People & Society

Colombia’s population is around 39 million. Bogota is the largest city and also the capital. Around 60% of Colombians are of mixed white and Indian ancestry – 25% are people of mixed black and white ancestry. Spanish is the common language spoken. Nearly all Colombians actively practice Roman Catholicism. Life in the cities is better than life in the country. Those who live in cities can afford to take schools, medical facilities and cultural activities for granted.

Go to any large city in Colombia and you’ll find the traditional Spanish style of architecture-making place for the more modern state of the art high-rise structures. People in the villages still live in simple houses made of bamboo poles and palm leaves wherever they are available. Where the climate is cooler, houses have thick walls. Families in Colombia are generally large. Relatives prefer to live within close distance of each other, making family ties strong.

The early Spanish settlers are today’s upper class. They form a tightly bound community and they socialize only with members of their own class. They are old landowners but now they earn their wealth from business and industry. The middle class is fast growing in cities where job opportunities lure people from the rural areas. The middle class comprises of doctors, lawyers, teachers engineers and other professionals. Working class people are the shop owners, construction workers, and other manual labourers.


95% of the Colombians are Roman Catholic. There are however Jewish and Protestant minorities.


Spanish is the official language. Indian dialects, German, English, French and Italian are sparingly spoken.


The local food has distinctive Spanish influence. Colombian local fare includes "arepas" (eaten instead of bread), "bandeja paisa" (meat dish with rice, cassava and other accompaniments) and "ajiaco" (chicken stew with potatoes, served with cream, corn on the cob and capers). Colombians rarely drink alcohol with food and prefer aerated drinks or coffee. Coffee is superb and comes in small and big cups. Colombian wine isn’t great quality and coffee is certainly a better bet!

Culture & Crafts

Until the 1900s the arts were greatly influenced by Indian and European styles. Several Colombian artists have broken away and produced original works. Writers are highly respected in Colombia and it comes as no surprise that Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marques is a Colombian. Various strains of music resound in the land of Colombia. The country can actually be divided into different music areas - the mountain heartland, the pacific coast, the Caribbean coast and the Llanos or Eastern plains. Music from the heartland is gentle and sentimental, while the Pacific coast is famous for African music, which is highly percussion, based. Music from the Caribbean coast is perfect to dance to, and the harp backed by cuatro, guitar, tiple and maracas are a treat to hear in The Llanos.

Local crafts include exquisite Colombian jewellery, woollen garments and blankets and travel bags.


80% of the people are literate and education is compulsory up to age 11.

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