The Latin American wars of independence came on the heels of the French Revolution and were in part inspired by the ideals of that struggle. This is certainly the case for Antonio Nariño, a wealthy merchant of Bogotá. Nariño idolized French and American Revolutionary leaders (he hung a portrait of Benjamin Franklin above the mantle in his home). Nariño translated, printed and distributed the French Declaration of the Rights of Man to nascent revolutionaries in Latin America, something which got him in trouble with the Spanish authorities. The Declaration’s calls to free political association, national sovereignty, and the idea that social distinctions should exist only for the common good ran afoul of the Spanish claim to authority that rested on the idea of monarchy. But Nariño pressed things further, writing to the viceroy of the colony that “people are everywhere discontented” with Spanish rule. For this, Nariño was called the “Precursor” of the Revolution. He was also arrested.
But he was to return. In 1811, Nariño was freed by revolutionaries from his prison cell, and went on to command the New Granadan forces, capturing Popayan (in Colombia) for the revolutionaries. For his role in the revolutions, Nariño’s name is featured in the Colombian national anthem, and is recognized as a hero of the modern-day republic.