Latinamerica Collection
History of Colombia

Pre-Columbian Period

Colombia was inhabited long before the arrival of the Spanish by indigenous tribes starting around 1200BCE. Another population of indigenous people is believed to have inhabited the area of modern day Colombia between the years 500 and 300BCE. Around 1000CE, inhabitants from the Caribbean islands arrived and turned out to be the most advanced of the populations in the area and forced the other populations to higher ground.

Colonial Period
Europeans first arrived in the area in 1499 and quickly began to settle the area. There were many different explorations of both the coastal and interior areas until the mid to early 1500s. The economy during this period was based mainly on the mining of jewels and precious metals. Agriculture in the 1500s was limited to that which supplied the colonies with enough to survive. In the 1700s, agriculture became more important with the export of sugar and tobacco a significant part of the region's economy. In 1717, Bogota became the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Granada.


In 1810, citizens of Bogota created the first assembly to defy the Spanish crown. The declared full independence in 1813 and the territory that was formerly the Viceroyalty of New Granada became known as the Republic of Greater Colombia in 1819.

With the creation of the Republic of Greater Colombia came the presidency of Simon Bolivar with Francisco de Paula Santander as his vice president. However, the two men at opposite views on many subjects which eventually led to the creation of the political parties that have dominated Colombia's politics. Bolivar was considered very conservative on issues while Santander was liberal.


These political parties divided the population and led to a pair of violent civil wars in the early and mid 1900s which took a total of 400,000 lives and eventually let to a 21 year alliance between the two political parties. However, during this alliance, there was still a great deal of violent guerilla groups.


A new constitution was written and put into effect in 1991 though violence continued by the guerilla groups that were now involved in drug trafficking to fund their activities. The Pastrana Administration lasted from 1998 to 2002 and was characterized by a failure to accomplish any clear stop to the guerilla groups. Elected in 2002, Uribe was elected and committed himself to ending the violence and making Colombia a safer country. Even today, talks continue with guerilla groups to bring peace to the area. Although the groups' numbers have decreased in past years, their presence still exists and has led to parts of Colombia still being considered relatively dangerous.