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About & History

About

Known officially as the Republic of Colombia, the republic is run under a presidency under President Juan Manuel Santos and Vice President Angelino Garzon. It is home to over 47 Million people and covers over 1.1 Million square kilometres of land.

The country shares borders with Panama in the northwest, Venezuela on the east, and Brazil, Peru and Ecuador on the south. It also has two ocean borders on the Pacific and Caribbean seas.


Stone Age History

Colombia’s history can be traced as far back as 43,000 BC, but it was in 10,000 BC where evidence of hunter-gatherer societies near present-day Tibito in Bogota existed that is considered the dawn of Colombian civilization. Around 9,000 BC, the hunter-gatherers had become concentrated around the highlands of Colombia.

Bronze Age History

By 2,000 BC, the hunter-gatherer societies in the highlands had formed a permanent village settlement in northern Colombia and had split into three main groups; the Quimbayas whom had begun to occupy the western slopes of the Cordillera Central, the Caribes whom lived around the borders in the northwest between Colombia and Venezuela and the Chibhas whom had settled in the eastern areas of Colombia.

Iron Age History

Towards the end of the 3rd Century BC, the Chibcha had split into two tribes: the Tairona whom settled in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Muisca whom had taken over their predecessor’s lands in the Cordillera Oriental in the eastern ranges of Colombia. Both tribes spoke dialects of the Chibcha language and both had advanced their civilizations significantly through deforestation and the use of cultigens.

The Quimbaya, meanwhile, had developed a spectacularly masterful level of skill with goldsmithing and had constructed various gold items including statuettes, storage containers, sarcophagi, fruits and other rarities. One of the most interesting being the Quimbaya airplanes which are supposed to depict birds, amphibians, fish and the like, but curiously resemble modern aircraft.

Despite these technological and skill-based advances, the Carib had rapidly become warlike and held regular raids on other groups nearby. The Carib also begun to spread to nearby islands in the Caribbean and had raided Arawakan groups in the region, fully exterminating and assimilating the Taino tribes completely. However, it is known that they co-existed fairly peacefully with another tribe, the Galibi, for most of their occupation of the area.

1st Century – 15th Century History

The various civilizations continued to thrive, with the Quimbaya reaching their peak between the 4th and the 7th Centuries AD. Then in the 10th Century AD, the Quimbaya vanished mysteriously, leaving only their structures and golden items behind. Even the Quimbayan language vanished in its entirety.


16th Century – 19th Century History

The Spanish arrived at the Cabo de la Vela in 1499 and from that moment on; they made repeated attempts to establish a settlement along the northern coast, but only succeeded some 26 years later on the grounds of Santa Marta. Cartagena, the next settlement, was established in 1533, and due to its close proximity to the Sinu civilization, a Muisca tribe nearby, one of the locals observed the Sinu Zipa’s (the ruler) tradition where the Zipa would cover himself in gold, float out to the middle of Lake Guatavita on a large regal raft and offer gold trinkets to the goddess of the lake. This combined with the golden remnants of the disappeared Quimbayan civilization is what started the legend of El Dorado and caused a rush of colonialists to the country. In 1549, the Spanish Royal Audiencia gave Bogota the status of the capital of New Granada (which is what comprised most of Colombia today).

Almost two hundred years later in 1717, New Granada became a Viceroyalty, which was temporarily removed and then re-established in 1739 with Santa Fe de Bogota as its capital city. The Viceroyalty also gave the country control over neighbouring Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama and gave the Spanish access to northern South America and Latin America through nearby Mexico City and Lima.

In 1810, news that southern Spain had been conquered by Napoleon and that the Spanish Supreme Central Junta had dissolved reached the Viceroyalty of New Grenada as well as the nearby Viceroyalty of Venezuela and the countries began to set up their own juntas to compensate, essentially claiming independence. However, these caused rapid successive shifts in power as leaders were repeatedly ousted and replaced, starting with Viceroy Antonio Jose Amar y Borbon of Bogota being deposed by popular pressure only five days after the establishment of the junta in Bogota. After Borbon’s deposition, arguments over the successor broke out and after mob protesting and repeated arrests. The region splintered apart and saw widespread military intervention on repeated occasions.

