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Report on the International Symposium: "Colombia, XIX Century: Trips, Exchanges, and Other Forms of Circulation (1819 - 2019)"

Arts and Humanities, and Social Sciences Departments Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia), April 3-5, 2019


A Report by Richard Vargas (

Justus Liebig University Giessen


2019 is the year to commemorate the bicentennial of the independence of Colombia from Spain. Thus, the Schools of Arts and Humanities and Social Sciences of Universidad de los Andes in Bogota organized the international symposium “Colombia, XIX Century: Trips, Exchanges, and Other Forms of Circulation (1819 - 2019)”. The focus of the symposium was giving scholars from different disciplines related to the arts, humanities, and social sciences a platform to carry out presentations about major events that have notably transformed Colombia between 1819 and 2019. To explore and comprehend the intersections of different topics, the academic committee of the symposium assembled a multifaceted three-day program that took place between April 3rd and 5th, 2019. It included an opening lecture, 23 lectures classified in six thematically grouped sessions, and a closing lecture.


The first day opened with introductory remarks by PATRICIA ZALAMEA (Bogota), followed by the inaugural lecture and session one. Zalamea emphasized the importance of this bicentennial year to observe Colombia critically and deal with new challenges regarding migration, political tendencies, and artistic and research production in the country. Then, through the display of various prints and files in the inaugural lecture, NANCY APPELBAUM (Binghamton) used the category of gender as an analytic tool to explore the scientific expedition of the Chorographic Commission in Nueva Granada, today Colombia, in the 19th century. The presenter showed images that portrayed some stereotypes about women, the social relations of members of the commission, and the desire of men to conquer landscapes.


Spaces of the Republic

The lectures of this session focused on those places that played an important role during the Republican period in Colombia. Conflicts over land were also addressed in this part. MARIXA LASSO (Bogota) developed the idea of the “Republican Hut”, where two opposite concepts intersect: That of the Republican ideal with the modern conception of liberty, and that of the hut that refers to the rustic places were native communities lived. RONDY TORRES (Bogota) analyzed musical spaces in the years between 1865 and 1874. The presenter determined that Bogota was portrayed as a source of national pride for its opera performances. RICARDO KERGUELÉN (Bogota) and CONSTANZA CASTRO (Bogota) spoke about disputes over land. While Kerguelén addressed conflicts over land and water between the regions of Antioquia and Cauca, Castro concentrated on quarrels over communal lands in the city of Bogota and its surrounding territories.


Knowledge, Practices, Objects

This session was devoted to stressing the impact of photography, the “Chromapicilo”, a Colombian invention, as well as those shameless methods such as torture and the death penalty on the country during the 19th century. MARIA FERNANDA DOMINGUEZ (Bogota) and JUANITA SOLANO (New York) spoke about photography. Dominguez referred to Epifanio Garay’s work whose main characteristics were the use of post-mortem photographs and the appearance of nude women. On the other hand, Solano showed photographs with orientalist features created by Colombian artists Melitón Rodríguez (1845 - 1942) and Benjamín de la Calle (1869 – 1934). MAURICIO NIETO (Bogota) spoke about the “Chromapicilo”, an invention created by Colombian scientist Jorge Tadeo Lozano (1771 - 1816), whose objective was to give a code number to colors to describe their hue, type, and shade. VICENTE TORRES (Bogota) ended the session with a presentation about torture and the death penalty, their origins, types, and development.


Other villains, famous in literature, have been taken to the big screen as fearful entities, like Patrick Bateman of the book American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis) and the cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter of The Silence of the Lambs (Thomas Harris). MONA RAEISIAN (Marburg) spoke about these two famous serial killers as well as the one in The Broken Window (Jeffrey Deiver). LOOI VAN KESSEL (Leiden) examined James Purdy’s 1964 novel Cabot Wright Begins to observe narrative strategies used to construct criminals like pedophiles and rapists.


Looks from the Outside

Perspectives of Colombia in the 19th century from foreigners in Colombia and Colombians living abroad were analyzed in this session. ANA MARIA OTERO (Bogota) described how a commercial culture of courtesy and cooperation was created through epistolary encounters between Colombian pharmacists and the American company “Lanman & Kemp.” JUAN CARLOS GONZÁLEZ ESPITIA (North Carolina) referred to Colombian writer José María Vargas Vila (1860 - 1933), who lived as an exile. According to González, Vargas Vila´s life and his connection with Colombia was marked by love and repulsion. Finally, LUIS CARLOS RODRÍGUEZ ÁLVAREZ (Medellin) spoke about three immigrant musicians: the flutist Edward Gregory MacPherson from Great Britain, the violinist Emil Hebrügger from Germany, and the soprano singer Assunta Mazzetti from Italy, who lived in Colombia and greatly contributed to classical music in the country.


