Colombia

From Roses, Tulips, & Liberty
Colombia
United Provinces of Colombia
Provincias Unidas de Colombia
Location of Colombia
EstablishedColombian War of Independence (1842)
CapitalSan José de Cúcuta
Largest CityBogotá
Population89 Million
Government TypeFederated Republic
Languages
  • Spanish (Official)
  • Various native languages
CurrencyColombian Peso (COP)

Colombia, officially the United Provinces of Colombia (Provincias Unidas de Colombia) is a country in northern South America. Colombia is bordered to the north by the Caribbean Sea, the northwest by Boschland, the south by Peru, the east by Guyana, the southeast by Equador, and the west by the Pacific Ocean. It comprises six provinces and 64 departments and the capital District of San José de Cúcuta.

With over 86 million inhabitants, Colombia is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse countries globally, with its rich cultural heritage reflecting influences by various Amerindian civilizations, European settlement, forced African labor, and immigration from Europe the greater Middle East. Urban centers are concentrated in the Andean highlands and the Caribbean coast. Colombia is one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries and has the second-highest level of biodiversity in the world. Its territory encompasses the Amazon rainforest, highlands, grasslands, and deserts, and it is the only country in South America with coastlines and islands along both the Atlantic and Pacific.

Colombia is considered a major regional power in South America with the highest population on the continent, a highly developed industrial economy, and large reserves of natural resources.

Etymology

The name "Colombia" is derived from the Italian navigator Christopher Columbus (Italian: Cristoforo Colombo, Spanish: Cristóbal Colón). It was conceived as a reference to all of the New World.

During the Colombian War of Independence and the Spring of Nations in South America (the 1830s), the term Colombia became used by republicans and revolutionaries as an endonym that refers to the former Spanish colony of New Granada. After the Treaty of Medellín (1842), Colombia became the common name for the United Provinces of Colombia.

History

Early History

Owing to its location, the present territory of Colombia was a corridor of early human civilization from Mesoamerica and the Caribbean to the Andes and Amazon basin. Various indigenous peoples have inhabited Colombia since 12,000 BCE, including the Muisca, Quimbaya, Caquetio, Timoto–Cuicas, and the Tairona. The Spanish landed first in La Guajira in 1499 and by the mid-16th century colonized parts of the region, establishing the Viceroy of New Granada.

During Spanish rule, Colombia became a center of imperial power with the growth of the colonial cities of Bogota, Caracas, Quito & Cartagena.

Colombian Revolution

Starting in the early 1830's southern and central Europe erupted into a wave of revolutions based upon liberalism, republicanism, and nationalism known as the Spring of Nations. Some of the earliest of these revolutions were in the Iberian peninsula, with revolutionaries calling for the Spanish and Portuguese empires to reform their political systems, with some revolutionaries going as far as calling for the abolition of the monarchies. The ideals of the Spring of Nations spread to the Spanish and Portuguese American colonies throughout the 1830s culminating in a series of (mostly unsuccessful) revolts in Puerto Rico, New Spain, Brazil, and New Granada. In the viceroy of New Granada, there was a growing dissatisfaction amongst local merchants and criollo elites, as well as amongst the lower classes who've become limited in socio-political advancement due to the restrictive Spanish casta system.

The Colombian Revolution started in 1836 with a series of liberal revolts in Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, and Maracaibo. In March of 1838, the Colombian Revolutionary Congress organized a militia and occupied the city of Medellín. Over the year, the Colombian highlands erupted into armed revolt under the revolutionary congress; in November of 1839, the revolutionary congress decided on a platform of the abolition of slavery, which helped spread the revolution to the Caribbean and Pacific coastal lowlands. By the end of the year, the revolutionary congress was in control of most of Venezuela, Trinidad, the Colombian Pacific coast, and the Colombian highlands, with Spanish royalist forces being limited to the Atlantic coasts and the Ecuadorian highlands. In 1841 fighting slowed down in Ecuador, with both sides unable to advance on the other.