Following this in 1811, Bogota transformed itself into the state of Cundinamarca and developed a constitution, establishing it as a monarchy under the absent Ferdinand VII of Spain. It attempted to start the “Congress of the United Provinces” and invited other nearby nations to try to start a confederation. This Congress established the United Provinces of New Granada later on that year, but Cundinamarca itself rejected the union and declared independence from the union. Many other regions of New Granada also split off and formed their own kingdoms, governments and confederations. However, the disputes didn’t settle and erupted into civil wars in 1812 and 1814, by 1816, the state of Cundinamarca was forced to submit to the union after losing the war and its capital, Bogota.

The conflicts had generated two distinctive political parties, the Conservative and the Liberal parties, and these two parties began to dominate Colombian politics. The Conservative party wanted a more centralized government while the Liberals wanted a decentralized government. The parties began to hold presidency for roughly equal amounts of time and held regular free elections. After Great Colombia was dissolved in 1830, the military was forced to intervene to stop rioting, and then it was forced to take control once more in 1854, however, within one year the military returned rule to civilian control within one year. In 1863, the country became the United States of Colombia and in 1886 it became the Republic of Colombia that we see today. Due to the rivalry between the Conservative and Liberal parties, civil war erupted in 1899, culminating in the loss of over 100,000 lives.


20th Century History

Riots and warring between the Conservative and Liberal parties continued into the 20th Century, and the United States’ intervention further fuelled the fire as they attempted to influence the area with the construction of the Panama Canal in 1903 and subsequently ended up with Panama declaring independence as a nation. A further 300 thousand people died in the 40s and 50s during the violence between the ruling parties. In 1953, the military was forced to intervene again and they successfully performed a coup d’état, ousting Conservative President Laureano Gomez and instating General Gustavo Rojas as ruler, and although enjoying quick support to begin with, he was overthrown himself by the military and both political parties in 1957 when he failed to restore democratic rule and openly repressed the people.

In 1957, Laureano Gomez and Liberal President Alberto Lleras issused the Declaration of Sitges which proposed the joining of the two parties, allowing them to jointly govern the nation in what they called the National Front. The new government began rapidly reform the country’s law, in particular, that surrounding land entitlement, within the years between 1968 and 1969 alone the Colombian Institute for Agrarian Reform set up by Alberto Lleras Camargo issued over 60 thousand land titles to farmers and workers. However, the National Front system began to be seen as a form of political repression, especially after the fraud committed by Conservative candidate Misael Pastrana in 1970. This fraudulence caused the creation of the guerrilla group M-19 (19th April Movement / Movimiento 19 de Abril) as a response. The National front was phased out in 1974.

For the next eight years leading up to 1982, each presidential group attempted to end the insurgencies trying to undermine the political system in the country. Both parties repeatedly claimed to support the weak and poor castes against the more powerful and richer classes in the country and had a somewhat Communist perspective on the matter. The insurgent groups, M-19, FARC and ELN (National Liberation Army) being the biggest, had grown significantly and found popular support with many people, resulting in harsher measures by the government in an attempt to further supress the militant groups.

At the same time, the illegal drug trade had become a big problem in the country and Colombian drug lords had begun to hold significant power in the region and developed an uneven relationship with the guerrilla groups. This led to the kidnapping of family members of the drug cartels and the subsequent forming of the MAS (Muerte a Seceuestradores / Death to Kidnappers), an assassin group. The MAS began to take measures to move through the government to push legislation attempting to stop the extradition of Colombian nationals to the US Victims of Cartel Violence. These measures were extreme and included the bribery and murders of various politicians. Despite a negotiated cease-fire with the M-19, it failed when the factions resumed fighting in 1985 after the guerrillas claimed that official security forces had assaulted and threatened their members. In the same year, the M-19 stormed the Colombian Palace of Justice and held the Supreme Court Magistrates hostage in an attempt to put President Betancur on trial, resulting in a bloody crossfire.

