders of the Generation of the Centenary. That L—pez, Laureano G—mez's former bosom companion, should suggest collaboration with the administration that would assume power on August 7, 1950, amid a fearful persecution of Liberals, was more than Los Nuevos could endure. Party leader Carlos Lleras also turned a deaf ear to the advice of his political mentor, Eduardo Santos, who, along with his influential brother Enrique, espoused the political middle ground rather than intransigence. Eduardo Santos warned his copartisans not to follow those who were "determined to create disorder with the purpose of compromising the Liberals in a blind venture that would become the pretext for reprisals."129 Not only did party activists ignore the advice, but they persisted in challenging the government. Two months after Santos's call for moderation, Liberal leaders sent "warm greetings" from the convention to Eliseo Vel‡squez, guerrilla leader of the llanos, lauding him as "an illustrious fighter for the Liberal cause [who is] an example to the Liberal Party."130Liberal bellicosity achieved little beyond heightening Conservative intransigence. Asked early in 1950 what Colombia most needed, Minister of Government Luis Ignacio Andrade snapped, "What this country needs is the discipline of the rifle butt."131 When Liberals sent Ospina PŽrez a letter accusing him of having turned Colombia into a dictatorship, the president replied that "to

PAGE 342

324 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965ignore the parliament's responsibility in the renewal of sectarian hatreds . is to willfully deform the reality of the events."132To say that by August 7, 1950, Colombia was in a state of political collapse born of civil war is to belabor the obvious. Even Laureano G—mez knew it. Chatting with Abel Naranjo Villegas before the Palacio de San Carlos the day of his inauguration, the soon-to-be president asked Naranjo how he viewed the political situation. The younger man replied, "terrible." "I agree," said G—mez, adding, "if I weren't in the middle of it, I would be in opposition."133Most Liberals boycotted the inauguration of Laureano G—mez. Those who did attend were subsequently expelled from the party. Liberals took the unprecedented step of mentioning neither G—mez's name nor word of his inauguration in their newspapers, an eloquent response to G—mez's presidential address, which was replete with references to the common good and calls for Colombians to attain national greatness by working together in a spirit of Christian solidarity.134Yet it was not the Liberals but rather a Conservative who had the last word in rejecting the new president. Like most members of her family, Mar’a Antonia Su‡rez never forgave Laureano G—mez for spearheading the movement that drove her father from the presidency twenty-seven years earlier. On several occasions she remarked that she could not bear living in a Colombia governed by Laureano G—mez. True to her word, Mar’a Antonia Su‡rez died of what were described as natural causes hours before G—mez recited his oath of office.

PAGE 343

Economic Progress and Social Change | 325 10Economic Progress and Social Change: From Ospina PŽrez to the National FrontThe False Paradox of Economic Progress amid ViolenceColombia enjoyed unparalleled economic growth over the fifteen years following World War II. The boom extended into the first administration of the Liberal-Conservative power-sharing accord, the Frente Nacional (National Front, 19581962). It was financed by extraordinary earnings from coffee exports and given continuity by prudent macroeconomic management by development-minded political and economic elites. Those elites worked together harmoniously to ensure national economic progress and were aided by international agencies, the most notable being the World Bank. For Colombia the period from 1945 to 1960 was a golden age of corporate growth and the expansion of import-substituting industry. It was also a time of ongoing democratization of landholding throughout the zone where the nation's fine mild coffee was produced. Organized labor was relatively peaceful during the period. Unions were tightly controlled during the postwar years and real wages low, but so too was unemployment, with unskilled migrants from the campo easily finding work in the burgeoning import-substituting sector. Economic growth in postwar Colombia was accompanied by social change of such magnitude that demographers describe it as one of "the most dramatic known in contemporary history."1 Birth rates ran at better than thirty per 1,000 population during the 1950s, while corresponding improvements in public health caused Colombia's population to double over the twenty-six years between 1938 and 1964and to double once more over the succeeding two and a half decades.2 Thus a population that stood at 8,701,800 in 1938 rose to 17,584,500 in 1964, and to some 35,000,000 by the final decade of the century. This spectacular population growth was founded in a steady increase in life expectancy, caused by rapidly falling levels of infant mortality. Average life expectancy which stood at 40.2 years in 1940 jumped to 48.9 years in 1950, and to 58.2 years in 1960. Infant mortality fell from 175 per 1,000 live births in 1940, to 122 per 1,000 in 1950, to 78.2 per 1,000 in the early 1960s.3

PAGE 344

326 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965Meanwhile Colombia experienced a dynamic process of urbanization that transformed its population from 75 percent rural in 1930 to 75 percent urban half a century later. More than half of its population was urban by the 1960s, and the urbanization process quickened thereafter.4Amid these changes Colombia became ever more integrated into greater Western culture. The appearance of television, bouffant hair styles, and hula hoops over the course of the 1950s eloquently testified to that fact. Traditional Colombia protested the rush to modernity, as when in 1951 the nation's bishops condemned newspapers for publishing photos of beauty pageant participants clad only in bathing suits. "These painful occurrences oblige us to cry out with the Divine Master: Woe to the world because of such offenses, woe to the man by whom the offense comes!"5 But social change in postwar Colombia was neither checked nor slowed. And that change provided Colombians a degree of freedom and self-absorption unknown to earlier generations. The ultimate expression of this trend occurred during the late 1950s with the appearance of bohemian poets who called themselves Nada’stas (from nada, nothing), Colombia's counterparts to the North American beatniks. "We offer delinquent violence against morality, against established values," wrote Nada’sta Eduardo Escobar, who fondly recalled orgies at plush suburban villas, like the one at El Pedrezal in Medell’n, "a nocturnal gathering of madmen and beggars, of vagrants and wanderers, of renegade hermits, wealthy dowagers, temporary widows, nymphomaniacs who would do anything, perfumed playboys and their dark-skinned beauties, knife-wielding whores, old maids avid for a fling, menopausal coquettes, insidious crazies, aged intellectuals, repentant Conservatives, socialist voyeurs, light-fingered guests who picked pockets, unscrupulous virtuososall of whom accidentally or because God willed it, copulated in the gardens, attempted suicide, threw one another from windows, drugged themselves, raped servants, trampled a drunk, wounded one another in jealous brawls, and drowned in the swimming pool."6The paradox of booming economic growth and pell-mell social change in a country suffering widespread rural violence was more apparent than real. Colombia's economic growth in the twentieth century has in fact been guided by political moderates who unobtrusively steered the economy through channels of capitalist development even as newspaper headlines trumpeted the doings of their militant counterparts. In much the same fashion rank-and-file citizens looked to their own interests as an unfortunate minority was caught up in traditional political battles involving issues that grew less meaningful over time. What in fact occurred in Colombia during the 1940s and 1950s was that most citizens managed either to avoid the politically inspired Violencia or to turn it to their advantage. And all the while the focus of national life was

