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Geography & Topography

Capital: Bogotá

Area: 1,141,748 km2 (440,831 square miles)

Language: Spanish

Ethnic Groups: Mestizo (49%), White Colombian (37%), Afro Colombian (10.6%), Amerindian (3.4%)

Religion: Christian, Indigenous, Jewish, Muslim or Hinduism, Budism

Currency: Peso


The territory of what is now Colombia was originally inhabited by indigenous peoples including the Muisca, Quimbaya, and Tairona. The Spanish arrived in 1499 and initiated a period of conquest and colonization ultimately creating the Viceroyalty of New Granada (comprising modern-day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, north-western Brazil and Panama), with its capital at Bogotá. Independence from Spain was won in 1819, but by 1830 “Gran Colombia” had collapsed with the secession of Venezuela and Ecuador. What is now Colombia and Panama emerged as the Republic of New Granada. The new nation experimented with federalism as the Granadine Confederation (1858), and then the United States of Colombia (1863), before the Republic of Colombia was finally declared in 1886. Panama seceded in 1903.

Colombia was the first constitutional government in South America, and the Liberal and Conservative parties, founded in 1848 and 1849, are two of the oldest surviving political parties in the Americas. However, tensions between the two have frequently erupted into violence, most notably in the Thousand Days War (1899–1902) and La Violencia, beginning in 1948. From 1953 to 1964 the violence between the two political parties decreased first when Gustavo Rojas deposed the President of Colombia in a coup d’état and negotiated with the Guerrillas, and then under the military junta of General Gabriel París Gordillo. Despite the progress in certain sectors, many social and political problems continued, and guerrilla groups were formally created such as the FARC, ELN and M-19 to fight the government and political apparatus.

Emerging in the late 1970s, powerful and violent drug cartels further developed during the 1980s and 1990s. The Medellín Cartel under Pablo Escobar and the Cali Cartel, in particular, exerted political, economic and social influence in Colombia during this period.

During the presidency of Álvaro Uribe, the government applied more military pressure on the FARC and other outlawed groups. After the offensive, supported by aid from the United States, many security indicators improved. Reported kidnappings showed a steep decrease (from 3,700 in 2000 to 172 in 2009), as did intentional homicides (from 28,837 in 2002 to 15,817 in 2009).

In terms of international relations, Colombia has moved from a period of tense animosity with Venezuela, towards a prosperous outlook to further enhance integration.

The world’s second biggest bank HSBC has created a perspective on the economic outlook in 2050 where Colombia is seen playing a decisive role in the global economy. Today Colombia is the fourth largest oil producer in South America and it is producing a million barrels a day.


Performing Arts



Modern Colombian music is a mixture of African, native Indigenous and European (Spanish) influences, as well as more modern American and Caribbean musical forms, such as Trinidadian, Cuban, and Jamaican. The national music of Colombia is said to be vallenato and cumbia.


Cumbia is a mixture of Spanish and African music, the latter brought by slaves. The style of dance is designed to recall the shackles worn around the ankles of the slaves. In the 19th century, slavery was abolished and Africans, Indians and other ethnic groups mixed more fully. Styles like bambuco, vallenato and porro were especially influential. When the waltz became popular in the 19th century, a Colombian version called pasillo was invented. International Latin, a type of pop ballad, and salsa music are best-represented by Charlie Zaa and Joe Arroyo, respectively.

Music and dancing are very popular in Colombia, with dozens of popular vibrant styles. The most popular local musical styles are Vallenato, salsa, Merengue, Cumbia and Bambuco. The latter is a very complicated dance with many differently named steps.
Colombian rock developed after an influence of ‘Rock en Español’ generating fusion of Rock Music with traditional Colombian music and other musical styles.

The musical genre of Colombian pop music has been growing recently with artists like Fonseca, San Alejo, Lucas Arnau or Mauricio y Palo de Agua. Pop with strong traces of traditional Colombian music is also currently rising. Los De Adentro and Maía represent this trend. Many Colombian artists are recognized internationally including among others, Shakira, who is the most recognized Colombian artist in the world.



Some interesting facts:

  • Colombia produces 60% of the world’s supply of emeralds.
  • The name Colombia has been derived from the name of Christopher Columbus. The name underwent few changes until finally, the Republic of Colombia was adopted in 1886.
  • Colombia shares its borders with five countries Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Panama.


Colombian Community in Australia:

More information on the Colombian community: