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What Should I Know About Colombia?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 March 2014
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The Republic of Colombia is a country located in South America. Positioned in the northwestern part of the continent, Colombia has both land and sea at its borders. From the east, the country shares borderland with Brazil and Venezuela. From the southwest, it is touched by both Ecuador and Peru. To the north of Colombia stands the Atlantic Ocean while its western borders touch Panama and the Pacific Ocean.

Colombia’s land area spans about 401,042 square miles (1,038,699 square kilometers). The country is fourth in line among the largest South American countries and 26th in line throughout the world. As of 2007, its population was estimated at 44,227,550. Its capital and largest city is Bogota, which means capital district. This city is not only the largest in Colombia, but it is also the most heavily populated.

Colombia was once a Spanish colony. It gained its independence from Spain in 1819, as a result of the efforts of rebel forces. However, Spain’s influence is still evident in the country, as Spanish remains its official language.

At one time, Venezuela, Panama and Quito (Ecuador) were part of Colombia, but Venezuela and Quito seceded from the country in 1830. This was due to political and territorial strife. After the secession, the country took on the name Nueva Granada. In 1856, it changed its name again, becoming Confederación Granadina. After a period of civil war, it changed its name to the United States of Colombia, finally taking on its current name in 1886.

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The country suffered internal divisions throughout the 1800s, and these political struggles sometimes developed into full-fledged wars. One of the country's most famous civil wars was the Thousand Days Civil War that lasted from 1899 until 1902. This war led to the separation of the Department of Panama in 1903, as well as its establishment as a nation. Following this event, the country became involved in a war with Peru that lasted for a year and entered a period called La Violencia, meaning The Violence, that lasted from the latter part of the 1940s until the early 1950s, dealing with bloody conflicts over internal political struggles.

Today, Colombia has a government that includes an elected president. It is still subject, however, to bloody conflicts. Now, they tend to be lower in intensity and involve rebel groups and militias. The country also suffers from conflicts over corruption and drugs. It has a widespread reputation for homicide, kidnapping, illegal-substance production, and abuse of human rights.

Most of the country’s people are mestizo, which is a mixture of European and Amerindian race. About 20 percent of the population is European while 25 percent is mulatto, meaning a mixture of African and European. The rest of the people are of African ancestry (four percent) or are zambos (three percent), which is a mixture of African and Amerindian descent. Pure Amerindians make up only about one percent of the country’s population. Most of Colombia’s citizens are Roman Catholics.

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