PAGE 345

Economic Progress and Social Change | 327increasingly urban. The mountains, jungles, and sparsely populated llanos, where most of the Violencia occurred and where a minority of the nation's population resided, gradually receded from the experience of the average Colombian. During the late twentieth century Colombian scholarship has paid disproportionate attention to the Violencia and to the nation's stormy political history. Consequently the socioeconomic changes which affected vastly more Colombians and which took place concurrently with political violence have been examined relatively little. Luis L—pez de Mesa was one of the first to steer scholarly analysis in the direction of Violencia studies when he asserted that his nation had suffered an institutional "heart attack" in November 1949.7 L—pez de Mesa referred to the suspension of Congress by President Ospina PŽrez and the formation by militant Liberals of antigovernment guerrilla forces subsequent to that time. According to his logic Colombia hovered near death, in a state of institutional cardiac arrest throughout the 1950s, until the nation's lifeblood began flowing again in August 1958, when the bipartisan Frente Nacional government began functioning. The notion that Colombia suffered near fatal institutional collapse in 1949 has led students to focus on politics and violence and to ignore socioeconomic developments taking place during the 1940s and 1950s that were in fact more momentous for the nation. It has kept them from perceiving that save for the Liberal and Conservative Parties and the formal political structure which they defined, most Colombian institutions grew significantly stronger during the years of Violencia. Interest associations of all sorts enjoyed rapid growth during the years of Colombia's Violencia. Labor historian Miguel Urrutia points out that industry and commercial lobbying organizations known as gremios enjoyed a "golden age of power and influence" during the years of the Violencia.8 So effective had such institutions become by 1957 that they were able to coordinate the bloodless coup against the Rojas Pinilla dictatorship in May of that year. Organized labor underwent a major tactical reorientation during the late 1940s and 1950s, turning from the confrontational tactics of earlier decades to pursue bread and butter issues. Thus by the time of the Frente Nacional, labor stood ready to begin an exponential growth that would carry through the 1960s. Government agencies and institutions also proliferated and flourished during the Violencia years as Colombian society grew more complex. A similar evolution occurred within the quasi-public Federaci—n Nacional de Cafeteros (FedcafŽ), considered by many to be a "state within the Colombian state." FedcafŽ made wise use of vast revenues flowing into its coffers during the 1950s, using them to launch the important Banco Cafetero, purchase numer-

PAGE 346

328 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965ous new vessels for its shipping company, and support scores of development projects throughout the coffee zone, including many aimed at restoring prosperity to coffee-growing areas hard hit by the Violencia. All these developments reflected a growth and strengthening of institutions in Colombia between 1945 and 1960. Thus, while the nation's political heart skipped several beats during those turbulent years, other organs vital to the body politic more than ensured that society escaped a fatal decline.Colombia's Economic Golden AgeFrom the mid-1940s to the end of the 1950s, Colombia experienced a rate of economic growth exceeding even that of the preceding fifteen years. Termed both "smooth" and "constant" by economic historians, its economic progress was all the more notable in that it was accompanied by low national budget deficits and comparatively low levels of state investment in economic infrastructure.9 Gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 6 percent between 1945 and 1953, and at slightly under 5 percent annually for the entire period (19451959).10Those exceptional levels of growth were fueled initially by Colombia's large foreign currency reserves at the end of World War II, and by government monetary policies aimed at spurring the purchase of capital equipment by the private sector. A burgeoning coffee sector lent continuity and dynamism to domestic industrial growth. Coffee prices rose steadily at war's end, from between 15 to 20 cents per pound between 1941 and 1945, to better than 50 cents per pound by 1950. During the 1950s Colombia entered a time of bonanza as prices rose to a historic high of 86.3 cents in 1954, entering a decline only toward the end of the decade.11 As well as generating monies for industrial development, the coffee bonanza benefited those millions of Colombians involved in the coffee industry. The democratization of earnings moved apace over the extensive area of coffee cultivation, through marked increases in the number of coffee farms, in the number of hectares exploited, and the amount of coffee produced. Between 1932 and 1955, the number of coffee farms, nearly 80 percent of which were managed by owner-operators, grew in number from 149,300 to 234,700, and the area covered by those fincas more than doubled. Production increased correspondingly, rising from 3.5 million sixtykilo sacks in 1932, to 7 million sacks by 1960. High coffee prices and increasing population produced the breakup of the last of Colombia's large coffee haciendas during the 1950s. By the end of the decade the average size of a coffee finca was but 20.1 hectares, just 3.3 hectares of which was planted in coffee.12Illustrative of the ongoing economic boom itself was the fact of coffee's decline from 1950 onward in terms of its share in the nation's gross domestic

PAGE 347

Economic Progress and Social Change | 329product. From generating better than 10 percent of the nation's GDP in 1950 1954, coffee dropped to 8.2 percent in 19601964, and to 4 percent in 1970 1975. In terms of percentage of GDP in agriculture, coffee dropped from 28 percent in 19501954, to 26 percent in 19601964, and to 17 percent in 19701975.13It was Colombia's good fortune that its coffee bonanza coincided with and went far toward financing its spurt of import substitution. The industrialization process had been under way for twenty years prior to the coffee bonanza of the 1950s. Between 1930 and 1950 the proportion of nondurable goods as a percent of total imports fell from 30 percent to 3 percent, owing to the growth of import-substituting industry. However, the process became yet more meaningful following World War II, when the country greatly accelerated domestic production of intermediate and capital goods. Between 1950 and 1960, Colombian industry grew by 89.5 percent, with the production of consumer goods continuing to make up the lion's share of manufacturing, but with the manufacture of intermediate and capital goods moving apace. By 1960 those more highly elaborated manufactures totaled 40 percent of all industrial production.14The growth of import-substituting industry in postWorld War II Colombia produced two effects beyond easing the country's dependence on foreign manufactured goods. First, the new factories absorbed a large proportion of migrants who reached the nation's cities in growing numbers during the 1950s. In 1955, for example, migrants found a record 18,000 new factory jobs awaiting them in Colombian cities.15 Second, the growth taking place in importsubstituting industry during the 1950s occurred outside the traditional strongholds of manufacturing, Medell’n and Bogot‡. A great many of the new industries were located in the Cauca Valley, in and around the city of Cali. Others sprang up in Bucaramanga, Pereira, Armenia, and other secondary cities. The effect was a reduction in the relative significance of the Antioquian business community in national economic affairs and the ascendance of Colombia as Latin America's leading nation in terms of geo-industrial balance.16As was the case fifteen years earlier, international developments worked to Colombia's advantage in the economic sphere. Following World War II, the United States and other industrialized nations adopted the policy of promoting free trade through tariff reduction. While that strategy invigorated global commerce, it worked to the disadvantage of countries like Colombia, in the early stages of industrialization and struggling to protect infant industry. Luckily for development-minded Colombians, their nation had been a staunch ally of the United States during the war and hence stood in a position to resist that nation's tariff-lowering initiatives. In fact Colombia, with U.S. blessings, was able to sharply increase tariffs to protect infant import-substituting industry. During 1950 and 1951, and later, in 1958, Colombia negotiated new agree-

