Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Remembering Colombia's Greatest Loser

A wreath and a plaque this afternoon on Carrera 7 beside Congress mark the spot where Rafael Uribe was assassinated 100 years ago today.
Rafael Uribe, portrait
by Francisco Cano.
Rafael Uribe Uribe, born in 1859, fought on the Liberal Party side in Colombia's civil war of 1885, which the Liberals lost.

Uribe also fought for the Liberals in the 1895 civil war, which the Liberals lost.

He fought again in the 1899 civil war, which the Liberals lost.

And Uribe helped lead the Liberal side in the Thousand Day War of 1899-1902, which the Liberals also lost.

Uribe later entered Congress, but his often radically-leftist ideas were ahead of his time - and in the wrong place - and went nowhere.

Forgotten figure? Practicing aerobics during La Ciclovia
in front of Uribe Uribe's monument in Bogotá's
Parque Nacional.
Finally, Uribe met an absurd death when he was fatally mauled on Oct. 15, 1914 beside the Congress building by two unemployed carpenters - exactly the sort of working class men Uribe had striven to assist. At the moment of his murder, Uribe carried under his arm a proposed law to protect workers from industrial injuries.

But despite his repeated defeats and frustrations, Uribe is remembered as a great figure in Colombian history  - a refreshing perspective in a nation which generally worships winners.

Uribe was born of a farming family in Antoquia. He went on to study law and work as a professor, journalist and diplomat, as well as a military general and politician. His murder 100 years ago today made him a martyr.

A plaque beside the Congress says that
Uribe was murdered by two
'obscure wrongdoers.'
Uribe accomplished much as a journalist and diplomat. He was also a talented general, who won important battles, altho his side lost the wars. And, after the Thousand Days War, Uribe became a bridge-builder by working with the Conservative Party government.

If Uribe had lived at another time, when the Liberals were in power, he might have been a great reformer - perhaps a more radical Teddy Roosevelt. Instead, his ideas of land redistribution and aid to small farmers had to wait decades to be realized. Unequal land distribution has been a root cause of Colombia's many civil wars and insurgencies, and perhaps if Uribe's ideas had been implemented Colombia would have saved itself decades of guerrilla violence.

Pedestrians pass the spot on Carrera 7
between Calles 9 y 10 where Uribe was
assassinated in 1914.
The two unemployed carpenters who mortally wounded Uribe with axes in a mid-day assault were tried and convicted for the murder and always insisted that they had acted alone. However, suspicions of a conspiracy have persisted, but never been backed up by much evidence.

Uribe in popular culture: According to Wikipedia: The character of Colonel Aureliano Buendía in One Hundred Years of Solitude was loosely based on Rafael Uribe Uribe. García Márquez's grandfather fought under Uribe's command in the Thousand Days War.

Uribe Uribe's confessed killers.
A book by Uribe Uribe: 'Liberalism is not a sin.'
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Kathryn Jacoby said...

Thanks for this history. You hear his name and just assume (erroneously) that he must have been a former president.

Kathryn Jacoby said...

I also didn't know that one of Bogotá's districts is named Rafael Uribe Uribe. I wonder if locals say the whole thing-- seems like kind of a mouthful.

Miguel said...

Thanks Vocabat. I'd forgotten to mention the Bogotá district named after Uribe Uribe. I'm sure it's not the only place named after him.

I suspect that many people seeing his surname today associate it with ex-Pres. Alvaro Uribe.


Kathryn Jacoby said...

No relation, then?

Miguel said...

I doubt it, altho Alvaro Uribe did start out as a Liberal.

But Uribe is a common (Basque) surname in Colombia.