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A sketch of Ambassador Manuel de Trujillo y Torres, as sketched by painter Miguel Torres.
A sketch of Ambassador Manuel de Trujillo y Torres, as sketched by painter Miguel Torres.

Who was Ambassador Manuel Torres?

The namesake of the 2021 AL DÍA Archetypes Awards gala is one of the most central Hispanic figures in the history of Philadelphia and the U.S. 

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Hispanic Heritage Month has only officially been celebrated in the United States since 1988, but Hispanic contributions to the country have existed for centuries. 

A prominent Hispanic throughout history whose name many may not recognize is Manuel de Trujillo y Torres. 

A Spanish-American publicist and diplomat, Torres became the first ambassador of present-day Colombia (then Nueva Granada) to the United States. 

His appointment by U.S. President James Monroe in 1822 represented the first U.S. recognition of a former Spanish colony’s independence. 

Born in Córdoba, Spain in November 1762, Torres grew up in present-day Colombia. At age 17, Torres began working for the secretariat of the Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada and for the Royal Treasury, where he received training in finance and observed some of the important political-social conflicts to take place during the time period.

In 1794, Torres fled Nueva Granada, as a result of a conspiracy against the Spanish monarchy.   

He originally escaped to Curaçao, before settling in Philadelphia in 1796. While in Philly, Torres became an advocate for the independence of Spanish colonies in the Americas. 

In 1798, Torres became close friends with William Duane, who would become editor of the Philadelphia newspaper Aurora. The paper was published six days a week in the City of Brotherly Love, from 1794 to 1824. 

Torres frequently produced articles, pamphlets and books detailing his views on Spanish American independence in both English and Spanish, and also translated Duane’s editorial pieces into Spanish. 

Present-day Colombia achieved its independence from Spain in 1819, and the following year, Torres was granted the diplomatic credential to defend the interests of Venezuela and Colombia. With it, he purchased more weapons, requested monetary loans from the U.S. Central Bank and obtained diplomatic recognition from the newly-emancipated nations. 

In February 1821, Torres met with then-US Secretary of State John Quincy Adams for the recognition of Colombia as a nation. In May 1822, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives recognized the independence of Colombia, and Torres was received at the White House by Adams and Monroe as ambassador the following month. 

Torres passed away in July 1822 in Philadelphia, just weeks after his visit to the White House. 

Despite only serving as ambassador for a total of 27 days, Torres remained a central figure in the work and historical significance of Colombia’s independence. 

Nearly 200 years after his death, his spirit and legacy will be memorialized at the 2021 AL DÍA Archetypes: Ambassador Manuel Torres Awards event — the premier annual event to celebrate America’s Hispanic Heritage.

The 2021 edition of the annual event will see 10 professionals — in the key areas of public service, education, corporate, non-profit, health, entrepreneurship, sports, music, performing arts, and media — be honored with the AL DÍA Archetype: Ambassador Manuel Torres Award. 

Since 2016, AL DÍA has hosted the annual Hispanic Heritage event to celebrate the work of the prominent Hispanic archetypes located within our communities in Philadelphia. 

So far, 23 individuals have been honored with an AL DÍA Archetype award with 10 more adding their name to the list this year. 

The 2021 AL DÍA Archetypes: Ambassador Manuel Torres Awards gala is set for Friday, Sept. 24, 2021 at the Union League of Philadelphia. To reserve your seat, click here.

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