PAGE 348

330 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965ments with the Americans through which it was able to protect its industry from foreign competition. The Americans demanded in exchange a promise that Colombia would not expropriate U.S. businesses and would facilitate the remission of profits by foreign investors.17 Such conditions imposed no burden on Colombian leaders, since they were eager for foreign investment. That Colombian leaders were committed to both economic development and capitalism insured them a favorable hearing by international lending agencies. Nor did it harm Colombia's prospects that all presidents holding office from 1945 through the 1950s were outspoken anticommunists who clearly matched the political profile required of those receiving aid from the World Bank and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development during the early Cold War era. Thus when Colombia applied for a $78 million World Bank development loan shortly after Gait‡n's assassination in 1948, the recently formed lending agency quickly took the proposal under study and sent prominent economist Lauchlin Currie to explore the feasibility of large-scale economic assistance for Colombia. Currie's report, submitted in mid-1950, recommended a broad-based, integrated approach to economic development featuring road construction as well as fiscal and land reform. The Currie report, the first of its kind commissioned by the World Bank, produced controversy in Colombia and raised eyebrows in the United States. "We can't go messing around with education and health . we're a bank!" exclaimed World Bank vice president Robert Gardner upon studying the plan.18 "Look, Dr. Currie," said Manuel Mej’a, president of powerful FedcafŽ, "from the technical point of view what you're suggesting is feasible. But I tell you it will never work in Colombia."19 Others were more outspoken. Landowners, whom Currie proposed forcing to commercialize their holdings through punitive taxes, damned the scheme as "markedly socialist in orientation" and its author as a malignant reincarnation of Henry George.20 Marxist critic Rafael Baquero called Currie's reforms "a plan of imperialist colonization" for its proposed integration of national highways toward the end of allowing the developed world easier access to Colombian exports, and socialist Antonio Garc’a rejected the report out of hand.21Nevertheless, Laureano G—mez and members of his government embraced the Currie plan. G—mez and his advisors saw it as helping legitimize their own economic program, which stressed fiscal austerity, the improvement of highways and other aspects of the nation's infrastructure, and the encouragement of business and industry. Members of the G—mez administration agreed with World Bank officials that social reforms should be subordinated to those strictly fiscal and administrative. Hence Currie's land reform was quietly shelved in favor of a heterogeneous series of measures that penalized the holders of only the most fertile unused lands.22 On the other hand, great attention

PAGE 349

Economic Progress and Social Change | 331was paid to expediting portions of the plan involving highway construction, irrigation and hydroelectric projects, and the like. This harmony of interests between Colombian and World Bank officials made the Andean nation one of the bank's favored clients in succeeding years. By 1963, Colombia had received more World Bank support for highway construction than any other nation.23The most immediate and far-reaching consequence of World Bank involvement in Colombian affairs lay in the area of banking and monetary policy. During the 1940s and through 1950, Colombia was prone to economic instability sprung from the speculative frenzy set into motion by wartime conditions. Following the war foreign exchange continued to pour into public and private hands, with much of it quickly entering the economy to prevent speculative investment. Inflation was consequently an ongoing problem during those years, hitting the poor and persons on fixed incomes especially hard. Ospina PŽrez struggled to slow speculative lending early in his administration, though his commitment to national industrialization caused him to retreat from that position when members of the business community criticized his action.24 Rapid increases in the cost of living thus became a constant feature of national life during the late forties and were one of the factors aggravating both the rioting of April 9, 1948, and Colombia's subsequent Violencia.25Their ongoing and unsuccessful struggle to control inflation made Colombia's economic elites especially receptive to World Bank recommendations aimed at insuring greater monetary stability. When Currie and his colleagues advised giving the Bank of the Republic central bank features, Colombian leaders rushed to comply. Through Decree 756 of 1951, Laureano G—mez and his finance minister, Antonio Alvarez Restrepo, granted the Bank of the Republic broad new authority over monetary and credit policy nationwide. Especially important in terms of national industrialization were regulations allowing the bank to both mandate and encourage the financing of key basic industries.26Thanks to their enhanced control over the banking system G—mez and Restrepo reduced inflation to acceptable levels during 1951, even as they dropped exchange restrictions and sharply devalued the currency toward the end of increasing exportsboth recommendations of the Currie commission. On August 28, 1951, El Siglo, at the time Colombia's semiofficial newspaper, praised the government's economic measures as having brought real benefits to average Colombians by cutting their cost of living. Even socialist Antonio Garc’a, never one to praise Laureano G—mez or his party, was impressed by the sharp fall in inflation during 1951.27As Colombia's national bank moved away from the orthodoxy imposed on it a quarter century earlier by Edwin Kemmerer and began aggressively encouraging national development, three new semiofficial banks were created. In

PAGE 350

332 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 193219651950 the municipality of Bogot‡ was authorized to establish what became the Banco Popular, whose mission was to serve the needs of the lower and middle classes. Three years later the Banco Cafetero was established to serve Colombia's coffee growers. Its assets were provided and controlled by FedcafŽ, and its first president was Antonio Alvarez Restrepo, who had been in involuntary retirement since the coup of Gustavo Rojas Pinilla. In 1955, Rojas Pinilla created the Banco Ganadero to support the cattle industry. Some years earlier, in 1949, Colombia's merchants, acting through their interest association, FENALCO, organized the Banco de Comercio. Its initial task was to redeem government bonds issued to merchants who had suffered losses at the hands of rioters on Nueve de Abril.28Such was Colombia's economic dynamism during the late 1940s and 50s that it could ignore Lauchlin Currie's insistence that the government not undertake ambitious and expensive state-funded development programs. Two major state corporations were authorized between 1948 and 1951the first a steel mill to be located at Paz del R’o, in Boyac‡, and the second a national petroleum company, the Empresa Colombiana de Petr—leo (ECOPETROL). A third costly undertaking, a shipping company called the Flota Mercante Grancolombiana, financed by the semipublic Federaci—n Nacional de Cafeteros, was organized in July 1946. All three enterprises were to a certain extent products of the economic nationalism prevalent in developing nations during the mid-twentieth century. Numerous such nations in Latin America, Africa, and Asia attempted to become economically self-sufficient through the construction of costly, publicly financed industrial projects. While such projects frequently were not cost effective and ended as drains on public coffers, Colombia's experiments in shipping, steel making, and oil production were reasonably successful. Of the three, ECOPETROL was least so, as it quickly became politicized. Still the oil monopoly did give Colombia its first effective control over its petroleum reserves, something anti-imperialists had demanded for thirty years. The Flota Mercante Grancolombiana was considerably more successful. Initially formed with the collaboration of Ecuador and Venezuela, it had become largely Colombian by the mid-1950s, comprising a fleet of twenty-one ships, most of whose freight consisted of coffee bound for North American and European ports.29 Unlike ECOPETROL, the Flota avoided politicization since its ships were purchased and controlled by the affluent and apolitical FedcafŽ. Paz del R’o was perhaps the most successful of Colombia's three mid-century experiments in large-scale publicly financed industrial projects. Although not an especially large steel mill, it entered production just as the nation's import-substituting industry began demanding substantial quantities of steel for manifold purposes. Hence in spite of serious startup problems, featherbed-

