Colombia is a country of South America
with a surface area of 1 km² (density of 46,591,147 inhab./km²). The population of Colombia is 46,591,147 inhabitants in the last census.The capital of Colombia is the city of Bogotá which has 6,778,691 inhabitants. The president of the unitary presidential constitutional republic is Juan Manuel Santos.
“Freedom and Order”
Colombia or Republic of Colombia is a country of South America dividing of the borders with Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, the equator and Peru. It opens on the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
During long decades, Colombia was the prey of conflicts on bottom of drug trafficking and culture of cocaine. At present, the situation is clearly improved but the crime remains alarming.
Colombia at a glance
Administrative divisions: 32 departments and 1 district (Bogotá)
Population: more than 48 million inhabitants
Principal language: Spanish
Principal religion: Christianity
Current president: Juan Manuel Santos
Currency: peso Colombian (1 peso = 100 centavos)
Conversion into euro: 1,000 pesos = 0.29 euro
Tourism: because of the rate of crime and risks of attacks, greatest vigilance is of rigour on all the territory. Certain zones formally disadvised, in particular the borders and the popular quarters of Bogotá Of the health risks due to the punctures of mosquito are also important.
Five great geographical areas
Located in the north-western corner of the South American continent, Colombia benefits from one opening at the same time on the Caribbean Sea, also called Caribbean Sea, pertaining to the Atlantic Ocean and on the Pacific Ocean. On the whole, the country has 2,900 kilometers of littoral.
Several archipelagoes and isolated islands are also attached to Colombia, in particular the archipelago San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina located in the Caribbean Sea.
Colombia presents five well differentiated reliefs:
• The Pacific Coast is appeared as a long coastal strip who does not exceed the 150 kilometers broad. It extends from Panama in Ecuador and is snuggled between the ocean and the first summits of the Andean cordillera which goes down sometimes to the shore.
The area of the Pacific is covered with mangrove swamps (forests wet) and plains strewn with waterway to the powerful flow.
• The Caribbean coast form the northern end of the country. The marshy littoral is bordered by the high mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta slightly isolated from the cordillera. It is in this area that is located both plus high summits of the country, the Peak Cristóbal Colón which culminates with 5,775 meter altitudes and the Peak Simón Bolívar with 5,774 meters. This mountainous solid mass is characterized by its succession of ecosystems, of the eternal snow crowning the tops until the undergrowth of mountain in edge of the ocean. Between the two, we find tropical forests, peat bogs, zones of grazing ground of altitude and an impressive forest of fog to constant and high moisture. In the south of the mountainous solid mass, one finds the marshy alluvial plains even flooded during the risings of Rio Magdalena. Lastly, the desert of Guajira, a peninsula in extreme north is known for the bituminous coal mine to open sky of Cerrejón. It is the only arid area of Colombia.
• The area of the Andes occupies the center of the country and gathers most of the Colombians. The solid mass extends on a North-South axis and is divided into three parallel zones, the Western Cordillera bordering the Peaceful littoral, the central Cordillera and the Eastern Cordillera. They are separated by the valleys from Rios Cauca, Patia and Magdalena.
• The Orénoquie area is crossed by the Orénoque River which will be thrown in the Atlantic Ocean in Venezuela. It is characterized by immense wide llanos, grassy and marshy plains allowing an intensive culture of the grounds.
• The Amazonique area covered by the Amazon forest.
Colombia benefits from a climate of the tropical type but there exists however of great differences according to the areas, the exposure to the wind and altitude. Thus the average temperature is of 26.
The country knows two rainy seasons, in autumn and in spring.
The fauna and the flora of Colombia are as diversified as its climate and its relief. One finds there in particular an incredible variety of Amphibians, many birds of which the giant condor and the hummingbird, pink tapirs, pumas, bears, dolphins and various species of monkeys as well as reptiles of which several caimans.
The Colombian flora is recognized to be particularly rich, with more than 130,000 varieties of plants and trees indexed of which a large number of endemic species.
A dubious origin
The origin of the settlement of Colombia remains fuzzy as for all the countries of the American continent. Indeed, various theories clash. Very a long time, the assumption of the crossing of the Bering Strait by Asian people during the last glaciation was privileged. These people would have then migrated towards the south, thus populating all the continent.
Recent discoveries made it possible to establish that this theory is false, at least partially, and that the settlement had already begun well before the arrival from Asian during the 11th millenium before our era. The caves of BlueFish in Canada and the site of Monte Verde in Chile were already occupied before 15,000 before JC.
Many historians estimate that America did not have a single settlement. During prehistory, men would have arrived, the ones on foot by the Bering Strait and the others in boat from Polynesia, the Melanesia and/or Africa.
