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República de Colombia
Republic of Colombia
Flag of Colombia
Colombia coat of arms
flag coat of arms
Motto : « Libertad y Orden »
Spanish for "freedom and order"
Official language Spanish
Capital Bogotá, DC
Form of government republic
Government system Presidential Democracy
Head of state , also head of government President Iván Duque
surface 1,138,910 km²
population 48,258,494 (July 2018)
Population density 43 inhabitants per km²
Population development   +1.02% (2016) per year
gross domestic product
  • Total (nominal)
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nominal)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
  • $ 309.2 billion ( 40th )
  • $ 712.5 billion ( 31st )
  • $ 7,600 ( 87th )
  • $ 14,485 ( 89. )
Human Development Index   0.761 ( 79th ) (2019)
currency Colombian Peso (COP)
independence July 20, 1810 (recognized by Spain )
August 7, 1819
National anthem Himno Nacional de la República de Colombia
Time zone UTC − 5
License Plate CO
ISO 3166 CO , COL, 170
Internet TLD .co
Telephone code +57
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Colombia (officially República de Colombia  [ reˈpuβ̞lika ð̞e koˈlombja ] , German Republic of Colombia ; short form in Spanish Colombia ) is a republic in the northern part of South America and the second largest state in South America in terms of population. It is bordered by both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and on the mainland in the northwest by Panama , in the east by Venezuela , in the southeast by Brazil , in the south by Peru and in the southwest by Ecuador . The country name is derived from Christopher Columbus . Bogotá is the economic and cultural center of Colombia and the country's capital. Please click to listen!Play 

The country is shaped by its armed conflict that has lasted for decades .


Natural division of Colombia

Colombia is located in the northwest of South America and borders the Atlantic (1626 km of coastline) and the Pacific Ocean (1448 km). In the southwest, Colombia borders on the neighboring states of Ecuador (590 km border line) and Peru (1626 km), in the southeast on Brazil (1645 km), in the northeast on Venezuela (2050 km) and in the northwest on Panama, which has been separated from Colombia since 1903 (225 km).

The total length of the Colombian land border is 6136 kilometers.

The earth equator runs through Colombia (see also states, islands and cities on the equator ).

Natural structure

Colombia is divided into six different large areas.

To the

Nevado del Ruiz , with visible fumarole

The western half of Colombia is dominated by the Andes , which are divided into three large mountain ranges: the western, central and eastern Cordillera. The large, partly navigable rivers Cauca and Magdalena flow into the Caribbean Sea between the mountain ranges . The west of Colombia drains into the Caribbean via the Atrato , and into the Pacific via the San Juan and Baudó rivers. The high mountains are home to the partly active volcanoes Galeras , Nevado del Huila (5364 m), Nevado del Ruiz (5321 m), Puracé , Nevado del Tolima (5215 m) and Nevado de Santa Isabel (4965 m). In the north of Colombia, on the Caribbean coast, rises the 5775 m high Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta , the highest coastal mountains on earth and at the same time the highest point in Colombia. The highest peaks of the isolated pyramid-shaped mountain range are the Pico Cristóbal Colón and the Pico Simón Bolívar , both 5775 m high.

Climatically, the Andean region has the typical elevation gradation of high tropical mountains described by Alexander von Humboldt .

Caribbean coastal lowlands

The Caribbean lowlands of Colombia are largely flat and, apart from the coastal strip, relatively sparsely populated. Large parts of the lowlands are characterized by large swamp areas, which make it difficult to develop traffic. The most famous islands in the Atlantic are the archipelago of San Andrés and Providencia (770 km northwest of Colombia), with the islands of San Andrés , Providencia , Santa Catalina , Roncador, Quita Sueño, Serrana and Serranilla. The partly uninhabited islands of Roncador, Quita Sueño and Serrana were part of the US's external holdings until the 1980s , as a return agreement signed in 1972 by the US Senate was not ratified. Off the Caribbean coast are the island of Fuerte and the archipelagos of San Bernardo and del Rosario .

Johnny Cay located in the Caribbean.

Pacific coastal lowlands

With the exception of a few port cities, the Pacific coastal lowlands are largely uninhabited, which is due in particular to its ever-humid and hot climatic conditions. Up to 10,000 mm of precipitation can fall per year. The region is largely covered with difficult to develop tropical rainforest and characterized by a diverse flora and fauna. The only traffic routes are practically the natural waterways, especially the Atrato , which drains towards the Caribbean. In the Pacific are the islands of Malpelo (west of Buenaventura), Gorgona , an old prison colony, and Gorgonilla.

Amazonia and Orinocia

The eastern half of Colombia is characterized by densely forested lowlands, through which the rivers Putumayo , Yapura , Meta and Guaviare flow, which flow into either the Orinoco or the Amazon , and can be divided into two large areas, the main distinguishing feature of which is the direction of flow of the rivers is. The area with the rivers draining towards the Orinoco is called Orinocia. It is also known in Colombia under the name Llanos Orientales . The area is mostly flat and the only mountain range to be found is the Serranía de la Macarena , which can be classified as part of the Andean region, but is much older than the Andean Cordillera, which is documented by its north-west-south-east orientation. The Llanos Orientales are covered by a wet savannah, whereby the heavy rainfall of the rainy season often makes the few roads in the region impassable. Apart from the eastern foot of the Andes, the Colombian Orinocia is largely unpopulated.

The southeastern quarter of Colombia includes the Colombian part of the Amazon . This region is almost completely covered by dense rainforest , characterized by extremely high biodiversity and, with the exception of a number of indigenous population groups, hardly populated.

The great lakes of Colombia extend to the Andes. Some are: Laguna de Guatavita , Laguna de Tota, Laguna de Iguaque and the Laguna de La Cocha.


The Caño Cristales is a river in the Meta department

Since the equator runs through Colombia, the country is in the tropical climate zone . The north, i.e. the Caribbean coast , is significantly drier than the rest of the country. There are four different climatic regions, depending on the altitude. In the lowlands (Llanos) there is a tropical climate above 24 ° C, between 1000 and 2000 m temperate tropical climate (17–30 ° C), between 2000 and 3000 m cold tropical climate (12–17 ° C) and in the mountain regions (Páramos) 3000 m altitude high alpine glacier climate (below 12 ° C).

The capital Bogotá is at an altitude of 2600 m above sea level and has an annual mean of 14 ° C. Every year there are two rainy seasons (April and October) and two dry seasons, but they are not extreme.

The greatest amount of precipitation falls on the western edge of the Andes. In the southern part of the country about 3000 mm of precipitation is measured per year, in the north up to 10,000 mm. Some places with a rainfall of up to 16,000 mm per year are among the rainiest areas on earth.

It rains less heavily in the eastern parts of the country. The amount of precipitation in the high valleys and high basins is about 1000 mm due to the rain shadow side. Parts of the Caribbean coast have very little rain due to the trade winds (less than 400 mm annual rainfall).

The first months of the dry or rainy season are December and January and May to July. The tourist places are also regularly visited by Colombians at this time of the year. Towards the end of the dry season the land is withered and at the end of the rainy season the tropical storms rage. Floods are not uncommon. In the highlands it can get cold at night.


View over Cartagena de Indias to the port

Colombia's largest cities are the capital Bogotá , Medellín , Cali , Barranquilla , Cartagena de Indias , Ibagué , Manizales , Pasto , Cúcuta and Bucaramanga .



In terms of biodiversity per unit area, Colombia ranks second: ten percent of the world's species are represented on Colombian soil. With an enormously high biodiversity and due to the large number of endemic species, genera and families as well as diverse ecosystems , Colombia is one of the megadiversity countries on earth and, with the ecoregion Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena on the western slopes of the Andes (reaching as far as Costa Rica), hosts the most species-rich from five global centers of megadiversity . Due to the threat to nature, this region is one of the international hotspots of diversity .

53.2 million hectares of the area of ​​Colombia are covered with natural forests; 21.6 million ha with other types of vegetation from savannah, dry and wetland areas; 1.1 million with bodies of water, snow-capped mountains, urban settlements, at least 38.4 million hectares of the area of ​​Colombia are farmed or developed. The most important ecosystems of Colombia are the humid tropical forests (378,000 km²), the savanna plains (105,000 km²), floodplains and peat forests (95,000 km²), the Andean forest (45,000 km²) and the low and Amazon forests (36,000 km²).

The country's greatest natural wealth is its flora, altogether between 45,000 and 55,000 plant species occur in Colombia, 3500 of which are orchid species alone , i.e. 15% of all orchid species existing in the world. The animal kingdom is also very diverse with a total of 2890 terrestrial vertebrate species: with 1721 bird species 20% of all species occurring worldwide and with 358 mammal species seven percent of the species occurring worldwide are represented.

Colombia has 2.1 billion m³ of water resources annually, which come from wetlands, swamps, lagoons, rivers and other flowing bodies of water that feed the groundwater.

Heterogeneous soil conditions, different altitudes and climatic zones, which include the transition and contact between the Amazon and the Andes , result in great biodiversity with a high number of endemic species. Colombia is one of the countries with the greatest biodiversity per territorial unit in the world: With only 0.7% of the world's mainland mass, the country unites ten percent of all animal and plant species on its national territory. Although Colombia has been promoting the protection of its natural resources since the 1970s, in addition to natural environmental disasters (often caused by either extreme dry or rainy seasons), dynamic social and economic growth and military conflicts have caused considerable environmental damage in recent decades .

Sumapaz Paramo (Cundinamarca, Colombia)

With the 1991 constitution , the country explicitly committed itself to sustainable development; around 60 articles of the constitution relate directly or indirectly to the environment. Law 99 of 1993 , through which an environment ministry was created as part of the national environmental system ( Sistema Nacional Ambiental , SINA for short ) , forms the normative framework for the design of these requirements . In addition to the ministry, SINA includes the regional development authorities, which are responsible for managing natural resources and their sustainable development, urban environmental planning authorities and systems such as DAMA in Bogotá and Ecofondo , the association of all environmental NGOs . State environmental plans should contribute to the achievement of the ambitious goals. However, the regional development authorities are accused of, among other things, excessive operating costs, a lack of investment in environmental programs and the abandonment of reforested areas. These and other shortcomings are therefore to be eliminated by means of a far-reaching reform of the environmental sector. A legislative proposal for this was already presented in March 2003; In addition, the Ministry of the Environment was merged in April 2003 into the Ministerio de Ambiente, Vivienda y Desarollo Territorial . Efforts are currently being made to restructure the national park administration (UAESPNN - Unidad Administrativa Especial del Sistema de Parques) , which has been in existence for decades .

During the presidency, Uribe was often referred to as going backwards, especially as the destruction of the environment and nature as a result of the armed conflict increased from year to year.

