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López Pumarejo, Alfonso (1886–1959)

López Pumarejo, Alfonso (1886–1959)

Alfonso López Pumarejo (b. 31 January 1886; d. ca. 20 November 1959), president of Colombia (1934–1938, 1942–1945). One of the most influential presidents in the history of Colombia, López's impact can be measured by the fact that almost all legislation that "modernized" Colombia was passed during his first term in office.

Born in Honda (Tolima), López studied at the College of San Luis Gonzaga and then at the Liceo Mercantil (Mercantile Lyceum) in Bogotá, specializing in business. Afterward, he took courses at Bright College in England and worked in New York before returning to Colombia. He never completed a degree, but his life experience prepared him well to work in economics and politics. In 1904, he returned to Bogotá and for twelve years in business experience alongside his father. He began his career in politics in 1915 with Colombia's Partido Liberal. At the same time, he began writing political commentary for the Diario Nacional and La Republica.

The 1929 world depression exposed the weakness of the Conservative Party—in power since 1886—which had no program to cope with economic collapse and social unrest. López became president in 1934 and, accompanied by an energetic group of young Liberal reformers, began pushing a "New Deal" type of economic, social, labor, and educational legislation to which the patriarchal society was unaccustomed. The most controversial of López's reforms, the Land Law 200 of 1936, has been misnamed the Agrarian Reform Law. In essence, what this law tried to accomplish was the legalization of titles to land and the affirmation of the "social function" of property, particularly landed property. These activities earned his administration the nickname "revolución en marcha," or government on the move. However, his many proposals faced staunch opposition from conservatives.

The domestic and international situation was quite different during his second term (1942–1946). World War II adversely affected the industrial sector in Colombia and weakened its economy. Conservative opposition to López mounted, and in July 1944 he was actually held prisoner by a rebel army colonel named Diógenes Gil. Although he was released, López was forced to resign in 1945 because of the opposition of both the Conservatives and a sizable fraction of his own party, which together effectively blocked most of his initiatives.

See alsoColombia, Political Parties: Liberal Party .


Eduardo Zuleta Angel, El Presidente López (1966).

Gerardo Molina, Las ideas liberales en Colombia, 1915–1934 (1978).

Thomas C. Tirado, Alfonso López Pumarejo, el Conciliador (1986).

Alvaro Tirado Mejía, "López Pumarejo: La Revolución en marcha," in La nueva historia de Colombia, I: Historia política, 1886–1906, edited by Dario Jaramillo Agudelo (1976), pp. 305-348.

Robert J. Alexander, ed., Biographical Dictionary of Latin American and Caribbean Political Leaders (1988), pp. 265-266.

Additional Bibliography

Acosta, Pedro. López Pumarejo en marcha hacia su revolución. Bogotá: Universidad de Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano, 2004.

Aguilera Peña, Mario. Alfonso López Pumarejo y la Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2000.

Tirado Mejía, Alvaro. Aspectos políticos del primer gobierno de Alfonso López Pumarejo, 1934–1938. 2nd ed. Bogotá: Planeta Colombiana Editorial, 1995.

                                         JosÉ Escorcia

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