external image Colombia_flag.gif

PHYSICAL GEOGRAHYexternal image co-map.gif

Colombia is a physically diverse country located in northern South America. It is the only country bordered by both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. The coastal countries of Panama, Venezuela, and Ecuador, as well as the interior countries of Brazil and Peru border Colombia.
Colombia lies 4 00 degrees North and 72 00 degrees West. Its total area is 1,138,914 square kilometres with a 3,208 km of coastline. A portion of the country rests on the equator while southern areas lie in the Amazon Basin.

Its terrain consists of the high Andes mountain chain that cuts across the country and gives the land its beautiful mountain highlands, central highlands, and eastern lowland plains. Colombia experiences a variety of different climates including tropical weather throughout the eastern lowlands and along the coast. Higher altitude areas, such as the Andean highlands experience much cooler mild temperate weather.

The country lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a zone of tremendous seismic activity. The highest peak in Colombia is the Pico Cristóbal Colón mountain (named after the famous Christopher Columbus)
which stands at approximately 5 775 metres above sea level. Although the region experiences high amounts of seismic activity due to its location along several fault lines of plates pictured below, the mountain itself is not volcanically active.

Map shows ring of fire and tectonic plates
Map shows ring of fire and tectonic plates


Population size: 45,644,023 (2009 estimate)
The city of Bogota, Colombia
The city of Bogota, Colombia

Urban population
: 74% of total population (2008)

Rate of urbanization
: 1.7% annual rate of change (2005-10 estimates)

Ethnic Groups: Mestizo 58%
White 20%
Mulatto 14%
Black 4%
Mixed Black-Amerindian 3%
Amerindian 1%

Religions: Roman Catholic 90%
Other: 10%

Major cities: The capital city of Colombia: Bogota
Other main cities: Barranquilla, Cali, Medellin

The country of Colombia is one of great diversity, both ecologically and ethnically. Many of its urban centres are situated in the Andes. As well the territory encompasses Amazon Rainforest, tropical grassland and both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines. Colombia’s rich cultural heritage is evident with the interaction between descendants o f the original native inhabitants Spanish Colonists, Africans brought as slaves and twentieth-century immigrants from Europe and the Middle East.

In the last few years, Colombia has dealt with large-scale emigrations. In fact, one of every ten Colombians lives abroad. Colombia has experienced a huge humanitarian crisis involving social, economic, and political turmoil which all trigger voluntary and forced migration from the country. Evidently, these prevalent issues deter others from immigrating into Colombia.

Colombia´s Current President: Alvaro Uribe Veléz.

Colombia has a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Colombia is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of congress, the Senate of Colombia and the House of Representatives of Colombia. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.The national government of Colombia has separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Executive Brach is represented by the president and vice president where both are elected for a four-year term and, since 2005, can be re-elected for one consecutive term.
The Congress consisting on 102-member Senate of Colombia and a 161-member Chamber of Representatives of Colombia represents the legislative Brach. Senators are elected on the basis of a nationwide ballot, while representatives are elected in multimember districts co-located within the 32 national departments. The country's capital is a separate capital district and elects its own representatives. Members may be re-elected indefinitely, and, in contrast to the previous system, there are no alternate congressmen. Congress meets twice a year, and the president has the power to call it into special session when needed.
Judicial Branch or The civilian judiciary general structure for Colombia's administration of justice are set out in Law 270 of March 7, 1996. Colombia's legal system has recently begun to incorporate some elements of an oral, accusatorial system. Colombia's highest judicial organs are the Supreme Court, the Council of State, the Constitutional Court, and the Superior Judicial Council, all organs are equal in power and influences.