With the support of EMPA Dübendorf , Colombia became a pioneer in the recycling of electronic waste in South America from 2008 . State regulations to expand formal recycling followed successively until 2018, without the entrepreneurs resisting it. The downsizing of the informal collection sector is difficult because drug traffickers used it for money laundering.

Biosphere reserves

The UNESCO declared five areas in Colombia to biosphere reserves :

  • Parque Nacional Natural El Tuparro (since 1979) Area in ha: 548,000
  • Nudo de los Pastos (since 1979) Area in ha: 175,300
  • Parque Nacional Natural Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (since 1979) Area in ha: 2,115,800
  • Santuario de fauna y flora Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta (since 2000) Area in ha: 493,150
  • Parque Nacional Natural Old Providence (since 2000) Area in ha: 5348


About 25% of Colombia's wetlands have disappeared in the past few decades, largely as a result of mining activities, deforestation and river pollution.

With its National Development Plan 2018–2022, the government is planning to revive the gold and copper markets. In addition, 161 new oil wells are planned for 2022, four times more than the 46 existing locations in 2018. Fracking will be legalized in 2019.

Air pollution causes at least 17,500 deaths annually in Colombia, according to the government. According to data from Greenpeace, Colombia is the fifth most polluted country in Latin America (after Mexico, Chile, Peru and Brazil).



Population pyramid Colombia 2016: The population is starting to age
Population density in Colombia

With 49.0 million inhabitants, Colombia is the most populous state in South America after Brazil and, due to its history, has a very diversified population structure . 74% of the total population live in metropolitan areas and cities, mainly in the valleys of the Río Magdalena and Río Cauca as well as on the Caribbean coast. About 1/6 of the population lives in Bogotá alone , the capital and the center of industry. An average of 42 people live on each square kilometer. 48.6% are men and 51.4% women.

Population development × 1000

Colombia is characterized by a very unequal population distribution. 39 million inhabitants in the Andean region and the Caribbean lowlands compared to only one million in the Amazonia, Orinocia and the Chocó, i.e. H. around half of the country's area is very sparsely populated (see also below on rural exodus and displacement ). More than two thirds of all Colombians live in cities.

In contrast to many other states in Latin America, Colombia is characterized by a decentralized city system. In addition to Bogotá, other megacities have developed with Medellín , Cali and Barranquilla . In addition, there are a large number of regional centers with 200,000–600,000 inhabitants, such as Bucaramanga and Cartagena, Cúcuta in the northeast and Pereira, Manizales and Ibagué in the center, and Neiva, Popayán and Pasto in the south. These cities are experiencing very dynamic growth.

Only 0.3% of the Colombian population are foreigners, but three percent of Colombians live abroad, of which 35.3% in the US , 23.4% in Spain and 18.5% in Venezuela.

The life expectancy of a Colombian at birth is 73.0 years for men and 78.0 years for women. 78% of the population are younger than 45 years. The fertility rate per woman was 2.02 children in 2016, just below the replacement level .

Ethnic composition of the population

The Colombian actor Juan Valdez embodied a typical Colombian coffee farmer as a symbolic figure, as a trademark for the country's coffee.

During the colonial period, the population was made up of three different groups: the indigenous population, the European colonists , mostly from Spain, and the imported slaves of sub-Saharan-African origin. Connections between these groups were and are widespread, so that today's population of the country consists of a mixture of these groups.

The majority of the population are made up of 48% of the mestizos whose ancestors were Europeans and indigenous peoples.

The fair-skinned population includes the whites, descendants of the European colonists, with 30% of the population. During the colonial period, Colombia was settled by immigrants from all regions of Spain. French , Italians , Germans and Irish immigrated to Colombia in the early 18th and 19th centuries . Other immigrants came from Great Britain as well as Lebanon and Palestine and the Middle East.

The mulattoes and Creoles , descendants of Europeans and black African slaves, make up 14% of the Colombian population. 4% of the population have only black African ancestors. 3% of the population belong to the Zambos , who are descended from both African slaves and indigenous people. Colombians of partially or fully Black African descent are collectively referred to as Afro-Colombians . Most of the Afro-Colombian population lives in the Caribbean and Pacific coastal regions and their immediate hinterland. In the village of San Basilio de Palenque , Palenquero is spoken, the only Spanish-based Creole language in Latin America. Most of the residents there are descendants of escaped slaves.

The proportion of indigenous people in the total population is 3.2%, i.e. around one and a half million people. They are distributed over 102 ethnic groups. The indigenous population is primarily located in the highlands of the Cordilleras, especially in the southwest of the country, as well as in the jungle areas of the Amazon, the Pacific lowlands and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta . The List of South American Indigenous Peoples gives an overview of the indigenous peoples of South America .

Rural exodus and displacement

The proportion of the urban population increased from 45.3% of the total population in 1960 to 76.7% in 2016. 30 cities have more than 100,000 inhabitants. The eastern Llanos of Colombia, which consist of nine departments and make up 54% of the area, accommodate only three percent of the population and thus have a density of one person per square kilometer.

Migration from the countryside to the city is massive and is exacerbated by the fact that a large number of internally displaced persons are fleeing the armed conflict and human rights violations to the big cities. Many settle on the outskirts of safer regions and are repeatedly forcibly evicted by the police. According to the international non-governmental organization CODHES, 280,000 people were displaced in Colombia in 2010 alone. This adds up to the total number of internally displaced persons in the country to 5,200,000. The government puts the number of displaced persons significantly lower with 109,358 newly displaced persons in 2010 and 3,600,000 in total. The major difference between the information provided by the non-governmental organization CODHES and those provided by the government is due to the fact that a considerable proportion of the displaced are not recorded in the state register of displaced persons (RUPD). According to the Comisión de Seguimiento de la Sociedad Civil (CSSC), 34.3% of the displaced are not registered. Of these, 72.8% had not reported to the competent authorities as displaced persons and 26.2% of them were not entered in the register, although they had reported to the competent authorities. The daily newspaper Junge Welt reported that in the first half of 2008 alone in Colombia an average of 1,500 people were displaced from their village or residential area every day. Against the background of the dogged struggle for land that has been waged for centuries, the majority of expulsions are directed against small farmers and rural communities, driven by national and international commercial interests. According to Human Rights Watch, 140,000 people were displaced in 2015, up from 35,000 in 2016. Over 30% (1.3 million) of the internally displaced are Afro-Colombians and 15% (600,000) are indigenous. 96% of Afro-Colombians registered as internally displaced persons live below the poverty line.

Yenly Mendez, a lawyer from the Colombian law collective “Humanidad Vigente” (Effective Humanity), reported in 2008 that human rights violations had increased during the Uribe government. In the first six years of the Uribe government, there were 1122 arbitrary shootings by state security forces. Large-scale projects to use raw materials would be mercilessly carried out and disruptive residents driven away. As examples, the lawyer cited a gold mine on the middle reaches of the Magdalena River, which is operated with capital from South Africa, dams for the operation of power plants, and large lands on which crops for agrofuels are grown. Opposition members were intimidated with threatening letters and murders. Human rights organizations were branded by the government as allies of the guerrillas, which encouraged the paramilitary gangs to further acts of violence. Attempts to have a discussion about the grave social problems would be linked to terrorism by the government. Paramilitary groups, state security forces and the government were responsible for the evictions. One of the main paramilitary leaders , Salvatore Mancuso , admitted that his troops were even supported by the vice-president and the defense minister. So far, President Uribe has prevented the politicians from being opened by pressure on the Supreme Court.

Representatives of the National Indigenous Association of Colombia (ONIC) complain about the government's systematic disregard for the land rights of the indigenous people. During Uribe's term of office, there were at least 1200 murdered and 52,000 displaced among the indigenous people. 18 ethnic groups are threatened with extinction . These figures from 2008 are exceeded in a UNHCR report from August 2010. It warns that at least 34 indigenous peoples in Colombia are threatened in their livelihood due to the ongoing violence on their land. The number of murders of Colombian indigenous people rose by 63 percent from 2008 to 2009. The proportion of indigenous people in Colombia's four million internally displaced people is 15 percent, with a population share of only two percent.


In Colombia, freedom of religion is guaranteed as a fundamental right. The predominant religion is Christianity, to which around 90% of the population belong, of which a good 70% are Roman Catholics , with around 20% evangelical religious communities have seen an increase in popularity in recent years, similar to other countries in Latin America. The Protestant minority is made up of different ethnic groups; many of them come from the USA, but also from Great Britain, Germany and the Netherlands. In addition to the congregations that arose from the missionary work of New Apostolic (approx. 6000 church members), Lutherans , Calvinists , Evangelicals , Seventh-day Adventists , Assemblies of God , Jehovah's Witnesses (166,049), Mormons , Mennonites and charismatic currents, there is in Colombia also a diocese of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America . Judaism and Islam are less represented . About one percent of the population professes indigenous South American religions .


Spanish has been the only official language in Colombia since the colonial era . The Spanish spoken in Colombia is generally perceived (also abroad) as very beautiful Spanish. The Colombian population, especially the Andean people, speak the clearest, most distinct and for foreigners easy to understand Spanish in Latin America, so close to the Castillian ( castellano ) of Spain, a more courtly Spanish of the former conquistadors. Among the various dialects in Colombia, that of Bogotá is the purest of all, with good pronunciation and no intonation.

Colombian Spanish differs in regional peculiarities, for example, instead of the personal pronoun tú, the singular vos ( voseo ) is used for the 2nd person (Valle del Cauca, Antioquia, Caldas, Quindío and Risaralda), while in Boyacá, Cundinamarca and Bogotá (Altiplano -Cundiboyacense) the 2nd person singular sumercé instead of usted is used as a special form of politeness. Furthermore, the 2nd person plural vosotros is also replaced in informal language by the 3rd person plural ustedes , which is only used as a polite form in European Spanish. The verbs are conjugated differently (in the present tense always end stressed and with different imperative forms). There are also a number of lexical discrepancies.

In addition to the predominant Spanish, numerous minority languages ​​have survived that are spoken by the indigenous population. The linguists Robert Malcolm Ward Dixon and Alexandra Aikhenvald put the number of living indigenous languages ​​in the Colombian Amazon as 66, which were spoken by about half a million people at the time.

An expression of the gradually growing appreciation of indigenous languages ​​in Colombia is the decision of the Supreme Administrative Court ( Consejo de Estado de Colombia ) of January 2020 to have its judgments translated into eight indigenous languages, namely Ikun, Kamëntsá, Kogui and Nasa Yuwe, Tatuyo, Uitoto, Wiwa and Wayuunaiki as well as in the two Creole languages ​​of the country.

A Creole language of English is spoken on the islands of San Andrés and Providencia ( Criollo sanandresano ), a Creole language of Spanish in San Basilio de Palenque ( Criollo palenquero ).

