Geography Now! Colombia

This episode is brought to you by Hey, guys! Say hi to my friend Diego! ¡Hola, muchachos! He’s a real Colombian! Alright that’s good enough. You can go now It’s time to learn geography. NOW! Hey, guys. Wanna know the best way to anger a Colombian? C-O-L-U… Colombia! Col-O-mbia! Dude, sorry. I didn’t mean to. Let’s… dissect the flag. The Colombian flag is pretty simple. It’s just three colours: yellow, blue and red. The yellow takes up half of the entire flag and the blue and red take up a quarter each at the bottom. The yellow stands for the gold found in the country, the blue stands for the shores and the rivers as well as the sky… and the red stands for… Now keep in mind Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador all kinda follow the same general colour scheme in their flags and this is partially because they all have a unique relationship that we will discuss later But first… One thing that you have to know about Colombia is that it has always historically dominated the northern regions of South America and has played a huge, powerful role on the Latin America stage. Colombia is located on the top of the South American continent bordered by five other countries, connected to, and bisected by Panama in the Northwest making Colombia the only country in South America to have coasts on both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The country has 32 departments and one capital district for the capital city, Bogota. Diego, did I pronounce that right? Diego: No, Bogot-A. Barby: Bogot-a… which is also treated as a department. The weird thing is that the capital, Bogota is also the capital of the Cundinamarca department but technically not actually part of it so the citizens of Bogota can vote for the mayor of the city but not the governor of Cundinamarca even though the governor’s office is also in Bogota. OH COLOMBIA! Colombia also has a weird administrative subdivision in which four other cities are also considered districts. They are Barranquilla, Cartagena, Santa Marta and Buenaventura. Okay, Diego, did I pronounce those correctly? Nope. One thing you have to understand is that the vast majority of the people in the country live in the upper highlands and coasts of the country. And you thought China was disproportionate. Colombia is pretty intense too. Only 3% of the population lives in the dense forests of the south and eastern jungles, even though it makes up 54% of the country’s landmass. Many areas to this day are inaccessible and unexplored or simply just closed off to tourists because of the small guerilla groups that still occupy certain areas. The country spans all the way from Point Gallinas from the Caribbean, which is kinda close to the Gulf of Venezuela, And all the way to the south of the town of Leticia and the border of Peru in the Amazonas department, which by the way has this cool looking flag. Now let’s go offshore. Altogether, Colombia has over 40 islands, keys, and archipelagos along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. Some of the most notable ones being the Rosario Archipelago with pristine coral reefs, Gorgona Island that used to be a high-security prison, (Yeah a lot of countries put high-security prisons on islands. You’re gonna start to see a pattern going on.) And there’s also the San Andres, Providencia and Catlina archipelago, which is the only place in Colombia where English is the official language. It had something to do with the English puritans moving there because they thought Massachusetts was too cold. And somethings with pirates, wars separatists, yadda yadda yadda, now it’s a hot tourist spot. And of course you can’t forget the San Bernardo Archipelago with Santa Cruz del Islote regarded as the most densely populated island in the world. People literally have to go through each other’s living rooms just to get to other places on the island. Now here the thing: there’s a few insane people on this world that actually have the time, energy, and money to go across this thing called the PanAmerican Highway. in which they attempt to go from Alaska to Argentina or the other way around. Right around the halfway point, you hit the biggest road block, the Darien Gap. Right on the border between Colombia and Panama there’s a thick, dense jungle and swampland with virtually no roads connecting the two countries. At about 160km or 100 miles long, this is the missing link in the PanAmerica Highway. And in order to get to Colombia from Panama you will pretty much have to either fly or take a ferry. The reason there’s road is partially to do with the people going, “Oh no, let’s like protect the rain forest and stuff. “And like, it could really mess up things with drug trafficking and also there’s these tribal people living there.” But the biggest reason why is because it pretty much just costs too much. Okay, now let’s have some real fun and see what’s inside of Colombia. Okay, right off the bat Colombia is recognized as a mega-diverse country. In terms of biodiversity it’s only second in the world after Brazil and about 10% of the world’s biodiversity can be found here. The reason why is partially because Colombia, like the Cameroon episode that we studied a few episodes ago, CHECK IT OUT! Comprises an array of dramatically contrasting landscapes all over the entire country. Generally speaking the country is divided into five different eco-regions. The Caribbean, the Andes, the Pacific, the Orinoco, and the Amazon. The Andes region is home to the highlands that the