It was 1923 when the guidelines were established to create a central bank, proposed to the government of Pedro Nel Ospina by an international mission led by the American economist and monetary expert Professor Edwin Kemmerer. A century later, the celebration of the centenary of Banco de la República marks a momentous occasion for Colombia, and institution that has made an enduring contribution to the cultural legacy and deeper understanding of this nation.
Assuming a pivotal role as the financial entity that would govern foreign exchange controls, regulate monetary policy, and transform Colombia from a rural to a modern state, the bank’s 100-year journey included the opening of a specialized economics library to the public in 1936, followed by the inauguration of the Luis Ángel Arango Library in 1958, with an art exhibition hall, television rooms, and creation in 1959 of Bogotá’s Gold Museum.
The Concert Hall of the Luis Ángel Arango Library was inaugurated in 1966, another key moment in the bank’s unwavering commitment to public service. To commemorate this milestone, Banco de la República has curated diverse events, spanning concerts, museum and library re-openings, exhibitions, book launches, and more, in cities across the nation.
While many central banks worldwide dabble in cultural pursuits, in Latin America, few rival Banco de la República’s achievement as an institution with cultural centers in 29 cities throughout Colombia. Beyond an extensive network of public libraries, as well as six Gold Museums and a cultural complex at the heart of historic Bogotá, the bank has earned a global reputation for curating important exhibitions at the Botero Museum; Miguel Urrutia Art Museum (MAMU); Casa Republicana, and the old mint, Casa de Moneda.
Although the bank had a strong national presence since its founding, due to the importance of transforming the Colombian economy in a growing global marketplace, during the 1980s, under the leadership of the bank’s General Manager, Miguel Urrutia Montoya, the cultural footprint quickly expanded to cities across the country.
The early 2000s witnessed further strengthening of cultural endeavors, with the donation from Colombian artist Fernando Botero (1932-2023) of his private collection of artworks and sculptures for a museum that carries his name and is one of the city’s tourism highlights. The inauguration of Museo Botero in 2000 was followed four years later by the Museo de Arte Miguel Urrutia with impressive salons for contemporary art installations and exhibitions.
Sofía Restrepo, head of the cultural section at Banco de la República, highlights the importrance of the bank’s cultural outreach. “These 100 years have brought Colombians closer to their heritage and have helped us understand the importance of safeguarding our identity,” she said.
With the slogan “100 years generating trust” to mark the centenary, Banco de la República encapsulates transparency and an unwavering commitment to honesty in the face of macro-economic challenges that transcend physical boundaries. The autonomy of the central bank is also a hallmark of Colombian institutionalism.
The Banco de la República’s most valuable asset, however, is its human capital, with some 2,700 staff in 29 cities. From overseeing cultural endeavors to supporting other functions such as financial management, currency minting, and distribution, the central bank has not wavered from its founding objective to be a nation builder and entity that will continue to inspire confidence in the nation’s future.
In times of profound macroeconomic challenges, the 100-year legacy of the Colombia’s central bank is both a celebration of our diverse heritage and reminder that amidst the numbers and statistics, a cultural tapestry defines true wealth and sustains a collective spirit.