Additionally, international pressure started to favor the Colombian rebels, with the Dutch and French empires refusing to stop trading the insurgents. In April of 1841, the Spanish began to actively shoot down Dutch merchant ships trying to land in New Granada, which led to the Dutch empire openly arming the Colombian rebels. In October of 1842, Spanish forces retreated from their last strongholds in Barranquilla and Cartagena. In December, Spanish and Colombian diplomats signed the Treaty of Medellín (1842). The Spanish recognized the independence of New Granada but retained sovereignty and control over Ecuador (with the region being reorganized under the authority of the viceroy of Peru).

Colombia in the 20th century

First Colombian-Peruvian War

A map from 1895 showing Quito as disputed territory.

Since independence, the Republic of Colombia believed that the Real Audiencia of Quito was an occupied province. Colombia made various gestures throughout the mid-19th century to reclaim the territory. The Colombians saw their chance when the Viceroyalty of Peru (which had administered Quito) declared independence from Spain.

At this point, the Colombian Liberals were in control of the federal government (by creating and exploiting the political system based on the spoils system in the coastal cities of Cundinamarca and Venezuela). Their conservative opponents attempted to use the issue over Quito to gain support.

After a minor skirmish occurred on the Peruvian-Colombian border that caused the deaths of two Colombian soldiers, the out-of-power conservatives made a ploy to whip up Nationalist fervor, retake the Quito territory, and hopefully retake political control from the Liberals. The conservatives began to launch massive a massive propaganda campaign. In the Colombian election of 1889, the Conservatives won a major political victory and, after a few months of tension, declared war on Peru in January of 1890.

The Colombian army was not the most modernized at the time, but the country itself was economically prosperous in that they imported most of the armaments they needed from Europe. In contrast, the Kingdom of Peru was in a state of disarray after the Peruvian-Spanish war (in which Spain reinvaded Peru briefly after commerce disputes) with factions of generals not coordinating with each other, frequent supply shortages, and an overall unclear war plan. The war only lasted ten months, with the Colombians rapidly overwhelming the Peruvian defense of Quito, which was due in no small part to internal issues within Peru. After the war, Peru would not recognize Colombian sovereignty over the Quito territory until eight years later.

The aftermath of the war led to great boons for the Republic of Colombia. Not only did they gain a new province, but they also modernized their military with contemporary European arms and strategies. They also built stronger economic ties to France, the British, Genoa (who loaned the nation money during the war), and Venice. The Colombian Conservatives were able to use the victory in the war to justify their continued rule and were able to stay in power for an unbroken 15 years.

Race to the Pacific and the Panama Canal

Logo of the Panama Canal Commission
Colombia is one of the three main shareholders of the modern-day Panama Canal Commission, along with Mexico and Genoa. Since the mid-19th century, the three governments already had plans for a joint-effort canal project in the Isthmus of Panamá. The project had used Genoa (through Panama) as the banking base for the financial aspects of the projects and had several Genoese engineers involved. At the same time, the Dutch nations were building a separate canal in Boschland, Central America. However, the Panama Canal was completed a few months before the Dutch canal was.

While the Panama Canal itself was a jointly-owned venture, Colombia owned the majority of land near the canal (besides for the small port colony owned by Genoa, which during this period started to grow into a major metropolitan area), which allowed the nation to profit heavily from the canal and its completion.

Italian Immigration to Colombia

From the 1890s to roughly 2015, Colombia saw a significant boom in foreign direct investment, greater exploitation of Colombian natural resources, the discovery of large oil deposits, and a mid-sized industrial expansion centered around mineral and resource refining. Additionally, in 1899, new cultivars of coffee were introduced to Colombia. Along with long-term central planning by the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia, the Colombian Coffee industry grew massively, with the nation quickly making a name for itself as one of the premier coffee-growing countries.

These changes led to a massive labor deficiency and a new need for foreign workers, mostly filled through a massive immigration wave from the Italian states after the 1903 Latial Famine and the 1908 Venetian Invasion of the Papal States. Additionally, thousands of Sicilian immigrants left for Colombia in the early 1900s to escape poverty and the corrupt semi-serfdom-based economic system of the Kingdom of Sicily. While these immigrants left a significant positive cultural mark on the Republic of Colombia, one major issue that arose in this period was the creation of the long-standing Colombia Mafia's dominated by organizations with ties to the Cosa Nostra.

Second Colombian-Peruvian War

Starting in 1915 the economies of South America started to see a drop in European Investment due to overproduction in certain industries in the trans-Atlantic economy and a rise in interest rates from European banks in response to political crises in western Europe (political crises that would go on to be major factors in the European Economic Crisis in the 1920s). Unemployment across South American nations spiked because of their reliance on European markets for their natural resources and agricultural goods. Though a few industries grew in this period, notably rubber production, rubber-producing regions were critically important to the economies of nations that controlled them.

In 1917, Peru, suffering from widespread unemployment and economic troubles stemming from growing economic uncertainties in Europe, entered into secret talks with the Lusophone Republic of Equador and decided to wage a joint war on Colombia to split and annex the rubber producing Colombian Amazon territory.

At the time, Colombia was suffering from economic troubles and a series of political strikes. On July 10, 1917, a surprise attack on Colombian airfields started the war with Colombia on the backfoot. Throughout 1917, Colombia lost ground in the Amazon and the much sought over Quito province. By 1918 though, Colombia was able to stop the Peruvian-Equadorian advances, mobilizing its new industrial center and securing nominal support from the British (who were worried of the war's precedent; themselves owning rubber producing land in Guiana). Additionally, in the Fall of 1918, the Chilean Revolt started in southern Peru, to which the British and Colombian supplied weapons and resources. By the end of the year, Colombia was able to retake Quito province, and at that point, the war became a drawn-out excursion mostly fought in the Amazons. In May 1919, Equador, suffering a manpower shortage, sued for peace, and in that following July, Peru signed an armistice (themselves dealing with large-scale revolts in Chile and the Chaco). On November 5, 1919, Colombia, Equador, and Peru signed the Treaty of Leonabelle (mediated by the United Kingdom), in which Peru relinquished all claims to Quito and recognized the independence of Chile. The borders of the Amazon were also agreed upon, formalizing the cession of land occupied by Colombia during the war.

The aftermath of the war saw Colombia becoming ingratiated with Britain. British influence in Colombian politics and economics grew to unprecedented levels. This reignited the Colombian economy, and large Anglo-Colombian corporate firms started to operate within the nation.

The Liberal Renaissance Era (1924-1940)

1924 National Victory

After the end of the First Colombian-Peruvian War (1890), the Conservative Party was able to obtain enough popularity to stay in power for the next almost 40 years. With its economic ties close to Britain, the country’s export of raw materials and slow growing industrial sector. The aftermath of the Second Colombian-Peruvian War (1917-1919), on the other hand, brought to Colombia an unprecedented economic growth, especially in the oil and rubber sectors. But the skyrocketing Colombian economy soon reached its peak, and started its descent only two years later. The European Economic Crisis (1922-1928) hit hard the raw material based economies of most South American countries, and Colombia wasn’t an exception.

The crisis would mark the start of the end of the almost half century long continuation of conservative governments. The disastrous economic policy taken during the early crisis period where tons of products such as rubber, sugar and coffee were overproduced, sending the prices down and devaluing the Colombian currency, as the European colonial powers, Colombia’s major economic partners, started to shift to their closed markets, and hundreds of thousands lost their jobs.

The 1924 national election saw the Liberal Party rising to power with ease. With promises of fixing the economy and work to develop an “independent Colombian economy”, the party managed to elect a president and gain strength in the parliament.

