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Origin of the name
The official name of the country at the time was the Republic of Colombia. Historians have adopted the term "Gran Colombia" to distinguish this republic from the present-day Republic of Colombia, which began using the name in 1863, although many use Colombia where confusion would not arise.
The name "Colombia" comes from the Spanish version of the eighteenth-century New Latin word "Columbia", itself based on the name of Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo in Italian, Cristóbal Colón in Spanish, and Cristóvão Colombo in Portuguese). It was the term preferred by the revolutionary Francisco de Miranda as a reference to the New World, especially to all American territories and colonies under Spanish rule. He used an improvised, quasi-Greek adjectival version of the name, "Colombeia," to mean papers and things "relating to Colombia," as the title of his archive of his revolutionary activities. Bolívar and other Spanish American revolutionaries also used the word "Colombia" in the continental sense. The establishment in 1819 of a nation with the name "Colombia" by the Congress of Angostura gave the term a specific geographic and political reference.
Since the new nation was quickly proclaimed after Bolívar's unexpected victory in New Granada, its government was temporarily set up as a federal republic, made up of three departments headed by a vice-president and with capitals in the cities of Bogotá (Cundinamarca Department), Caracas (Venezuela Department) and Quito (Quito Department). In that year, none of the provinces of Quito, nor many in Venezuela and New Granada, were free yet. The Constitution of Cúcuta was drafted in 1821 at the Congress of Cúcuta, establishing the republic's capital in Bogotá. Bolívar and Santander were elected as the nation's president and vice-president. A great degree of centralization was established by the assembly at Cúcuta, since several New Granadan and Venezuelan deputies of the Congress who formerly had been ardent federalists now came to believe that centralism was necessary in order to successfully manage the war against the royalists. To break up regionalist tendencies and to set up efficient central control of local administration, a new territorial division was implemented in 1824. The departments of Venezuela, Cundinamarca and Quito were split into smaller departments, each governed by an intendant appointed by the central government, with the same powers that Bourbon intendants had. Realizing that not all of the provinces were represented at Cúcuta because many areas of the nation remained in royalist hands, the congress called for a new constitutional convention to meet in ten years. In its first years, Gran Colombia helped other provinces still at war with Spain to become independent: all of Venezuela; except Puerto Cabello were liberated at the Battle of Carabobo, Panama joined the federation in November 1821, and the provinces of Pasto, Guayaquil and Quito in 1822. The Gran Colombian army later consolidated the independence of Peru in 1824. Bolívar and Santander were re-elected in 1826.
The dissolution of Gran Colombia represented the failure of Bolívar's vision. The former Department of Cundinamarca (as established in 1819 at Angostura) became a new country, the Republic of New Granada. In 1863, New Granada changed its name officially to United States of Colombia, and in 1886, adopted its present day name: the Republic of Colombia. Panama, which voluntarily became part of Gran Colombia in 1821, remained a department of the Republic of Colombia until 1903, when in great part as a consequence of the Thousand Days War of 1899–1902, it became independent with the backing of the United States.
With the exception of Panama (which, as mentioned, achieved independence seven decades later), the countries that were created have similar flags, reminiscent of the flag of Gran Colombia:
|• 1819-1830||Simón Bolívar|
|• 1830||Domingo Caycedo|
|• 1830||Joaquín Mosquera|
|• 1830-1831||Rafael Urdaneta|