Social situation

Percent of people in households living below the minimum standard of living

In Colombia, the number of people affected by serious poverty, i.e. showing at least five poverty indicators, was reduced significantly faster in the first decade of the 21st century than in the previous decades. While in 2003 49 percent of the population was still affected by severe poverty, this proportion fell to 27 percent in 2012. Colombia nonetheless remained a country with a comparatively high level of social inequality. The Gini index of income distribution fell only slightly between 2002 and 2012 from 0.57 to 0.54, which puts Colombia well above the OECD average. According to a survey published by the National University in Bogotá in 2009, the Gini index is 0.59. The head of the study, Ricardo Bonilla, emphasized that Colombia had the worst score in "this dishonorable category" in all of Latin America. In recent years, the population with low and middle incomes in particular has been forced into precarious employment and their incomes have fallen. Only a third of the country's employees have social and health insurance. The richest 20 percent of the population had 62 percent of the total income and were thus responsible for the major part of national consumption. The study gives the proportion of the very poor in the population at 18 percent. Basically, you live better in the city than in the countryside, with life in the capital doing the worst at 19 percent below the standard compared to all other metropolitan areas. Great advances have been made in schooling, with only 2.4 percent of children not attending school regularly, compared to eight percent in 1993. The number of family members sleeping three or more in one room is also 15, 4 percent down to eleven percent, with families living in improper accommodation only falling from 11.6 percent to 10.4 percent.


From 1936 to 1938, the school reformer Fritz Karsen , who had emigrated from Germany, worked as an educational advisor to the government in Colombia. In recognition of his services to the Colombian education system, he was granted Colombian citizenship on February 26, 1937. In Bogotá, Karsen worked with the architect Leopold Rother , who had also fled from Germany , with whom he pushed ahead with the planning for the Bogotá university campus. In the spring of 1938, Karsen had to leave Colombia for health reasons and moved to the USA. Rother stayed in Colombia, where he was able to realize numerous important buildings until his death in 1978.

In Colombia, education is divided into five levels, “educación inicial” (early childhood education), “educación preescolar” (pre-school), “educación básica” (elementary school, five years and secondary school nine years), “educación media” (high school, eleven years old) Years) and "educación superior" (university). The Ministerio de Educación Nacional is responsible for education . On average, state educational institutions are cheaper for families than those in private hands. In addition, titles that are not state-recognized, mostly from private technical schools, are offered, which often aim at the trainee's independence.

In preschool age, kindergartens are offered to parents, almost exclusively from the private sector. The last two years before primary school are called children (four to five years) and “transición” (transition, five to six years). A child in the Transición age group is expected to have already started learning to read and write.

A child's schooling is limited to nine years, five of them in elementary school and four in high school. Usually only for families who have the necessary financial means, schools offer two more years of Educación Media , also known as Bachillerato (roughly equivalent to the German Abitur). Students who do the Bachillerato usually aim to go to university.

Education in Colombia (2005 census)

There are 82 universities in Colombia, 32 of which are state-run, 50 are private (16 of which are church-based). There are also 120 “Instituciones Universitarias” (only Bachelor’s training), 51 “Instituciones Tecnológicas” (technical and scientific vocational training) and 35 “Instituciones Técnicas” (technical professional training). A total of 288 institutions are counted in the higher education sector in the country.

Technical degrees are awarded after three years, graduates (comparable to Bachelor) after four and diplomas after five years. In addition, master's and doctoral degrees are offered, the latter only through state-recognized institutions. The best known and most respected university in Colombia is the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, with its headquarters in Bogotá. Other leading universities are Universidad de los Andes , Universidad de Antioquia and Pontificia Universidad Javeriana . There is also the Universidad de los Llanos . Studying in Colombia is known in Latin America for its high level. There are four German schools in which lessons are partly in German; in Barranquilla , Bogotá , Medellín and Cali .

The literacy rate was 94.7% in 2015 (higher in metropolitan areas). In the 2015 PISA ranking , Colombian students ranked 62nd out of 72 countries in mathematics, 58th in science and 55th in reading comprehension. The performance is thus far below the average for the OECD countries.


The age structure is characterized by a large proportion of the young population. Between 1985 and 1990 the proportion of people under the age of 15 fell from 45.7% to 36%, but this value is still very high. For the male population, life expectancy increased from 54 to 72.6 years between 1965 and 2016, and for women from 59 to 79.0 years.

The medical infrastructure is not evenly distributed across the national territory; Coastal and rural regions are disadvantaged here. Doctors, medical workers and hospitals are concentrated in the metropolitan areas. 23,520 doctors , 13,815 dentists and 43,065 nurses do their job for health; In 1989, 45,858 hospital beds were counted. Due to malnutrition and poor housing conditions, tuberculosis , malaria , dysentery and typhoid are widespread in the medically underserved areas. To remedy this situation, the Colombian state has taken out World Bank loans and used the income from oil production to build up the health system. Maternity and dental treatment are supported by social security. Workers in the industrial sector are also insured against accidents and in the event of occupational disability , and relatives also receive support. Social security is financed by employees, employers and the state with the help of contributions.


Greater Colombia

Long before the arrival of the Spaniards, there were high Indian cultures in what is now Colombia, which traded with one another and, in particular, mastered goldsmithing at the highest level. Chr. Processed clay into figures and objects until around the year 1600. Due to the diverse ecological and landscape conditions, however, a unified state structure never developed in pre-colonial Colombia, as represented by the empire of the Inca in Peru. Among the numerous Indian peoples who colonized Colombia, the following are particularly noteworthy: the Muisca , who lived on the plateaus of the Eastern Cordillera; the Tairona , which built one of the earliest cities on the South American continent with the so-called Ciudad Perdida in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta ; the Sinú, who populated the area along the river of the same name; the Quimbaya in the area of ​​today's coffee zone on the western roof of the Central Cordillera; and last but not least the mysterious cultures of San Agustín with their stone sculptures and Tierradentro with their painted burial chambers, which reached their peak long before the arrival of the Spaniards.

Colonial times

Columbus landing in America

Colombia was discovered for Europe in 1499 by Alonso de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci . Christopher Columbus, on the other hand, in whose honor the country was named "Colombia", never set foot in the country. The first two explorers of Colombia first came to the “La Guajira” peninsula, which they initially named “Isla de Coquivacoa”, believing it was an island. Other parts of the country were then u. a. discovered, researched and often plundered by Rodrigo de Bastidas and Juan de la Cosa . The first colonial bases were Santa Marta (founded in 1525) and Cartagena de Indias (founded in 1533) on the Colombian Caribbean coast .

Colombian Gold Museum
Native art before Columbus

Lured by gold and emeralds, the conquistadors occupied the country. Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada penetrated the Andean region in 1537, subjugated the Chibcha and founded Santa Fe de Bogotá in 1538. Coming from the south, from today's Ecuador, Sebastián de Belalcázar conquered the south of Colombia. Coming from the east, the Ulm merchant Nikolaus Federmann reached Bogotá in 1539 in order to promote the colonization of the country on behalf of the Welser people . The Spaniards built settlements that replaced the former Indian trading centers, such as Santa Fé de Bogotá (founded in 1538) and Tunja (founded in 1539).

Due to its central importance for the Spanish possessions in northern South America, Colombia was raised to a separate province of " New Granada " within the viceroyalty of Peru in 1547 , and Bogotá became the seat of a Real Audiencia . Cartagena de Indias became of paramount importance as a port of call for the fleets from Spain and during the colonial period developed into one of the most important - and best protected - ports in the new world. The country's wealth led to pirate attacks in 1544, 1560 and 1586, including by Francis Drake, on Cartagena. In the 17th century, 80 percent of the world's gold production came from Colombia. Indians worked in the gold mines, many of whom died of weakness and diseases brought in by the Europeans. After that, mostly African slaves took over the work that could be bought in the port of Cartagena.

In 1717, the north of South America (today's Colombia, Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador) was constituted as the viceroyalty of New Granada with Bogotá as the capital. In 1741 Cartagena was attacked by an English armada of 186 warships and defended by the Spanish troops under Don Blas de Lezo .


Templo Histórico de Cúcuta: Here Bolívar and Santander signed the Constitution of Cúcuta and thus established Greater Colombia.
Greater Colombia and its successor state New Granada
The nine states of Colombia between 1863 and 1886
Colombia as a central state (1908)

The conflict that led to independence from Spain took place in Colombia between 1810 and 1819. It began with a group of Creoles going to the Spaniard José González Llorente in Bogota on July 20, 1810 , ostensibly to borrow a vase from him. When Llorente refused, a fight broke out (known as "el grito"). The term "El Florero de Llorente" ("Llorente's flower vase") is also common.

The increasing emergence of a self-confident upper class in the colonies, combined with the weakening of Spain during Napoleon's time, favored the establishment of an independence movement. Led by Simón Bolívar , one country after another declared its independence. After numerous battles (including Pantano de Vargas , Puente de Boyacá ), Colombia succeeded in gaining independence. Bolívar's dream of a “ Greater Colombia ” that united Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama lasted less than ten years. The structure fell apart in 1830 and the liberator died bitterly in Santa Marta.

Bolívar was elected president in 1821. Bolívar tried unsuccessfully to push through the complete abolition of slavery in Colombia. The landowners had too great a power in society for slavery to be abolished by law alone. It was not until the 1850s that large landowners allowed the abolition of slavery. The motive, however, was that a “free” labor employed at a very low wage was still cheaper in the long term.

In 1830, after Bolívar's death, the federation disintegrated , also because Bolívar's attempts to win Peru and Bolivia had failed. Ecuador and Venezuela declared themselves independent. Panama and Colombia formed New Granada . In addition, there were civil war-like political conflicts between liberals and conservatives. The Liberals wanted a federal state and were recruited from the middle classes of the trading cities. The Conservatives wanted a strong central state and came from the class of big landowners. In 1863 the Liberals passed a constitution and named the federal state United States of Colombia . In 1886 the Conservatives issued a constitution in which Colombia again formed a central state, today's "Republic of Colombia". Colombia was the first democracy in Latin America and the second in America after the United States.

It was not until 1886 that Colombia was united into a centralized republic. This republic was put to the test again in 1898, when the ongoing internal conflicts erupted in the “War of the Thousand Days”. Between 1899 and 1902 the opposition liberals fought against the conservative central government without either side being able to achieve a clear victory. The devastating conflict (over 100,000 dead) was finally defused by a peace treaty that was intended to secure future participation in government for the Liberals. Nonetheless, the "conservative hegemony" (since 1886) remained until 1930. Much more serious than the material losses of the war, however, was its foreign policy aftermath. In 1903 the USA exploited Colombia's weakness to assert its geostrategic and economic interests in Central America. For US President Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1908), building a lock canal across the Isthmus of Panama was a military requirement. A split was also favored by the fact that the isthmus was poorly integrated into the Colombian central state and the merchant oligarchy located there felt patronized and ignored by Bogotá. The Colombian Senate had previously rejected the United States' forced construction of the Panama Canal , citing an impending loss of sovereignty, whereupon the United States, through military intervention in agreement with the Panamanian separation movement, forced the secession and the subsequent constitution of the Isthmus Department as an independent and independent state. Colombia emerged from the “War of the Thousand Days” so weakened that it had to grudgingly accept the secession of Panama made possible by military intervention.

