Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Colombia, United States of, a South American Republic (formerly Federal, but centralised since 1886) in the N.W., and including the Isthmus of Panama, between lat. 12° 25' N. and 5° 8' S. and long. 70° 40' and 82° 40' W., with an area of over half a million square miles. The Atlantic coast-line is over 1,000 miles, well provided with bays and natural harbours, the chief of which are the mouth of the Magdalena, with its port Barranquilla, the bay of Carthagena, the bay of Portobello, the port of Colon or Aspinwall, and the harbour of Trinidad upon the island of Gorgona. In the west, Colombia is very mountainous, forming part of the Andes system. In the south is an extensive plateau, averaging from 10,000 to 11,000 ft. in height, and from this three ranges, almost parallel, branch off northwards. The Central Cordillera has the lofty snow-peak of Tolima, the Eastern is said to reach a height of 23,000 ft., and the Western, which extends most to the north, is in some parts little more than a series of rounded hills. The eastern part of the country makes part of the Amazon and Orinoco plains. These llanos extend from the slopes of the Cordilleras, and being almost treeless afford good pasturage. Farther south they have a more broken surface, and are covered with forests. The formations of Colombia are igneous and metamorphic, and the volcanic agency is still active. There are glaciers in the Cordilleras, and the slopes are often covered with gravel, and the valleys with alluvial deposits.

Most of the Colombian rivers belong to the Atlantic basin, the two most important being the Magdalena between the E. and Central Cordilleras, and the Cauca between the Central and W. Cordilleras, both flowing N. They unite before reaching the sea. The most important of the Orinoco rivers are the Guaviare, the Meta, and the Vichada. Among the less important rivers may be mentioned the Atrato, which flows into the Gulf of Darien, and has been thought to present a possible solution of the question of an inter-oceanic canal, and the river Ica, a tributary of the Amazon, which possesses many navigable branches and passes through a region rich in natural resources not yet developed.

Colombia is extremely rich in minerals, which have not yet been greatly worked, owing to defective communication. Alum, antimony, asphalte, coal, copper, gold, iron, lead, limestone, magnesia, mercury, platinum, potash, silver, and soda all abound, and amethysts and amber are found, while the emeralds have a world-wide reputation.

The climate of Colombia has great variations, owing to the irregularity of surface, and the fauna and flora are equally various. Agriculture and cattle-rearing are the chief industries, the latter especially in the Orinoco plains and the Savannahs of Panama. On the higher parts of the plains maize and wheat are grown, and lower come cocoa, coffee, cotton, rice, sugar, and tobacco. Almost the only manufactured articles exported are the Panama straw-hats, but there is a considerable export of raw produce.

The population consists of Indians and cross-breeds, Spanish Creoles, and negroes. There are still a few wandering bands that represent the Chibchas, the most important of the tribes at the time of the Spanish conquest, and other savage tribes still exist to the number, it has been calculated, of about 120,000.

From the middle of the sixteenth century Colombia was a vice-royalty or presidency till, in 1819, Bolivar united it with Venezuela and Ecuador into the Republic of Colombia. These two states afterwards withdrew. Since then Colombia has been the scene of almost continual struggles and changes, though it appears now to have entered upon a period of stability.