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José Custodio Cayetano García Rovira (March 2, 1780 – August 8, 1816) was a Neogranadine general, statesman and painter, who fought for the independence of New Granada from Spain, and became President of the United Provinces of the New Granada in 1816. He was executed a month later during the Reconquista, at the hands of Pablo Morillo.


Custodio García Rovira, was the son of Juan de Dios García Navas and Rosa Rovira de García, he was born on March 2, 1780, in Bucaramangamarker, in the province of Socorro, part of the Viceroyalty of the New Granada, in what is now Colombiamarker. He attended the Colegio Mayor de San Bartolomé in Santafé de Bogotámarker, where he graduated in 1799 with a degree in Philosophy, and in 1804 he got his degree in Civil Law, and later a Doctorate in Theology. He also attended the Saint Thomas Aquinas University where he studied Painting and Music, later receiving a degree in Fine arts; in April 29, 1809, García Rovira also received his doctorate in Law and was officially received as a lawyer by the Royal Audiency of Santafé de Bogotá. He later returned to San Bartolomé this time as a professor in the areas of Algebra, Mathematics, Trigonometry, Philosophy Metaphysics, and Ethics.

García Rovira's appetite for knowledge made him a celebrated figure in the Tertulias, and salons of the Bogotá. He formed part of the Tertulia Literaria del Buen Gusto, that was hosted in the house of doña Manuela Sanz de Santamaría de González Manrique, where many other prominent figures like Francisco José de Caldas, José Fernández Madrid, Camilo Torres Tenorio, Alexander von Humboldt, Francisco Antonio Ulloa among others. He also attended the Tertulia Eutropélica, that congregated in the house of Manuel del Socorro Rodríguez and also the Tertulia of Antonio Nariño, where they studied the ideas and works of Montesquieu, Rousseau and Voltaire.

Because of his extensive education, he was known as El Estudiante (The Student).

Political and military life

After the Revolution of July 20, 1810, García Rovira started working for the new formed government, on August he started working as a lawyer in the Appeals Tribunal of Bogotá. He was later appointed Lieutenant of the Army of Tunjamarker, by its Governor Juan Nepomuceno Niño. He started getting involved in politics in Tunja since the Congress of the United Provinces was situated there. On July 25, 1812 he was elected governor to the Province of Socorro in a popular election.


On September 23, 1814, the Neogranadine Congress, modified the Federal Act relating to the seat of power, and replaced the Presidency with a Triumvirate, a three member executive body, to rule over the country. Congress named Manuel Rodríguez Torices, José Manuel Restrepo, and Custodio García Rovira to head this triumvirate, but because they were not present to assume power, they were temporarily replaced by José María del Castillo y Rada, Joaquín Camacho, and José Fernández Madrid. García Rovira, however, resigned before ever taking possession of the presidency on November 15, 1815, Restrepo never actually accepted the presidency either, and both were permanently replaced in 1815 by general Antonio Villavicencio, and the ex president, José Miguel Pey.

Presidential nomination

On June 22, 1816, president Fernández Madrid, arrived in Popayánmarker after fleeing the invasion of Bogotá by Pablo Morillo, once in Popayán he presented his resignation to the Permanent Legislative Commission of Congress, then assembled in Popayán. The commission named Custodio García Rovira as President-Dictator and Liborio Mejía as Vice President, the latter, however, became the acting President while García Rovira headed toward Popayán to accept the presidency


Custodio García, who was leading the forces behind Fernández Madrid on his way to Popayán, was delayed in a short and unforeseen event. When Bogotá was invaded, not only the President escaped, but also did other prominent figures of the city, among them the Piedrahita Family. One of their daughters was María Josefa Piedrahita y Sáenz, known to her family and friends as "Pepita". It is not sure whether they knew each other from before, but on the way to Popayán, Pepita, of only 16 years of age, caught the attention of Custodio, and María Josefa asked to take her with him, as she would prefer to face the dangers of the jungle than to be captured by the Spaniards, their mutual affection escalated, and Custodio asked María Josefa to marry her. And so, in the mist of war, in an improvised ceremony, they got married by Friar Francisco Antonio Florido, who was also fleeing Bogotá with them


Short after Liborio Mejía was vested with the presidential powers, he led his small army to faced Juan Sámano in the Battle of Cuchilla del Tambo which culminated with the defeat of the patriots on June 29. Liborio Mejía escaped to La Platamarker where he met with García and ceded the presidency to him the next day June 30, thus assuming the presidency as first intended.