Colombia experienced an economic boom in the first half of the 20th century. In the 1920s, coffee accounted for up to 90% of Colombian exports, allowing the country to invest in upgrading transportation infrastructure and strengthening government institutions. The downside of this boom was increasing social tensions between a growing oligarchy and an impoverishing rural population. Until 1929, the economy flourished at unprecedented annual growth rates. After “Black Friday” in 1929 there was a crisis and in 1930 there was a change of government. The liberals brought land reform and industrialization to the country. The murder of the left-wing populist presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán on April 9, 1948 in Bogotá was the spark that caused the powder keg to explode. The civil war ( La Violencia ), which had raged between liberals and conservatives in rural areas since 1946 , was now also carried into the cities.

Armed conflict from 1948

From 1948 until the military dictatorship

Between 1948 and 1953, the so-called La Violencia (literally "The Violence") entered its toughest phase. The conservative President Mariano Ospina Pérez (1946–50) sought participation by the Liberals in government and relied on moderation. Pérez 'also conservative successor Laureano Gómez , however, took a radical course from 1950. Although he had to be temporarily represented by Roberto Urdaneta because of his poor health, Gómez remained the determining man in the background until 1953. During his almost three-year rule, around 80,000 people were killed in the political conflict. The La Violencia , which lasted until about 1963, called for a total of more than 200,000 civilian deaths. After the formation of the so-called “ National Front ” (1958), no peace returned despite a comprehensive amnesty under President Alberto Lleras Camargo (1958–62). The internal elite pact between the leaders of the conservatives (group led by Laureano Gómez) and the liberals (group led by Alberto Lleras) resulted in a system of parity in which both traditional parties replaced each other in power every four years; all offices in the state administration were also filled equally according to party affiliation. The system, which formally existed until 1974, but whose effects could still be felt into the 1980s, reinforced the already existing political exclusivism. Left-wing political actors ( FARC , ELN , M-19 , Quintín Lame, EPL etc.) in particular saw themselves challenged to forcibly create a really participatory political system. Of the guerrilla groups that emerged during the 1960s and 1980s, however, only the FARC that emerged from the liberal peasant self-defense groups ( repúblicas independientes ) had direct roots in the violencia period .

After the short - and untypical for Colombia - intermezzo of a military dictatorship under Gustavo Rojas Pinilla (1953–1957), who was supported by part of the political elite , the traditional civil "sham-democratic rule" continued. Comprehensive social reforms were still not implemented. Certain structural features of the political system, such as the strong preponderance of the executive branch or the exclusion of “radical” political parties, solidified over time. The formally oldest democracy in South America thus assumed the character of a cartel-like concordance democracy .

The constitutional reform adopted by referendum (on December 10, 1957) anchored the active and passive right to vote for women , a right that was already granted in Acto Legislativo Número 3 of August 25, 1954 by the Constituent Assembly under the government of General Rojas Pinilla , but which after its overthrow, like all resolutions of the Congress, was declared null and void; but decree 247 of 1957 of the military junta also called women to a referendum. Women first voted in 1957.

From 1974: Liberal election victory, drug mafia and "left versus right"

After the liberal election victories of Alfonso López Michelsen (1974–1978) and Julio César Turbay Ayala (1978–1982), corruption and mismanagement increased. The dependence of the police and the judiciary on political parties and the government tended to undermine the rule of law and suppress the opposition. Paramilitary groups occupied parts of the country on behalf of the military and large landowners.

The drug mafia , which was growing in economic power at the same time, saw itself threatened by the intervention of the USA in the local drug war since the early 1980s. After the smashing of the large networks Cali Cartel and Medellín Cartel in the drug war (as of 2008), small decentralized networks that mostly sell drugs in the USA gained importance.

An armed conflict in Colombia had been going on for decades . After another wave of violence and terror, President Álvaro Uribe Vélez declared a state of emergency for 90 days on August 12, 2002. The demobilization of paramilitary groups that began in Uribe in 2003 threatened to fail. One reason was the disappearance of the founder of the paramilitary, Carlos Castaño , and another the demand by the paramilitary not to be punished or extradited to the United States for their actions, including drug trafficking . Colombia remains the country with the highest number of kidnappings and political murders in the world . A large part of the human rights violations complained about by the UN are caused by the paramilitaries. The demobilization process sparked controversy over the impunity of those who have committed serious crimes. It is also criticized that drug traffickers who want to avoid extradition to the USA officially pretend to be former paramilitaries and thus benefit from the amnesty.

Without income from drug trafficking, the armed non-state actors in Colombia would not have been able to finance themselves. Successful use of the industrialized countries against illegal drug imports would therefore harm the insurgents. Many observers believe that the war on drugs , which is largely supported by the US, is largely lost.

In 2007 the coca acreage reached about 100,000 hectares. However, it decreased in size over the next few years, as did the area of ​​the fields that were destroyed by herbicides , especially by spraying glyphosate from the air. In November 2011, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos considered a limited legalization of cocaine and marijuana as a possible contribution to resolving the military conflict in Colombia, which the US fiercely opposed. In 2014, according to various estimates, the area under cultivation rose again by 20 to 39 percent to 60,000 to 70,000 hectares. In 2015, President Santos decided to stop chemical destruction of coca plants because of the health consequences. The US embassy has since given up its resistance. Observers also consider the president's decision to be a gesture of peace to the FARC.

2016/17: Peace negotiations with the left-wing guerrilla movement FARC

On June 22, 2016, both sides agreed a final ceasefire. Both sides had already agreed on transitional justice, agricultural development programs in the rebel strongholds and the future political participation of the guerrillas. On September 26, the FARC and the government signed the peace treaty. A (non-binding) referendum took place on October 2nd, in which the voters rejected the peace treaty, contrary to forecasts, with just over 50 percent of the votes. Contrary to previous announcements, both sides gave hope that they would maintain the ceasefire. One problem appeared to be how long the FARC could be financially sustained without having to resume its criminal activity. The rejection came for the following reasons: 60 percent of the voters did not take part in the vote. Obviously, among the 40 percent who participated, there were many people with strong motives to vote yes or no. One motive for the rejection, especially among supporters of the conservative party, was the assumption that the FARC was already so weakened after severe military defeats that it could now be inflicted with the ultimate destruction. A leader of the No movement admitted after the plebiscite that by invoking the dangers of impunity for FARC members, systematic fear had been created in the middle and upper classes. In the lower classes, the lie was spread that after a peace agreement had been concluded, subsidies would have to be raised by the people. Since the agreement was nearly 300 pages long, many voters relied on the messages of their leaders. It was not until President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize that the peace process within Colombia was perceived differently and that the previously indifferent boys and students were mobilized in an unprecedented manner. In this respect, the Nobel Prize worked like a salvavidas (lifebuoy) for Santos.

In November 2016, a new peace treaty with concessions from the FARC was concluded in Havana, which was approved by both chambers of Congress on November 30, 2016 without a dissenting vote. The opponents had boycotted the vote and the bill should no longer be presented to the people.

On February 7, 2017, talks began in Ecuador between the government and the second largest rebel organization, ELN, with the aim of disarming them.

In order to secure the peace process, the United Nations set up a political d. H. purely civilian peace mission called UN Mission in Colombia . Its aim is to monitor the peace agreement, the armistice and monitor the disarmament of rebels. In July 2017 the UN Security Council decided to conduct a second political mission in Colombia. The “verification mission”, which will begin in September 2017, aims to monitor the reintegration of the FARC rebels and the rebuilding of civil institutions in affected areas. The state was also unable to gain control of all former FARC areas due to a lack of infrastructure, which is why the resulting power vacuum in these peripheral areas was exploited by armed groups, some of which are said to be made up of renegade FARC guerrillas.

Colombia was the country with the highest number of internally displaced people in the world in 2018 due to the guerrilla wars . In addition, there was the burden of refugees from Venezuela during the supply crisis there .

Parts of the country are still closed with land mines operated by the FARC, drug cartels and militias, causing mine victims especially among the rural population.

Environmental protection, recognition of collective indigenous land ownership

In 1989 the Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries was adopted as part of the constitution. Between 1986 and 1990 the government recognized over 200,000 km² of rainforest area in the Amazon region as collective indigenous territories (resguardos). In addition, a separate commission for Indian affairs and one for environmental affairs was set up.

Since 1986 Martín von Hildebrand was chairman of the indigenous authority and advisor to President Virgilio Barco Vargas . He set up a network of non-governmental organizations , a foundation called Fundación Gaia Amazonas . He launched the COAMA program, which seeks new ways of protecting the environment in cooperation with indigenous groups. The cross-national initiative CANOA is now active in Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela.



Iván Duque, acting President

Colombia has been a democratically constituted republic since 1886 with a politically strong president based on the US model. The (official) characterization of Colombia as a democracy is primarily based on formal criteria such as regular elections and superficial institutional stability. In terms of quality, however, Colombian democracy shows deficits. In the 2019 Democracy Index of the British magazine The Economist, Colombia ranks 45th out of 167 countries and is therefore considered an "incomplete democracy". In the country report Freedom in the World 2017 by the US non-governmental organization Freedom House , the country's political system is rated as “partially free”.

The president is elected directly by the people for a four-year term and can - since a recent constitutional amendment - be re-elected once. A vice-president helps him with official business. The president can dissolve parliament and force new elections.

As a presidential republic , Colombia is constitutionally divided into executive , legislative and judicial branches . The parliament consists of two chambers, called the Congress, and consists of the House of Representatives (Cámara de Representantes) with 166 seats and the Senate (Senado) , the representation of the 32 regions, with 102 seats. The current constitution was passed on July 5, 1991 after a referendum and is considered one of the most progressive - and extensive - in the world. Almost all offices, from the president to the deputy, are directly elected by the people. Everyone over the age of 18 is considered of legal age and only members of the army and prisoners are not allowed to vote. The President of the Senate and Senate and Congressmen are elected for a four-year term.

Although the executive is formally under the control of the judiciary (Corte Suprema , Corte Constitucional , Consejo de Estado , Consejo Superior de la Judicatura) the legislature and even an ombudsman (Defensor del Pueblo) , in political practice there is a strong preponderance of the president to observe. The congress, which is characterized by clientelism and the enforcement of particular interests, has lost more and more of its control function in recent decades. Current scandals such as the so-called parapolítica (around 30% of all congressmen are suspected of representing the interests of right-wing and illegal paramilitaries ) have shaken confidence in Congress. The same applies to the different courts of law, whose competencies overlap several times. This is currently severely paralyzing the judicial system, which, like all other parts of the state administration, suffers from corruption and nepotism . As a result, the proverbial impunity (impunidad) has become a massive problem within society . In particular, the Justice and Peace Act (Ley de Justicia y Paz) , passed in 2004, has resulted in far-reaching sentences from more than 30,000 paramilitaries, including numerous “ordinary criminals”.

