Colombia – Columbus’ Namesake
Colombia, in South America, is the only American nation named for Christopher Columbus. The official name of the country is Republic of Colombia. Colombia is a land of beaches, deserts, jungles, grasslands, and mountains. The Andes range runs the length of the country. Its area is 1,138,910 square kilometers. Colombia shares borders with Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Panama.
Colombia lies close to the equator and its climate is generally hot.
Colombia is home to many different kinds of plants and animals. There are more than 130,000 different plants, including a kind of water lily called Victoria amazonica. Its leaves are large and strong enough to support a child. There are more than 1,550 kinds of birds in Colombia.
The country’s most important river is the Magdalena. Pico Cristóbal Colón is the highest point (5,775 m). Amazon is the longest river (6,570 km).
Colombia is a major producer of coal, nickel, and quarried materials (limestone, sand, marble, gravel, gypsum, etc.). The country is South America’s only producer of platinum, and is a leading producer of precious metals and gemstones, such as gold, silver, and emeralds.
Spanish is the official language of Colombia.
Nearly half of Colombians are people with mixed European and Native American roots. About one fifth of the people have mixed African and European roots. About the same number of people are white. There are smaller groups of blacks and Native Americans.
The first people to live in what is now Colombia were Native Americans. The most important group was the Chibcha.
In the 1500s the Spaniards landed in the area. Many Indians died of disease and the Spaniards made them slaves. In the 1700s the Spanish colonists in New Granada began to rebel against Spanish rule. Colombia became free in 1813.
Bogotá is the capital of the country. It is located on a sloping plain at the base of two mountains, Monserrate and Guadalupe. Monserrate is a traditional symbol of the city. Bogotá is called capital city of churches. Most of the churches were built by the Spanish. People like to visit the church atop Monserrate. But it’s a long way up—roughly 1,800 feet!
At the center of Bogotá is the Plaza Bolívar, where the city government buildings and Roman Catholic cathedral are located. The city also has several major museums, libraries, and theaters.