Elections in Colombia is regulated and controlled by the National Electoral Council which also gives information on elections and election results in for the politics of Colombia


Life Expectancy: 72.8 years
Male Life Expectancy: 68.9 years
Female Life Expectancy: 76.8 years
Infant Mortality Rate: 18.9 deaths/ 1,000 births

In 1999, health care expenditure was estimated to be about 9.4 % of GDP. Despite previous years in which malnutrition, malaria, and other sanitary problems plagued the country, recent findings have shown that approximately 91% and 85% of the population respectively had access to clean drinking water and adequate sanitation. In fact, in the early 1990’s the government decided to improve Colombia’s overall health care system. Nowadays, the health care system is provided by through capitation; 5 million impoverished individuals who had been excluded from the medical system are now able to receive adequate health services. It is estimated that in 1995, 87% of the population had access to health care. In December 2009, however, Colombia’s national government declared that its health care system was on a brink of collapse. In a state of national emergency, the country requires at least a trillion pesos ($500 million US) in order to save the rapidly diminishing system. Through the establishment of a new regulation and temporary economic measures, the government hopes to avoid the downfall of its healthcare system.


Colombia’s free and compulsory education (for a minimum of 5 years) has led to declining illiteracy rates, approximately 90% by the turn of the 19th century. Statistics show that 90.4 % of the population can read and write. Additionally, the constitution states that public education must incorporate the doctrines of the Roman Catholic religion. Courses regarding Roman Catholicism are compulsory as the church controls all public schools in the nation. Private schools, however, have freedom of instruction and are not required to incorporate religion into their agenda. By law, 10% of Colombia’s annual budget must go towards the education system. Although schooling is required for children in the primary level, dropout rates are at the highest, notably in rural areas, where students seldom live in close proximity to their schools. A large majority of secondary schools are located in the larger cities which mean children living in rural areas lack the educational opportunity that is available to those living in urban areas, with the exception of those reached by educational broadcasts or television programs. The Colombian government has initiated two programs to improve secondary education--the practical training integrated into the high school curriculum as well as agricultural training from experts. These programs ensure that the many who do not proceed to college, will receive further technical training in order to make a living.


In Colombia, family and the organization of the household is characterized by gender segregation and a difference between male female roles and aspirations. Due to its colonial influence, Colombian society has adopted a culture in which male and female roles differ in consumption and economic life. Males have a more dominant role within their homes. They are portrayed as the breadwinners and disciplinarians of the family, taking on roles such as working, maintaining the reputation of the household, and providing for the family by financial means. The role of a female differs in that she must rely heavily on the male. It is expected to put her husband's wants and needs before her own. She is responsible for the care of the children and the household, but cannot exert any control over it. The male makes decisions about the household's basic necessities. However, increasingly more women are beginning to hold higher paying jobs and obtaining respectable positions in society, the roles and gender segregation is now less dominant in urban areas but still marked by the rural regions.


Colombia’s major environmental issues involve deforestation, soil erosion, and the preservation of its dwindling wildlife population. The commercial exploitation of Colombia’s forests which vastly cover 45% of the country has unfortunately led to the deforestation problem. In fact, approximately 2, 244, 00 acres of forest were destroyed in the 1970’s due to farming, the lumber industry, and erosion. The loss of vegetation and heavy rainfall has resulted in soil erosion that is fundamentally exacerbated by the overuse of pesticides. The ongoing battle over coca cultivation is a critical issue as well. Coca, the main ingredient in cocaine, is cultivated mostly by poor farmers who must frequently clear land and replant crops eradicated by government programs. These programs include the dropping of herbicides from crop-duster planes in order to eliminate the coca plants (and consequently any surrounding vegetation as well). As a result, the farmers often move to different regions in order to once again cultivate their crops. The problem with this is that these cultivators resort to moving into extensive rainforests (which are home to many species of plants and animals) in order to harvest their crops.

Other environmental problems include pollution and contaminated drinking water. Colombia ranked 43rd worldwide in industrial carbon dioxide emissions in the 1990’s (a total of 61.5 million metric tons) and in 1996, the total amount of emissions emitted in the country rose to about 63.3million metric tons. Air pollution emitted by the numerous vehicles in Bogota is mostly to blame. Additionally, only 70% of the rural population in the country have access to clean drinking water.