The constitutional position of the president vis-à-vis parliament (veto power) is unusually strong compared to other systems of government in the hemisphere and has become even more dominant with the political reform of 2003. The former president, Álvaro Uribe , had a comfortable majority of so-called "Uribismo parties" in parliament, including the Partido de la U . However, these are by no means historically grown and tightly organized parties with a broad base, but rather ad hoc electoral alliances. The supporters of these election platforms are predominantly made up of dissidents from the two traditional parties who, although they have been able to mobilize a large following in the past, have also not emerged along lines of social conflict. There can therefore be no talk of a definitive end to the classic “two-party rule” (bipartidismo) .

Although Álvaro Uribe did not belong to any party, made significant constitutional changes (e.g. re-election) and presented himself as “President of all Colombians”, the decisive characteristic of the political system remains unchanged. The traditional elites still determine the distribution of goods and the exercise of political power. The cartel-like concordance democracy that emerged during the Frente Nacional (1958–62) has therefore only undergone superficial change. Qualitative democracy criteria such as participation and pluralism, however, are only partially realized. The policy of the current government (seguridad democráctica) , based on massive militarization , coupled with the increased competence of the executive (Estado comunitario) are diametrically opposed to the development of a strong civil society and a stable constitutional state. International organizations such as Amnesty International therefore criticize the current government's negative human and civil rights record.

Colombia is a member of the Union of South American Nations , the Organization of American States , CELAC and the Andean Community (CAN). As part of the CAN, Colombia is trying to conclude an association agreement with the EU. Colombia is also a member of the World Bank, the WTO, the IDB and IMF, the G3 and the United Nations . Accession negotiations to Mercosur are in progress. In the past few months, Colombia has made its first efforts to sign a free trade agreement with the Central American states of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Colombia has signed a bilateral free trade agreement with the USA, the ratification of which by the North American parliament is still pending in June 2007. Colombia maintains industrial relations with the OECD. It joined the OECD on April 28, 2020 .

The Colombian national flag bears the "Bolivarian" colors yellow-blue-red. The national coat of arms shows the isthmus of Panama, the condor as heraldic animal and the motto "freedom and order". The Colombian national anthem with the title "O incorruptible fame" was written at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. It was written by Rafael Núñez and set to music by the Italian Oreste Sindici. It became the country's official anthem in 1928. Only the first stanza is sung on official occasions. A folk song from the south of the country "La Guaneña" is generally considered to be the first hymn of Colombia.

Administrative structure

Between 1861 and 1886, Colombia was a federal republic and consisted of the nine states of Antioquia, Bolívar, Boyacá, Cauca, Cundinamarca, Magdalena, Panamá, Santander and Tolima. In 1886 the federal states were dissolved and replaced by 23 departments. In the early 20th century, another four Intendencias and five Comisarías were set up to manage the sparsely populated jungle areas on the Amazon. In 1991 all Intendencias and Comisarías were converted into regular departments.

Colombia is politically divided into 32 departments and a capital district (Distrito Capital) . Each department has a governor (gobernador) and a departmental council (asamblea departamental) who are elected by the people every four years. The governor cannot be re-elected for an immediately following term. The departments are further divided into 1121 municipalities (municipios) or municipality-like administrative units (corregimientos departamentales abbreviated: CD) , which are governed by a people-elected mayor ( Alcalde ) and a municipal council (Consejo Municipal) .

Because of their special urban structure, ten municipalities are classified as districts (distritos) ; they are also headed by a mayor and a district council (Consejo Distrital) :

  • Bogotá is an exception as a federal district and is still dependent on the Department of Cundinamarca.
  • Barranquilla officially forms the special, industrial and port district of Barranquilla (Distrito Especial, Industrial y Portuario de Barranquilla for short: Distrito Barranquilla) .
  • Santa Marta (Distrito Turístico, Cultural e Histórico de Santa Marta)
  • Cartagena (Distrito Turístico y Cultural de Cartagena de Indias)
  • In 2007, Cúcuta , Popayán , Tunja , Buenaventura , Turbo and Tumaco were also declared special districts.

List of departments whose capital is in brackets:

San Andrés und Providencia Ecuador Peru Brasilien Niederlande Venezuela Panama Atlántico Magdalena La Guajira Bolívar Cesar Norte de Santander Sucre Córdoba Antioquia Santander Chocó Arauca Casanare Boyacá Caldas Risaralda Quindío Bogotá Cundinamarca Tolima Valle del Cauca Cauca Nariño Huila Putumayo Vichada Meta Guainía Guaviare Caquetá Vaupés Amazonas
Colombia and its departments plus Bogotá
  1. Amazon ( Leticia )
  2. Antioquia ( Medellin )
  3. Arauca ( Arauca )
  4. Atlántico ( Barranquilla )
  5. Bolívar ( Cartagena de Indias )
  6. Boyacá ( Tunja )
  7. Caldas ( Manizales )
  8. Caquetá ( Florencia )
  9. Casanare ( Yopal )
  10. Cauca ( Popayán )
  11. Cesar ( Valledupar )
  12. Chocó ( Quibdó )
  13. Cordoba ( Montería )
  14. Cundinamarca ( Bogotá )
  15. Guainía ( Inírida )
  16. Guaviare ( San José del Guaviare )
  17. Huila ( Neiva )
  18. La Guajira ( Riohacha )
  19. Magdalena ( Santa Marta )
  20. Meta ( Villavicencio )
  21. Nariño ( pasto )
  22. Norte de Santander ( Cúcuta )
  23. Putumayo ( Mocoa )
  24. Quindío ( Armenia )
  25. Risaralda ( Pereira )
  26. San Andrés and Providencia ( San Andrés )
  27. Santander ( Bucaramanga )
  28. Sucre ( Sincelejo )
  29. Tolima ( Ibagué )
  30. Valle del Cauca ( Cali )
  31. Vaupés ( Mitú )
  32. Vichada ( Puerto Carreño )
  33. Bogotá - Distrito Capital

The departments can also be found in the Colombian postcodes, the Código Postal Colombia . They are coded in the first two of six digits.


Human rights

For decades there has been an armed conflict in Colombia between left-wing guerrilla forces, right-wing paramilitaries and the regular Colombian army. All parties involved were and still are guilty of serious human rights violations. The majority of the victims come from the civilian population. Members of indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians and smallholders who live in areas that are of particular strategic or economic interest to the conflicting parties are particularly at risk. Millions of people were forcibly displaced from their hometowns during this conflict. Even human rights activists , journalists , trade unionists , a spokesman for victims' associations and victims of paramilitary organizations, demanding the restitution of their land or compensation are particularly at risk.

In the case of displacement, the state often denies the victims recognition as displacement victims. As a result, the official figures and those of non-governmental organizations also differ widely. According to the state registry, Registro Único de Víctimas , just over 4.7 million people were displaced between 1996 and 2012, while the non-governmental organization CODHES estimates more than 5.7 million between 1985 and 2012.

The Colombian government passed a law for “Justice and Peace” (justicia y paz) in 2005 , which was supposed to lay the foundation for the reintegration process of the demobilized and the compensation of their victims. However, the successes are meager.

The representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia, Christian Salazar, declared the disappearance of people to be one of the “most serious human rights crimes”. In the past 30 years, more than 57,200 people have disappeared in Colombia, of whom only 15,600 have appeared on official lists of victims, although the attorney general's office has probably been informed of more than 26,500 cases of disappearances.

Human rights violations by guerrillas and drug cartels

Both the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) continued to commit serious violations of civilian human rights and international law on multiple occasions in 2010, according to Human Rights Watch . The FARC in particular are often responsible for murders , threats , forced evictions , the recruitment of child soldiers and hostage-taking . The government estimates the number of children recruited by FARC, ELN and the drug cartel Clan del Golfo in the years 2000 to 2020 at 14,000.

Both the FARC and the ELN continue to use the internationally banned anti-personnel landmines , which have killed both security forces and numerous civilians.

Human rights violations by paramilitaries and their successors

Since 2003, 30,000 members of paramilitary groups are said to have been demobilized. However, there is strong evidence that many of them were either non-paramilitary or did not renounce armed struggle. Many allegedly demobilized troops continued their actions under new leadership, mostly from the former middle command, in order to gain control of numerous areas. Acts of terror against civilians are used very frequently. According to the Colombian police, these organizations had around 7,350 members in July 2010. The NGO Instituto de Estudios para el Desarrollo y la Paz (Institute for Studies of Development and Peace) estimated the number of armed fighters at around 6,000, who would have spread to 29 of the 32 departments of Colombia. The support from official security units is one of the main reasons for the successor organizations to regain strength.

Like the former paramilitaries, their successors are responsible for drug trafficking, forced recruitment, and widespread abuse such as murders, massacres, rape and forced displacement. According to the Colombian government, the Bacrim -named heirs of the paramilitaries were responsible for 47 percent of the 15,400 murders committed in Colombia in 2010.

Colombia's Supreme Court has made great strides in recent years in addressing the links between members of Congress and paramilitaries. In the wake of the so-called “parascandal”, investigations were initiated into up to 150 members of the Congress, most of them from the coalition of ex-President Álvaro Uribe. Ultimately, 20 charges were brought. Uribe's government had regularly attempted to sabotage such investigations, including public or personal attacks against members of the Supreme Court. The new President Santos promised respect for the independence of the courts.

A request from the Colombian Coalition Against Torture (CCCT) to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture was rejected by the Colombian government. Ratification would enable independent international organizations to carry out inspections of places of detention. The reason for the rejection was that the protocol was unnecessary in Colombia because various mechanisms existed at all levels of government to prevent torture.

Colombian military and impunity

The security forces are charged with murdering a total of 2,399 people between 1981 and 2012. Most of the known illegal executions took place between 2006 and 2008, when Juan Manuel Santos was Minister of Defense. These included the so-called " false positives " (falsos positivos) , civilians who were murdered and put in FARC uniforms in order to receive a government-awarded bounty for every FARC fighter killed. After the number of illegal executions by military personnel had fallen sharply in 2009, there were 58 percent more cases and 70 percent more victims in 2010 than in 2009, according to the Colombian non-governmental organization CINEP . At that time there were seven cases with 16 victims, while in 2010 twelve cases with 23 victims were registered. In contrast to before, the victims would no longer be presented as guerrilla fighters, but as criminals. Between 2001 and 2010 there were a total of 887 extrajudicial executions, as well as cases of torture, displacement and other crimes by official police or military units. Investigations took place in 3,600 cases. Military justice often hampers such investigations by refusing to refer cases to normal civil courts.