Good Taste

Texts about good manners, fine arts, fashion, and classical music that shaped the taste of the upper classes in Colombia during the 19th century were the topics addressed in this session. FELIPE MARTÍNEZ PINZÓN (Providence)spoke about written texts in Colombia during the 1850s that tried to organize the country and hispanized the Republic. OLGA ACOSTA (Bogota) addressed the use of fine arts in the 19th century in Colombia as an important element for civilization and the social system. ANGELA GÓMEZ CELY (Bogota) analyzed the impact of fashion brought from abroad by the Colombian elite in the last decades of the 19th century. ALEXANDER KLEIN (Bogota) finished this session with a lecture about Oreste Sindici, composer of the music for the Colombian national anthem, as a European paradigm for the Opera in Colombia.


Trips and Exchanges

The presenters of this session spoke about knowledge shared in Colombia not only through books, but also through journeys and exchanges with other countries. CAMILO PÁEZ (Bogota) gave examples of some of the material donated by book collectors such as Rufino José Cuervo, Angel Cuervo, and Marco Fidel Suarez to Colombian institutions during the 19th century. CARMEN ELISA ACOSTA (Bogota) explained how the circulation of the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin by H. Beecher Stowe provided a characterization of slavery from outside the country. CARLOS ALBERTO GARCIA (Bogota) discussed the training of Colombian artists in Europe through scholarships provided by the government at the end of the 19th century. To conclude, VERÓNICA URIBE HANABERGH (Bogota) showed thirteen sketches of the expedition to Colombia that the American artist and naturalist Titian Ramsey Peale made between 1830 and 1832.


Negotiations and Antagonisms

The final session concentrated on analyzing the work of people whose lives were not easy at the time in Colombia. MURIEL LAURENT (Bogota) presented the life of the Afro-Colombian Remigio Márquez (1775 - 1835) during the independence process in Colombia as a comic-book based on an archive research made by the lecturer. JUAN DARÍO RESTREPO FIGUEROA (Bogota) addressed the life of the writer Ángel Augusto Cuervo Urisarri (1838 - 1896) during his friendship with Rafael Pombo, and his facet as writer and art collector. MARTHA ENNA RODRÍGUEZ MELO (Bogota) analyzed parts of a waltz score for piano made by Isabel Argaez (1860 - 1918) and related elements of Argaez’ composition to the urban social life during the last years of the 19th century. CAROLINA ALZATE (Bogota) examined the diary of Inés Ancizar Samper (1860 – 1897), written between 1884 and 1885. The presenter observed accounts of exile in Ancizar’s diary and women’s conditions. ANA MARIA OCHOA (New York) finished the event with a lecture that explored how the 19th century music archives in Colombia, Latin America, and the Caribbean have been fundamental for the consolidation of concepts such as music, orality, and tone in musical disciplines.



It became clear during the international symposium that for a better and more critical understanding of Colombia as a country and society during these 200 years after its independence from Spain, it is fundamental to have an interdisciplinary view of this mega-diverse country, its practices and traditions. Through captivating cultural artifacts belonging to the arts, humanities, and social sciences, the symposium brought together themes that allowed the audience to get an idea of sociocultural, political, and historical features that have developed in Colombia between 1819 and 2019. From 1819 on through today, the complexities and contradictions of modernization have marked the history of Colombia and the country that it is nowadays. Although the country has been characterized by different socio-political disputes, the international symposium showed that the circulation and exchange of knowledge has originated a cultural, artistic, and scientific production that seems to grapple against its long internal conflict.