Unfortunately for both of them, and for the nation, Sámano caught on with them in La Plata, and defeated their weak outnumbered forces. They managed to escape but shortly after they were both captured and taken prisoners.

When they arrived at La Plata the small army they had left was confronted with an army of Spaniards commanded by colonel Carlos Toirá. A great effort was made to fight the Spaniards, but they were defeated on July 10, and those who managed to escape, including García Rovira, were captured a few days later. They were taken to Bogotá, and in August 8, 1816, Custodio García Rovira was executed by a firing squad in the Huerta de Jaime, now the Plaza de los Martires (Plaza of the Martyrs), his body was then hanged in the gallows, with a sign on him that read "García Rovira, el estudiante, fusilado por traidor" (es:García Rovira, the student, shot for being a traitor).


José Custodio Cayetano García Rovira died at the age of 36, leaving behind his wife María Josefa Piedrahita, to whom he had only been married less than two months. After the defeat of the Spaniards years later, Santander granted pension to the widows of the martyrs of the Independence, among them Piedrahita de García.

Custodio García Rovira is highly regarded as a hero of the independence and his memory continues on, specially in the Department of Santander, where he was born and was governor of one of its provinces, the Socorro Province, which was later renamed in his honor and its now the García Rovira Province.

In Bucaramanga, where he was born, the first statue ever erected in 1907 was in his honor; it was a metal sculpture by the German artist Xavier Arnold, and it is located in the park also constructed in his honor and named Parque García Rovira, in the center of the city, right next to the City Hall.

Also in Bucaramanga, the city commemorated the ex-president and painter opening the Casa de la Cultura Custodio García Rovira, a fine arts museum that holds exhibitions of different painters.


  1. Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography - Page 110. Edited by John Fiske, James Grant Wilson.
  2. Homenaje que el Centro de historia de Santander en nombre del gobierno y del pueblo santandereano, rinde a los próceres regionales con ocasión de celebrarse el primer centenario de la muerte del libertador Simón Bolívar. by Academia de Historia de Santander.
  3. Ciencia, filosofía y educación en Colombia(siglo XVIII) By Juan Manuel Pacheco, Page 176
  4. Custodio García Rovira, By Javier López Ocampo, Library Luis Ángel Arango, [1]
  5. Educación de la mujer durante la época colonial Autor: Patricia Londoño Vega, Profesora, Universidad de Antioquia | Fuente: Boletín Cultural y Bibliogáfico. Número 37. Volumen XXXI [2]
  6. Historia de Colombia para la enseñanza secundaria By Jesús María Henao, Gerardo Arrubla (Page 309) [3]
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  9. Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango
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  16. Popayán, ciudad procera (Page 78) By Luis Martínez Delgado
  17. Diccionario biográfico de los campeones de la libertad de Nueva Granada, Venezuela, Ecuador i Perú : que comprende sus servicios, hazañas i virtudes by M Leonídas Scarpetta; Saturnino Vergara, [9]
  18. María Josefa "Pepita" Piedrahita de García Rovira, the Gendering Latin American Independence: Women's Political Culture and the Textual Construction of Gender 1790-1850 by the University of Nottingham and the University of Manchester, [10]
  19. Batallas de la Independencia
  20. Rulers of Colombia
  21. Historia de la literatura en Nueva Granada (Page 448) By José María Vergara y Vergara, [11]
  22. Santander By Pilar Moreno de Angel
  23. Nucleo Provincial García Rovira
  24. Paseo por los bustos y estatuas Encuentros profanos con la historia by Leonardo Álvarez, Universidad Autónoma de Bucaramanga, [12]

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