Violence against trade unionists

Colombia is considered one of the most dangerous countries for trade unionists. From 1997 to 2010 the non-governmental organization for workers' rights ENS counted 2,800 murders, mostly carried out by paramilitary groups. Although the number has recently decreased, between 2007 and 2009 between 39 and 52 cases were reported annually.

Human rights activists

Human rights defenders are regularly the target of threats or physical assault. In the first half of 2010 alone, seven activists were killed and 51 faced serious threats. Between July and October 15, 2010, 30 human rights defenders and social workers were killed, according to Colombian and international NGOs.

Illegal wiretapping

In February 2009, the most widely read Colombian magazine Semana (Week) uncovered a wiretapping scandal involving the Colombian secret service DAS . For years, telecommunications and electronic communications were monitored by a large number of members of various civil society groups, including journalists, opposition politicians and judges of the Supreme Court. The aim of the secret service, which reported to the highest government circles around the office of Alvaro Uribe, was death threats and dirt campaigns .



Presidential election

2006 presidential election

The people of Colombia elected a new president on May 28, 2006. The candidates for election included the incumbent President Álvaro Uribe , the Liberal candidate Horacio Serpa , the center-left candidate Carlos Gaviria from the PDA and the former mayor of the capital Bogotá, Antanas Mockus . Álvaro Uribe was confirmed in office with 62% of the vote, the highest figure in the last 80 years. The turnout decreased compared to the last election. 54.89% of those eligible to vote did not vote, 53.53% did so in the 2002 election.

2010 presidential election

The 2010 presidential elections in Colombia took place on May 30th and June 20th. Due to the rejection of a constitutional amendment by the Colombian Constitutional Court, the incumbent President Álvaro Uribe Vélez was no longer allowed to run for a third term in office. In the first ballot on May 30, none of the candidates received more than 50% of the vote. Former defense minister Juan Manuel Santos , who was close to Uribe, and the green politician Antanas Mockus , a former mayor of the capital Bogotá , received the highest percentage of votes and ran a runoff election on June 20. Santos won this election and won 68.9% of the vote. With a voter turnout of less than 45%, Mockus reached 27.5%.

2018 presidential election

Election fraud

The practice of buying votes is widespread in some regions of the country. The Misión de Observación Electoral (Election Observation Mission) stated that armed groups formed by ex-paramilitaries persuade the population to vote in favor of candidates, with the practice of forced voting now often giving way to drug-funded voting; in the 2010 parliamentary elections to an extent and with an openness like never before. A vote can cost anywhere from $ 10 to $ 70, depending on the region. According to a Gallup poll, seven percent of voters have at some point sold their vote for money, favors, or promises, and 22 percent received such an offer. The guerrillas also take part in buying votes in the areas they are fighting for.

Foreign policy

One focus of Colombian foreign policy is regional integration. Colombia maintains a particularly close relationship with the partner countries of the Pacific Alliance ( Chile , Peru and Mexico ), which has made significant progress in integration and deepening mutual relations in a short period of time. Colombia is also a member of the Andean Community (CAN), the Association of Caribbean States (AEC) and the Union of South American States (UNASUR).

With the aim of increased regional cooperation, the Santos government has significantly improved relations with neighboring countries. However, the relationship with Venezuela has deteriorated considerably again since mid-2015, measurable in the fact that the border was closed for over a year. The land border with Venezuela was only reopened in August 2016, although the Venezuelan government continues to close the border sporadically. In early 2019, Venezuela finally broke off diplomatic relations with Colombia.

The United States is an important ally of Colombia. Colombia is one of the most America-friendly countries in Latin America. Both countries signed a joint free trade agreement in October 2011. The Asia-Pacific region is also of increasing political and economic interest to Colombia.


Colombian UH-60L throws flares

The Colombian Armed Forces are divided into the Army ( Ejército Nacional de Colombia ), the Navy ( Armada Nacional ), the Air Force ( Fuerza Aérea Colombiana ) and the Federal Police ( Policía Nacional de Colombia ). In Colombia there is general military service for men from 12 to 22 months. Women can voluntarily choose to work in arms. In practice, however, compulsory military service is often undermined (there are legal exceptions: "Bachilleres", students, only children, etc.), which is why the armed forces are almost exclusively recruited from the lower classes. Because of this social injustice, President Álvaro Uribe has announced that he will establish a professional army in the long term .

ARC Gloria Navy training ship

The armed forces report directly to the President, who is the Commander in Chief . After President Uribe took office in 2002, the number of soldiers has increased by more than half. In 2001, around 190,000 men served as soldiers, while around 250,000 soldiers are currently serving in all areas. As part of the policy of “democratic security”, this number is to increase to around 270,000 soldiers by 2010. There are also around 150,000 police officers, some of whom belong to the military police .

For 2008 the government of Colombia plans to spend 5% of GDP on the military sector, which would exceed the GDP share of US military spending (4.06%, 2005). With a budget of US $ 13.9 billion (6.3% of GDP) in 2007, Colombia ranks second in all of South America behind much larger Brazil in terms of military spending, which is also reflected in the continued presence of aggressively acting guerrilla movements explained. In the years 2010 to 2013, military spending was between 3.1 and 3.6% of the gross domestic product.

The Plan Colombia legitimizes the armed forces to carry out police duties, especially in the " war on drugs ".


Since the new constitution of 1991, government investment in infrastructure has declined, while private investment has increased. As a result, the participation of the private sector in infrastructure projects of transport, electricity and water supply has increased rapidly. Since 1994, parts of the trunk road network have been granted concession to private entrepreneurs who have managed 10% to 15% of the road network to date. These routes are financed through a toll .

Road traffic

Historic bridge in Popayán

Together with the 112,998 km of road network , of which only approx. 26,000 km are paved, Colombia has one of the worst transport infrastructures in South and Central America. At around 100 m / km², the road expansion is below the Latin American average of 118 m / km².

One of the main connecting roads is the Panamericana , which runs from Alaska to southern Chile and connects North America with South America. In the jungle area of ​​the Darién, in the border area between Panama and Colombia, there is, however, an interruption, the so-called Tapón del Darién (also known under the English name Darien Gap ), which has not yet been closed - among other things for disease hygiene reasons and to protect the local rainforest area.

In recent years, numerous large projects have been tackled, including a tunnel in the Armenia and Ibagué area under the Central Cordillera to improve Bogotá's connection to Cali and on to the Pacific port of Buenaventura.

Road traffic in the country is considered unsafe. In 2013, there were a total of 16.8 road deaths for every 100,000 inhabitants in Colombia. For comparison: In Germany there were 4.3 deaths in the same year. A total of 8100 people were killed in traffic.

Bus transport

As in the capital, the bus network is privately owned and can appear confusing. The TransMilenio system located in the capital is also operated privately, but is subject to stronger state control. This is more like a subway, because the lanes are used exclusively for the TransMilenio bus service. Similar bus systems have been introduced in most large cities (e.g. Masivo Integrado de Occidente ). The most common mode of transport between cities and villages is the intercity bus. Different bus operators offer a variety of comfort and price categories. There are bus stations in almost every city. In city traffic there are hardly any bus stops outside of the TransMilenio system. The bus stops almost everywhere on call.

Rail transport

Railway network

Colombia has a 3,304 km long rail network in 914 mm gauge and a 150 km long standard gauge network for the transport of coal from El Cerrejón to the port of Bahía Portete . Passenger traffic by rail is limited to three short tourist routes in the Bogotá area. The Pacific network from the port of Buenaventura via Cali to Zarzal and Armenia is currently being modernized. In Medellín there is also a modern rapid transit system (with overhead lines ), the Metro de Medellín .


A large part of Colombia's imports and exports is handled via large seaports that have modern container terminals. Of greater importance are the ports of Barranquilla (Caribbean), Buenaventura (Pacific Ocean), Cartagena (Caribbean), Muelles El Bosque , Puerto Bolivar (Caribbean), Santa Marta (Caribbean) and Turbo (Caribbean).

air traffic

The largest airport in Colombia is the Aeropuerto Internacional El Dorado in the capital, which is currently being expanded. A second, even larger airport, Eldorado II, northwest of El Dorado was decided and is currently being planned or under construction. There are also many small regional airports spread all over the country, the number of airports is estimated at 980.


There are around 26 million landline telephones in operation. The second largest telecommunications group in Colombia is TELECOM, the largest is ETB (Empresa de Teléfonos de Bogotá), the largest provider of Internet and mobile communications services in Colombia. COMCEL, Movistar and Tigo and other, in some cases local, providers now operate a nearly area-wide network for mobile telephony.

Officially, 413 AM and 217 FM radio stations broadcast . There are approximately 10.5 million television receivers.

In 2016, 56.9% of the population had access to the internet.

Postal services

The postal system was already introduced during the Spanish colonial period, and Colombian postage stamps were available from 1859.

Electricity supply

According to the Unidad de Planeación Minero Energética (UPME), the installed capacity of power plants in Colombia in 2014 was 14,620 MW , of which hydropower plants accounted for 9,913 MW (67.8%), gas-fired power plants 3,909 MW (26.7%) and others caloric power plants 701 MW (4.8%). A total of 62.197 billion kWh were generated in 2013 , of which 41.836 billion (67%) were generated by hydropower plants and 16.839 billion (27%) by thermal power plants. In 2011, Colombia was 45th in the world with 61.82 billion kWh in terms of generation.


The articles Economy of Colombia and Colombia # Economy overlap thematically. Help me to better differentiate or merge the articles (→  instructions ) . To do this, take part in the relevant redundancy discussion . Please remove this module only after the redundancy has been completely processed and do not forget to include the relevant entry on the redundancy discussion page{{ Done | 1 = ~~~~}}to mark. H7 ( discussion ) 16:27, Mar. 2017 (CET)

Economic situation

Consumer price index in Colombia and four other states in northwestern South America , 1994–2004

Colombia's economy has been growing steadily since the 1990s, making it the largest growth market in South America after Chile . In the past 20 years, the consumer goods and basic industries have expanded. Today the food and textile industries play the largest role.

Colombia is generally said to have great economic potential. This is due, among other things, to advanced industrialization and the large amount of raw materials.

In a ranking of the most entrepreneur-friendly countries in the world, which was compiled by the World Bank subsidiary International Finance Corporation , Colombia came 37th in 2009 after St. Lucia and ahead of Azerbaijan (1st place Singapore) and is therefore considered a positive example of financial stability and market reforms.

Much of the Colombian economy is directly or indirectly influenced by the cultivation and production of illicit drugs . The aid organization Bread for the World reported in 2009 that around 70% of global cocaine production is in Colombia. For example, farmers grow coca in particular , but also opium poppies , because they expect a better income than with the production of food or coffee; and pressure from drug cartels often does not allow coca farmers to switch to legal goods.

