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Friday, May 14, 2010


Colombia map with cities, major features, surrounding countries, and the Colombia's flag

Officially known as the Republic of Colombia in English and República de Colombia in Spanish, COLOMBIA is a Spanish-speaking country situated in the northern part of South America. Colombia is mostly north of the Equator. For a general idea of where the Equator line is located, Arica and Leticia cities (see map) are south of the Equator and therefore in the South Hemisphere. Colombia's bordering countries are Brazil to the southeast, Ecuador to the southwest, Panama to the northwest, Peru to the south, and Venezuela to the east. Aquatically speaking, Colombia borders the Caribbean Sea on its northern coast and the North Pacific Ocean on its western coast. Colombia is also located near Panama's Gulf of Panama (Golfo de Panamá). The currency is the Colombian Peso, and its ISO 4217 currency code is COP. Colombians celebrate their Independence Day on July 20th and have done so for over 200 years, since 1810.

People and Places
From a 2015 estimate, the total population of Colombia is approximately 49 million and growing. Colombia's population growth from the 1970s to today is almost perfectly linear when plotted on a graph. With over 7.6 million residents, Colombia's capital and most-populated city is Bogotá. Cali and Medellín cities have over 2 million residents, while Barranquilla is home to about 1.15 million people. Other major cities include Armenia, Bucaramanga, Cartagena, Cúcuta, Florencia, Ibagué, Manizales, Montería, Neiva, Pereira, Popayán, Quibdó, Ríohacha, San Juan de Pasto (Pasto), Soacha, Soledad, Tunja, Turbo, Uribía, Valledupar, Villavicencio, and Zipaquirá.

Spanish is Colombia's official and most-spoken language. Almost 90 languages are spoken in Colombia, most of which correspond to particular native tribes. These languages include Achagua, Awa-Cuaiquer, Barí, Camsá, Emberá (several dialects), Guahibo, Malayo, Nhengatu, Páez, Sáliba, Totoro, Tucano, Tunebo (several dialects), Wayuu, and Yukpa. Catalan and Vlax Romani are a couple of minor immigrant languages found in Colombia. As of 2015, the literacy rate is 94%. Christianity — especially Roman Catholicism — is the religion that most Colombians believe in, followed by Spiritism, ethnic indigenous religions, and Bahá'í.

Land Features
Jutting northward into the Caribbean Sea is Península de la Guajira (Guajira Peninsula), separated from Venezuela's Península de la Paraguaná by the Golfo de Venezuela (Gulf of Venezuela). Known for its orange-colored sand dunes, Macuira National Park is located on this peninsula. At the tip of Guajira Peninsula is mainland South America's northernmost point, Punta (Point) Gallinas. While the Amazon Rainforest is famously known for being in Brazil, this biodiverse world wonder also stretches into eastern Colombia and provides a home for over 3,000 species as well as native Amerindians.

Some of the country's longest rivers (ríos) — including Ajaju, Caquetá, and Putumayo — are located within Colombia's Amazon Rainforest and eventually flow to the Amazon River. Arauca, Guainía, Guaviare, Meta, and other rivers eventually flow to the Orinoco river — which travels along the eastern Colombia-Venezuela border before reaching into northern Venezuela. Meanwhile, northern Colombia's Magdalena river flows northward past large marshes (cienagas) before reaching the Caribbean Sea. With a geographic surface area greater than 55 square kilometers and about 21 sq. miles, Laguna de Tota (Lake Tota) is Colombia's largest lake and is located northeast of Bogotá and south of Bucaramanga.

Volcanoes (volcáns in Spanish) straddle the Andes mountain range, which is the case in other South American countries such as Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. Mostly located in southwestern and western Colombia, volcanoes include Azufral, Bravo, Cerro Negro de Mayasquer, Chiles, Galeras, Huila, Machín, Ruiz, and Tolima. According to the Volcano Discovery website, Ruiz volcano (Nevado del Ruiz) is erupting with mild to moderate ash emissions as of June 28th, 2016. Ruiz's last eruption in 1985 resulted in the deaths of more than 20,000 people. Located near Pasto in southwestern Colombia, the frequently active Galeras volcano last erupted in 2006, 2008, and 2010 and is the first-known active volcano to deposit gold near its crater. Nine people (scientists and tourists) unfortunately perished in a 1993 eruption of Ruiz.

Subdivided into the Cordillera Occidental, Cordillera Central, and Cordillera Oriental (east) mountain ranges, the Andes run across southwestern and western Colombia and northeastward toward Venezuela — stopping at the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy highlands near Bucaramanga. Colombia's highest point is Pico Cristóbal Colón, a mountain towering about 18,950 feet and 5,775 meters in total elevation. This peak is found in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range and national park, located between Santa Marta and Valledupar near the Caribbean Sea.

This post was completely updated — including a new map — on July 25th, 2016.

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