majority of the population and urban centers can be found in with snow-capped peaks and volcanoes. Remember this place is kinda still technically in the ring of fire. You can find the tallest palm trees in the world here as well as the majority of coffee-growing fields which by the way Colombia is the third largest producer of coffee in the world, right after Brazil and surprisingly, Vietnam. Wow, Vietnam you beat Colombia? DANG. It doesn’t really matter because it’s all gonna go to Finland anyway. This is also the area with the largest mineral and gem mines. With over 140 documented sites, Colombia is the world’s largest producer of emeralds, providing about 75 – 90% of the entire world’s market. The Caribbean region acts as kind of like a drainage basin for Colombia’s principal river, the Magdelena that empties into the Caribbean from the Andes at the point of Baranquilla. This low-laying humid tropic zone with amazing beaches was actually the first place settled by Europeans in Colombia and is known for having once of the only two desert zones in all of Colombia, the Guajira Desert. You can also find the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains… whoo which has the world’s largest coastal mountain and Colombia’s highest peak, mount Cristobal Colon Although Mount Simon Bolivar is almost completely identical in height. The Pacific region is noted for being the rainiest area in all of Colombia with an average of 400cm of precipitation year-round. This rain supports many rivers that flow through the country and irrigate the dense jungles that reach the coasts. The Orinoco region, named after the Orinoco river basin, is kinda like the farm and ranch lands of Colombia, Sparsely populated, this area is on the other side of the Andes and is generally flatter and suitable for crop and livestock production. This area is also rich in oil and home to famous newly-discovered Caño Cristales river, also known as the river of five colours, (some say seven) or, the liquid rainbow river, known as the world’s most beautiful river, thanks to the various rock sediments and plant life that adorn the crystal clear waters that flow through it. This place just opened up to the public and it’s actually really hard to get here. There’s only one cargo plane that drops you off in the general vicinity and then you have to drive a way to get there. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! Finally, we reach the Amazon region. This area is, without a doubt the most biologically compact region in all of Colombia and the world apart from the rest of the country. Here, lizards are blue, dolphins are pink, and people sometimes keep capybaras as pets. No matter where you are in Colombia, all the people kinda share the same complex history and story Such we will cover in… Ah… Colombia. The only place where they can tarnish their image with drug cartels yet entice you with Shakira By the way, save yourself the trouble and do not bring up the cocaine conversations with Colombians. They’ve heard it all and they’re sick of it. First off, the country has about 50 million people and is the third most populous country in Latin America, after Mexico and Brazil. It is also the third most populous country with Spanish speakers, after Mexico and the US. In terms of ethnic makeup, it’s really hard to get an exact individual racial percentage because, like Brazil, a large portion of Colombia’s population has a mixture of European and either Amerindian or African ancestry. Or both. It varies on region, but generally Mestizos and whites make up about 80% of the population with a specific white population, mostly descended from Spain, being somewhere around 30%, but the line is a little hazy. Afro-Colombians, including the mixed-race, black Colombians, like the Raizal and Palenquero make up about 12%. Indigenous tribal peoples make up about 4% and the rest of the population is a mixture of every other people group, like Asians, Arabs, and even a surprising community of Romanis. Now here’s the thing: Colombians have a strong sense of regionalism. The people on the Caribbean coast generally have a more vibrant party type of culture with numerous festivals throughout the entire year. The second largest carnival festival can be found in Baranquilla. The Pacific coast is where most of the black community can be found, where one quarter of the entire population there has Afro-Colombian roots. The Andes is where all the business and government is processed, with the largest cities. Also here you can find the famous Paisa accent that outsiders in the Latin American world generally affiliate Colombia with. Johanna from Flama does a great job explaining this. “Colombia has a bunch of different accents but the most intense one is [incoherent Spanish] “It’s as if Sean Connery spoke Spanish and was telling you a very sad story all the time. “[More incoherent Spanish]” She’s so great. Hey Diego, come here. Can you do the Paisa accent? I’ll try… [more Spanish in the Paisa accent] *Barby laughs awkwardly* Then of course you have the farmers of the Orinoco region and least populated Amazon region that has the highest concentration of indigenous tribal peoples most of which speak their own languages, and many of which to this day are still undocumented. Overall, there are all different types of Colombians. You have blond hair, blue eye Colombians, you have black, African Colombians, Lebanese Colombians, and everything in between. Now here’s where things are gonna get a little messy. If you’re