At present, it is thus difficult to recall with precision the pre-Columbian history of Colombia.
On the other hand, it is probable that the first inhabitants of Colombia were installed on the littoral bordering the Caribbean Sea in the neighbourhoods of 20,000 before JC before occupying the interior of the country quickly. Traces of human occupation and in particular of the points bifaciales gone back to 12,000 before JC were found in the cave ElAbra like in the shelters of Sábana close to Bogotá, Tibitó and Tequendama where human bones gone back to -7000 were put at the day.
Initially wandering and hunters, the ancestral people of Colombia are turned into a sedentary population and become farmers around 5,000 before JC. They settle in particular in the mountainous solid mass of Serrania of San Jacinto and with PuertoHormiga near the area of the Caribbean.
Various pre-Columbian civilisations of Colombia:
The discovery of the archaeological site of San Agustín including 600 monumental sculptures being able to be 4 meters high as well as tumuli and various funerary structures of a great complexity confirms the human presence in the southernmost part of the Andes as of 1,100 before JC. This vast religious complex including a necropolis reserved for a high social class was probably used until the beginning of the 10th century of our era and the site was completely abandoned around 1300 for an unknown reason. One venerated there the ancestors and the ground was regarded as crowned. Residences were next to the buildings with religious vocation.
The study of this unit rediscovered at the 19th century made it possible to establish the existence of a structured and hierarchical company having remarkable technical skills and a great artistic creativity. The site which was not completely excavated yet keeps all its mystery however.
A culture rather similar to that of San Agustin developed during the first millenium in Tierradentro. The site is remarkable by its many hypogean, of the tombs dug on the tops or in the sides of the hills. The funeral ritual probably understood two stages, the exposure of the body, food and personal goods in a first not very deep burial and then the burial in hypogean the collective which contained ballot boxes containing the bones. This civilization also disappeared in vague circumstances.
A little later, the civilisation of Tayronas is established towards 1,200 in the north of Colombia, along the coast and on the sides north of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The cities tayronas testify to architectural knowledge and advanced techniques. The dwellings are in particular equipped with water conveyed by drains and the area is equipped with an important road network. The company is treated on a hierarchical basis and each city or village must provide men who are trained to become warriors called Manicatos able to defend the nation tayrona.
The cities preserve an individual administration and are controlled by a chief but the priests were extremely influential and the life of the people was governed according to the wills of the gods.
Tayronas are also of skillful craftsmen who excel in the art of goldsmithery and weaving. They lived in autarky when the Spanish conquistador Rodrigo de Bastidas discovers them in 1528. In two decades, the civilisation tayrona is destroyed and the few survivors take refuge in the mountains or are compared to the colonists.
Contemporaries of Tayronas, Muiscas or Chibchas occupy the center of the country and are
divided into two confederations, Bogotá and Tunja including on the whole 56 tribes. The two civilisations present cultural similarities but Muiscas reach a high level of development which will influence - and always influences the Colombian company. Muiscas profit from a strong central government and the decisions are made by Zipped or Zaque (chiefs of the two confederations) which found the laws. All the men must contribute by paying a tribute and by lending strong hand in the event of war or of food shortage. In normal weather, each inhabitant was free to fish, drive out and trade for his own account. Peace reigned most of the time.
It is in this area that the Spanish think of finding the famous Eldorado and its cities of gold praised by Marco Polo. Actually, the explorer was in Burma when it described the pagodas with the roofs covered with gold and not in America.
During several centuries, the legend will remain long-lived, supplied with the Muisca habit which wanted that their chief (zipped) is covered with gold the day of his establishment. It bathed then in the lagoon which was recovered in its gold turn.
In the cordilleras Western and central, the civilization of Quimbayas lives in tribes gathered in caciquats, themselves joined together as juntas. They are hunters, fishing and farmers and know the metallurgy, the work of the bamboo and weaving. They use the gold found in the rivers for their jewels and to manufacture figurines by using the technique of lost wax.
At the time of the Spanish conquest, they were victims of the policy of the encomienda consisting in moving a population to oblige it to work free in mines or fields belonging to the colonists. In spite of some quickly repressed attempts at rebellion, Quimbayas disappeared almost completely at the beginning of the 17th century, less than one hundred years after the arrival of the Conquistadors.
More in north, the civilisation of Zenús rests on a central government made up of the caciques of the principal territories. They succeeded in overcoming the risings and the floods thanks to a complex system of channels and a network making it possible to connect the various cities independent from/to each other. Each city had its speciality like weaving, the pottery or the manufacturing of objects out of gold what supported the exchanges and the trade in the country. The town of Faraquiel was the common religious center of Zenús.
