Country and People

During your holidays with Elite Cycling Colombia cycling and sports are in the foreground. But you will also get to know the country and its people and you will learn a lot of interesting things about Colombia. To get acquainted with our host country we have summarized some general information for you.

Colombia: Location + geography

Colombia is located in the north-west of South America and has an area of 1,138,914 km², which roughly corresponds to the area of Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland together. It borders Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Panama and is the only country in South America with two coasts, the Caribbean coast and the Pacific coast. For road cyclists, Colombia is particularly interesting because of the three mountain ranges that run through the country: the western, central and eastern Cordillera of the Andes. In combination with the location between 14 ° north and 4 ° south latitude, i.e. in the immediate vicinity of the equator, there are conditions that are just perfect for road cycling: A beautifull landscape with high mountains and summer- or spring-like temperatures all year round.

The climate in Colombia

Due to its location on the equator, the climate in Colombia is tropical. The temperature differences arise primarily from the different altitudes. While it is tropical at sea level, i.e. on the coasts and in the plains, the Llanos, at altitudes of over 3,000 m alpine climate prevails. Precipitation levels also vary widely within the country: The eastern Caribbean coast is very poor in rainfall with less than 400 mm of rainfall per year, while in the west of the Andes there are up to 16,000 mm of precipitation per year in some areas. The climate in Medellin and surroundings, where our year-round training camps take place, is temperate. The annual average temperature is about 21 ° C, the annual rainfall 1,612 mm. There are two rainy seasons in a year (April / May and October / November). Its nickname as the “city of eternal spring” (“ciudad de la eterna primavera”) Medellin owes to the year-round pleasant temperatures and almost always perfect weather. Even in the rainy season there are seldom days without sunshine!

Population

Apart from Brazil, Colombia is the most populous country in South America with about 49 million inhabitants. The average age is around 29 years. More than 3/4 of the population lives in the cities. The largest city in Colombia is Bogotá, followed by Medellín, Cali and Barranquilla. As diverse as the regions of the country are the people of Colombia: The population consists of 58% mestizos, 20% whites, 8% mulattos, 11% Afro-Colombians and 3% indigenous people. Depending on which part of the country you are in, you will increasingly encounter people of specific population groups: in Chocó e.g. dark-skinned people of African origin, on the Caribbean coast and in Cali many mulattos, in Antioquia, whose capital is Medellín, and in Bogotá many fair-skinned people who could be at home in Europe, and across the country various groups of indigenous people.

The majority of the population is Roman Catholic.

Official language is Spanish. The Spanish spoken in Colombia is generally very good to understand (except on the Caribbean coast, where they speak very quickly and the endings are swallowed). In the indigenous territories another 64 native languages are spoken.

The Colombians are very cheerful people. Despite the difficult past, the prevailing poverty in many areas and the many existing problems, people have kept their happiness. It is easy to make conversation and people are friendly and warm. There is a lot of laughter, singing and dancing. Also nightlife is fantastic and there are lots of bars and discos, where they often play a mix of Latin rhythms such as salsa, cumbia, vallenato or reggaeton and current pop and rock music. In many cases, there are also local bands playing live which attributes to a great atmosphere.

History and politics

The oldest traces of human settlement are more than 12,000 years old and were found in the Bogota plateau. Different pre-Columbian cultures populated the country in different eras, but never have such great empires formed as in Peru (Incas) or as in Mexico and Central America (Mayas). The first centuries of our era was the time of the Tierradentro culture. The San Augustin culture flourished between 500 and 1000 AD, the Muisca and Tairona culture in the 15th century. Many of the indigenous cultures have mastered the art of goldsmithing, and even today the most beautiful preserved pieces can be admired at the Gold Museum in Bogotá

In 1499, the Spanish navigator Alonso de Ojeda reached the Caribbean coast of Colombia. He was accompanied by Amerigo Vespucci. He gave his name to the newly discovered country in honor of Christopher Columbus. 1525 Santa Marta, the oldest city of Colombia, was founded by Rodrigo de Bastidas and 1533 Cartagena by Pedro de Heredia. As the Spanish conquistadors colonized new areas and colonized the land, indigenous peoples were pushed back. To exploit the resources of the country, primarily gems and gold, workers were needed. For this purpose, after the prohibition of the enslavement of Indians black, African -born slaves were brought into the country.

In 1819 Simón Bolívar defeated the royal army of the Spaniards at the Battle of Boyacá and declared independence. The newly formed republic, which also included Venezuela and later Ecuador, he named after the sailor Christopher Columbus “Greater Colombia” (“Gran Colombia”). Only a decade later, in 1830, Greater Colombia disintegrated into the states of Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador. The entire 19th century was marked by militant struggles and civil wars between the two major political groups, the Conservatives and the Liberals.