Although Colombia faces many environmental problems, the government has taken steps to alleviate these circumstances. The vast Amazon forests, the great Andean area, and the Pacific coast were all protected by 1959, and in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the government created the National Resources and Environmental Code and the main central Institute for Development of Renewable Natural Resources and the Environment (INDERENA) which further helped protect the rapidly diminishing environment.


Due to rising commodity prices, advancements in domestic security, and premarket economic policies, the country has experienced a rapid economic growth from 2002 to 2007. This growth has in turn, significantly reduced poverty and unemployment respectively by 20% and 25% since 2002. Furthermore, foreign investments have skyrocketed due to reforms to the US-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) and its hydrocarbon sector. Despite Colombia’s economic expansion, the global financial crisis in 2008 reduced the demand for the country’s exports. In response to the weakened demands
, Álvaro Uribe’s administration has reduced capital controls, organized emergency credit lines, and encouraged investment incentives including a free trade zone system, and modern bilateral investment treaties and trade agreements. Additionally, the government has promoted its exporters diversification of customers, as Venezuela and the United States are their largest central trading partners. Underemployment, inequality, and narcotrafficking remain major issues in Colombia while the impacts of the global recession coupled with the pending approval of the CTPA are definitely a cause for concern.

GDP (Gross Domestic Product)

$396 billion (2008 estimate)
*Data in 2008 US dollars

GDP –per capita
$9,200 (2008 estimate)
*Data in 2008 US dollars

GINI (distribution of family income) Index
53.8 (2005 estimate)
Unemployment Rate
11.3 % (2008 estimate)

According to a 2005 estimate, the population percentage below the poverty line is 49.2 %. Compared to the world, Colombia has the ninth most inequitable wealth structure which has given popular support to the left-wing insurgency movement.

Public Debt
77.3% of GDP (2006 estimate)
External Debt
$66.21 billion (30 June 2006 estimate)
$23.7 billion (2005 estimate)
$62.29 billion; including capital expenditures of $NA (2005 estimate)
Economic Aid
$32 billion

The primary economic sector in Colombia is mining and agriculture. Coffee accounts for 50% of exports while Colombia mines 90% of the world’s emeralds. The secondary economic sector is manufacturing-industry and commerce (includes textiles, cement, hides, chemicals, etc.). 21% of the Colombian labour force works in this sector. The tertiary economic sector is the service industry in which 53% of the labour force work.
In 2006, Colombia received $3,890 million in worker’s remittances, which represented a 17.4 % growth compared to the previous year. The rate of remittances being sent to Colombia has steadily increased since 1998.

Colombia’s agricultural and rural sector has taken an economic and social downturn. In the 1970’s agriculture was a significant part of Colombia’s economic and social life but its significance has dramatically declined. The rural sector has become an environment for political violence and social tension including guerrilla and military groups and land is being used for growing illegal crops used for drug trade. Colombia’s rural population must struggle in order to remain existent. Today, the rural sector consists of 11,838,032 people which is 26 percent of the overall population. Although there have been significant gaps between the rural and urban sectors relating to access to social and public services, these gaps have gradually reduced except access to potable water and drainage systems which continue to be lacking in rural areas.

During the last century, Colombia had experienced a demographic transition as well as a significant process of urbanization. Rural-urban migration has been a catalyst for the urbanization process in Colombia. Migration flows have declined and explain the decrease in urban population growth. However the heightening of armed conflict in the country, in the 1940’s and 50’s, pushed rural populations to urban centres. These flows of migration caused an increase in the supply of urban labour alongside the already decreasing demand for labour which was a result of the crisis of the 1990’s. Consequently unemployment went up and the quality of employment had started to decrease. Migrants then resorted to working in the informal sector.
Since the 1970’s there has been a decrease in the urbanization rate because of a different pace in demographic transition between urban and rural areas. As a result, rural-urban migration has declined and a new urban-urban movement of migration has increased. Also, circular migration has started to take place.