The Tolima culture installed along Rio Magdalena goes back to the 8th millennium before our era. It is characterized by a hierarchical company and the culture of corn, cassava, potatoes and fruits. Tolimas excelled in pottery, in parietal art and the manufacturing of jewels. All these arts are characterized by the schematic representation of the man.
Along the equatorial border, the Nariño culture produced a remarkable ceramics with geometrical reasons. Unfortunately, it was exterminated by the conquistador Sebastian de Belalcazar in 1535. This culture is very close to that of Tumaco it Tolita.
All the Peaceful part of Colombia is uninhabited during the pre-Columbian period.
The arrival of Europeans
In 1499, the Spanish, Alonso de Ojeda, unload in the Cape of Calved located north of the Peninsula of Guajira. It thus opens the way with the conquest and the colonization of the country. The Spanish conquistadors hope to discover gold and to grow rich. Very quickly, several cities are founded along the gulf of Uraba and, in 1533, Carthagène of the Indies becomes a port slave trader and an important outpost of the Kingdom of Spain which takes its districts in South America. Its opulence attracts the pirates and the corsairs who attack it on several occasions.
The Spanish advance to the inland and subject the Amerindian people. However, several explorers started from Santa Marta, Peru and Venezuela assert the same territories what obliges Charles Quint to slice and to allot them to the governor of Santa Marta.
This decision does not put fine at the quarrels and it is necessary to expect the creation of the “realaudiencia of Santa Fe de Bogotá”, a supreme jurisdiction of the Spanish Crown to pacify Colombia in 1549.
The Kingdom of the News-Grenade
Bogotá which had been founded in 1538 becomes “very noble, the very honest one and old city of the New Reign” and obtains thereafter the statute of capital of the viceroyalty of News-Grenade in 1717.
The Kingdom of the News-Grenade founded in 1550 gathers the territories of Colombia and Ecuador as well as part of Venezuela. At that time, the Amerindian population is reduced considerably while the first slaves originating in Africa are dispatched in the country to work in the goldmines. If this precious metal is in the center of all the concerns, agriculture also contributes to the economic advancement of Colombia. The grounds are confiscated with the Indians who must from now on work for the rich Spanish owners who create tobacco and cotton, coffee plantations. The Amerindians who try to resist are simply exterminated. It is estimated that in less than one century, 85% of the indigenous population disappeared. The survivors who are minority and lost their traditional culture are gathered in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Peninsula of Guajira.
Only the people living in the Amazon forest and the still unexplored llanos are not touched by the European civilization before the 19th century.
In 1700, the Bourbons go up on the Spanish throne and modify the colonial policy, estimating that the overseas territories must be only used to reinflate the cases. New taxes are raised while the colonies are gathered in viceroyalties of which viceroyalty of the News-Grenade. The colony which loses territories regularly must face not only one war between Spain and the Kingdom of Great Britain in the Caribbean Sea (war of the ear of Jenkins) but also undergo the reforms imposed by the Crown.
It is in this context that the “revolt of Comuneros bursts” in 1781. So initially, it is the poor social class which is raised, it is quickly joined by the tradesmen and even by important personalities. In front of the extent of the movement, the government accepts the negotiation and the agreements of Zipaquira in particular granting freedom of trade, the reduction in the taxes and the transfer of the saltworks to the Indians are signed.
But the viceroy returns the agreement null and void affirming that this one was concluded under the threat and sends a particularly violent punitive forwarding to Carthagène.
At the same moment, Europe is with fire and blood and Spain sudden of heavy losses to the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonean wars. The colonies are left with the abandonment what supports the first independence movements.
To the independence
The situation of Spain is catastrophic and the king is retained captive in Valençay what makes it possible each city-capital to choose its own government and to proclaim itself as a junta. Thus Carthagène becomes the first junta of the News-Grenade, quickly followed in 1810 by the other cities of which Bogotá. Very quickly, most provinces of the News-Grenade declare themselves independent, autonomous and equal.
Also quickly, of the discords appear and leave the place to a first civil war.
In 1813, the wind turns to Europe and Napoleon wipes many defeats in particular on the Russian face. The Spanish leave to the reconquest the territories lost on the continent but also in the colonies. Repression is violent and of many patriots are carried out or flee. The Spanish army plunders the colonies what causes the anger of the population.
Simon Bolivar who is a major figure of the emancipation of the countries of South America will come as a liberator from Colombia in 1819. In less than two months, it seizes Bogotá, capital of the News-Grenade, while the viceroy is in escape. The release campaign continues and the cities are released the ones after the others.
