Opinion: It’s Time To Change Colombia’s National Anthem

Supporters Of This Idea Argue That the Lyrics Do Not Represent Colombians As a Nation

Coat of Arms of the Republic of Colombia

Today we are evaluating figures, people, symbols and events that happened in the past with the values and policies of the present. Photo: LatinAmerican Post

LatiAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: Opinión: es momento de cambiar el himno de Colombia

Today we constantly re-evaluate people, symbols, and events that happened in the past with the values and policies of the present. For example, in a society that is much more aware of the responsibility of Europe and the West in slavery and the genocide of Native Americans, statues of slavers, conquerors and explorers are knocked down around the world. Figures of Christopher Columbus are being destroyed throughout America, as a way of recognizing the damage that colonization caused to indigenous peoples.

Within this revisionism, another "victim" has been the national anthems. Those of the United States and the United Kingdom, in particular, have been harshly criticized by a large section of the population. It's normal to see how several athletes in the middle of these anthems kneel or remain silent or make some gesture of protest. 

Well, maybe it is Colombia's turn. In principle, the very name of Colombia is a nod to the "discoverer" of America. That Italian who has caused so much debate. Changing the name is obviously a complex issue that has not yet become so popular, so let's put that aside while the time comes. However, another discussion that I have heard is the rejection of the national anthem.

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Several Colombians that I have met living in Europe have told me how little identified they feel with the anthem. Mainly because of the lyrics. Many see it as an ode to violence, a symbol of patriarchal machismo (which today causes femicides in Colombia), a song that highlights the bloody nature of independence from Spain, but does not seek some kind of inclusion with the various Colombian communities. It is a song made by Creoles and for Creoles, not for all of Colombia. And if we are honest, we must accept that the last 100 years of Colombian history are probably more important than it's independence.  In a country that continues to fight a civil war, with hundreds of thousands of deaths, with discrimination, with racism, inequity, etc. Shouldn't we have some national symbols that better represent the Colombian people?

Another point of contention is its Christian themes. The lyrics that always sound in football stadiums say : "the whole world understands the words of the one who died on the cross." Today, Colombia is still predominantly Catholic and Christian, but the proportion of Muslims, Jews, and even atheists, is important. One more evidence of how unrepresentative the anthem can be for many Colombians.

Obviously, being a man, white, straight and with socioeconomic privileges, I never wanted to rethink how harmful the anthem is. It had always seemed like a bit of a bad song to me, with quite anachronistic and unintelligible lyrics. The truth is, I have no personal complaints, but that cannot make me deaf to the criticism of others.

So, How about we change the anthem? We would not be the first country to do so, recently Canada changed a few small words in its anthem, to make it more inclusive. South Africa, after overcoming one of the most painful periods in its history (apartheid), modified its anthem in 1997 at the initiative of Nelson Mandela. We could also do something similar.

Already in 2016, there was a debate with the possibility of including a verse related to peace in the Colombian anthem. The initiative failed and we missed having lyrics in which we could also feel identified. Obviously, it should be an anthem in which we can all be represented. If every verse needs to be changed to accomplish this, so be it. 

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