PAGE 351

Economic Progress and Social Change | 333ding, and an abominable record of plant safety and maintenance, Paz del R’o played a significant role in Colombia's industrial development. It also rejuvenated the economy of the highland region where it was located. After the plant began production in 1954, it made possible the appearance of "a countless number of smalland medium-sized factories producing metal furniture, agricultural tools, and domestic articles."30 Paz del R’o also generated a range of subsidiary chemical industries, most notably Carboqu’mica in Bogot‡, which began operation in 1956, producing benzol, xylene, naphtha, and other chemicals derived from coke produced at the Boyac‡ plant. Suggestive of its success was the fact that two years after it went into operation, financially strapped Gustavo Rojas Pinilla privatized the plant, selling most of its stock to the public.31Thanks in part to the opening of Paz del R’o, Colombia experienced a satisfactory evolution in its manufacturing profile. Between 1950 and 1958 capital goods increased from 5 to 10 percent of the nation's total industrial output, while intermediate manufacturing increased to more than 25 percent of all goods produced. The nation's industrial base increased steadily over the 1940s and 1950s, expanding at an annual rate of 10 percent between 1945 and 1950, and 7.4 percent between 1950 and 1958.32As industry expanded Colombian agriculture entered a phase of remarkable transition. When Lauchlin Currie published his famous report in 1950, he called attention to the severe underuse of productive land, which, when considered alongside considerable imports of agricultural goods to satisfy human and industrial needs, spelled trouble for the national economy. But what Currie failed to perceivea failure for which he was criticized fifteen years later by fellow economist Albert Hirschmanwas that Colombia had already begun the process that in fifteen years would bring its best lands into production and thereby end the age-old problem of leaving such lands fallow or devoted to noncommercial prestige uses such as cattle grazing.33From the time Colombia began building its industrial base economists and political leaders had been aware of the costs of importing agricultural commodities that the country should rightly produce itself. During the 1940s they started taking steps to encourage increased agricultural production, steps which had only begun to yield results when Lauchlin Currie first reached the country in 1949. In 1945 the national Congress approved a five-year plan which featured the encouragement of export agriculture through an integrated program of protection and investment credit administered by the Caja Agraria and given additional support by the newly founded Instituto Nacional de Abastecimientos (INA). Five years later, in 1950, commercial banks were authorized to grant special five-year loans earmarked for agricultural development, and a year later the Bank of the Republic was authorized to force com-

PAGE 352

334 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965mercial banks to invest in agriculture through the purchase of agricultural bonds.34Mariano Ospina PŽrez, himself an industrialist with long experience in agriculture, entered office determined to restrain speculative investment in industry and to channel more capital into agriculture, which during the mid-1940s received but 5 percent of the nation's investment dollar. He was especially determined to encourage the production of cotton, which represented a substantial percentage of national imports and was of vital importance to the Antioquian textile industry. Accordingly, and in the face of grumbling from textile magnates that it was "utopian" to think Colombia could ever become self-sufficient in cotton, Ospina adopted a policy of "integral protection," which forced the textile industry to supplement its imports with locally grown cotton.35 In July 1948, Ospina decreed the formation of the Instituto de Fomento Algodonero, an agency charged with encouraging and overseeing Colombia's nascent cotton industry. Meanwhile he stressed the importance of investing export earnings equally in the nation's agriculture, transportation, and industrial sectors. During the 1950s, Colombia's efforts to modernize its agricultural sector began to bear fruit. Agricultural production increased by more than 40 percent between 1945 and 1958and at a steady 3.7 percent annual rate over the twenty-five years following 1950.36 The industrial sector played its role in this growth, contributing an increasingly sophisticated array of farm implements and machinery. The use of fertilizers increased sixfold between 1949 and 1961, thanks in part to their production at the Paz del R’o steel facility. In spite of the pessimistic pronouncements of paisa textile manufacturers, Colombia not only became self-sufficient in cotton but, thanks to a 105 percent increase in cotton production by 1960, began exporting that commodity.37 Meanwhile middleand upper-income investors had responded to financial incentives by gaining access to unexploited land through purchase or rental agreements. All across the nation, from Valle del Cauca and the llanos of Tolima, to highland Cundinamarca and Boyac‡, and north through the tropical Caribbean lowlands, commercially grown cotton, rice, sorghum, sugarcane, and sesame appeared where none had grown before. These developments in Colombian agriculture had a dramatic impact on the nation's rural population. Between 1938 and 1951 alone an estimated 850,000 campesinos, approximately 10 percent of the total, quit the land and moved to urban areas.38 That migration represented only the beginning of a process of rapid urbanization some of whose consequences will be discussed in greater detail below. By the latter 1950s, Colombia's economy was so fundamentally healthy that even the mismanagement of President Gustavo Rojas Pinilla failed to pro-

PAGE 353

Economic Progress and Social Change | 335duce any lasting detrimental effect. Within a year of the "coup by public opinion" that toppled Rojas, and under the steady hand of Antonio Alvarez Restrepo, reinstated as finance minister by the military junta that presided over the country, budgets were balanced, inflation fell to acceptable levels, and so did cost of living indices. When Alberto Lleras Camargo took office in August 1958, he was able to resume the prudent developmentalism that had characterized his brief presidency (19451946), and those of his successors Mariano Ospina PŽrez and Laureano G—mez.Labor, Interest Associations, Social Programs, and the Economic BoomLabor and management alike strove to turn economic growth to their advantage during the 1940s and '50s. Meanwhile the governments in power between 1946 and 1958 took advantage of the boom to launch a variety of programs aimed at improving living conditions of the middle and lower classes. Ospina, G—mez, and Rojas Pinilla promoted social welfare in hopes that their initiatives would lessen the chances that the masses would choose the MarxistLeninist path to social change. The economic growth taking place in Colombia between 1925 and 1950 doubled workers' salaries in real terms and produced improvements in the standard of living, as reflected in a range of basic indicators. Colombia's gross domestic product increased an average of 27 percent in each of the five decades following 1925. Worker productivity increased 500 percent over that fiftyyear span. But Colombian labor did not perceive itself as having benefited from those advances, an impression not entirely misplaced. By 1951, Colombia had reached its nadir in equity of income distribution, with the wealthiest 5 percent of the population receiving between 40 and 45 percent of national income, and the poorest 20 percent but 2 to 3 percent. Meanwhile a more than 100 percent increase in living costs between 1945 and 1951, a time during which wages increased by less than 50 percent, produced anger and frustration among urban workers.39 As mentioned above, the rioting and looting that followed the assassination of Jorge EliŽcer Gait‡n in early 1948 was in no small part attributable to these unpleasant economic realities. In spite of the nation's rapid urbanization and industrialization during the 1940s and '50s, Colombian labor did not enter a period of sustained growth until the launching of the National Front government in 1958. The explanation for that retarded evolution lay both in the fragmentation that plagued labor during the 1940s and the intensification of that fragmentation over the following decade by Communist gains in the labor movement. The forties dawned with Colombia's most powerful union, the Confederaci—n de Trabajadores Colombianos (CTC), weakened from within by conflict between its

