Colombia

By: Mary Shepherd

Colombia is bordered on the northwest by Panama, on the east by Venezuela and Brazil, and on the southwest by Peru and Ecuador. The western half of the country has three Andean ranges that run north and south. The eastern half is a low, jungle-covered plain, while the fertile plateau and valley of the eastern range are the most densely populated parts of the country.

History

Little is known about the Indian tribes who lived in Colombia before the Spanish arrived. But, in 1510 Spaniards founded Darien, the first permanent European settlement on the American mainland. In 1538 they established the colony of New Granada, which is now Colombia.

After a 14-year struggle, during which time Simón Bolívar's Venezuelan troops won the battle of Boyacá in Colombia on Aug. 7, 1819, independence was attained in 1824. The battle of Boyacá was a battle near the present-day Boyacá river, where the spanish were forced to spread out and divide, and Bolívar was able to kill or capture almost all of the enemy combatants. Bolívar united Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador in the Republic of Greater Colombia (1819–1830), but he lost Venezuela and Ecuador to separatists.

Santander served as president between 1832 and 1836, a period of relative stability, but by 1840 civil war had erupted. Nine different governments followed, each rewriting the constitution. In 1861, the country was called the United States of New Granada; in 1863 it became the United States of Colombia; and in 1885, it was named the Republic of Colombia.

In 1899, a brutal civil war broke out, the War of a Thousand Days, also known as the Thousand Day War, that lasted until 1902, in which up to 130,000 lives were lost. The following year, Colombia lost its claims to Panama because it refused to ratify the lease to the United States of the Canal Zone. Panama declared its independence in 1903.

Sorry the map is blurry...

Places to Go

Here are some places to visit in Colombia. And even if you don't, they're cool to know about. Note: The name and description of each place will be BELOW its picture.

La Candelaria in Bogota

This is a fun colorful city, with a unique charm to it. Everyone who goes there seems to have a good time, and they all say how friendly and helpful its residents are. A fun attraction there is the Museo de Oro (Gold Museum), which has the largest collection of pre-Hispanic gold work in the world. This is definitely one of the top five cities to visit in Colombia.

The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira

This is a beautiful yet mysterious cathedral. It was mined from salt that the miners were mining from the ground. What makes this so cool is the fact that throughout the day, light from the sun enters and illuminates walls and other parts of the cathedral. This would be an amazing attraction to see in person, it is highly recommended by vacationers to go and see.

Mompox

A beautiful town that looks as if it stands in the colonial times. Also known as, the city frozen in time. This city is famous for its old-time feel, and amazing architecture. It was founded in 1540 and was an important trading centre during the Spanish rule due to its location. The Magdalena is Colombia's longest river and was the main transport route from the Caribbean coast to the centre of the country during colonial times. Mompox was also a safe place for the Spaniards to keep gold and other treasures, because is was protected from pirates.

Barichara

If a nice city is what your looking for, you need to visit Barichara, which has been deemed "the prettiest town in Colombia." It has a unique charming, colonial, and romantic atmosphere. If you're ever there, try hormigas culonas (giant ants)-a regional specialty, which will be talked about more in out food section of this presentation. You can also climb to the Church of Santa Barbara, located at the top of a hill overlooking the town.

Cabo de la Vela in la Guajira

This scenic landscape is pretty far to the north, on the Caribbean coast. It's a rather long journey, but it's so worth it. A nice place to go if you're here is the "Pilon de Azucar," a small peak, from where you will see the stunning views of the region, another is the beach "Ojo de agua," a very nice beach to relax, enjoy the spectacular landscape and take a refreshing bath in the Caribbean sea.

Villa de Leyva

This is yet another "old time town." But Villa de Leyva is famous for it's museums. There's the La Casa Museo Antonio Nariño, (Antonio Nariño is a Colombian independence hero), the Museo del Carmen, a religious museum exhibiting valuable paintings and religious objects from the 16th century onwards, and the Paleontological Museum, which has a collection of fossils dating from the Cretaceous and Mesozoic period when this area was covered by the sea. There's also the Fossil Museum, where there is a petrified skeleton of a large marine reptile that inhabited this region 120 million years ago.

The Coffee Region

The name of this is pretty self explanatory. Also called the Coffee Triangle, this fertile region, located in the heart of the Andes, is where the majority of the famous Colombian coffee is produced. This place has the perfect weather conditions to grow the best quality coffee. Tourism includes visits to coffee farms to learn about the coffee production process, hiking in natural parks or visiting traditional paisa towns.

Cartagena- the Capitol

Yes, cartagena is the capital city of Colombia, and what a beautiful capitol it is. It is located along the central part of the Colombian Caribbean Coast. It was one of the first cities founded in Latin America so its colorful streets are full of history. The architecture, the historical sites, the colors, the sounds, the aromas and the atmosphere within the walled city are not only inspiring, but also create the perfect city for a little romance.

Tayrona National Natural Park

This Natural Park is place of immense natural beauty with a high diversity of fauna and flora (plants and animals). It's on the caribbean side of Colombia. You can spend a day hiking along its rain forest eco-system and sandy beaches, and have the opportunity to swim, or practice snorkeling at certain beaches.

Caño Cristales

This is my personal favorite place. It is an amazingly beautiful river that flows naturally over rocks and waterfalls.

Food

Colombian food is very diverse and varies depending on the different regions of Colombia. In some areas you will find specialties like roasted ants or guinea pigs while in other areas Colombians wouldn't even touch those dishes. Colombian diet includes a lot of meat. In the coastal areas you will find a good variety of fish, lobster and seafood often prepared with a sauce made out of coconut milk. There are lots of fresh fruits many of the varieties you have probably never heard of before.

Their breakfast usually includes fruit juice, coffee or hot chocolate, fruit, eggs and bread. Lunch is their most important meal and is served between 12AM and 2PM. consists of a soup, a main dish, a drink and sometimes a dessert which is generally very sweet. And then there's their dinner, which is really more like a snack, that's served between 7 and 8PM.

I will tell you about some foods, but remember from the last section, the name and explanation of each food will be below it's picture.

Ants!

I did say earlier that I would talk more about the edible Colombian ants, so here it is.

Ajiaco

Ajiaco is chicken soup. It also has potatoes, corn, sour cream, capers, avocado and guasca (a special herb that grown throughout the Americas and gives the soup its distinct flavor).

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