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Colombia Culture, Geography and History
Culture and Customs of Colombia
Colombian culture tends to revolve around the Four F’s: Festivals, Food, Fun and Family. While this bold and beautiful nation loves to party, it’s also a very traditional, family-centred society, with many Colombians choosing to live near their families and remain at home until marriage. With most Colombians being Catholic, religion plays an important part in daily life, and visitors will be able to see this themselves while travelling through Colombia. Hundreds of churches and cathedrals populate the large cities, while smaller chapels are dotted throughout the villages and rural areas. Religious festivals like Easter and Christmas are celebrated with gusto – after quiet times of reverence come the massive street parties, parades and feasts. A variety of cultural influences collide at these events - Spanish, African and Caribbean customs and traditions have been brought to Colombia over the centuries and shaped its vibrant culture.
The hallmarks and customs of daily life vary from region to region, with Bogota’s upwardly mobile citizens enjoying bars, driving cars and having access to a wide range of technology, cuisine and media. Colombia’s rural-dwellers (subsistence farmers, plantation workers and tribal groups) live a more simple existence in rustic housing and without traffic or the stresses of modern life. What unifies most Colombians though, regardless of living conditions or class, is a fierce love of Colombia, respect for God and loyalty to the family unit.
Geography and Environment of Colombia
Located in the northwest of South America, Colombia shares borders with Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Panama, and is the only South American country to have a coastline on both the Pacific and the Caribbean. Home to a wide variety of natural environments and varying terrain, travellers can expect to see mountains give way to low lying plains and tropical rainforests meet balmy beaches. Add sprawling metropolises, small farming communities, far-reaching plantations, fishing villages and colonial-era towns, and you’ve got an ever-changing landscape at your fingertips.
History and Government of Colombia
The area now known as Colombia was inhabited by Caribbean and Andean groups who lived in small communities based on organised agriculture. Spanish explorers were drawn to the land and fascinated by the proliferation of gold. The myth of El Dorado soon abounded, and the search for this land of gold soon became an obsession. From the creation of Santa Marta in 1525, colonisation spread rapidly throughout the rest of the country, leading to interest from neighbouring countries that were also keen to exploit Colombia’s natural resources. Many Africans soon started to arrive as a part of the slave trade, and provided a much-needed labour force for the colonisers. Life was tough for the slaves; however, African song, dance and other afro-traditions helped to shape Colombian culture well into the future.
Independence from Spain rose to the top of Colombia’s agenda after years of resentment. Simon Bolivar soon became a local hero, fighting for independence from the Spaniards. It took many years but in 1819, Colombia was granted its freedom – Bolivar had fought his way into the minds and hearts of Colombia, where he is still revered. However, this spirit of freedom was short lived as Colombia descended into confrontation and civil war in the following years. Colombia seemed to be at the mercy of political opponents and guerrilla groups, weaving between periods of peace and extreme violence. By the 1970s, Colombia had a new wave of criminal activity stemming from the lucrative cocaine trade. Pablo Escobar became one of the world’s most notorious (and wealthy) criminals by controlling most of the world’s drug trade. Colombia became a dangerous place to live (and travel in) during this period, yet has recently emerged victorious from these dark days. With vastly improved national security and a growing economy based on agriculture, textiles and mineral mining, Colombia is welcoming back tourists with open arms.
Colombia at a glance
- Bogota (population 7.2 million)
- 44.7 million
- (GMT-05:00) Bogota, Lima, Quito, Rio Branco
- Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin), Type B (American 3-pin)
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