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Culture of Colombia

Manali Oak
The culture of a country is expressed through its art, literature, music, cuisine, festivals, and most importantly, its people. The culture of Colombia is diverse, owing to the cultural influences of different countries. In this story, we tell you about the Colombian culture.

It's Colombia, NOT Columbia

Colombians started a social media campaign on Facebook by this name. It was intended to make people aware of not just the spelling error in the country's name, but the mistaken view of their country. The campaigners wanted to tell the world what Colombia really is, with the purpose of promoting tourism to the country and boosting its economy.
Geographically, Colombia consists of five main natural regions; namely, the Andes mountain ranges, the Caribbean Sea coastal region, the Pacific Ocean coastal region, the Llanos (plains), and the Amazon rainforest. Colombia is located in the northwestern region of South America.
This has led to a diversity in the culture of Colombia. Moreover, globalization and urbanization have changed the Colombian way of living.
Spanish culture has greatly influenced Colombia's culture. It brought in Catholicism, the feudal encomienda system, the African slaves, and the system that favored the European-born whites. The Blacks mingled with the indigenous people of Colombia; carnivals gave them this opportunity. This mix created a blend of cultures.
The banishment of slavery from society, and the industrialization in the 20th century that took place after the establishment of the Republic of Colombia, boosted their economy and culture. Here we give you an overview of the culture of Colombia, the republic in northwestern South America that is known for its emeralds and coffee.


✦ Colombian art ranges from the sculptures and paintings of the ancient times to modern-day films, theater, and various other art forms. It has a rich history of over 3000 years. Colombia has produced artists like Alejandro Obregon and Fernando Botero.
✦ Gold work, stonework, and pottery were an important part of Colombian sculpture. Their handicrafts have a long history that can be traced back to the stone age.
✦ In many parts of Colombia, fiber-tempered ceramics were produced. Sand-tempered coiled ceramics were made in some parts like Puerto Hormiga. In the mountainous region on the Colombia-Ecuador border, pottery had patterns inspired by animal or snake skin. Vessels were used in burials to keep the belongings of the deceased.
✦ Tumaco people of the Pacific coast did gold work. Poporo Quimbaya is one of the most precious pieces of gold work that belongs to the Pre-Columbian period.
✦ The years between 200 BCE and 800 CE witnessed the erection of several ceremonial centers, sarcophagi, and large stone monoliths. People living in Tierradentro made underground tombs with decorated walls and ceilings.

✦ The period between the 16th and 18th centuries saw works of ecclesiastic art that bore Spanish influences.
✦ The paintings in Colombia were distributed across the colonial, Baroque, and Republican periods.

✦ Renaissance and medieval styles were the subjects of paintings done in the early colonial period. A painting of Virgin Mary by Alonso de Narváez from Seville is one of the famous works of this period.
✦ The Baroque period starting around 1600 AD was characterized by paintings that featured emotionalism, large gestures, and populism. The creolized Colombian form of Baroque painting evolved during this period. It was a blend of forms and subjects of European engravings and native motifs.
✦ Mexican murals influenced the 20th century Colombian art. This period witnessed world-famous artists like Omar Rayo.


✦ Colombian literature of the colonial period focused on religion. Most of the expressions involved Spanish influences.

✦ Literature of the post-independence period was based on political thoughts and movements.
✦ During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, peasant life came to be depicted in the Colombian literature.

✦ The industrialization in Latin America during the 20th century led to the poetic movement called Piedra y cielo. The violence during the 1940s and '50s led to the Nadaísta (Nothing-ist) movement.
✦ Mystery became a subject to write on, in the modern times. Children's literature that includes nursery rhymes and folk tales forms an important part of the literature of Colombia. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one of the most significant authors of the 20th century and a Nobel Prize winner, is a Colombian.
✦ Colombian folk stories include tales of legendary figures that have been passed down through generations. They have African, Native American, and Spanish influences.


✦ Music is one of the most beautiful expressions of any culture. The Colombian culture includes a variety of music genres. Song and dance accompany special events of the common man's life.
✦ Cumbia, one of the genres of Colombian music, is a blend of African and Spanish music styles. Vallenato that comes from the Caribbean region of this country, is a popular folk music form in Colombia.
✦ Salsa, born in Puerto Rico and Cuba, is popular in Colombia.

✦ Champeta, Abozao, Juga, Pilon, Porro, Seis, Socca, and Tambora are some of the other music genres in different parts of Colombia.
✦ The Colombian music of the present times includes hip hop, pop, and rock music. Shakira, a prominent name in the music industry, is from Colombia.

✦ Guitar, shakers, and drums are among the musical instruments of Colombia. Typical to their music is the Colombian tiple which belongs to the guitar family and is almost three-fourth its size.