The unemployment rate in 2017 was 10.5%. In 2011, 17% of all workers worked in agriculture, 62% in the service sector and 21% in industry. A large proportion of the jobs are informal. The total number of employees is estimated at 25.8 million for 2017, 42.9% of them women.

In the Global Competitiveness Index , which measures a country's competitiveness, Colombia ranks 66th out of 137 countries (as of 2017-2018). In 2017, the country ranks 37th out of 180 countries in the index for economic freedom .


The main problem facing the Colombian economy is unemployment. According to official statistics, there are 2.85 million unemployed in Colombia (January 2017). However, people who are underemployed or who receive a wage so low that it is insufficient to meet basic needs are not included in this figure. The result of this rising unemployment is a steady increase in poverty in Colombia. Another serious problem is corruption, which affects both state administration and the private sector.

Foreign trade

Antigua Aduana - Historic Customs House in Barranquilla

Colombia has signed or negotiated free trade agreements with more than a dozen countries; The free trade agreement between Colombia and the USA came into force in May 2012. The US and Colombia have benefited from the FTA, but Colombia's ability to take full advantage of its improved access to American markets remains limited by the lack of export diversification.

The diversification of the Colombian economy is still not satisfactory. In the meantime, coffee plays an important role, but only plays a minor role with around 15% of export earnings. With the globalization of the business world, other products have come to the fore such as bananas, cut flowers , emeralds , exotic fruits, sugar cane and sugar , tobacco , rice , industrial products, fashion and designer items , clothing, textiles , leather goods , chemicals, food , petroleum , natural gas and petroleum derivatives, bituminous coal and coal derivatives, gold and nickel. The most important import goods are motor vehicles, equipment for telecommunications, chemical products and intermediate products, iron and steel products, paper and cardboard, polyethylene and agricultural products.

The country ranks 17th in agricultural exports to the United States.

The most important trading partner is the USA, which takes 40% of all exports. The second most important trading partner are the states of the Andean Community, followed by the European Union. The country's main trading partners in Latin America are: Venezuela, Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile and Argentina. Trade with the People's Republic of China is also becoming increasingly important.

In December 2012, the European Parliament ratified a free trade agreement with Colombia and Peru that aims to facilitate trade between Europe and the two Latin American countries. However, environmental organizations like Rettet den Regenwald criticize the fact that the agreement does not contain any binding environmental and human rights standards. An EU report shows that, without such guidelines, the free trade agreement would endanger water quality and biodiversity in Colombia and Peru and would destroy sensitive ecosystems. Advantages for Colombia are:

  • Up to 62,000 tonnes of sugar can be exported to the EU duty-free. 3% growth in this quota per year.
  • Products made from sugar can be exported to the EU up to 20,000 tons. Here, too, there is a 3% growth in this rate per year.
  • Ethanol and biodiesel , roasted coffee, palm oil , and tobacco can be exported duty-free.
  • Flowers can be exported in unlimited quantities.
  • Most fruits and vegetables can be marketed duty-free. For bananas, the customs tariff is reduced to € 148 and further down to € 75 per ton by 2020.
  • Up to 5600 tons of meat can be exported. 10% growth in this quota per year.

State budget

The state budget in 2016 comprised expenditures equivalent to US $ 84.2 billion , which was offset by income equivalent to US $ 76.0 billion. This results in a budget deficit of 2.0% of GDP .

The national debt in 2016 was 47.6% of GDP.

In 2006, the share of government expenditure (as a percentage of GDP) was as follows:

Economic indicators

The important economic indicators of gross domestic product and foreign trade have developed as follows in recent years:

Change in gross domestic product (GDP), real
in% compared to the previous year
year 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Change in% yoy 6.9 3.5 1.7 4.0 6.6 4.0 4.9 4.4 3.1 2.0 1.8
Source: World Bank
Development of GDP (nominal)
absolute (in billion US dollars) per inhabitant (in thousands of US dollars)
year 2015 2016 2017 year 2015 2016 2017
GDP in billions of US dollars 291 280 309 GDP per inhabitant (in thousands of US $) 6.0 5.8 5.8
Source: World Bank
Main trading partner (2016)
Import (in%) of Export (in%) to
United StatesUnited States United States 26.7 United StatesUnited States United States 32.9
China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 19.3 PanamaPanama Panama 6.2
MexicoMexico Mexico 7.6 EcuadorEcuador Ecuador 3.9
BrazilBrazil Brazil 4.7 NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 3.9
GermanyGermany Germany 3.8 SpainSpain Spain 3.7
JapanJapan Japan 2.5 China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 3.6
IndiaIndia India 2.1 PeruPeru Peru 3.4
United NationsU.N. other states 33.3 United NationsU.N. other states 42.4
Source: GTAI
Development of foreign trade
in billion US dollars and its year-on-year change in%
2014 2015 2016
Billion dollars % yoy Billion dollars % yoy Billion dollars % year-on-year
import 64.0 +7.8 54.0 −15.6 44.8 −17.0
export 54.8 −6.8 35.7 −34.9 31.0 −13.0
balance −9.2 −18.3 −13.8
Source: GTAI


Teatro Colón, theater in Bogotá

The large area of ​​the country, the colonization by the Spaniards and the geographical remoteness of some regions make it impossible to speak of a uniform Colombian culture. The regions of the country have developed at different speeds over the decades and have been influenced by often forced immigration from Africa, Europe and Arabia. The Christian Catholic religion can, however, be rated as a unifying feature, since over 90% of the population are baptized Catholic. Many of the following characteristics of individual subcultures in Colombia are comparable to those of other South and Central American countries.

public holidays

date Surname German name
January 1st Año Nuevo New Year
6th January* Epifanía / 3 Reyes Magos Epiphany
19th March* San Jose Saint Joseph
variable Jueves Santo Maundy Thursday
variable Viernes Santo Good Friday
1st of May Día del Trabajo Labor Day
variable * Ascension del Señor Ascension of Christ
variable * Corpus Christi Corpus Christi
variable * Sagrado Corazón Sacred Heart Festival
17.-18. June* Dia del Padre Fathers day
20th of July Día de la Independencia independence Day
August 7th Batalla de Boyacá Liberation Day
15th of August Asuncion de la Virgen Assumption Day
October 12th* Día de la Raza Race Day (see also Columbus Day )
November 1st* Día de Todos los Santos All Saints Day
November 11th* Independencia de Cartagena Independence from Cartagena
December 8 * Inmaculada Concepción Immaculate conception
25 December Navidad Christmas
Holidays that are postponed to the following Monday are marked with *. All public holidays listed here are considered national holidays.


The Colombian cuisine is, according to the geography of the country, very diverse with strong regional differences. The common denominator is the importance of rice, potatoes, beans and plantains. In the coastal lowlands, fish dominates as the main course, while in the highlands, more hearty dishes such as the Ajiaco stew are characteristic.


Colombian architecture has also made significant contributions. In addition to the outstanding buildings from the colonial era that have been preserved in cities such as Cartagena or Mompox, more recent buildings are also worth mentioning. The name Rogelio Salmona especially stands for the modern buildings that shape the face of many Colombian cities.

Regional cultures

Culture of the Paisas

The word paisa certainly comes from the word paisano ( farmer ), but is considered in Colombia to describe a subculture of those who come from the departments of Antioquia , Caldas , Quindío , Risaralda , the north of the Valle del Cauca and northeast of the Tolima .

The paisa is considered productive, active, thrifty and entrepreneurial, but this could well stem from a variety of prejudices. Due to the geographical location, which is very mountainous, the paisas were very independent from the culture of the Spaniards and the neighboring areas during the Conquista . This subculture is also characterized by its own accent, which is characterized by the peculiarity of the Voseo , a different way of speaking in Spanish.

Culture of the Caleños

The Caleños come from the region of the Cauca Valley . They are a happy breed whose life is dominated by dancing salsa to the music of salsa . The fiesta at the Salsódromo is world famous and attracts thousands of visitors. The population is known to speak slowly and take their time. Instead of Pan (bread) they say Pam . Therefore, the residents living there z. For example, in all TV imitations or radio parodies “de huevóm” is spoken, which means something like “stupid person who everyone takes advantage of or does not take advantage of an opportunity”.

Culture of the Costeños

A person from the Caribbean coastal region of Colombia, who is mostly of African descent, is named as Costeño. The Costeños are characterized as happy and loud people. This subculture is particularly pronounced in the areas around the cities of Cartagena , Barranquilla and Santa Marta . Bananas, coconuts, rice and fish are common in this area and are characteristic of the Costeños. Their accent is recognized by the fact that the 's' at the end of the word is not pronounced and is suppressed when it is followed by a consonant (example: cohta instead of costa).

Culture of the Llaneros

The Llaneros come from the tropical savannas around the Orinoco River. The culture has remained largely the same since the division of Colombia and Venezuela in 1830.

Art in general

Death mask, Ilama (Calima), Colombia, 1st millennium BC Chr., Gold sheet
Torso of a woman by Botero

Colombia has a long history of the arts that goes back to pre-Columbian times. Gold figures, jewelry and clay work are known from these times. In the capital Bogotá , many of these pieces can be admired in the Gold Museum , because it is the largest in the world. However, a large part of the feats has disappeared since the discovery, first by the discoverer and then by grave robbers . The diverse ethnic groups continue to produce various types of art, including the hand-woven handbags ( mochilas ) and hammocks of the Guajiros .

The best-known Colombian artists of the 20th century include Ómar Rayo , Enrique Grau , Fernando Botero and Alejandro Obregón . Other outstanding artists of the past decades are Edgar Negret , Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar , Rodrigo Arenas Betancourt , Doris Salcedo and the German-born Guillermo Wiedemann and Leopold Richter.

Salt Cathedral - Adam


The best- known Colombian writer is the Nobel laureate for literature Gabriel García Márquez , who achieved world fame with works such as One Hundred Years of Solitude or Love in the Times of Cholera . Other famous writers are Jorge Isaacs , Álvaro Mutis , Tomás Carrasquilla , Fernando Vallejo and José Eustasio Rivera . World-famous poets are José Asunción Silva and Guillermo Valencia . In children's literature, the country is represented by the fable poet Rafael Pombo .

Bogotá was chosen by UNESCO as the 2007 World Book Capital .


The Colombian theater belongs to the avant-garde of Latin America. In particular, the Iberoamericano de Teatro festival in Bogotá, organized by Fanny Mikey every two years, has become a must for Latin American theater professionals. Barranquilla , Pasto and Riosucio have become known through nationally known carnival celebrations.

music and dance

Shakira : "Music export No. 1"

Traditional Colombian music is very diverse. The music of the Caribbean coast , where many Afro-Colombians live, is heavily influenced by African rhythms, as can be heard in styles like the cumbia and the related but melodic vallenato . A new genre of music that has emerged in this region of Colombia is the Champeta , which is also strongly influenced by African and Caribbean influences . An example of a style of music and dance shaped by the Spanish conquerors would be Joropo , which is popular in the Llanos , a common region of Colombia and Venezuela .