gonna understand one thing about Colombia it’s that pretty much everyone in the country is either somehow affiliated with or affected by one of the conflicting political groups that stem back over half a century ago. Even though Colombia is doing exponentially better than what it was decades ago, with a booming economy and relative government stability, (Kind of) Everybody knows that yes, Colombia has had some pretty crazy times and things got really messy, especially in the 80s and 90s, when the whole country went through Armageddon. I’m gonna try to condense this in the quickest way I can but essentially… It all started with the Liberal and Conservative parties fighting against each other until all hell broke loose and then this guy was assassinated in the 40s, inciting a ten year civil war which ended with each side agreeing to give consecutive ruling power between each side, alternating each four years but then the people were like, “Nah, we don’t like that,” so they created their own left wing guerilla warfare groups like FARC, M19, and ELN, inspired by Che Guevara and the Marxist ideologies whom fought against the government and a few incidents against themselves, sometimes. Whereas parts of the Colombian army broke off and created their own illegal paramilitary groups that fought against both the regular military and the guerillas. As all this was happening, drug cartels were growing and expanding their billion dollar empires in the 80s and 90s the largest ones being the Cali Cartel, led by the Rodríguez Orejuela family and the Medellín Cartel, led by Pablo Escobar, the richest drug cartel of all time. Side plug, watch the show Narcos, I’ve heard it’s actually surprisingly kind of accurate. The cartels were so powerful they actually kinda technically ruled parts of the country and they fought against each other, and the paramilitary, the government, and the guerilla warfare groups. And all while this was happening, the biggest casualty of the entire conflict was the everyday Colombian citizen that didn’t want anything to do with anything. Did I get that right, Diego? Diego: Yeah, good job, man.
Barby: Thanks So it all didn’t really cool down until about the early 2000s, after huge effort from the US that aided the fight against the cartels which are pretty much all but non-existent today. Peace talks are still underway right now and the country is seeing the brightest days it’s seen in a long time. And of course you can’t feel bright without… Now Colombians may have had internal drama but they’ve never really been diplomatically isolated. Historically speaking, Colombia has always been quite the extrovert even in times of full-blown warfare. First of all, one thing you have to understand about Colombia is the EcCoVE alliance, a term I literally just made up for this episode, referring to Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. These three countries, in addition to Panama and bits of Peru, Brazil, and Guyana were all parts of the same country, once called Gran Colombia. Long story short, regions divided and now you have three siblings, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. As you can tell, these three countries have similar flags and culturally identify with each other closer than any other Latin American country. Ecuador is kinda seen as the little brother who got a job, stays out of trouble and manages his business portfolio while sipping on some morocho on his beach-front home. Now Colombia and Venezuela are kinda like fraternal twins. Colombia is like the stressed-out brother who just got back from fighting in a war, and Venezuela is like the edgy, yet attractive punk rock sister who doesn’t like to be told what to do. They compete a lot and have minor squabbles, here and there, I mean Venezuela just recently closed the border. But in the end they’re all still family even if it is a little dysfunctional. As mentioned before, Chile is close friend; Colombians love either visiting or moving to Chile and business has never been better between the two. Panama is kinda seen as like the little sister that sort of had a crush on the US and decided to leave the family for him but that’s okay because Colombia kinda sees the US as a condonable suitor for her as he helped Colombia fight against the cartels and effectively rerevolutionized the entire economic infrastructure. Nonetheless Colombia would probably consider Mexico their best friend. Not only are they part of the Pacific Alliance, but they both love to piggy back off of each other’s cultures. Mexicans like to take cumbia and Colombians like to take rancheras. In conclusion, Colombia is like that really attractive guy who just got out of a tornado and is just starting to wipe off the mud from his face and comb his hair. [Spanish] Oh, and Steve Harvey, you might want to avoid coming here for the next few… forever. Stay tuned, Comoros is coming up next. Hey geograpeeps, I just wanna give another quick shout-out and thank you to They are our first sponsor. This video was sponsored by them. They are a great homework help and tutoring website. Most of the people on their website have at least Master’s Degrees. The website is typically much cheaper than all the other tutoring websites so check them out, They are helping out Geography Now. Great people. Totally recommended and I got promo codes in the description box. Check it out and you can get a discount., good stuff.

You May Also Like

About the Author: Oren Garnes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *