Colombia sits at the junction of Central and South America—a location symbolic both of the nation’s cultural and geographic confluences. Its territory is bordered to the north by the Caribbean Sea, with the Panamanian forest and Pacific coast marking its east. In the west, you will find the grasslands of Venezuela and Amazon Basin of Brazil.
Trips to Columbia:
Colombia is the only American nation that is named for Christopher Columbus, the “discoverer” of the New World. Colombia was a major channel for human migration to the rest of the continent even before the Spanish arrived to the continent. With its connection to the isthmus of Panama, Colombia was a major center of migration between Central and South America. The different groups who settled what is now called Colombia include the Tairona, the Quimbaya, and the Muisca. By the time of the Spanish arrival in the 1500s, the Muisca were especially prominent in the area and controlled a great deal of valuable land. As with most other Spanish conquests in the Americas, the conquistadors exploited local rivalries and tensions to their advantage. In the case of the New Granada colony, they forged alliances with competitors to the Muisca Confederation. After conquering the Muisca and settling Bogotá, Spain was largely uncontested in the region.
After a 14-year struggle, during which time Simón Bolívar’s Venezuelan troops won the battle of Boyacá in Colombia, independence was attained in 1824. Bolívar united Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador in the Republic of Greater Colombia (1819–1830), but they lost Venezuela and Ecuador to separatists. Colombia lost its claims to Panama in 1903 because it refused to ratify the lease to the United States of the Canal Zone, this same year Panama declared its independence.
Few countries boast such striking physical variety as Colombia does. Its broken, rugged topography, together with its location near the Equator, creates an extraordinary diversity of climates, vegetation, soils, and crops. The lofty snow-tipped peaks of the country’s interior cordilleras tower high above equatorial forests and savannas where surviving Indian groups still follow the lifeways and traditions of their ancestors. In the cooler mountains, at intermediate elevations, modern cities are juxtaposed with traditional rural landscapes where mestizo farmers cultivate their small plots of coffee, corn (maize), and other crops. The more accessible Atlantic lowlands, dominated by large livestock haciendas and a tri-ethnic population, have a distinctively different character.