✦ The Colombian Constitution has granted freedom of religion to its people. Before 1991, Catholicism was the official religion of Colombia. It is the main religion in Colombia, with about 75% of the population in nominal Catholicism in which around 25% people are practicing Catholics.
✦ During the colonial period, the health as well as the education facilities came under the Catholic Church. The culture of Colombia has accepted freedom of religion and it is apparent in its diversified population.

Colombian Cuisine

✦ The Colombian food shows a reflection of the European style of cooking. Inland recipes also bear Amerindian influences.

✦ Colombian coffee is famous the world over, for its quality.
✦ Fritanga that includes grilled beef and chicken, ribs, and sausage with potatoes, is a favorite dish of the Colombians. Tubers and meat make their staple food.

✦ Ajiaco is a traditional meat dish in the Andes region of Colombia. It was born in Bogota.
✦ Bandeja Paisa that was born in Antioquia includes an assortment of beans, rice, fried eggs, chorizo, and pork rind, among other foods that vary with the location.
✦ Changua (milk soup with eggs) is a breakfast soup of the Andean region. Soups like sancocho de gallina and ajiaco are also popular.

✦ Tamales are popular in the Tolima region. Rondon, a seafood is popular in the island regions. Coconut rice is popular in the coastal regions. Dishes in the Amazon are influenced by the cooking styles of Brazil and Peru.
✦ Manjar Blanco, a creamy dessert, Arroz con Coco (coconut rice pudding), and Natilla, a custard-like pudding made from cornstarch are among the Colombian desserts.

✦ Colombians generally have hot chocolate with cheese. It is added to hot chocolate and allowed to melt, after which one can have it with a spoon. It tastes good that way.
✦ The climate of Colombia is conducive to a variety of crops and fruits. Varieties of banana are native to Colombia. Apart from this, mangoes, apples, pears, strawberries, and blackberries are also grown. Both fresh and saltwater fish are plentiful in Colombia. The popular dishes vary across the different natural regions of the country.

Festivals and Events

✦ Easter, Christmas, and New Year are widely celebrated in Colombia.

✦ The carnivals held on various occasions form an important part of the Colombian culture.

✦ The 4-day long Barranquilla's Carnival is a major folklore celebration and one of the biggest carnivals in the world.
It includes a host of street dances, parades, and musical performances. It begins on Ash Wednesday with an event called Battle of the Flowers. The Monday and Tuesday of the carnival are public holidays in the city of Barranquilla.
✦ Cali Fair is held towards the end of December. It includes events such as the Salsa marathon, horse riding, and dance parties. It is the main event of the Pacific coast of Colombia organized in the City of Cali. It celebrates the diversity in this region.
✦ Then comes the Manizales Festival, which is organized in January and bears European and Spanish influences. It includes events such as bull runs as also a beauty pageant in which the International Queen of Coffee is announced.
✦ The Festival of Flowers is an important cultural event hosted in Medellin. Rock al Parque is a rock music festival hosted in Bogota. The traditionally celebrated Blacks and Whites' Carnival held in January is the largest cultural event in Southern Colombia.

The Colombians

✦ The diverse population of Colombia mirrors the history and diverse culture of Colombians. Their diverse population consists of the Amerindians, Africans, Asians, and people of the Middle East, as also those who have migrated from Europe. Most of the Colombian populace is mestizo.

✦ In the interiors of the Andean region, urban people prefer dark-colored suits. Farmers and members of the lower classes wear loose skirts or pants.
Clothing of people inhabiting the coastal regions has Caribbean influences. The people there wear loose-fitting dresses with bright colors and prints.
✦ Farmers and tradesmen wear the ruana, a traditional piece of clothing. Urban people in the Andean region too wear ruanas. Liqui liqui is the national costume of men in Colombia as also in Venezuela.
✦ The sombrero vueltiao is a traditional hat worn by Colombians which is also a national symbol of this country.
✦ 49% of the Colombian population is mestizo (mixed European and the earliest Amerindian ancestry), 37% are of the European ancestry, a little over 10% are black Africans, and a little more than 3% have Amerindian ancestry.
✦ Over fifty different indigenous ethnic groups live in Colombia. They speak languages of the Chibchan and Caribbean families. About 500,000 people speak indigenous languages. More than 80 languages are spoken across the country.
✦ With passing years, the population of Colombia has increased and also progressed in terms of education and overall development. Basic education is compulsory by law.
✦ Family is an important institution and people have a great sense of responsibility towards the members of their immediate and extended family. Children generally stay with their parents.

✦ According to a survey, the people of Colombia are among the happiest in the world.
Colombians are proud of their richly diverse culture. The culture of Colombia is indeed a combination of the 'traditional' and the 'modern'. It is this blend that makes Colombia a wonderful multicultural country.