The project to found the Republic of Colombia including the current territories of the country but also Venezuela (Large Colombia) takes shape and Simon Bolivar becomes the president about it in October 1821. Other regions are added to the first two countries and Large Colombia becomes an immense not easily controllable territory in the absence of Bolivar left to release Peru. With its return, the situation is chaotic and Bolivar must improvise measurements which are often badly accepted. The various regions claim their independence and in 1830, with the death of Bolivar overcoming by tuberculosis, Large Colombia gathers nothing any more but current Colombia, Panama and a small portion of Nicaragua.
The Republic of News-Grenade
On October 20th, 1831, the Republic of News-Grenade is proclaimed what does not alleviate the tensions for as much since the country is immediately in war with the Ecuador which asserts territories. In spite of the victory of the News-Grenade, the relations between the two countries remain tended until 1916.
In 1832, the Santander general succeeds Bolivar in charge of the country. He undertakes reforms to support education and for reviving the economy. Its less popular successors take the measurements little appreciated by the people and the country is again in the grip of the civil war (War of Supreme) of 1839 to 1842. At the conclusion of the conflict, the government modifies the constitution and adopts an authoritarian regime.
Thereafter, the policy softens and of freedoms are granted. On the other hand, the power of the Church is restricted.
The United States of Colombia
In 1851, it is with the turn of the landowners to revolt following the abolition of the slavery which deprives them of a free labor. The provinces want also more autonomy and the government ends up yielding. The country becomes a confederated state what entirely does not satisfy the provinces and a civil war opposing liberal and preserving bursts in 1860. It will lead to a new modification of the Constitution and the birth of the United States of Colombia.
The country is not pacified for as much and is very quickly again in the grip of the civil war opposing the liberals and the conservatives. Disorders burst in the various states which are isolated the ones from the others in the absence of a true road network. The commercial exchanges between states and exports are consequently quasi non-existent, the economy is with lowest.
The state of war is issued in 1867 by liberal president Mosquera. It is reversed and sent in exile by the chief of the army, the general Santos Acosta who considers his measurements anticonstitutional.
The country finds a pretence of calm and social reforms improve in particular the system of education but this peace is of short time and a new period Colombian civil war between liberals and conservatives begins in 1876. Seven States are raised against president Nuñez.
The victory of its troops enables him to modify the Constitution and to remove most of the powers granted to the federate States. The power is again centralized what marks the return of the Republic of Colombia in 1886.
The Republic of Colombia
This period known under the name of “Regeneración” makes it possible to the president to exert the executive power on all the levels since the States are directed by a governor whom it appoints itself. It is also marked by the return in strength of the Church which had seen its influence restricted under the old constitution. Nuñez which was member of the liberal party wishes to be combined the nationalist conservatives and creates the National Party. The radical liberals are not only isolated power but their leaders are imprisoned or sent in exile. They try to be raised but are definitively crushed in 1895.
Four years later, the country is once more with fire and blood. “The Thousand day old War” opposing the liberals supported by Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador with the government with preserving majority shows the victory of the regular troops. The liberals are excluded from the policy and give up any armed conflict.
The country is bloodless and Panama which wishes to restore the commercial exchanges thanks to the construction of the channel and the railway line which crosses the isthmus benefit from it to separate from Colombia, with the support of the United States.
Found peace, Colombia can finally bandage its wounds and start a series of reforms and of work (in particular the construction of railway lines and of a valid road network, the installation of the telegraph, radio and telephone) which will rectify the economy.
The country benefits from exports of coffee, meat and bananas but especially of the exploitation of its oil reserves.
But distribution of wealth is unequal and the suffering people of poverty start in 1918 a strike movement which will be prolonged during more than one decade. Repression is often violent and thus the army receives the order to shoot at the strikers who paralyze fruit exports (Massacre of the banana plantations), making from 75 to 1000 victims according to the sources. This tragic event marks the end of the strike and the wages of the blue-collar workers are still reduced. However, it also causes the anger of the people and the victory of the liberal Enrique Olaya Herrera to the presidential election of 1930.
The country abused and with the failing economy must moreover cope with a new war. Indeed, Peru which wishes to make main of an area called “Amazonian trapezoid” attacks Colombia which leaves nevertheless victorious the conflict.
Signed peace, liberal president Pumarejo starts a series of reforms known under the name of “Revolution moving” offering of many freedoms to the people (freedom of worship, right to the strike). The country knows one period of appeasing even if tensions always exist in the political arena.