The traditional music of the Andean region around Bogotá, on the other hand, is completely different, which is a mixture of Spanish and pre-Columbian style elements and thus resembles the folklore music of the highlands of Peru and Ecuador . In the rest of the country, traditional music is mainly influenced by Spanish and Italian influences.

Salsa is also very popular in Colombia as in the rest of South America. Famous Colombian salsa performers are Grupo Niche , Fruko y sus Tesos and Joe Arroyo . The currently most famous musicians in Colombia are the singer Shakira and the singers J Balvin and Maluma . In the meantime, the pop singer Juanes and the Vallenato interpreter Carlos Vives have achieved international fame.

There has been a steadily growing modern musical culture in the major Colombian cities since the 1990s. The Rock al Parque festival took place for the first time in 1994 and is now the largest free rock festival in Latin America. In recent years, hip-hop has also gained more and more recognition in the big cities of Colombia. The young people, who often live in ghetto-like neighborhoods, identify with the Afro-American subculture, as they too live on the edge of society. The Sociedad FB7 from Medellín made a tour through Germany in 2005.

Colombia also has a long tradition of composing classical music with European characteristics. This begins with the sacred compositions at the cathedral of Bogotá from the 17th century, some of which are preserved today in the cathedral archive. There are also compositions from the 18th and early 19th centuries

“Classical” music production experienced an upswing in the late 19th and 20th centuries, comparable to the development in other South American countries after gaining independence. Particularly noteworthy is the composer Adolfo Mejía , whose works are very popular in Colombia.

Colombia has several professional symphony orchestras and several professional training centers for music professions.

Colombian dance is also a cultural asset that has developed in many regional ways.


Although Colombian film is not as internationally known as the film industry in Brazil or Cuba, it has found recognition at film festivals in Europe with representatives such as Sergio Cabrera . In this context - shallower - Colombian TV productions should also be mentioned, such as the telenovela format Yo soy Betty, la Fea , which is copied around the globe.

UNESCO World Heritage Site in Colombia

The UNESCO declared the previous six places in Colombia World Heritage Site :

The following are recognized as masterpieces of the oral and intangible cultural heritage :


The most widely read newspapers are El Tiempo and until the conversion to the weekly newspaper El Espectador . The publications El Nuevo Siglo , El Colombiano , El País and La República , Vanguardia Liberal , La Patria, El Heraldo , El Nuevo Dia and El Universal are also published . The best-known magazines are Semana (politics), Cambio (politics), Portafolio (economy), Cromos (vaudeville) and SoHo (vaudeville).

Radio is a very popular medium in Colombia. There are an abundance of government and private radio stations. Many of the private radio stations are grouped together in cadenas (radio chains) and so many stations from Bogotá can be received throughout the country. A special feature in Colombia are the so-called hostage radios such as Las voces del secuestro (“The voices of the kidnapping”) on the Caracol broadcaster . In these special programs, which are mostly broadcast at night, the families of the many people abducted by guerrillas or paramilitaries can send a message to their relatives.

Colombia's television world consists of around 15 channels. Some Colombian television series, including many telenovelas and family series like Yo soy Betty, la fea , have become export hits because of their low production costs and high quality. Yo soy Betty, la fea became the template for several other television series, for example in Germany for Verliebt in Berlin .

In Colombia nowadays the press is largely free . As in many countries, the individual media are owned by only a few companies and are also used for political purposes. The Organización Ardila Lülle example is the owner of Radio Cadena Nacional (RCN), a large radio station, since 1995 its own TV channel RCN Televisión (rcntv) and also the largest music publisher Sonolux . Companies and holdings of the Santo Domingo family with the Valorem group are (part of) the owners of Radio Caracol , Caracol TV , Bogotá City TV and the El Espectador newspaper . In the 2017 press freedom ranking published by Reporters Without Borders , Colombia was ranked 129th out of 180 countries. The situation of press freedom in the country is rated by Reporters Without Borders as "difficult".


Colombia is known internationally for football and cycling and was represented in Formula 1 for several years by Juan Pablo Montoya , who now drives in the NASCAR league .

In 2005 the golfer María Isabel Baena won a title for Colombia for the first time in the Match Play championship held in New Jersey , USA . The Colombian Camilo Villegas now takes second place behind legendary player Tiger Woods in the 2006 Ford Golf Championship in Miami. Baena, Villegas and Jesus Armando Amaya “La Estrellita” are the strongest representatives of the country in this extraordinary discipline for a Latin American country. They promise a lot for the LPGA and PGA in the years to come. The most famous tennis players are Fabiola Zuluaga , Miguel Tobón and Alejandro Falla . Clara Juliana Guerrero is the world's best bowling player , a sport in which u. a. the siblings Paola Rocío Gómez Ardila and Jaime Andrés Gómez Ardila represent the country.


In Colombia boxing is particularly common on the coasts. However, the infrastructure to promote this sport is not a state priority. Most of the boxers who became famous later became this with their own resources. Famous boxers are the legendary Antonio Cervantes “Kid Pambelé”, who was world champion in the 140 pound junior weight class of the ( WBA ) for four years , and Miguel “Happy” Lora , who won the world title in the 118 pound bantamweight class between 1985 and 1989 ( WBC ) held. Another up-and-coming boxer who is among the top middleweight players right now is Edison Miranda .


Caterine Ibargüen won the gold medal in the triple jump at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro with 15.17 meters .


A football league was planned in 1924 and sealed by joining the Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol (CONMEBOL) in 1936. The national team played for the first time in 1962 in Chile at the World Cup . But she received only one point from three games, but played a historic game with a 4: 4 against the USSR . In 1964 the Bundesliga “Federación de Fútbol de Colombia (Fedebol)” was founded with the support of FIFA . In 1974, Colombia was awarded the FIFA World Cup to host the 1986 World Cup, but it ultimately went to Mexico in 1981 due to disagreements between private and public funding .

The greatest success of the national soccer team to date is the Copa America title, won in 2001 , which was also played in Colombia. Other highlights were the qualification for the soccer world championships of 1962, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2014 and 2018 as well as the historic 5-0 victory over Argentina in Buenos Aires . This game served to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the USA.


Baseball has been played professionally in Colombia since 1948 in the Liga Colombiana de Béisbol Profesional . The league consists of six teams. The best baseball talents in Colombia play in the MLB in North America .


Óscar Figueroa won the gold medal in weightlifting with 318 kg in the weight class up to 62 kg at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro .


Nairo Quintana is a Colombian road cyclist whose greatest achievements to date are winning the Giro d'Italia 2014 and Vuelta a España 2016.

After football, cycling can be considered a national sport for the Colombians. The first race in South America , the Vuelta a Colombia , was completed in 1951 in Colombia.

The first known Colombian cyclist in the Tour de France was Martín Emilio Rodríguez , who finished 27th in the 1977 race. Fabio Parra won three stages in 1988 and finished third in the overall standings. Luis “Lucho” Alberto Herrera won the spotted jersey of the winner of the mountain classification twice in 1985 and 1987 and achieved a total of five stage victories and thus became a Colombian national hero.

In 2013 Nairo Quintana won a stage of the Tour de France , the dotted jersey, the junior ranking and secured second place in the overall standings and thus triggered another great cycling euphoria in Colombia.

Mariana Pajón won the gold medal in BMX at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro with 34.09 seconds .

In 2019, Egan Bernal became the first Colombian to win the Tour de France.

Inline skating

For several years now, Colombia has been one of the strongest nations in the world in this discipline

For several years now, Colombia has been one of the strongest nations in the world in this discipline. The most famous inline skater is Cecilia Baena (Sportswoman of the year 2001 in Colombia), at the Pan American Championships in 2005 she won nine medals. In 2004 she became three-time world champion in Italy . She also won the largest inline race in the world, the Berlin Marathon with 10,000 participants. Other well-known world champions and world record holders are Diego Rosero and Jorge Andrés Botero . The national team won the world championship titles in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Tagus river

Tejo , a modern version of an Indian game called Turmequé, has been played for over 500 years in the departments of Cundinamarca and Boyacá and was named a national sport by the Colombian Congress in June 2000 . The modern version envisages throwing an iron hemisphere, the Tejo, into a metallic circle and thus forcing the black powder pouches, the mechas , placed on the four cardinal points to make a loud bang. Whoever is closest to the center wins the game if none of the mechas are hit. If a mecha is hit, the player's individual or team wins, regardless of who is closest to the center. The games are traditionally accompanied by alcoholic beverages such as beer and aguardiente . The breweries are therefore naturally the largest sponsors .


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  • Werner Hörtner: Colombia at a crossroads. A country between war and peace. Rotpunktverlag, Zurich 2013, ISBN 978-3-85869-559-8 .
  • Thomas Jäger u. a .: The tragedy of Colombia. State collapse, violent markets and drug economy. VS Verlag for Social Sciences, Wiesbaden 2007.
  • Sabine Kurtenbach: State Organization and War in Latin America. Münster 1991, ISBN 3-89473-082-X .
  • Daniel Pécaut: Crónica de cuatro décadas de política colombiana. Norma, Bogotá 2006, ISBN 958-04-9551-3 .
  • Sven Schuster: I took Panama. The separation of Panama from the point of view of the more recent historiography of Panama, Colombia and the USA. ZILAS, Eichstätt 2006, ISSN  0946-5030 .
  • Frank Semper: The rights of the indigenous peoples in Colombia. ISBN 3-9805953-7-4 .
  • Frank Semper: Gateway to the Amazon. ISBN 3-9805953-1-5 .
  • Rafael Sevilla (Ed.): Colombia - Land of Solitude? Bad Honnef 1999, ISBN 3-89502-095-8 .
  • Christian Völkel: The Political Origins of Human Development. State Formation, Institutional Persistence and Long-Run-Educational Development in Latin America. Dissertation. Bremen 2011.
  • Bruce M. Wilson: Institutional Reform and Rights Revolutions in Latin America: The Cases of Costa Rica and Colombia. In: Journal of Politics in Latin America. Hamburg 2009.
  • Ernesto Vendries Bray, Leopold Rother and the modern movement in Colombia , dissertation at the Architecture Faculty of the Technical University of Darmstadt , Darmstadt, 2014. Available on the Internet under Dissertation on Leopold Rother

Web links

Wiktionary: Colombia  - explanations of meanings, origins of words, synonyms, translations
Commons : Colombia  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Colombia  - Travel Guide
Wikimedia Atlas: Colombia  - geographical and historical maps

Official websites

Other websites

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Coordinates: 4 °  N , 74 °  W