PAGE 354

336 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965Liberal and Communist members, and attacked from without by Gaitanista labor and a national government highly critical of "political unionism." As early as 1938, Minister of Labor Alberto Lleras Camargo had suggested the coming confrontation between unions and the government when he told delegates attending a labor congress in Cali that "unionism having political goals is corrupting," and pointed out that Colombian labor had its best friend in the Liberal Party.40 The meaning of his words became clear in 1945, when the national government, at the time headed by Lleras Camargo himself, approved a sweeping new labor law and shortly thereafter crushed a powerful union whose members refused to abide by it. Law 6 of September 1945 marked a turning point for labor because it sanctioned the use of strikes only in the event of the failure of prescribed arbitration procedures. Three months after the legislation went into effect, and as if to test it, the Communist-dominated union FEDENAL paralyzed traffic on the R’o Magdalena through the declaration of an illegal strike. Announcing that "Colombia cannot have two governments, one in Bogot‡ and another on the Magdalena," Lleras militarized river transportation and revoked legal recognition of FEDENAL, effectively ending its existence. Labor did not learn from the FEDENAL incident. No sooner did Conservative president Mauriano Ospina take office in mid-1948 than the CTC joined Liberal militants in attempting to overthrow him by launching a seemingly endless series of strikes. Results of the unequal struggle between the anarchized CTC and the Colombian government were predictable. Following the failed general strike of May 1947, Ospina PŽrez emulated his predecessor, Lleras Camargo, by removing legal recognition of the CTC, which had coordinated the strike, thereby dealing it a crippling blow.41Militant, political unionism declined precipitously following decertification of the CTC in 1947. After the two failed general strikes of April 1948 and November 1949, many Liberal and Communist labor leaders joined the guerrilla forces opposing the regimes of Ospina PŽrez and Laureano G—mez. This left Liberal and Communist union leaders, who opposed the government through peaceful means, open to harassment, torture, and even murder by official and paramilitary forces during the early 1950s. Chief among the labor leaders killed by police were Aurelio Rodr’guez, Angel Mar’a Cano, and Julio Rinc—n.42Working men and women across Colombia were hardly oblivious to the repeated setbacks of the militantly political CTC and affiliated federations such as the FEDENAL. Most of them understood that their minuscule urban labor corps (only 5 percent of Colombian labor was unionized in the 1950s) was uselessly expending energy and resources through confrontational tactics, a fact workers made clear by turning their backs on the CTC and joining unaffiliated "base unions" organized within individual plants and factories

PAGE 355

Economic Progress and Social Change | 337under provisions contained in Law 6 of 1945. Between 1943 and 1947, 342 such independent unions were created, while the number of locals affiliated with federations dropped, from 642 to 324. The success of Colombia's base unions, a direct consequence of the protection contained in the 1945 comprehensive labor law, stimulated the rapid unionization of factories in Medell’n and Bogot‡. Once the organization of those industries was complete, in the mid-1950s, real salaries began to rise rapidly and union membership increased markedly, from 165,000 in 1947 to 250,000 in 1959.43Urban workers also responded favorably to a new labor confederation, the Uni—n de Trabajadores Colombianos (UTC), organized in mid-1946. Formed by the Roman Catholic Church and strongly encouraged by the government, the UTC endorsed the notion of harmonious unionism spelled out more than a half-century earlier in the encyclical De rerum novarum of Leo XIII. Antiliberal and strongly anticommunist, the UTC eschewed political confrontation and its leaders concentrated instead on bread-and-butter unionism at the local level. Termed a "confessional union" by its critics, all UTC affiliates possessed chaplains and "moral assessors" who preached a paternalistic approach to relations between labor and management. UTC clerical advisors, all of whom were priests, frequently said mass on company premises, led workers on spiritual retreats, and sometimes heard the confession of union members alongside the machines they were charged with tending.44The UTC was hardly as nonpolitical as it claimed to be, for a majority of its members were also members of the Conservative Party. Yet, as it was pledged to principles of collective bargaining spelled out in Law 6 of 1945, and as the union was principally committed to improving wages, benefits and working conditions through nonconfrontational means, many workers not affiliated with the Conservative Party joined and supported the UTC. Yet another factor benefiting the UTC was its anticommunist stance. Many Colombian workers were openly critical of the way "the Comrades infiltrated the labor movement" prior to the appearance of the UTC.45 A final and highly significant factor contributing to the success of the UTC model of labor federation was that its growth coincided with Colombia's economic boom of the 1950s. In spite of the widespread perception among radical workers that management was benefiting at their expense, labor in fact enjoyed better physical conditions during the 1950s than at any previous time in Colombian history. Jobs were plentiful, salaries on the rise, and the Violencia far from factories and workshops. Hence labor historian Mauricio Archila has characterized the workers active in base unions during the 1950s as generally positive about their union experience.46During the mid-1950s, President Gustavo Rojas Pinilla emulated his predecessors by creating a labor federation made in his own political image. Copying Juan Per—n, whose success was owed to the support of workers in

PAGE 356

338 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965Argentina's cities, Rojas created the Confederaci—n Nacional de Trabajo (CNT), having links with the international Peronist labor group ATLAS. Like its chief rival, the UTC, the CNT was anticommunist. However it lacked the confessional character of its Church-backed rival. For that reason Rojas's union was actively opposed by the Church, never enjoyed much success, and disappeared shortly after the dictator's fall from power.47Colombian labor was poised to enter its time of most vigorous growth as Alberto Lleras Camargo, first president under the Frente Nacional, took office in 1958. Real salaries were in the process of rising 30 percent between 1950 and 1965, and income distribution was beginning to improve as a result of more effective government tax collection and stepped-up government programs of a redistributive nature.48Labor hardly constituted a major force in Colombian society at the end of the 1950s. Its history had been too much one of rank-and-file union members being used to advance the cause of one or another political cause. Yet labor was not impotent. Early in the term of Alberto Lleras bank employees in all of Colombia's major cities went out on strike. Urged on by the influential industry lobby, the Asociaci—n Nacional de Industrias (ANDI), Lleras attempted to break the strike by declaring bank work a public service. But the tellers and other bank employees held firm under the leadership of their UTC-affiliated union, the Asociaci—n de Empleados Bancarios. The banks remained closed. At length Lleras was forced to arbitrate an agreement that resulted in the awarding of a pay raise and enhanced benefits for bank workers.49Colombia's employer associations such as ANDI, known collectively as gremios, played an important role in promoting social and economic stability during the politically turbulent 1940s and 1950s. Unlike the country's labor unions, which tended to pursue confrontational tactics, the gremios lobbied government officials for legislation benefiting their respective constituencies. The gremios owed much of their success to their corporative character, meaning that they served the interests of all those working in a given industry or profession. Of course the gremios were headed by the wealthiest, most influential members of the nation's several occupational groups. In that respect they were twentieth-century incarnations of corporative organizations that exercised great political influence both in medieval Spain and colonial Latin America. Most of Colombia's gremios, however, had mid-twentieth-century origins. Economist Miguel Urrutia points to four functions of the gremios as insurers of Colombian democracy at a time when irresponsible party leaders had rendered the formal political system dysfunctional.50 First, by their independent existence they insured that all major economic interests would have a voice in the shaping of government policies affecting the fortunes of that

