The Republic of Colombia
The Republic of Colombia is the fourth largest country in
South America. It is located at the north-western tip of
the continent. Its neighbors are Brazil and Venezuela to
the east, Panama to the north-west, and Ecuador and Peru to
the south. Colombia is the only South American country
that's coast is on the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
There are eight islands under Colombian rule, and they are
San Andres, Providencia, San Bernado, Islas del Rosario,
Isla Fuerte, Gorgona, Gorgonilla, and Malpelo.
Colombia's terrain is about 45% mountainous. The major
mountain chain is the Andes, which is the longest and
second highest mountain chain in the world. The are three
mountain ranges in Colombia that form the Andes. These are
known as Cordilleras, which means range. The Cordillera
Occidental is 680 miles long and is about 6,500 ft. high.
This range is on the western area that stretches from the
equator to the Caribbean Sea. The Cordillera Oriental is
the longest range, at 750 miles long, and 8,530 ft. high
and it cuts from northern Colombia to southern Colombia.
The Cordillera Central is located in the center of the
country and is 689 miles long and 10,827 ft. high making it
the highest cordillera. The highest mountain point in
Colombia is the Sierra Nevada at 19,055 ft. high. There are
lots of volcanoes in Colombia. The Cumbal is 17,500 ft.
high, the Chiles is 16,900 ft. high, the Purace is 17,060
ft. high, and the Pan de Azucar is 16,840 ft. high. The
eastern region of Colombia is a grassy lowland. 1/6 of
Colombia is uninhabited glacier land, and 1/5 is high
Colombia has many rivers. The most important river is the
Magdalena which is 965 miles long and flows north to the
Caribbean Sea. Others are the Meta, the Amazon, the
Guaviare, and the Putamayo. There aren't many lakes in
Colombia. The largest lake in Colombia is Lake Cocha and is
not very important.
If it wasn't for the Andes mountain location, Colombia
would have an extremely high climate since it is near the
equator. However, Colombia's climate is strictly related to
the altitude of the land and varies greatly from section to
section. The hot region of Colombia has an average
temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and are from sea
level to three thousand feet. This area is along the
Pacific coast and in the eastern jungle region. Regions
from three to six thousand feet above sea level have an
average temperature of 65.5 degrees Fahrenheit. This area
is in the northern section of the Andes and are mostly
agricultural. Regions from six to nine thousand feet above
sea level have an average temperature of 53.6 degrees
Fahrenheit, and are considered cold. Most Colombians live
in this region. Areas that are above nine thousand feet
above sea level are the severely cold regions and are and
have an average temperature of below 53 degrees Fahrenheit.
The winter months in Colombia are May, June, July, August,
September, October, and November. This is the rainy part of
the year. Summer months are December, January, February,
March, and April. This is the dry part of the year. Spring
and Fall do not exist. The rainiest part of Colombia is the
Choco area on the Pacific coast. It rains on afternoons and
evenings every day of the rainy season. It averages 400
inches of rainfall per year. The driest spot is the Guijara
Peninsula. It is located in the northern tip of Colombia,
on the Caribbean Sea. It averages 10 inches of rain yearly.
Because of Colombia's assorted climate it can grow a wide
range of crops. Only five percent of Colombia's land is
used for farming, although there is much more room to be
used for farming. Coffee is the chief agricultural product,
and Colombia is the world's second largest producer, after
Brazil, because coffee beans grow best at an elevation
between 4,300 and 6,600 feet. Sugarcane is grown in the hot
temperate areas of the country. bananas are also grown in
the warm areas. Maize is grown under most climatic
conditions, except at the highest elevation. This crop is
important to the poor people of the country. Rice is grown
in the hot and humid regions. A major problem that Colombia
faces is the cultivation of illegal drugs. The marijuana
plants are grown in the Guajira Peninsula, because of the
hot climate, and the soil is perfect from growing it. Also,
the fact that the peninsula is on the Caribbean coast,
makes it easy to export it on ship. Colombia supplies half
of the marijuana purchased in the Unites States. Most
people think that cocaine is grown in Colombia, because
most of the cartels that distribute it are from Colombia,
but it is not. It is grown in Peru and Bolivia.1 Other
major crops are cotton, potatoes, manioc, wheat, barley,
tobacco, cacao, and beans.
Colombia is one of the predominate livestock producing
country in South America. The amount of cattle in Colombia
is almost as many as people there. Other livestock include
horses, mules, donkey's, pigs, sheep, and goats.
