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A sketch of Ambassador Manuel de Trujillo y Torres by painter Miguel Torres.
A sketch of Ambassador Manuel de Trujillo y Torres by painter Miguel Torres. Credit: Miguel Torres

Manuel Torres, an early proponent of Panamericanism

Manuel Torres was a Spaniard who lived in Philadelphia, and is recognized as Colombia's first ambassador to the United States.

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Manuel de Trujillo y Torres, better known only as Manuel Torres, was a Spanish publicist and diplomat born in 1762. Trujillo earned recognition as Colombia's first ambassador to the United States following his reception by U.S. President James Monroe on June 19, 1822. 
 
Torres was the nephew of Archbishop Antonio Caballero y Góngora, whom he accompanied in 1778 on a journey to Santa Fe de Bogotá, where he governed the New Kingdom of Granada. During several years of his youth, Torres lived in the then Nueva Granada, a territory known today as Colombia, until 1794, when he fled after being involved in a conspiracy against the monarchy. 
 
He learned from a very young age to speak and read English and French, in addition to his native Spanish. He also devoted himself to reading the most innovative works of the time that were smuggled into the libraries of his progressive friends in the capital of New Granada.
 
Two years after his departure from the viceroyalty, in 1796, he arrived in the United States, specifically in Philadelphia, the city that represented Republican ideals, the asylum of the oppressed, the center of light, a bastion of freedom, and a worldwide inspiration for independence. From there, he advocated for the independence of the Spanish colonies in the Americas, and with the help of editor William Duane, managed to produce articles, pamphlets and books in both English and Spanish on the subject.
 
Among his most relevant works of economic and commercial character, he published in 1799, Reflections on the trade of Spain with its colonies in time of war, signed under the pseudonym 'A Spaniard in Philadelphia.'  
 
During the time of the Hispanic wars of independence, Torres was the surest link for Spanish-Americans coming to the United States in search of arms, resources and recognition from the authorities, bankers, merchants and volunteers in the U.S. The Niles Weekly Register even called him "the Franklin of South America." His presence and efforts with the overall Government and Congress were able to overcome President Madison's reluctance on numerous occasions, allowing the sale of arms and their shipment to U.S. ports.
 
In 1819, Torres was appointed as diplomat by Venezuela, which annexed New Granada that year to form Gran Colombia. 
 
He died on July 15, 1822, one month after being removed from his diplomatic mission by Monroe in an act of recognition as the first Spanish-American republic by the U.S. Government.
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