PAGE 357

Economic Progress and Social Change | 339group's members. Powerful national interest groups competed for influence, thus suffusing their sector of Colombian politics with a healthy pluralism. Even during the era of economic protection aimed at encouraging the growth of import-substituting industry, Colombian merchants waged an ongoing campaign, through their gremio, FENALCO, in favor of free markets in accord with principles established in the international General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), implemented in 1949. While they made little headway with their arguments through the 1960s, the members of FENALCO served as a salutary counterweight to the preponderant influence of the industrialists.51 Eventually FENALCO's free trade position came to prevail in Colombia, and the protectionism advocated by FENALCO's chief antagonist, the manufacturer's gremio, ANDI, gave way to less protectionist policies. A second key function of the gremios lay in their ability to serve as a conduit for the articulation of regional interests. The principal gremios had chapters in every department, thus insuring that local elites could make their feelings known at the seat of national power. This was especially important from 1949 to 1958, when normal channels of political discourse were closed under terms of the state of siege. The third political function of the gremios lay in the way they provided Colombian leaders a setting within which they could eschew the partisan hatreds that so divided them in public life. Colombian elites clearly found refuge from politics within their gremios, and acted to insulate those business associations from destructive partisanship. In November 1951, during one of the most intense phases of the Violencia, Conservative Eugenio G—mez declined nomination as president of SAC, throwing his support to Liberal Luis Castillo de la Parra on the grounds that "we must seek to alternate the presidency."52Three years later Liberal and Conservative cattlemen, acting through their gremio, the Uni—n Nacional de Ganaderos, joined hands in opposing policies of President Rojas Pinilla that ran counter to their interests.53 These examples illustrate both how gremios provided nonpartisan mechanisms of political action at a time when Colombia's Liberal and Conservative Parties were in suspension and how they pointed the way toward bipartisan power sharing in the political realm. A fourth important function of the gremios lay in their helping insulate Colombia from the sort of populist excesses that troubled the postwar economies and politics of Argentina, Peru, and other Latin American nations. By giving power and voice to a wide range of constituent groups representing millions of Colombians, the gremios lessened chances that national politics would fall prey to populist caudillismo. Through the effective representation of constituencies in all parts of the nation gremios were able to moderate the demands of citizens concentrated in Bogot‡ and other metropolitan areas.54

PAGE 358

340 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965The National Federation of Coffee Growers (FedcafŽ) was the gremio most responsible for moderating populist demands. One of the nation's oldest interest associations, and by far the largest and most affluent, FedcafŽ was more than a gremio, having much in common with the "peak associations"broad interest associations having organic links with governmentof modern European states. Such was FedcafŽ's power that it has been called a "parallel state" in Colombia. FedcafŽ's president was sufficiently influential to enjoy instant and direct access to the national president, a perquisite no member of the chief executive's own cabinet could claim.55 While five of the eleven members of FedcafŽ's governing board were indirectly named by the national government, the organization retained control of its own operations. For that reason it was able to resist Rojas Pinilla's efforts to loot the Fondo Cafetero during the mid1950s. FedcafŽ also played a significant role in overthrowing the dictator in 1957. FedcafŽ's governing board was traditionally dominated by the nation's more important coffee growers, processors, and exporters. Yet the organization was structured democratically, with elected committees functioning in half of Colombia's nearly 1,000 municipios. Thanks to its considerable liquid assets, contained in the Fondo Cafetero, FedcafŽ offered varied services to coffee growers. These monies underwrote loan programs and financial services, educational and agricultural extension programs, and the construction of highways and electric power networks. These services were offered in addition to the basic one of supporting coffee prices through warehousing and merchandising activities. Through these activities the coffee growers' federation, Colombia's foremost gremio, served as the voice and institutional anchor of the nation's most significant rural group, the coffee-producing yeoman farmer. FedcafŽ, along with ANDI, FENALCO, SAC, and scores of lesser such groups subjected Colombia to what political scientist Robert Dix called "a kind of anarchy of direct action" and to which economists Edgar Revez and Mar’a JosŽ PŽrez referred as the "gremialization" of the Colombian state.56 But in spite of their exclusive character, Colombia's competing interest associations served that nation as vigorous representative institutions during a trying period when its formal organs of political representation, the Liberal and Conservative Parties, had ceased to function. In spite of Colombia's grave political problems during the emergence of the gremios, a number of important government social programs were launched during the Violencia years. The rioting attending Gait‡n's assassination, which demonstrated the revolutionary potential of the masses, forced Conservatives and Liberals alike to address the needs of the nation's poorest citizens. In months following the Bogotazo, Ospina PŽrez ordered the establishment of a

PAGE 359

Economic Progress and Social Change | 341new program of land colonization and parcelization and a system of technical education funded by private industry. While the former was abortive, the latter eventually evolved into the highly successful Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (SENA). Another law, sparked by public health concerns and by the drunken excesses of April 9, 1948, was the outlawing of chicha, that unhygienically prepared, mildly alcoholic drink made from fermented corn.57Two major pieces of social legislation decreed late in the Ospina PŽrez administration were Colombia's social security law of 1949 and its first labor code. Among the provisions of the code were measures mandating severance pay, housing subsidies, paid vacations, and private recreational clubs for employees. Laureano G—mez went on to implement those measures during his brief period as chief executive. During 1950 and 1951, G—mez called into existence the Colombian Social Security Institute (Instituto Colombiano de Seguros Sociales) and also approved special funding for technical education, a program called the Colombian Institute for Technical Education Abroad (Instituto Colombiano para Educaci—n TŽcnica en el Exterior, ICETEX). Government-sponsored social programs expanded further under Rojas Pinilla and during the fifteen-month caretaker military regime that followed Rojas's overthrow. The most ambitious of Rojas Pinilla's programs was a multipurpose state welfare agency known as SENDAS. Another of Rojas's initiatives was a system of large quasi-public shopping centers known as Colsubsidio. Rojas also revived the land colonization program initiated under Ospina PŽrez. The military junta that ruled between May 1957 and August 1958 expanded the system of quasi-public shopping centers through the founding of CAFAM (Cajas de Cooperaci—n Familiar), and by putting into operation the apprenticeship and technical education program SENA, authorized during the Ospina PŽrez administration.Social Change, 19461960Social change quickened in Colombia following World War II. By 1960 half of all citizens in the once overwhelmingly rural nation lived in cities. Urbanization was rapid and continuous in Colombia from mid-century onward. Population also increased rapidly owing to high birth rates and the decline in infant mortality. Meanwhile political attitudes underwent transformation. Activists grew ever more disillusioned with the old Liberal and Conservative Parties, whose internecine struggles had produced the atrocious Violencia. Colombians who were not activistsand a vast majority fell into that categoryfound it increasingly easy to distance themselves from both politics and the Violencia thanks to rising income levels and growing social complexity, as well as to the urbanization process that removed them from Violencia-ridden areas.

