Nobody would deny that the history of the land now known as the Republic of Colombia is a troubled, tumultuous, even bloody one. Gold, conquest, war, insurgency – OK, yes, drugs – it’s sometimes seemed that this country wouldn’t quite make it. There’s something about Colombia and its people, though, that has just kept it together, despite all the violent forces that have threatened to rip it apart at the seams. Although it would be jumping the gun a little too enthusiastically to say that all the troubles are over, there’s something about the way its hips are waggling right now that leads us to believe that Colombia is ready to salsa its happy way into a bright, exciting future. And, as we all know, hips do not lie.
Even before Roger de Bastidas founded Santa Marta in 1525, this land had been the site of many waves of people who had made homes, left their mark, and moved on. This tradition of struggle would reach a devastating new height when three conquistadors raced to the central mountains in search for the mythical El Dorado and golden glory, resulting in the decimation of thousands of indigenous people, and the birth of cities such as Bogota, Cali, and Popayan. As small-pox and Spaniards ravaged the first nations, slaves were brought through the pirate city of Cartagena to help build the triumphs of colonial architecture that still richly adorn Colombia’s cities.
When this inheritance got too heavy for the new breeds now peopling the land, a troubled man with the name of Bolivar arose to assume the mantle of Liberator, and after many defeats and victories, independence from the Old World became a reality in 1810, as did a vigorous political bipartisanism. After more name changes than the Artist Formerly Known as the Artist Formerly Known as Known; and losing Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama along the way, a new land called Colombia struggled to stand on its own.
The colonial method of giving much to a privileged few at the expense of a dispossessed multitude; plus a savage political divide, would prove a deadly combination, eventually leading to ruthless drug cartels, desperate guerrilla groups, dangerous right-wing militias, millions displaced, and countless dead. The new millennium has seen tough and controversial governmental crack-downs which rose international eyebrows, but also significantly lowered the official homicide rate. With such a chequered past, we reckon Colombia deserves a break. And it might just be giving itself one.
We think – think? know – that the dazzling array of variety somehow encapsulated in a single country called Colombia is something you won’t find anywhere else in the world. And now, as this vibrant nation starts pulling itself out of a troubled past into a bright future, is the time to come experience it. Colombia, already a hot tourist destination, only promises to get hotter. Get amongst it, and see for yourself why.