1925 Reformation

Now in power, the Liberals would need to solve dozens of issues in Colombia. One of the first moves was to start a process of decentralization by creating new departments in the provinces of Cundinamarca, Quito, and Orinocco and giving the provinces and departments more autonomy. A more balanced financial system was also implemented, so less important departments received a fair amount of money to self-strategize.

By this time, the effects of the European Economic Crisis were still present in the Colombian economy, especially in the agrarian sectors. Among the reforms the newly formed government implemented were monetary support for the unemployed, protection of small businesses, and a fund of investments to promote the creation of more Colombian-controlled industrial businesses in the country to reach a balance between the foreign-owned companies and the local-owned ones.

As the markets began to normalize throughout the end of the 1920s, the country saw its GDP slowly grow again, getting closer to pre-crisis numbers. Urbanization also saw significant growth after suffering a decrease during the peak of the crisis. The late 1920s and early 1930s weren't only marked by an economic reformation; the first work laws were passed due to popular pressure. With basically no rules dictating the workspace, hours of work, days off, or safety at work, a growing number of employers began to join unions and promote public demonstrations and strikes in most of the major economic centers of the country. After a year of pressure, the government finally ceded and created the first work regulations in 1931. The year was also marked by the creation of the Ministry of Work and Welfare.

Silent War in Colombia

After the Great War (1935–1939), a new world order was established and marked by a dispute of influence between the British Empire, the former only superpower in the world, and Russia, a power in rapid growth: the Silent War. Colombia, being close to the British since its beginnings, was elected to be a member of the Organization of Democratic Nations in 1947 but declined to have a more neutral approach to the situation and was on a middle ground between the spheres of influence. Although self-declared non-aligned, Colombia participated directly in proxy conflicts sparked by the Silent War. Such as the Peruvian Civil War (1944–1963), participated in the embargo over Equador in 1944, and was a founding member of the Organization of the Southern Cross in 1966.

Colombia role in the Peruvian Civil War (1944-1963)

Colombia had a direct role in the Peruvian Civil War from 1944 to 1963. Started by a rebellion of National Republican character inside the military of Peru in Lima, it soon turned into a bloody conflict. Colombia, fearing the consequences of another National Republican regime along Equador's borders, assembled with Brasil, Carolina, and Paraguay in Quito to organize a coalition in support of the Peruvian Monarchy. The Quito Coalition lasted through the totality of the conflict and was the root of the creation of the Organization Of The Southern Cross as a way to integrate more of the nations of South America.

Amazonic Skirmishes (1953-1962)

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Colombia experienced rapid economic and population growth. Large-scale agriculture became more common and started advancing more on the country savannas and part of the Amazon, which at the time was very much untouched land only inhabited by traditional communities and native tribes. This advance was encouraged by eastern departments to accelerate their economic development, received the nickname "march to the east," and soon started to threaten the way of life of the rural traditional population.

Conflituous interests soon became skirmishes due to the advancing deforestation. At first, not so much attention was paid to the situation by the government, but in 1956, aerial photos showed signs of an Equadorian presence near the border with Roraima and traces of improvised paths through the jungle for supplies. After the discovery, the Colombian government started a more aggressive approach to end the hostilities once and for all, as a National Republican rebellion was feared. From 1957 to 1962, the Colombian National Guard and Army conducted several pacification operations. But peace only came after the San Felipe Compromise in 1962 between the federal government and the traditional leaders. The compromise vows to protect traditional and native communities way of life and the creation of several full environmental protection and semi-protection territories in the east of the country. Most of them are located in Cundinamarca and Orinocco. This move made Colombia one of the first South American nations to develop a strong environmental policy.

Annexation of Genoese territories (1953)
Founding of the Organization Of The Southern Cross (1966)

Government and politics

Administrative divisions

Colombia is broken up into six provinces: Cundinamarca, Venezuela, Quito, Panama, Orinoco and Trinidad. The six provinces are also divided in departments. 64 in total.

Map showing the six Colombian provinces (left) and its 64 departments (right).