What Was The Liberal Hegemony In Colombia?

The liberal hegemony  (1930-1946) was a period in the history of Colombia in which the country experienced an important modernization that implied a project to develop civility and promote knowledge in all areas that were necessary to generate progress.

Among the most relevant characteristics of this period are the granting of rights to workers by allowing them to create unions and carry out strikes, as well as the emphasis on the development of inclusive education.

Presidents of the liberal hegemony in Colombia

From left to right: Enrique Olaya Herrera, Alfonso López Pumarejo and Eduardo Santos

The presidents during that period were Enrique Olaya Herrera, from 1930 to 1934; Alfonso López Pumarejo, from 1934 to 1938, and then from 1942 to 1945; Eduardo Santos, from 1938 to 1942; and Alberto Lleras Camargo, from 1945 to 1946.

You may be interested What was the Conservative Hegemony in Colombia?

Most relevant characteristics of the liberal hegemony in Colombia

Constitutional reform

When the liberal governments began in Colombia, the current constitution was that of 1886. Since 1930, the liberals raised the importance of renewing the Colombian Magna Carta, to adapt it to the new project of progress.

During the first government of Alfonso López Pumarejo, work began on the constitutional reform, which was assumed by the Congress of the nation.

Many oppositions arose in the debate that preceded the enactment of said reform, especially from some segment of the clergy, because part of the variations had to do with eliminating the notion of Catholicism as the majority religion in Colombia.

Among the most relevant aspects of this reform are the recognition of universal suffrage and the right of women to join as workers in public institutions, as well as the more active participation of the State in the economic sphere of the country, among others.

The main promoters of the constitutional reform were López Pumarejo, Alberto Lleras Camargo and Darío Echandía, and for them it was clear that their intention was not to create a socialist state or against religion, but rather a modern and liberal one.

Worker improvements

During the Colombian liberal hegemony there were different legal initiatives that favored the workers.

For example, in 1931 they were officially recognized the right to organize through unions, and the right to strike; This brought as a consequence that between the years 1931 and 1945, some 1,500 unions originated in Colombia.

The relationship between employees and employers began to become more collaborative. The aim was to reconcile both spaces so that the workers’ living conditions would improve and, ultimately, the economic results could be favorable for all.

Education reform

Education was one of the fundamental pillars at the time of the so-called liberal Colombian republic.

Education was the form through which it was sought to teach civic values ​​and promote greater social equality, because it was intended to bring education to all sectors of society.

The Higher Normal School was established in 1936 and played a fundamental role, due to the fact that the teachers and directors of the educational field of Colombia were trained there.

In this school, different personalities were formed, which later promoted the creation of educational and research institutions that would be relevant to Colombian society.

During this period, the country’s illiteracy levels were lowered, mixed schools were created, women were allowed to enter the university, and there were inspection bodies that watched over the proper functioning of the institutions at different educational levels.

Promotion of archeology and ethnology

Framed within the educational reform, in Colombia several specialized institutes were created in different areas of knowledge, which promoted interaction with experts in different aspects and, therefore, the cultivation of knowledge.

Examples of this were the National Archaeological Service, the Society for Archaeological Studies and the National Ethnological Institute, which promoted the study of indigenous peoples in Colombia and led to the generation of social policies in their favor.

These practices, especially ethnography and anthropology, were promoted as the disciplines for studying the origin of peoples, and for including Aboriginal peoples in society.

Libraries in rural areas

On July 20, 1938, under the presidency of Alfonso López Pumarejo, the National Library of Colombia was created. Based on this fact, in the following years the creation of different libraries throughout the national sphere was promoted, in order to favor access to reading.

This creation of libraries was framed in the so-called Village Campaign, under which it was sought to bring Western knowledge to rural communities.

The intention was to promote a change of thought in society and increase civility that, ideally, would lead to the progress of the nation.

University City

The National University of Colombia was organized differently; The intention was to create a university city, which would cover the different academic and knowledge fields that were necessary at the time to generate the development of Colombian society.

Under this notion, the National University of Colombia expanded its physical spaces and opened its doors to the debate of ideas, financial resources were given, different training institutes were created, women were allowed to enter, the offer of university careers was expanded. and research was encouraged, among other aspects.

All this allowed the National University of Colombia to become the scientific center par excellence of the Colombian republic during the liberal hegemony.

More rights for peasants

In 1936 the so-called “land law” emerged, which recognized the rights of peasants and sought to improve their working conditions.

Among the determining points of said law, it stands out that the State would administer those lands that had not been exploited for ten years, and that, if a peasant had worked a land considered vacant, he was granted the right to said land after five years of work in that space.

This reform, which sought a redistribution of land, met with opposition from the clergy and the conservative wing of Colombia, who resisted these measures and prevented decisive actions from being carried out in this area.


  1. González, M. and Orlando, J. “The liberal reforms of 1936 and 1968” (January 1991) in Banco de la República Cultural Activity. Retrieved on August 8, 2017 from Banco de la República Cultural Activity: banrepcultural.org.
  2. SIGN. “Update for journalists – Siglo XX” (2007) at Banco de la República Cultural Activity. Retrieved on August 8, 2017 from Banco de la República Cultural Activity: banrepcultural.org.
  3. Díaz, C. “The Village Culture Campaign (1934 – 1936) in the historiography of Colombian history” at the National Pedagogical University. Retrieved on August 8, 2017 from the National Pedagogical University: pedagogica.edu.co.
  4. “Colombia and trade union rights” (May 2, 2014) in Confidencial Colombia. Retrieved on August 8, 2017 from Confidencial Colombia: confidentialcolombia.com.
  5. Herrera, M. “History of education in Colombia. The Liberal Republic and the modernization of education: 1930-1946 ”at the National Pedagogical University. Retrieved on August 8, 2017 from the National Pedagogical University: pedagogica.edu.co
  6. Arango, J. “The Liberal Republic” (July 23, 2011) in El Mundo. Retrieved on August 8, 2017 from El Mundo: elmundo.com.

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