Meanwhile the FARC guerrilla forces and the UP Political Party had attempted to join together, but tensions rose when the FARC refused to disarm and demobilize. The government also accused the FARC of continuing to recruit for their guerrilla forces as well as kidnapping, extorting and politically intimidating voters of the UP. In 1986, Virgilio Barco came into power and further attempted to negotiate with the guerrilla forces and to confront the drug cartels. The UP at this time suffered more losses through assassinations by the drug cartels and the guerrilla forces and further assassinations followed until 1990 when Cesar Gaviria was elected.

In 1991 the elections for a Constituent Assembly of Colombia wrote a new constitution and fairly successfully were able to pacify the guerrilla groups. The new Constitution brought in various reforms which were seen as far more modern and democratic than the prior 1886 Constitution. In 1994, Liberal Ernesto Samper came into office and he turned the government’s eyes to the narcotics traffickers which, although somewhat successful, had pulled the focus away from domestic reforms and once again began to see guerrilla violence and hostage-taking of both political and military officials. He was replaced in 1998 by Conservative Andres Pastrana whom won in one of the first elections with a high voter turnout and low political unrest and saw a new presidential campaign which focused on collaboration with the US Government to combat the illegal drug trade.

Although the Colombian peace process was fairly successful in the coming years, the Pastrana presidency also saw unemployment rates soar up above 20% due to a string of economic problems and little support by the government. Additionally, although smaller in scale, the various cartels and guerrilla groups became more diverse in nature and became rapidly harder to combat. Although the ELN and FARC groups agreed to participate in the peace process, they didn’t actually agree directly to end the conflict and guerrilla attacks by the groups have continued to occur regardless. These problems continued on and forced the hand of the president, unveiling the ‘Plan Colombia’ in 1999 which attempted to deal with the limited government presence, the frequent violence, the illicit drug trade and social inequities in general. The US approved $1.3 Billion in an assistance package to Colombia in hopes of helping their government revive their economy and combat the narcotics trade.

21st Century History

Peace negotiations rapidly began to crumble and in 2002, Liberal politician Alvaro Uribe was sworn in as president. Uribe’s father had been killed by left-wing guerrillas and as such he quickly took action to try and crush the FARC, including employing civilians controversially to act as informants to the police and armed forces. Later on in the same year, the Democratic Security and Defence Policy came into play, this saw more attention focused on the national security and armed forces of Colombia.

By 2004 it had become apparent that the situation inside of Colombia had improved somewhat and that the economy had also seen a slight boost, but a lot still has yet to be done and this is mainly due to the lack of freely allocated funds and credits in the country. Additionally, despite Uribe’s policies against crime and guerrilla activity being relatively successful (and subsequently seeing the title of World’s Biggest Cocaine Producer being lost by Colombia), it’s been noted that they also breach human rights significantly and have given the armed security forces too much power, resulting in its abuse.

Uribe was re-elected in 2006 after the constitution was changed to allow prior-presidents to be re-elected.

In 2008 through demonstrations by millions of Colombians against the FARC and ELN, the two groups rapidly began to demobilize and the military forces of the Republic of Colombia have subsequently been strengthened.

Columbia managed to take the title of the 3rd Largest Oil Producer in South America and produced over a million barrels a day. Since 2012, Peace Process talks in Cuba between the Colombian government and Rebel groups (especially the FARC-EP) have taken place and huge breakthroughs have been accomplished recently as a result. In 2013, the National Administrative Department of Statistics reported that over 30% of the country’s population had been living below the poverty line, 9% of which had been lifted out of extreme poverty (amounting to about 820,000 in number).