Colombia is a land of great beauty and diversity. Its essence is difficult to distill, but easy to celebrate. The country’s geography is diverse. Soaring mountains, white sandy beaches, roaring waterfalls and cool rivers color the landscape. The rhythms of cumbia, vellanto and porro vibrate through people’s daily lives. City streets share ancient buildings and starkly modern glass towers. Festivals and carnivals dot the calendar, and people gather to honor family traditions. The Colombian people are warm, witty, resilient, contemplative, resourceful, artistic and creative. Their pride in their heritage is an essential component of their souls therefore let´s discover a little more about colombian culture:

Santuario de las Lajas in Colombia
Santuario de las Lajas in Colombia


The Nobel Prize in Literature 1982

marquez.jpgGabriel García Márquez was born in 1928 in the small town of Aracataca, situated in a tropical region of northern Colombia, between the mountains and the Caribbean Sea. He grew up with his maternal grandparent - his grandfather was a pensioned colonel from the civil war at the beginning of the century. He went to a Jesuit college and began to read law, but his studies were soon broken off for his work as a journalist. In 1954 he was sent to Rome on an assignment for his newspaper, and since then he has mostly lived abroad - in Paris, New York, Barcelona and Mexico - in a more or less compulsory exile. Besides his large output of fiction he has written screenplays and has continued to work as a journalist.


Beloved Artist of the Americas

Considered Latin America’s most famous and most beloved artist, Fernando Botero is a painter, sculptor, and draftsman who is renowned for his extravagantly rounded, robust forms that are recognizable around the world. Botero is both a masterful storyteller and a critic, whose work is often laden with biting satirical and political commentary. His prolific work is exhibited in public spaces and galleries, and has inspired, challenged and delighted all who see it. Botero challenges the dimensions of our hearts and our minds with his provocative artwork, and celebrates his roots as a man from Colombia.

Click to go to a Botero´s art gallery online

SHAKIRA The Beloved Latin American Princess of Pop

Born in Barranquilla, Colombia, Shakira's first steps in her creative life were developed at a very early age. As a child, she would write short notes to her father, who encouraged her to keep logging her thoughts and emotions and was unintentionally fostering her ability to write song lyrics. But writing wasn't her only developing skill. By the time she was seven, Shakira displayed an impressive dancing ability when she joined a group of belly dancers at a Middle Eastern restaurant. She showed she could emulate their moves, much to the delight of everyone in the restaurant and she continued delivering impromptu performances for anyone who would stop long enough to watch her. Its a talent she has clearly continued to put to good use throughout her career though it hardly begins to describe her fluid, sexy dancing ability and the impact it has had on pop culture.

JUANES The True Ambassador of Peace

Born Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez on August 9, 1972, in Carolina del Príncipe, Antioquia, Colombia, Juanes began to learn how to play guitar at age seven, taught by his father and older brothers. His passion for the instrument led him to learn traditional Latin sounds such as boleros, tangos, and cumbias as well as Colombian folk music styles such as vallenatto and guasca.
Juanes won global appeal in his native language exclusively and became perhaps the biggest and most important popular Latin music artist in the world in the early 21st century. After his debut album, Fijate Bien (2000), won him a Grammy Award for Best New Artist, Juanes broke through to global success with his second album, Un Día Normal (2002). In the United States alone, the album rode the Billboard Latin chart for two straight years, remaining in the Top Ten for a record-breaking 92 weeks. It also notched charting hit singles (six), Grammy nominations (eight), Grammy Awards (five), and various other accolades. When he returned with his third album, Mi Sangre (2004), Juanes again garnered all kinds of commercial success and critical acclaim. He tirelessly toured in support of the album, and by 2005 he had begun topping the singles chart in non-Spanish-speaking countries such as Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. By the time he returned with his fourth album, La Vida...Es un Ratico (2007), Juanes had such a global presence, Universal chose to release "Me Enamora," the lead single, to media outlets in 77 countries; it became a number one hit in 14 of them, setting the stage for another cycle of commercial success.