PAGE 360

342 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965The social ferment that Colombia experienced from the mid-twentieth century onward had underpinnings in a process of explosive population increase and urbanization that demographers have described as both "uncontrollable," and as "one of the most dramatic demographic transformations of contemporary history."58 By the 1950s population growth had swelled to an annual rate of thirty-two per 100,000, a rate it would maintain until the early 1960s, when nearly half of all Colombians were under fifteen years of age. By 1960, Colombia's population would double in a mere twenty-two years.59Colombia experienced astonishing growth in the area of education between 1946 and 1958. Those years witnessed a 111 percent increase in public primary education and a 537 percent increase in private primary schools. Secondary education grew by 209 percent, with well over half of that expansion occurring in private colegios.60 During the 1940s and 1950s Colombians rushed to meet the burgeoning demand for university education. The most notable growth occurred in private institutions, which, while more expensive than public colleges, were rarely disrupted by revolutionary student violence. Colombia's top private universities were founded over a ten-year span beginning in 1948, the more notable among them the universities of Los Andes (1948), Medell’n (1950), Gran Colombia (1951), America (1952), Jorge Tadeo Lozano (1954), INCCA (1955), Indesco (1958), and Santiago de Cali (1958). Enrollment in Colombia's private universities increased by 309 percent between 1946 and 1958.61 Meanwhile the national government opened public universities in several departmental capitalsIbaguŽ, Bucaramanga, Pereira, and Barranquilla among themin the process more than doubling the network of state-supported institutions. By the late 1950s, Colombians were flocking to these institutions, and were sending their children to the new primary and secondary schools at an unprecedented rate. Whereas in 1951 slightly more than half of all school age children were in class, by 1964 that figure stood at 86 percent. Accordingly illiteracy began to decline, falling below 50 percent early in the 1950s, to 27 percent during the 1960s, and reaching 15 percent by the 1980s.62This avidity for education, like the urbanization process itself, bore a direct and immediate relationship to income level and desire for social mobility. Poor Colombians knew that their standard of living was far more likely to improve in the city than in the campo and that their children would experience social ascent to the extent that they became educated. Such understanding, generalized throughout fervid, burgeoning Colombia of the postwar period, could not but produce change at every level of society. However, change did not necessarily mean affluence, except in a relative sense. Colombia was one of Latin America's poorest nations as the twentieth century began, with 80 percent illiteracy and fewer than 20 percent of the citizenry living in urban areas. The

PAGE 361

Economic Progress and Social Change | 343fact that fewer than 50 percent of the population was illiterate and rural fifty years later indicates a notable social evolution in a scant five decades. Fully a quarter of the population was reasonably well-off by the decade of the 1960s. Another quarter of the population fell somewhere in the middle class. Historian Jesœs A. Bejarano captures the somewhat ambiguous position of a poor yet improving Colombia around 1960. He finds that while on average Colombians were far from well-off, "they were better off than [they had been] fifteen years earlier."63Rapid urbanization, population growth, and new demands on the education system were just three aspects of the social transformation bringing rankand-file Colombians into the mainstream of national history. Those changes also sped the attack on traditional custom and convention. Women were major beneficiaries of social change in the sense that as they removed themselves to the nation's cities, they became freer than ever before to control their personal destinies. Increasing numbers of women began defying convention by entering into free unions or by marrying civilly, thereby bypassing the conventional Catholic church wedding. Whereas only 10 percent of all urban women married outside the Church or lived in free relationships in 1912, 30 percent did so in 1950, and 60 percent did so at the end of the 1960s.64 Their increased access to medical care made it possible for Colombian women to explore modern family-planning techniques for the first time in their history. As a consequence the nation that had experienced one of the continent's highest rates of natural increase during the 1950s saw that trend slow to one of Latin America's lowest near century's end.65 Yet another gain for Colombian women was their right to vote, granted in 1954 by President Gustavo Rojas Pinilla. As Colombians moved to the city and as society broadened and became more complex, popular culture also started to reflect growing diversity. Colombians bought radios in such numbers that by 1950 there were half a million in the nationone for every twenty peopleand those radios were tuned to receive an increasingly diverse range of programs. The more humble classes preferred melodramas and music, especially Caribbean rhythms, vallenatos from Colombia's Caribbean coast, and Mexican rancheras Middle-class teenagers scandalized their parents by listening to North American rock and roll, which members of the older generation regarded as "jungle rhythms." Locally produced comedy and news programs were popular, as were dramas bearing titles like The Right to Life, Hotel Hubbub, and Angel of the Street. Liberals and Conservatives extended their competition to the airwaves, the former launching the nation's first radio network, Caracol, in 1948, and the latter following suit with their channel, RCN, early the following year. In 1949 the Catholic Church entered the competition for listeners too, founding Radio Sutatenza in Boyac‡, and gearing it to the interests of rural listeners. Colom-

