Colombia, country in South America, situated in the northwestern part of the continent. Colombia is blessed with natural resources, including beautiful beaches, dramatic mountains, and lush rain forests, but it is notorious for political unrest and the violent influence of powerful drug cartels. And despite a long history of democratic government, Colombia has one of the most rigidly stratified class systems in Latin America. Colombia is the only country in South America with coasts on both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Its neighbors on the east are Venezuela and Brazil; on the south, Ecuador and Peru; and to the northwest, Panama. The capital and largest city is Bogotá.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans in the Americas, a number of indigenous groups, including the Chibcha (Muisca), occupied the land that makes up present-day Colombia. From the 16th century to the 19th century, Colombia was a colony of Spain. The country achieved independence in 1819. Following independence, Colombia became a republic with an elected government.
Colombian society is divided between the upper and lower classes, with a large and growing gap between them.
A substantial middle class developed during the 20th century, a product in part of fairly widespread land ownership associated with the country’s coffee economy.
Many of the attitudes that led to Colombia’s sharp class divisions originated in 16th-century Spain and became ingrained in Colombian society during the colonial period. Family lineage, inherited wealth, and racial background continue to be powerful determinants of status. Economic progress during the last 100 years has been substantial, but political, social, and economic power continues to be concentrated in the hands of the small upper class. Since the mid-20th century, Colombia has been torn by violence. Struggles between left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary groups, and the Colombian armed forces have convulsed much of the countryside. Colombia has also been plagued by an illegal drug trade that flourished in the country as a consequence of the growing demand for narcotics, particularly cocaine, in the United States and other rich, industrialized countries. The Colombian government has attempted to limit drug production and negotiate a peaceful settlement with the rebel forces. At the beginning of the 21st century, however, Colombia still experienced upheaval, and violence had become a daily experience for many Colombians. Encarta © "Colombia" © Emmanuel Buchot and Encarta
Photos of European countries to visit
Photos of Asian countries to visit
Photos of America