Numerous festivals take place in Colombia and are celebrated throughout the year. They reflect and emphasize the social heritage and vitality of the country.
Jan 2nd- 6th - The Carnival of Blacks and Whites
One of the most ancient carnivals in the Americas. The festival dates back to the times of Spanish rule commemorating the day in which African slaves were permitted to celebrate on the 5th. Their masters showed their approval on 6th by painting their faces black. On these days they either put grease or talcum powder on their faces. Click link to view video of carnival

July 31st - August 9th - Festival of Flowers
Held in the city of Medellin, t
he festival began in the 1950's to help inspire the large number of flower growers in and around Medellin. Originally consisting of locals parading small arrangements through the downtown area, it has now become a more than a weeklong event filled with concerts, parades, speeches, and craft sales.

Click link to view video of festival

June 21st - International Poncho Day
Dozens of artisans participate in making a poncho that is draped over Nobsa's cathedral as an example of their work. Weighing in at about 1,500 pounds, the poncho is a symbol of honor for the work the artisans do in the township and to strengthen their economy, which is based on wool products. Click link to view video of festival

For more festivals click on link

In 1917 Colombia settled the border disputes with Ecuador resulting in a gain of land. In 1987 Colombia and Venezuela engaged in a naval battle within the waters of the Gulf of Venezuela. The conflict of land was resolved in 1941 between these countries, however, they did not resolve the border disputes that lie within the waters later petroleum was discovered in the seabed of the Gulf of Venezuela in the 1960’s which contributed to the conflict. In the 1930’s Peru and Colombia engaged in a war over the Leticia region. Peru had militarized the Leticia region, which went against the international law. The war ended in Colombia appealing to the League of Nations claiming the Peruvians had invaded the Leticia region that was part of the Republic of Colombia. The League of Nations ruled in favour of Colombia.


Political violence started with movements like “Castrista” Revolution in 1959. Latin American people were tired of being under the shadow of the wealthy landlords and started their own revolution to govern themselves.Revolutionary groups were formed under two doctrines, Marxist/Leninist Doctrine and Military strategy studies.
FARC the revolutionary group existing in Colombia since revolutionary times have attempted against the government several times, always trying to defeat them by threatening national security. Their real target is to discredit and weaken the governmental forces to create an imminent collapse to finally politically abolish the former government. They strongly believe that extreme communism it’s a better mean to govern in a justly and efficiently manner . Foreigner nations supply them with war armament, weapons and other destroying machines on exchange for drugs.

Relations with the United States

Colombia has had a long history with the United States, which started in 1822 when the United States constructed a diplomatic mission in the Republic of Colombia. During the Civil War of 1899-1902, also known as the war of one thousand days. Panama, who was aided by the United States, was seeking independence from Colombia. In 1903 Panama successfully separated from Colombia allowing the United States to control the Panama Canal. Colombia was paid $25 million due to the loss of Panama. In 1939-1945 (World War Two) Colombia sided with the United States and helped patrol the Panama Canal, ensuring that it stayed open during the battle. In 1989 the United States government supplied military arms to the Colombian government to help with the drug control problem within the country. To date the beautiful country of Colombia maintains excellent relations with the United States of America. Colombia is a major supplier of goods such as cut flowers, bananas, petroleum and coffee. Colombia also imports many good from the United States such as oil and gas industry equipment, grains, and machinery. The United States and Colombia have signed several agreements some of which being the maritime ship-boarding agreement which allows the search of running vessels if drugs are suspected on board, and, several agreements concerning the environment.

Physical Geography
“South America: Colombia”. Central Intelligence Agency: The World Factbook. Available on-line. URL: Accessed January 20, 2010.

"A Few Hotel Tips for Bogota". Hotel Chatter. Available on-line. URL: Accessed January 28, 2010.
“South America: Colombia”. Central Intelligence Agency: The World Factbook. Available on-line. URL: Accessed January 20, 2010.

“World Guide-Colombia” Intute. Available on-line. URL: Accessed January 24, 2010.
Bérubé, Myriam.“Country Profiles- Colombia: In the Crossfire”. Migration Information Source. Available on-line. URL: Accessed January 24, 2010.

Ahmedani, Sana. “Colombia.” The Science of Biodiversity and Conservation. Available on-line. URL: Date Accessed: January 28th, 2010

"Constitucion Politica" Colombia Presidencia de la republica. Available on-Line. URL: Accessed January 25, 2010.

"Presidencia". Colombia Presidencia de la Republica.Available on-Line. URL: Accessed January 25, 2010

"Nuestra entidad". Colombia Presidencia de la República. Available on-Line. URL: Accessed January 25, 2010

“Colombia Declares Social Emergency over Failing Healthcare System”. Colombia Reports. Available on-line. URL: Accessed January 23, 2010.


“Colombia-Education”. Encyclopedia of the Nations. Available on-line. URL: Accessed January 23, 2010.

Gender Inequality
“Gender Equality and Social Institutions in Colombia”. Social Institutions & Gender Index. Available on-line. URL: Accessed January 21, 2010.

Environmental Issues
“Colombia-Environment”. Encyclopedia of the Nations. Available on-line. URL: Accessed January 21,2010
“Colombia: Tropical Rainforests”. Mongabay. Available on-line. URL: Accessed January 21,2010.

“Colombia: A Risk Assessment Brief”. Carleton. Available on-line. URL: Accessed January18, 2010.
“Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sectors”. Center for Latin American Studies: University of Florida. Available on-line. URL: Accessed January 20, 2010.
“Remittances in Colombia”. United Nations-Instraw. Available on-line. URL: Accessed January 20, 2010.

"Santuario de las Lajas-Colombia". South American Travel. Available on-line. URL: Accessed Febuary 2, 2010.

"About Colombia". Botero: Beloved artist of the Americas. Available on-Line. URL: Accessed January 21, 2010

"Nobel Prizes" Gabriel García Marquez. Available on-Line. URL: Accessed January 21, 2010

"Botero Biography". Botero: Beloved artist of the Americas. Available on-Line. URL: Accessed January 21, 2010

"Shakira youtube channel update". Shakira's official Channel. Available on-Line.URL: Accessed January 21, 2010

"Juanes youtube Channel". Jaunes´s official Channel. Available on-Line.URL: Accessed January 21, 2010

"Juanes" Available on-Line.URL: Accessed January 21, 2010

“The Carnival of Blacks and Whites- Pasto.” Eyes On Colombia. Available on-line URL: Date Accessed: January 28th, 2010

“Feria De Las Flores.” on-line URL: Date Accessed: January 2010

“International Poncho Day” Dom’s Wierd News. Available on-line URL: Date Accessed: January 2010

Unique Features
Ortiz R. D. "Guerrilla y narcotráfico en Colombia". Publicado en cuadernos de la guardia civil. Revista de la seguridad publica.
Numero XXII, año
Available on-Line. URL: Accessed January 30, 2010.

Border Disputes

Dominguez, Jorge. “Boundary Disputes in Latin America”. Available on-line. URL: Accessed January 29 2010

Woolsey, L.H. “The Leticia Dispute between Colombia and Peru” The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 27, No.3 (July 1933) pp. 525-527. Available on-line. URL: Accessed January 29 2010

“Columbia”. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2008. Available on-line. URL: Accessed January 31 2010.

Relations With the United States

“”Background Note: Colombia”. U.S. Department of State: Diplomacy in Action. Available on-line. URL: Accessed on February 2 2010.

“Colombia History Timeline”. Available on-line. URL: Accessed on February 2 2010.

Rural/ Urban Sector

Perfetti, Juan José. “Crisis and rural poverty in Latin America:
the case of Colombia” Dinamicas Territorials Rurales Available on-line URL:

Flórez, Carmen Elisa. “Migration and The Urban Informal Sector in Colombia” Available on-line URL:

Schultz, T. Paul. "Rural-Urban Migration in Colombia".The Review of Economics and Statistics, Vol. 53, No. 2 (May, 1971), pp. 157-163. Available on-line. URL: Accessed February 2 2010.