This article examines the place of the nation in discussions of collective identities in the early nineteenth century in northern Hispanic South America. It provides a historical account of the birth of national identities in the late colonial and early republican period, and then explores two main sections. The first looks at the port of Riohacha and its experiences during the Wars of Independence. The second examines the in-patients at a hospital in Caracas just after the end of the wars in 1821. The conclusion suggests that foreign involvement in the Wars of Independence was a crucial catalyst to national identity formation in Gran Colombia. As such the article brings out the extent to which these wars were part of Atlantic networks which were being reconfigured during the Age of Revolution. Rather than forging national identities, the Wars of Independence were the arena in which elites foraged for the constituents of new states and nations.