Colombia's aquatic wildlife is found mainly in the Amazon
and Orinoco Rivers, and in the Oceans. The Orinoco River
holds many freshwater species such as guppies, neon tetras,
and arapaima, which is the largest freshwater fish in the
world. The Amazon hold dangerous piranhas, which travel in
schools of 100 to 1,000, that tear flesh off animals. The
Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea hold dolphins and stingray.
Among the reptiles there are the anaconda, a water snake,
and numerous lizards, and crocodiles. Among the mammal
wildlife there are the gray-brown puma, the spotted ocelot
which hunt on the plains, and the jaguar which lives near
the streams to feed on the water animals. A strange animal
is the stout tapir, with it's skinny legs, dainty hooves,
and long snout. The blood-sucking vampire bat are found in
Colombia, more than anywhere in the world. Colombia has
over 1,500 species of birds such as the hummingbird, eagle,
the shiny green jacamar, Colombia's most beautiful tropical
bird, the parakeet, and the toucan.
Colombia's history began at about 5,000 B.C. when Indian
groups roamed the territory. About one third of them were
of the Chibca tribe, who lived where Bogota is now located.
The town Bogota, which is currently the country's capital,
was named after Bacata, a Chibchan chief2. The Chibchans
lived in villages and were organized by class, and the
people's rank was inherited from their mother. They mined
gold, and farmed maize, beans, and potatoes. Another tribe
was the Quimbaya, who lived on the western slopes of the
Cordillera Central. Like the Chibcha, these people were
very skilled in making gold objects such as nose rings,
ornaments, and necklaces.
The rumors and stories of these Indian tribes making gold
objects, lead Spaniard explorers to come to Colombia
looking for El Dorado. There was a legend that there was a
kingdom of gold known as El Dorado who's where abouts were
Colombia is named after Christopher Columbus, although he
never been on the Colombian mainland. On 1502 he sailed the
Colombian shores. Colombia was actually discovered by
Alonso de Ojeda, who was one of Christopher Columbus's men,
in 1500. He was looking for El Dorado, but didn't find it.
Him and his men stole many gold objects from the Indian
tribes, who were very skilled goldsmiths, and took them
back to Spain.
From the period of 1499 to 1550, Colombian conquest and
colonization began. Rodrigo de Bastidas founded the first
permanent settlement in 1525 called Santa Marta. In 1533
another explorer named Pedro de Heredia founded a
settlement called Cartagena. In 1536 the first expedition
into Colombia's interior was made by Gonzalo Jimenez de
Quesada. He lead his expedition up the Magdalena River. He
eventually founded the settlement of Bogota. All these
conquerors conquered the land for the possession of Spain.
In 1549, King Charles V of Spain created something called
an audencia of Colombia. An audencia is an administrative
body headed by a representative of the king. It provided
courts, a legislature, and a civil government for Colombia.
The conquest by Spain gave Colombia the Spanish language,
the Roman Catholic Church and the Spanish love of
literature. In 1717 Colombia was made part of a kingdom
which included Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. This kingdom
was called "The Kingdom of New Granada", and was owned by
Spain, but in more distant way when Colombia was separate.
By 1795 the New Granada people were unsatisfied with the
way the Spaniards ruled. Taxes were way to high, and it all
went to Madrid. Also, they weren't getting treated humanely
by Spain. Word had spread out around the area of French
colonies rebelling for independence. When Napoleon's forces
invaded Spain, the leaders decided to take advantage of
Spain's weakness and proposed independence on July 20,
1810. Spain refused and reestablished it's self control
over New Granada. On August 7, 1819, Simon Bolivar of
Venezuela organized and lead an attack, and defeated the
Spanish forces at the Battle of Boyaca. A few months later,
Venezuela and Colombia were united to form the Greater
Colombian Confederation. Simon Bolivar was President. In
1830, the Confederation ended because Venezuela wanted
Today, Colombia is a parliamentary republic with
presidential elections held every four years. The congress
holds sessions every year between July and December and
consists of two houses the Chamber of Deputies, which has
131 elected members, and the Senate with 63 members. The
President appoints cabinet members and cheifs of
administrations. Colombia is divided into 23 departments,
and the president appoints a governer to head each
department. The current president is Cesar Gaviria Trujillo.
Colombia's population today is approximately 34,296,000.
95% of these people are Roman Catholic. The capital, Bogota
has an estimated 4,921,00 people, and the second largest
city, Cali, has 1,624,00 people. After Mexico and Brazil,
Colombia is the third most populolus country in Latin
America.3 About one half of the population today is
mestizo, a mixture of Indian and European descent.4
Europeans are about one fifth of the population, and and
there are some blacks, and about 400 Indian tribes.