San Andrés and Providencia

One of the most important places for Afrocolombians are the islands of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina. They have an amazing history, which is as follows:

During the 1600's, while Spain and Portugal flourished because of their possessions in the new world, France and England became jealous and angry. They wanted a piece of the pie. However, Pope Alexander I had divided the New World in 1493, drawing an imaginary line between the North and South Pole, giving Portugal possession of lands on one side and Spain possession of lands on the other side. As a result, France and England were excluded from the riches of the New World.

The English adopted a belligerent attitude and in 1558, they began an organized, state sponsored, campaign of piracy -- known in English as PRIVATEERING. This tactic was designed to weaken Spain.

Pirates such as Sir John Hawkins, Sir Francis Drake, and Henry Morgan stole from the Spanish Armada as they attempted to take the riches from America back to Europe. Much of the gold and riches obtained from the Nueva Granada, through the use of African and Indians slaves, ended up lost to Pirate ships.

In 1588, the Spanish attempted to put and end to English activity when they sent the Invincible Armada to fight the English. However, they lost. This opened the way for the British to colonize many of the Spanish territories in the Caribbean.

It was under these conditions that in 1631, the English ship -- Seaflower -- arrived at the island of Providencia. The English had identified the island as a strategic spot on the route of the Spanish Galleons returning to Spain. A perfect home base for pirates.

There, the English built 9 forts with a total of 49 cannons. From this base, the English launched numerous attacks on the Spanish.

In 1638, there was a slave uprising on Providencia. The harsh treatment of the English toward their slaves had caused them to revolt. Many, fearing repercussions, fled to the island of San Andrés.

In 1641, the Spanish launched an attempt to recover Providencia. They were victorious and the English left, leaving a majority of their slaves abandoned on the island. These slaves were left under the new leadership of the governor Gerónimo de Ojeda.

In 1670, the English pirate Henry Morgan again conquered the island. There the English remained until 1689 when it returned to the Spanish. The island remained in Spanish control with slaves working sugar and cotton plantations. (Today, the major crop is coconuts.)

However, Spain's administration of the archipelago, has lead to a lasting battle over who controls the islands. In 1803, the Spanish assigned sovereignty of the islands and the Eastern coast of what is today Nicaragua to the Viceroy of Nueva Granada -- the Nueva Granada included what is today Panama. This area was administered from Cartagena. Once Colombia gained its independence from Spain, administration of the islands and the Eastern part of Nicaragua was given to the department of Magdalena.

Meanwhile, the United Provinces of Central America had formed, and they occupied Eastern Nicaragua and claimed the islands also. Colombia protested.

When the UPCA dissolved, Nicaragua became an independent state and carried on the battle over the islands with Colombia.

In 1912, Colombia established a local administration on the island, and in 1928 a treaty was signed with Nicaragua that gave the archipelago to Colombia.

However, in 1980, under the Sandinista government, Nicaragua claimed that the treaty had been signed under pressure and military occupation from the United States and therefore was null and void.

Colombia argues that though the treaty was signed during the US occupation of Nicaragua, it was not ratified by the Nicaraguan congress until 1930 -- after the US had withdrawn.

In 2001, Nicaragua appealed to the International Court of Justice, which eventually sided with Colombia on the sovereignty of the islands. Notwithstanding, they have yet to rule on the maritime boarders of Colombia which also includes some smaller Cays (Keys) -- La Serrana, El Roncador, and Quitasueño. Read more in this great article published last month:



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