For those readers of this blog who haven’t been to Colombia yet, we pose this question:
– What does a typical Colombian look like?
Some people imagine Colombians as guys with big moustaches like the famous Juan Valdez, image of the “Café de Colombia” brand. Others think (wish) that all Colombian girls have the exotic looks of the beautiful Shakira. And for those who remember international football (soccer) in the 90s, Colombians look like the skillful Faustino Asprilla, the crazy goalkeeper Rene Higuita or perhaps they are all like the unforgettable Carlos Valderrama, the guy with the most memorable hairdo in football’s history.
The answer, dear reader, is ‘all of the above’..
The 12th of October celebration is known as ‘Columbus Day’ in the United States of America and as ‘Dia de la Hispanidad’ (Spanish culture day) in Spain. In Colombia, as in several other Countries of Latin-America the day used to be designated as the commemoration of the discovery of America. Later and due to the controversial nature of the events that surround such ‘discovery’ the day was re-designated as ‘Dia de la Raza’ (‘Day of the race’). The reason for the change is also that this was more exactly a ‘re-discovery’ since mankind had already ‘discovered’ the continent several centuries earlier and there is even a theory exploring the possibility that the Vikings might have been travelling to North America centuries before Columbus came in the 15th century.
Christopher Columbus and his men arrived to an island in what today is The Bahamas on October the 12th, 1492. The natives called their island Guanahani but Columbus immediately claimed the island for the Spanish Crown and re-named it “San Salvador” (or “St. Saviour” as provisions had already run out and his men were already running out of patience with their captain).
During the conquest and colonisation of South America by the Spaniard conquistadors, the Europeans mixed themselves with the Native Americans. A few years later slaves were brought by the Europeans from Africa to America. In both cases Colombia was the entry point to South America, and as a consequence it is one of the countries with the most racially diverse population in the continent.
As a result, when you travel across Colombia you can find a wide variety of cultures and local traditions. Some festivals and carnivals have European links like the Holy Week processions in Popayan; others have clear African influences like the carnival in Barranquilla and finally, other celebrations have indigenous roots like the festival of the Wayuu culture in Uribia (Guajira).
As you can see, the arrival of Mr Columbus in 1492 unleashed a series of events that shaped the identity and traditions of Colombia up to this day, leading to a country full of contrasts and enriched by the confluence of many cultures from around the world. We believe the result is living proof that the whole is more than the parts.
If you have been to Colombia, we would like to read your comments and experiences with regards to traditions and diversity in the Country. We look forward to read comments below.
Until the next time,
The Uncover Colombia team
- Why Colombia? (uncovercolombia.wordpress.com)
- Beyond Rio: Party and experience multi-cultural Colombian carnivals and festivals (uncovercolombia.wordpress.com)