The Republic of Colombia was declared in 1886 after the area gained independence from Spain. It is the fourth largest country and economy in South America and the oldest democracy on the continent. Rich in natural resources and cultural diversity, Colombia is a major producer of oil, coal, nickel, cut flowers, coffee, bananas, tropical fruits, textiles and clothing.
With a population of almost 50 million people, Colombia is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse countries in the world. The official language is Spanish but there are 68 regional dialects and ethnic languages. But violent conflict for many decades has caused people from the countryside to flee to the cities such as Bogota, Medellin and Cali. Since 2012 an estimated 4.9 million people have lost their homes creating one of the world's largest populations of internally displaced persons.
Bogota is Colombia's capital and at “2,600 metres nearer the stars” the 3rd highest capital city in S America. A vibrant, sprawling city in the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes, Bogota is the country’s financial and commercial centre and home to the largest number of universities and research centres in the country. It is also an important cultural centre, with many theatres, libraries and museums, including the internationally renowned Museo del Oro and the Museo Botero.
But with over 8 million inhabitants, life in the city can be harsh. With no belongings or social welfare, refugees and poor families struggle for survival and children are often abandoned on the streets. Psychotic disorders, alcoholism, drug dependence and violence are highest among these people and two thirds of the children of this lowest social strata are estimated to suffer physical, psychological and sexual abuse. A peace treaty has been signed with the guerrilla and the country is currently benefiting from the resulting prosperity and growth in tourism but there is still a great deal of uncertainty over internal security. Organisations such as Fenix and Hogares Luz y Vida work tirelessly to help the children who are victims of this extreme poverty and abuse.
Despite its problems, Colombia is one of the richest, most beautiful and diverse countries in the world with many wild and largely unexplored areas. Ecologically, it is unique and has more varieties of fauna and flora per square kilometer than any other country. Its territory includes both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, deserts, the snow-capped Andes, tropical grassland, coffee plantations, rich pastureland and grazing and the vast Amazonian rainforest where Natutama has its environmental education centre, working to conserve endangered species such as manatees, river dolphins, sloths and turtles.
Visit our "Images of Colombia" Gallery to get an idea of the diversity and majesty of this amazing country.
For more information about Colombian history, culture and politics, we recommend the Colombia Country Profile on the BBC website: