Columbia, South America


Quick Facts

  • Columbia is located in the northern part of South America, and is bordered by Panama and Venezuela. To its north is the Caribbean, and to its west is the north Pacific.
  • Primary language is Spanish, approx. 43 million speakers, 500,00 Amerindian speakers
  • Primary religion is Catholicism (90%)
  • Ethnic groups: mestizo, black, and American Indian
  • Motto: "Libertad y Orden"
  • National bird: the endangered Andean Condor
  • Tree: Wax Palm
  • Won independence from Spain July 20, 1810
    Map from

Map of Columbia

Colombian National Anthem - "¡Oh Gloria Inmarcesible!" (ES/EN)

Colombian Government

Columbia is a sovereign republic dominated by its executive branch. The current president is Juan Manuel SANTOS Calderon, elected in 2010. The president is elected for a four year term with the possibility of a second term. The legislative branch is divided into a bicameral congress: the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives. These officials are elected by popular vote and serve four year terms

Colombian Judicial System

The Colombian judicial system consists of four sections, the Supreme Court of Justice (similar to our Supreme Court, but justices only serve eight year terms) Council of State (highest court of administrative law) Constitutional Court (protects constitution; rules on constitutionality of laws) Superior Judicial Council (administers and disciplines the civilian judiciary; resolves jurisdictional conflicts arising between other courts)

Colombian Social Structure and Customs

The extended family is the center of Colombian social life. Families are typically close knit; if extended families do not live under the same roof, they are at least close by, and they visit frequently. It is not uncommon for grown children to remain in a home until they marry. In Colombian families, as well as in society in general, age and wisdom are revered. When eating, older members of a group are always served first. To alter this order would be disrespectful. Elders are decision makers in families, and younger family members count on them for advice and wise counsel.

Buen Provecho

Table manners in Columbia"
  • Formal!
  • Wait to be seated by host
  • Try everything
  • Do not use fingers
  • Customary to leave a very small amount of food on plate

Some popular dishes

  • Arroz con coco: rice in warm coconut milk with salt and sugar seasoning
  • Bandeja Paisa: steak, pork, chorizo on rice with beans, a fried egg, avocado and banana chips
  • Chunchullo: fried poultry or cow intestines

Medellin's Festival of Flowers

This flower festival lasts for ten days in August of each year; its crown jewel is the El Disfile de los Silleteros, or parade of the flower farmers. The parade celebrates a tradition in which flower farmers from the nearby mountain city of Santa Elena bring their flowers to sell in the city of Medellin. For the parade, these farmers ranging in age from very young to quite old, carry wooden chair structures, called silletas, on their backs. They decorate these "chairs" the night before the parade with elaborate floral decorations, which are carried on the farmers' backs and can weigh up to fifty pounds. The "chair" idea harkens back to an old tradition from the 1800's when the mountain people carried wealthy tourists up the mountains in saddle, or chair-like seats.
Video Oficial - Feria de las Flores Medellin 2012 HD - Telemedellin

Medellin's Controversial Reputation

At one time, Medellin held the record for most murders of any city in the world. One travel guide described a trip to this city as "cocaine vacation." Realizing the damage to tourism and to the reputation of this beautiful city, government officials cracked down on crime and changed the statistics. By 2009, the crime rate had dropped from 381 murders per 100,00 residents in 1991 to only 31, ranking it lower than Baltimore, MD. It seems, however, Medellin is still working to repair its image. In 2005 National Geographic published an article, "Medellin, Stories from an Urban War," outlining a culture of drugs and crime.

The Arts in Medellin

Housed in a former steel mill built in 1939, Medellin has created a state of the art Museum of Modern Art. The restoration is setting a precedent for restoration in an old manufacturing neighborhood. The large building houses a number of contemporary pieces, as well as some historical works.

Clara, Friends, and Family

Laura Hines

READ 6204
Fall 2012