Colombia is located in the northwest of South America. The country is dominated by the Andes, which run through it in several strands, although lowlands take up most of the area. Colombia lies entirely in the tropics, but has distinctive climatic and vegetation levels in the Andean region.
Extreme differences between rich and poor have led to sharp clashes in the country and make the fight against the powerful drug mafia more difficult.
Colombia owes its name to CHRISTOPH KOLUMBUS, who never set foot in the country on any of his travels.
The short border with Panama in northwest Colombia separates the Pacific coast in the west of the country from the Caribbean coast in the north. Colombia’s other neighboring countries are Ecuador and Peru in the south, Brazil in the southwest and Venezuela in the west (Fig. 1).
Colombia is three times the size of Germany and is one of the most populous countries on the continent after Brazil and Argentina.
The capital Bogotá was founded in 1538 by Spanish conquerors.
The land on both sides of the equator is shaped by the Andes, although two-thirds of its area is taken up by lowlands.
In the south, near the border with Ecuador, the Andes split like the prongs of a fork into three high mountain ranges: the western, central and eastern Cordillera. The western cordillera, which is widened like a plateau in the north, reaches heights of over 4000 m. The Central Cordillera is over 5000 m high, z. Some of the still active volcanoes are crowned. The eruption of Nevado del Ruiz (5400 m) in 1985 had catastrophic consequences. Meter-high floods of mud completely devastated the nearby cities.
The mountain range ends in the north with an isolated mountain range, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, directly on the Caribbean coast.
With its highest mountain, the Pico Cristóbal Colón (5800 m), which is also the highest mountain in Colombia, it is considered to be the highest coastal mountain range on earth. The Eastern Cordillera forks off the Caribbean coast into two other mountain ranges that reach into Venezuela and enclose the Maracaibo basin. The mountain range also includes many high basins around 2700 m, including that of Bogotá, in which more than 7 million people live. Between the three mountain ranges there are two wide valleys that are drained from the Rio Cauca and Rio Magdalene to the Caribbean Sea. Both valley ranges, formed as rift valleys, bear fertile volcanic soils and are also densely populated. Most of the country’s area is taken up by the lowlands in the east. Here Colombia has a share in the plains of the Orinoco, which are mainly in Venezuela, the Llanos, and on the Amazon lowlands of Brazil. There are also partly swampy plains on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts.
Climate / vegetation
Colombia has a tropical climate corresponding to its equatorial location . More than two thirds of the country, the lowlands in the east and on the Pacific coast and the valleys of the Andean region, have a hot, humid climate. The average temperatures here are between
25 and 30 °C and the annual rainfall, which falls mainly in the two rainy seasons in spring and autumn, reaches up to 2500 mm. This is why tropical rainforests also sprout on the Pacific, in the Amazon lowlands and on the western flanks of the Andes, which are influenced by the trade wind. The Andean region is climatically shaped by altitude levels of the climate and vegetation.
At the foot of the mountain lies the hot land, mostly covered with rainforest (“Tierra caliente”).
The temperate land (“Tierra templada”) follows at an altitude of around 800 to 2000 m. The famous Colombian coffee is grown here in the midst of remnants of the original mountain forests with tropical woods, but also oaks and pines.
The adjoining cool country (“Tierra fria”) has pleasant annual average temperatures of around 15 °C. It is therefore the most densely populated region of Colombia with the state capital and the metropolises Medellin and Cali.
The cold land (“Tierra helada”) with barren high pastures joins over 3400 m above which the snow-covered peaks of the high Andes finally rise.
Important data about the country
|39 residents / km²
|Growth of population:
|declining at 1.6% / year (end of the 90’s)
|Form of government:
|Mestizos over 50%, mulattos 14%, whites 20%, blacks 5% and less than 2% Indians
|Spanish as the official language and many Indian languages
|Catholics with more than 90%
|tropical alternately humid with two rainy seasons, in the Andes a mountain climate with thermal elevations
|Forest 48%, pasture land 29%, arable land 6%
|Main export goods:
|Coffee, mining products (gold, silver, iron ore, coal), petroleum products, bananas, cotton, cut flowers
|Gross domestic product:
|$ 7,865 million (2003)
(share of GDP 2003)
|Industry 29%, agriculture 12%, services 58%
|Gross National Product:
|US $ 1,810 / residents (2003)
Colombia is one of the most politically unstable countries in the world. The situation in the country is characterized by massive poverty, unemployment, frequent terrorist attacks and acts of violence. At the end of the 1990’s, 50% of the population was living below the poverty line.
One of the main reasons for this is the extremely unequal distribution of property. Most of the land is in the hands of a few, mostly white, large landowners who mainly produce the export crops of coffee, sugar cane, cotton and bananas on their plantations. Colombia is the world’s largest coffee exporter after Brazil.
The majority of the farmers, on the other hand, do not have the land they need for food. Often, rural exodus is the only way out. The cities, in which three quarters of Colombians now live, are literally bursting at the seams. This has led to unimaginable housing shortages and high crime rates in the vast poor areas. Often half the population of a city lives in these so-called Tugurios.
Guerrilla organizations have therefore emerged in the regions that are difficult to access. a. fight for fairer land distribution and social reforms. With the support of the military and large landowners, there are military-like groups that control about a third of the country.
The country also regularly hits the headlines with acts of violence by the drug mafia, which are a side effect of drug trafficking.
About 75% of the intoxicants traded in the US come from Colombia. It is estimated that drugs are the country’s main export goods in terms of value. The billions in profits do not appear in any statistics.
Due to the drop in the price of coffee on the world market, the illegal cultivation of hemp and the coca bush, from which marijuana and heroin are obtained, is lucrative for poor farmers and often their only source of income. Therefore, the raw material base for drug production in Colombia is still relatively safe.
The drug cartels have had a major impact on politics, the state and the economy of Colombia. Corruption makes it very difficult to combat them effectively.
In the 1990’s, the two most powerful cocaine cartels, based in Medellin and Cali, were smashed, but production and trade continue.