Unfortunately, the assassination of the liberal candidate to the presidential election of 1950 puts fire at the powders and of the riots which will lead to a new civil war (Violencia) burst in the country. Colombia lives dark moments punctuated by coups d'etat, the installation of a military government and especially the birth of communist resistance movements emerging from the Marxist groups of guerrillas, the Revolutionary armed forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Army of National Release (ELN).
It is in this context that at the beginning of the years 1980, Colombia becomes the main actor of the drug trafficking while producing and exporting more than 70% of cocaine on a world level.
Wars between the principal cartels Escobar and Cali, the attempts at repression on behalf of the government but also the corruption which reign give birth to there a climate from insecurity in all the country.
An anti-narcotrafic policy is installation in the years 1990 and one new constitution declares Colombia like “Social state of right, organized in Republic unit, decentralized, democratic, participative and pluralist, based on the respect of human dignity”.
Several scandals however will sully the government in spite of attempts to improve the situation, to control the cartels of drug and to establish peace with the paramilitary groups.
Colombia is a republic whose president is elected for a four years mandate.
The executive power is exerted by president (currently Juan Manuel Santos, member of the Social Party of national unity who received the Nobel Prize of Peace to have started a peace process with the FARCs in 2016). The president is Head of the State and the government.
The legislative power is exerted by the Congress including the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The judicial power is exerted by the Supreme Court of justice, the Constitutional court and by the Council of State.
In spite of a positive growth resting mainly on the foreign trade, the wealths of the country are badly distributed. More than 15% of the population lives under the poverty line.
Colombia benefits from its natural resources of which emeralds, the oil and the coal and of its exports of coffee, bananas, sugar cane and cut flowers. However, the world-wide crisis and the mistrust of the investors curb a real economic recovery.
Agriculture accounts for 6% of the GDP compared with 34% for industry and 60% for the services.
A crossed culture
The total population of Colombia exceeds the 48.5 million inhabitants and knows a natural rate of increase in 1.04%. The majority of the Colombians lives in the area of the Andes and along the Caribbean Sea. Because of rural depopulation started around 1950, the population is mainly urban today. More the cities are Bogotá (the capital), Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla and Carthagène of the Indies.
The diversity of the origins of the Colombians (Amerindian, European and African) caused an interbreeding which concerns about half of the population. The other half is made up of the descendants of the colonists (37%) and the descendants of the black slaves (10%).
The not crossed indigenous people represent less than 3% of the population and are generally gathered in reserves, like Wayuu, Amerindian independent group of Colombia.
Spanish is the official language and the most important mother tongue of the Colombians. However, a hundred of indigenous languages were listed, mainly the Quichuan and the languages of Caribbean, arawakiennes and chibchanes.
Since 1991, the freedom of worship is recognized by the constitution and Christianity lost its statute of religion of State. However more than 90% of the Colombians remained Christian.
In spite of a long colonial past, Colombia preserved many ancestral traditions in particular thanks to the geographical insulation of its various areas. The Spanish culture is reflected however in its architecture, the music and the dance.
The co-education of the cultures is also present in the gastronomy and this is why each area has its own culinary specialties like the ajiaco, a typical soup of potatoes of the Andes, the tamales, cakes of corn surrounded by sheet of banana tree and cooked with the vapor or the bandejapaisa composed of several dishes containing rice, meat, fried egg, of beans, ...
The travelers can get 90 days visa in the airports on presentation of a return and plane ticket outward journey.
Because of the insecurity which reigns in the country and in spite of the improvement of the situation, Colombia is not a country attracting and sure for the tourists. The crime is very alarming and certain zones are strongly misadvised, in particular all the areas close to the borders and the popular quarters of the cities. Vigilance is of setting in the rest of the country and it is advised not to carry outward sign of wealth, not to walk only the night, not to let themselves approach in the street and not to take taxis not reserved by the hotel or the airport.
The vaccination against the yellow fever is obligatory in certain areas of the country and it is recommended to be in order of vaccines against the diphteria-tetanus-poliomyelitis, tuberculosis, the typhoid fever, the viral hepatites and the rage. It is necessary to be protected from the punctures from mosquitos responsible for paludism, the dengue, Chikungunya and the Zika virus.
The tourism is little developed in Colombia and even non-existent in certain areas. However, the opening in the world and the timid improvement of security made it possible the country to attract travellers who are allured by the beautiful beaches going along the Caribbean Sea or by trekkings in the Andes cordillera.
Carnival of Barranquilla with Carthagène of the Indies the colonial one via Medellín, the City of the eternal spring, or the archaeological site of San Agustin, the tourists will discover very quickly that Colombia is not only one country with the hands of the cartels of drug and will appreciate the user-friendliness of cordial people.