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Colombia, insurrection of the Comuneros, 1781–1782

Andrés Otálvaro H.

Subject History
Social Movements » Collective Behaviour

Place South America » Colombia

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics inequality, poverty, rebellion, revolution

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.00375.x


The insurrection of the Comuneros (common and poor people) was a crucial political episode during the last decades of the colonial period in the territories known now as Colombia. It centered around the quest for social freedom and better living conditions in response to the oppressive economic and political apparatus the Spanish empire imposed on its overseas dominions. The traditional interpretation has underestimated the revolutionary spirit behind the uprising of nearly 20,000 Comuneros against the monarchy's taxation and socioeconomic conditions under Spanish rule. The first mobilizations were based on the ideas promoted by Túpac Amaru, the Peruvian indigenous leader who led resistance against the Spaniards in 1780. As a letter written by the Comuneros shows, while an increase in taxes was the most evident trigger for the revolts, it is also true that opposition against the crown had its roots in general discontent: “[this is a] rebellion of the people that has no other cause than the oppression in our lands since the first moment the Spaniards stepped into them” ( Casas 1983 : 12). The struggle of the Comuneros, then, was not simply a casual movement of the lower orders that served the interests of the colonial middle classes; this event was a real catalyst for popular demands and emancipatory ideals, which prevailed and gained special strength in the independence movement ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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