– Palabras de bienvenida

Patricia Zalamea, Decana de la Facultad de Artes y Humanidades


– Conferencia inaugural: “Una aproximación a la Comisión Corográfica desde la perspectiva de género”

Nancy Appelbaum, Binghamton University


– Mesa 1 – Espacios de la República

Moderadora: Verónica Uribe Hanabergh, Universidad de los Andes

  • Marixa Lasso, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, “La choza republicana”
  • Rondy Torres, Universidad de los Andes, “¿‘De criminales… a santos’? Reflexiones sobre espacios musicales en el siglo XIX”
  • Ricardo Kerguelén, Universidad de los Andes, “Definiendo fronteras: la migración y colonización antioqueña y su impacto en las relaciones entre Antioquia y Cauca”
  • Constanza Castro, Universidad de los Andes, “La geometría capitalista: la privatización de ejidos en Bogotá y la expansión local del capitalismo,1861-1885"

– Mesa 2 – Conocimiento, prácticas, objetos

Moderadora: Carolina Alzate, Universidad de los Andes

  • María Fernanda Domínguez, Investigadora independiente, “Epifanio Garay: promiscuidad, fotografía y arte académico en Colombia en el siglo XIX”
  • Mauricio Nieto, Universidad de los Andes, “Instrumentos científicos y eurocentrismo: el Chromapicilo de Jorge Tadeo Lozano y cómo ver los colores en la periferia de la Ilustración”
  • Juanita Solano, Institute of Fine Arts – New York University, “Fotografía y orientalismo en los Andes”
  • Vicente Torres, Universidad de los Andes, “Suplicios y pena de muerte en Colombia en el siglo XIX: una implantación de origen europeo”

– Mesa 3 – Miradas desde afuera

Moderador: Rondy Torres, Universidad de los Andes

  • Ana María Otero-Cleves, Universidad de los Andes, “‘Write Him Affectionately’: Cultura comercial, encuentros epistolares y comercio entre Colombia y Estados Unidos a fines del siglo XIX”
  • Juan Carlos González Espitia, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “Fuga, y fugacidad como estrategia política y retórica en los escritos tempranos y tardíos de José María Vargas Vila (1860-1933)”
  • Luis Carlos Rodríguez Álvarez, Universidad de Antioquia, “Tres músicos inmigrantes que dejaron huella en Medellín en el siglo XIX”

– Mesa 4 – Entre gustos y buen gusto

Moderadora: Ana María Otero Cleves, Universidad de los Andes

  • Felipe Martínez Pinzón, Brown University, “Escritura de costumbres y producción de pueblo en Colombia”
  • Olga Acosta, Universidad de los Andes, “Los connoisseurs de arte criollos. Desarrollo de una figura particular en la naciente Colombia”
  • Angela Gómez Cely, Museo Nacional de Colombia, “Alcances de la moda en la conformación del gusto burgués”
  • Alexander Klein, Universidad de los Andes, “La ópera italiana como paradigma estético de la música colombiana”

– Mesa 5 – Viajes e intercambios

Moderadora: Olga Acosta, Universidad de los Andes

  • Camilo Páez, Biblioteca Nacional, “Coleccionistas: circulación de impresos y libros durante el siglo XIX”
  • Carmen Elisa Acosta Peñaloza, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, “‘El librito que tenemos delante hará más a favor de la libertad de los negros que lo que han hecho todos los discursos. ¡Leámos La cabaña del Tío Tom!’”
  • Carlos Alberto García, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, “Regeneración, viajes e intercambios en la consolidación de un proyecto de formación de artistas”
  • Verónica Uribe Hanabergh, Universidad de los Andes, “La ‘misteriosa expedición’ de Titian Ramsey Peale a Colombia en 1831: el caso de los dibujos de la American Philosophical Society”

– Mesa 6 – Negociaciones y antagonismos

Moderador: Felipe Martínez Pinzón, Brown University

  • Muriel Laurent, Universidad de los Andes, “Remigio Márquez: Contrabando, comercio y circulación”
  • Juan Darío Restrepo Figueroa, Instituto Caro y Cuervo, “Vicio y virtud en la vida de Ángel Augusto Cuervo Urisarri (1838-1896)”
  • Martha Enna Rodríguez Melo, Universidad de los Andes, “Entre lo privado y lo público: Valses para piano de Isabel Argaez”
  • Carolina Alzate, Universidad de los Andes, “Liberalismo y Regeneración en las salas de visita. Viajes forzados y otras tensiones del adentro y el afuera”

– Conferencia de clausura: “Sonoridades y pensamiento en el siglo XIX”

Ana María Ochoa, Columbia University



Copyright 2019, RICHARD VARGAS. Licensed to the public under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).