Okay, I admit that before I met Wilfredo, I wasn’t quite confident that I could point out Colombia on an unlabelled map. The name of the capital escaped my mind at times. The country just wasn’t on my radar. But now I’m here and I learned a few things…
First of all, it’s spelled with an “o”. Colombia, not Columbia which is one of the most common mistakes people make.
They speak Spanish here, but slightly different from Spain’s Spanish in the way that American English is different from British English.
The money is the Colombian Peso (COP)
The Colombian flag is horizontally striped yellow blue and red. Yellow is for gold, blue is for the seas and red is for all the bloodshed in battle.
Bogotá is the capital (the third-highest capital city in the world). It is one of the three biggest Colombian cities which include Medellín (City of Eternal Spring) and Cali (the salsa capital!)
Here’s a little entertaining video I found on YouTube from a Cali nightclub.
Colombia is made up of departments similar to states. There are 32.
I always assumed that Colombia was swelteringly hot. That’s not true. Not completely. Cartagena is, and there are a number of other places that fit that description, but you can also find snow in Colombia. You find moderate temperatures too. It depends mostly on altitude.
Speaking of altitude, the Andes Mountains run through the country. There’s three branches called the Occidental, Central and Oriental. It touches both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. There are deserts, plains and all sorts of other landscapes including a big part of the country that is Amazon jungle.
It is one of the biodiverse countries in the world with 1800 species of birds and some plants and animals that look to me like they belong on a different planet. It’s also incredibly diverse in terms of people based on location.
They do enjoy their religion. Most are catholic.
There are poor people here and there are rich people here. There is unfortunately a deep divide.
The image of Colombia is unfortunate – drug trafficking and violence. Before I got to know some Colombians and other people who had been here, I was convinced I would be kidnapped and hidden in the jungle for ransom the moment I stepped off the plane.
It is true that there is instability here, that some areas are safer than others and you should use common sense when travelling as you would anywhere else. Take advice from locals before going off the beaten path.
There’s a few Colombians you may have heard of: Shakira ring a bell? Perhaps Gabriel Garcia Marquez who wrote that novel 100 Years of Solitude you probably read in school? If you’re into racing you probably know Juan Pablo Montoya. Or sculptor of fat people – Fernando Botero?
Yes, there is cocaine. But there’s also some pretty tasty coffee, 95% of the world’s emeralds, plenty of sugarcane and they export a huge chunk of the world’s flowers.
Family is ubber-important.
They love soccer, but their national sport involves explosions and lots of beer. It’s called Tejo.
Their national flower is called Cattleya Trianae. It’s purple.
Colombians, at least the ones I’ve been staying with, eat a hell of a lot of meat, soup, yucca, potatoes, rice, saltines, arepa – which is like cornbread- and blowpops. Yes, blowpops. They call them something like “bom bom booms”.