After the war of the Thousand Days (guerra de mil días), in which more than 100,000 people lost their lives, the country was weakened, so that in 1903, the province of Panama with the support of the United States of America declared its independance from Colombia.

Facts and Figures

Official NameRepública de Colombia
CapitalSantafé de Bogotá
Largest CitiesBogotá, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla
Population50.7 millions
LanguageSpanish
Religions95% Roman catholic
CurrencyPeso Colombiano (COP)
Important Export ProductsCrude oil and derivatives, coal, coffee, gold, flowers, bananas

Impressions

The modern and exclusive Cartagena

Videos

In 1948, following a serious social and political crisis and the assassination of Liberal presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, civil war broke out (“Violencia”) and claimed more than 300,000 lives between 1948 and 1953.

In 1953 General Rojas Pinilla came to power. The right-wing military dictatorship under Rojas Pinilla, however, did not last long and was replaced in 1957 by an alliance between the two major parties (Liberals and Conservatives). This coalition, the “Frente Nacional,” was supposed to pacify the country, but rather led to the fact that the different political attitudes disappeared in a uniform porridge and the state matted.

During this period the great guerrilla movements, which had their origins in the unfair distribution of land property and the expulsion of peasants from their lands during the time of the Violencia, formed. The threatened peasants joined together for the purpose of self-protection. The largest and most powerful of these guerrilla organizations, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército Popular (FARC-EP) was founded in 1964 by Manuel Marulanda Vélez alias “Tirofijo”. Over the years, the original political movement transformed itself into a criminal organization that terrorized its own people.

In the 1980s, right-wing paramilitary units formed as an antipole to the left-wing guerrilla groups. Guerrilla and Paramilitares were in conflict with each other, with both sides also carrying out the most horrendous massacres and attacks on the civilian population, largely financed by drug trafficking.

At the end of the 1970s Pablo Escobar Gaviria, a petty criminal from Rio Negro in Antioquia, began to build the largest drug cartel in the world. The Medellín cartel became the economically strongest “company” and cocaine the most important “export product” of Colombia. The war of Escobar against the Colombian government was led by terrorist means. The government should be overthrown and the extradition of Escobar and other drug lords to the US prevented. In those years, life in Colombia was marked by fear and death, and the country was one of the most dangerous countries in the world. On 2 December 1993, Escobar was shot by a special unit of the Colombian police, the “bloque de busqueda”, in Medellín. Escobar had managed to buy into the hearts of the poor with drug money and to get a Robin Hood image by financing social projects with bloody money. Even today, there are still deluded people who still worship Escobar.

President Andrés Pastrana attempted to end the armed conflict with the guerrilla in the late 1990s, and a demilitarized zone was established in order to persuade the guerrilla to make concessions. This step proved fatal, because in the guerrilla-controlled zone, the guerrilla acted at will and strengthened. The guerrilla used the demilitarized zone as a sanctuary in which they forced drug cultivation and hid their hostages.

In 2002, the peace process was declared failed, and the Colombian government sought to regain control of the demilitarized zone. Newly elected President Álvaro Uribe fiercely opposed the FARC, increasingly cooperating with the US. With guerrilla camps not only in Colombia, but also in neighboring Venezuela and Ecuador, tensions arose between Colombia and the political leaders in Caracas and Quito. The Colombian military succeeded in suppressing the FARC as far as possible and considerably reducing its numbers. Uribe was also successful in disarming the paramilitary groups. After the passage of the Law for Justice and Peace in 2005, in 2006, the majority of paramilitary fighters laid down their weapons. A reintegration program should allow paramilitaries to return to civilian life. However, Álvaro Uribe has not been undisputed despite his successes in fighting the guerrilla and disarming the paramilitaries. But on the contrary. In particular, he is accused of involvement with paramilitary groups and in the scandal over the “falsos Positivos”.

The former Minister of Defense under Uribe, Juan Manuel Santos, was elected president in 2010. Contrary to his campaign pledge to continue Uribe’s hard line against the guerrilla, he began peace talks with the FARC rebels. After years of negotiations, a peace agreement was signed in September 2016, which was rejected in a plebiscite by a majority of Colombians. Shortly after this violent political defeat, Juan Manuel Santos received the Nobel Peace Prize in early October 2016. With his decision, the committee wanted to support Santos in this difficult situation and honor his commitment to the peace process. At the end of November 2016, the modified agreement was approved by Congress.

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