República de Colombia
- Location: Northwestern South America
- Capital: Bogota
- Language: Spanish (indigenous languages of varying ethnic groups are considered official in their respective territories)
- Population: 45,925,397
- Total Area: 1,141,748 sq km
- Currency: Peso (COP)
- Curious Alcohol Fact: Each region has its own Aguardiente. For example Caldas has “Cristal”, Antioquia has “Antioqueno”, and “Nectar” from Cundinamarca.
- Annual Average Liquor Consumption per Capita: 6.17
- Most Popular Drink: The national drink is Aguardiente which tastes like anise. People usually drink it in shots.
The Republic of Colombia (Republica de Colombia) is a constitutional republic and is considered the 2nd largest South American country in terms of population and the 3rd largest Spanish speaking country. It is divided into 32 regions called departments with one capital district. Colombia was named for the explorer Christopher Columbus. It was originally inhabited by various indigenous groups such as the Muisca, Quimbaya, and Tairona. Spain colonized the country in 1499 and remained in control until they won independence in 1819. Most of the urban centers are located in the highlands of the Andes Mountains. Colombia also includes Amazon rainforests, tropical grasslands, and beautiful Caribbean and Pacific coastlines.
Colombia is very ethnically diverse as many of its people are descendants of natives, Spanish colonists, African slaves, and European and Middle Eastern immigrants. The majority of Colombians speak Spanish, but there are about 80 languages spoken such as Chibchan, Arawak, Cariban, and Quechua. Immigrants, especially from the Middle East, have settled in communities along the Caribbean coast. Barranquilla, the largest city on the coast, has large numbers of Lebanese and Arabs, Sephardic Jews, and Roma (or gypsies).
The country is considered a strong Middle Power with the fourth largest economy in Latin America. The majority of the country is considered to be Roman Catholic although the constitution allows for religious freedom. Cultural trends vary depending upon the region. For example, in Barranquilla, there is a folkloric carnival that has the second largest parade in the whole world! The Spanish paloteo dance and the African conga are among the dances done to loud beating drums and the high pitched notes of wind instruments. In August in the city of Medellin, the Festival of the Flowers takes place with a parade of fragrant, brightly colored flowers.
Colombia cuisine varies depending on the region but national staples of their diets include fruits such as small sweet bananas, guavas, mangos, and lulos (tiny, citrusy oranges), rum, and coffee. Coffee is particularly wonderful in Colombia as it is one of the country’s major crops. Other popular foods include thick, creamy ajiaco (soup made of chicken, corn, potatoes, avocados and guascas spices) of the Bogota and Andean region, spiced pork and whale liver and coconut rice from the Caribbean coast, and tamales Tolimenses (corn dough filled with peas, carrots, potatoes, rice, chicken, pork, and spices and wrapped in plantain leaves) which are native to Tolima.
The national liquor is an anise tasting alcohol called Aguardiente. Rum drinks such as Ron Medellin Anejo, dry, amber colored rum, are also quite popular. Agua de Panela is a nice drink of panela (boiled whole cane sugar) with cinnamon and cloves often drank with cubes of melted cheese which make it almost soup-like. Coffee from Colombia is known for its perfect, aromatic flavor.
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Special thanks to our contributors:
Rebecca Dimyan, Danbury, CT, USA