Colombia

Colombia

 Surface Area (km sq) 1141750
 Population (million) 44.53
 GDP ($ billion) 234
 Life Expectancy (years) 73
 Poverty headcount ratio (%) 45.5
 HDI 0.689
 Capital City Bogotá
 Main Language Spanish

Geography

Colombia is a constitutional republic in the northwest of South America on two coastlines – the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Colombian territory also includes a number of Caribbean and Pacific islands. Terrain varies from the eastern tropical savanna grasslands, the southeastern Amazon rainforest and Andre mountain highlands. Subsequently the climate tends to be tropical on the coast and eastern grasslands and cooler in the highlands. Like its neighbour Ecuador, Colombia is rich in biodiversity and is one of the world’s 17 most mega-diverse countries. Interestingly Colombia is the also the fourth country in the world by magnitude of total freshwater supply.

Most urban areas are located in the highlands of the Andes which dominate the country, this area is within the part of the in famous ‘ring of fire’ boasting 15 major volcanoes and subjecting the country to prevalent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Floods are also common due to oscillations in the El Nino. The lowlands (eastern savanna and Orincoco River basin and the Amazon rainforest) comprise over half the territory of the country but contain less than 3% of the population. The north Caribbean coast is home to 20% of the Population unlike the Pacific coastline which is dense in vegetation and sparsely populated. There are three parallel mountain ranges (Cordilleras): the Cordillera Occidental; Cordillera Central and Cordillera Oriental.

Colombia has the third largest population of any Spanish-speaking country in the world, after Mexico and Spain and is the third most populous country in Latin America Colombia is the third-most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. However, today approximately only 3% of the population is indigenous.

History

The territory of what is now “Colombia” was originally inhabited by indigenous people including the Muisca, Quimbaya, and Tairona. The Spanish arrived in 1499 and initiated a period of conquest and colonization creating the Viceroyalty of New Granada (comprising modern-day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, the northwest region of Brazil and Panama) with its capital in Bogotá. Consequently, Colombia became one of the main administrative centres of Spain in the western hemisphere. After a long battle for sovereignty, the country’s independence was ultimately declared in July 20, 1810 through the leadership of Simon Bolivar and Francisco de Paula Santander. These two heroes became the first president and vice-president of Colombia in 1819.

Colombia has a long tradition of constitutional government. The Liberal and Conservative parties, founded in 1848 and 1849 respectively, are two of the oldest surviving political parties in the Americas. However, tensions between the two have frequently erupted into violence, most notably in the Thousand Days Civil War (1899–1902) that led to the establishment of Panama as a nation in 1903 and La Violencia, a period of public violence in Bogota, beginning in 1948. Since the 1960s, government forces, left-wing insurgents and right-wing paramilitaries have been engaged in the continent’s longest-running armed conflict. Fuelled by the cocaine trade, this escalated dramatically in the 1980s and economic and political arenas of Colombia were hugely influenced by powerful and aggressive drug cartels. Nevertheless, in the recent decade (2000s) the violence has decreased significantly. In 1991 the new Colombian constitution was ratified with key provisions on the nation’s human, gender, ethnic and political rights. The current government of President Alvaro Uribe has initiated significant improvements to ensure the public security. Colombia’s homicide rate was one for many years one of the highest globally but halved between 2002 and 2006. In spite of this urban violence is increasing in the city of Medellin, which since 2009 has increasing gang warfare and homicide levels.

Economy

Colombia is defined as an open commercialization. It is the fourth largest economy of South America, and is relatively diverse by regional standards. It is natural resources rich in fossil fuels oil, coal and natural gas. Services compile 53% of the country’s GDP followed by a 35% contribution from industry and 12% from agriculture. Colombia has experience stable inflation and economic growth (one of the highest rates in the region) until the recession in 1999 which it was quick to recover from. However Colombia’s inequality levels are one of the highest in Latin America (Gini coefficient standing at 0.587 in 2009).

Population and Culture

Ethnic groups: Mestizo (58%), white (20%), Mulatto (14%), black (4%), mixed black-Amerindian (3%), and Amerindian (1%). Colombia is very ethnically diverse, and the interaction between descendants of the original native inhabitants, Spanish colonists, Africans brought as slaves and twentieth century immigrants from Europe and the Middle East has produced a rich cultural heritage. 58% of the population is Mestizo. The main religion (90%) is Roman Catholic.

Spanish is Colombia’s official language although there are numerous regional dialects including Andean or pastuso, Caribbean or Coastal, Paisa, Rolo and Valley. Soccer is the country’s favourite sport, whilst bullfighting is the traditional sport and baseball is becoming increasingly popular.