PAGE 362

344 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965bian television made its appearance on June 13, 1954, the anniversary of Rojas Pinilla's ascension to power. It was appropriate that Rojas should initiate his nation's television era, as he was one of the first Colombians to have seen its invention, demonstrated in conjunction with a German military exhibition held in 1936.66Long frustrated by cultural, economic, and environmental barriers that isolated them from the greater world, Colombians embraced modernity in the years following World War II. Consumption increased at an annual rate of 6.2 percent between 1945 and 1953, with variety store chains like Ley and T’a providing low-cost mass-produced goods to the lower and middle classes.67Fast food emporia and drive-in restaurants catered to the more affluent classes, whose children came to be known as Cocacolos for the avidity with which they consumed that beverage. Old habits of mind and social conventions of every sort were denounced everywhere as symbols of an antediluvian past. The nation's architects and builders were among the most iconoclastic of all Colombians. As cities like Bogot‡ grew sixteenfold in the half-century following 1935, architects embraced modernism as their guiding creed. Minimalist, rectilinear glass-and-steel skyscrapers were to them pristine expressions of the modern age. "Urbanism," one of them wrote effusively, "is happiness, it is to live with gusto, it is light, it is hygiene."68When the high priest of modernism, Le Corbusier (18871965), visited Bogot‡ in 1947, the Frenchman's followers gave themselves over to him with what has been described as "adolescent totality." Adopting Corbusian slogans such as "The house is a machine for living," they rallied against Karl Brunner's "feudal urbanism" of the late 1930s and early '40s, which had given Bogot‡ neighborhoods like Bosque Izquierdo and La Merced, featuring curving treelined boulevards and streets that intersected at other than right angles.69 Anything constructed earlier was beneath contempt, suitable only for the wrecking ball. Consequently the late 1940s and 1950s featured wholesale destruction of buildings dating from the Republican era, considered reprehensible by modern standards. Young modernists loathed the informal neighborhoods that were springing up pell-mell around urban centers. They stressed instead order and rationality in residential planning. They gave substance to their ideas by designing housing developments like Centro Antonio Nari–o and Ciudad Kennedy, featuring moderately priced multifamily apartment buildings. The former, inaugurated during the early 1950s, was for members of the middle class. The latter, opened for occupancy ten years later, and featuring multistory structures simple in design and bereft of decoration, provided housing for the popular classes. Colombia's idealistic young modernists did their best to bring order and rationality to an increasingly frenetic urban scene. They echoed Le Corbusier's

PAGE 363

Economic Progress and Social Change | 345remark that "Bogot‡'s chaotic urbanism reminds me of the young woman who, at seventeen, decides to leave home and embark upon life's adventure with no supervision whatsoever."70 A later generation of Colombian architects criticized the movement as ahistorical "paper urbanism, slavishly imitative of foreign models," and driven by "an uncontrollable mania for physical transformation" born of an uncritical acceptance of foreign, largely North American, trends.71 While that was undoubtedly the case, the infatuation with modernism affecting Colombia's architectural community during the postwar years was simply one more symptom of the nation's growing cosmopolitanism. The ongoing effort of Colombians to put tradition behind them after the war, and the growth of individualism in society at large, are clearly revealed in the field of pictorial art. Members of the artistic community were in full revolt against classical canons during the late 1940s. By 1949 critic Fernando GuillŽn Mart’nez could proclaim the battle against formalism won, exulting that Colombian art had "broken nearly every link with an academic past." After viewing works exhibited in the 1949 salon held in Bogot‡, GuillŽn wrote that "spiritual merit" had at last triumphed over banal naturalism.72 GuillŽn's words were prophetic in the sense that over the course of the following decade surreal and abstract works dominated the Colombian art world. Writing of the 1957 national exhibition, Luis Alberto Acu–a referred to the "homogeneous spirit of tendentious modernism that unifies the salon."73A year later, in the National Salon of 1958, young artist Fernando Botero emerged as one of his nation's premier artists with his acclaimed La camera degli sposi. Neither abstract nor surreal, the painting was filled with the obese figures that would become his hallmark. Marta Traba, on her way to becoming her nation's foremost critic, praised the piece as exceptionally original. She found it "as antibaroque as it was anticlassical, as antiexpressionist as it was antiabstract."74 Thus, with Botero, Colombian artists moved toward authentic, indeed autochthonous, modes of expression. Still more important for the present analysis, Botero's 1958 canvas captured the quality of individualism that was increasingly coming to dominate Colombian life. Critic Walter Engel suggested that facet of the disconcerting La camera in a commentary that might equally serve as an apostrophe directed to Colombia and its people in the latter twentieth century: "It is a difficult and disconcerting work at first contact. It does not make concessions. It does not approach the viewer, it does not aid in the receptive process, it does not try to please. It keeps itself at a majestic distance, in ironlike immobility, in distant, autonomous, and arrogant self-existence."75Colombian literature revealed an intense politicization during the postwar years. The country's top novelistsJorge Zalamea, Eduardo Caballero Calder—n, and Gabriel Garc’a M‡rquezwere all men with strong left and Lib-

PAGE 364

346 | Dangers of Political Inauthenticity, 19321965eral Party ties. Therefore during the period of Conservative ascendance they focused their efforts on exposing the failings of the regime in power. Laureano G—mez served as a model for Zalamea's two best works, La metam—rfosis de su excelencia (1949) and El Gran Burundœn Burund‡ ha muerto (1952). Eduardo Caballero Calder—n dealt with the Violencia in his best-k nown work, Cristo de espaldas (1952). As well as serving as notable examples of writing on Colombia's Violencia, the works cited here served the political end of portraying Liberals and their party as hapless victims of Conservative rule. Less encumbered by political baggage than the writers of prose, Colombia's poets cast their critique of postwar society more broadly. They expressed anguish over what they perceived as the dehumanization of contemporary society by consumerism and the expansion of material culture, decrying "a world increasingly given over to utilitarian values and to the machine." They sought some impulse that might counter "the alien forces in society that are progressively stripping the world's peoples of their humanity." Failing to find any such antidote to modernism many younger poets adopted the apolitical rejectionism of the Nada’stas, only to be denounced by critics as "pseudo hippies," and as "not having serious theoretical bases . being a mix of anarchism and clichŽd existentialism." Many Nada’stas took refuge from the world in alcohol and drugs.76 Thus, like the movement's founder, paisa Gonzalo Arango (1931 1976), they lived brief lives, bequeathing their countrymen a body of poetry evenhanded in its rejection of both capitalist and Marxist visions of Colombian society. Gonzalo Arango's poem "La Universidad" illustrates this poetic perspective: "The bourgeoisie can produce only black market valuesvalues of class privilege and sectarianism . Rotary Club and garden club ideals, culture subordinated to the interest of power and money. The politicized university offers no more: it is dogmatic and demagogic, utopian and passionate. It idolizes dogma; its victim is freedom of conscience, its Bible is Das Kapital. "77Looking back on Colombia's postwar period, social historian Patricia Londo–o Vega reflects that the latter 1940s and the 1950s were a time of fragmentation of national life. During those years "things lost value in and of them selves and were converted into symbols." Colombians renounced their traditional "interior style of life," the simple virtues and pleasures of premodern times were lost.78 Carlos Ni–o echoes those words, pointing to the "impoverishment of the quality of life" in Colombia from the mid-1940s onward, attributing it to the combined impact of "consumption and massification."79 Foreigners who spent time in Colombia during the 1950s tended to agree with those assessments. French priest Louis Lebret, commissioned by Rojas Pinilla in 1955 to assess Colombian social needs, was appalled by the near absence of

PAGE 365

Economic Progress and Social Change | 347cooperative organizations in the country and was shocked when he discovered that 70 percent of all students who accepted government scholarships to study in state normal schools used their high school for social advancement, turning their backs on teaching in favor of higher-paying jobs. Lebret denounced that trend as selfish and dishonorable.80 Another French visitor, Yvon Le Bot, wrote sourly of Colombia's pr