about colombia



about colombia
Colombia is one of the most diverse
countries in Latin-American. It is a
veritable patchwork of different
cultures and idiosyncrasies more or
less interrelated but specifically
There are about 40 millions inhabitants
in Colombia. The Colombian people are
a combination of white, black, Indian
and all mixtures of this three.
Broadly speaking,
there are 5 cultural regions:
The Andes
where the population is
mostly Mestizo
(white and Indian)
The Atlantic Coast
whose inhabitants are
mostly mulattos (black
and white);
Cartagena de Indias
Pacific Coast
Rain forest with
predominantly black
Oriental Plains
inhabited by people of
various mixtures, and
the Indigenous
areas of Orinoquia
The Amazons
Rain forest and
native tribes.
About 70%
live in urban centers.
Colombia has
20 cities over
100.000 people.
The four biggest are:
(7 million)
(2.5 million)
(2 million)
(1.5 million)
Colombia is located at the North-West
corner of South America. The country
shares boundaries with Venezuela
(East), Peru (South), Brazil (Southeast),
Ecuador (South west),Pacific Ocean
(West), Panama (North west)
and the Caribbean Sea (North).
It is the only South American Republic
with coast lines on both the Atlantic
(1.600 km) and the Pacific (1.306 km)
Oceans. It is South America’s fourth
largest country (1.141.736 km2)
with the second largest population.
Fifty-five percent of the area
is uninhabited lowlands
(Rainforest or Savannas).
The majority of the population (98%)
is concentrated in the remaining 45%
mainly mountainous the land.
Within the Tropical limits,
the temperature feels
warm only until 1.550
meters of altitude. Above
that, one may experience
all the climates known to
Earth! Every different
climatic zone can be
visited within a short bus
ride. A city like Bogotá
(2600 meter high) has an
average temperature of
14 degrees while Girardot
( 2 hour ride down the
cordillera ) has 32.
Climate caliente ( warm)
Altitude 0 to 1000 mts above
Temperature 24 to 35 degrees sea level
Climate templado ( middle)
Altitude 1000 to 200 meters
Temperature 17 to 23 degrees
Climate frío( cool)
Altitude 2000 to 3500 meters
Temperature 6 to 16 degrees
Climate páramos ( cold)
Altitude 3500 to 4500 meters
Temperature 0 to 5 degrees
Climate nieves perpetuas (eternal snow)
Altitude above 4500 meters
Temperature below 0
Before the arrival of the Spaniards, the
country was occupied by Indigenous people,
most of whom were primitive huntergatherers. However the high lands of the
country, mainly the high basin of the center,
was densely occupied by Chibcha tribes who
had become sedentary farmers and
developed a fairly high level of civilization.
They were well organized and held their land
in community.
The first permanent Spanish settlement was
the city of Santa Marta (1525). Bogotá was
founded in 1538 on a beautiful high plateau in
the center of the country. Natives were
subjected or exterminated by the conquerors.
The Colonial Period (17th and 18th centuries)
was relatively peaceful. The Spanish
organization, the legal system, the established
Church and agricultural prosperity benefited
greatly to the colonists. The country produced
80% of the world’s gold in that period; so it
was created the legend of “El Dorado”.
The movement toward independence from
Spain began in 1794 under the influence of the
French Revolution. But it was Simon Bolívar
and his armies who defeated the Royalist
troops at the Battle of Boyacá on August 7th,
1819. On the 17th of December, he proclaimed
the Republic of Gran Colombia, embracing the
present republics of Venezuela, Colombia,
Ecuador and Panamá. Venezuela broke away
in 1829, Ecuador in 1830.
Almost from its inception, the new country
became the scene of much strife between the
centralizing Conservatives and federalizing
Liberals, a strife greatly complicated by the still
pressing “question of the Church”, which was
vehemently Conservative sided. The 19th
Century was a period of insurrections and civil
wars. In 1886, the Conservatives imposed a
highly centralized Constitution,
which was modified in 1991.
In 1903, the department of Panamá declared its
independence from Colombia,
following United States pressure.
However, the surprisingly stable
centralization of government in Colombia,
considering its physical and human diversity,
is one of the main creations of the 20th
century. It represents, in the words of
Preston James, “an astounding victory of
Man over Nature, and Man over Man”.
Colombia is a developing country, and so it
suffers from the same problems as other
Third-World countries. It has a dependent
economy based on exports of raw materials,
agricultural products and manufactured
goods. Main products are: Bananas, sugar,
coal, copper, emeralds, oil,
flowers, textiles and cement.
The best coffee in the world!
A major problem still facing the country
is that of surface transport. Its 3 high
Andean rangers, separated by valleys
often no less than 1500 meters above
sea level, make internal
communication expensive and difficult.
Given this, it is natural that Colombia
has taken ardently to the air, running
the first airline in the Americas:
Avianca (1919)
However, traveling by road around the
country is easy and cheap. Fees are
quite reasonable, and buses or small
vans reach in timely manner every
town or village.
Colombia is a democratic state, organized as a single Republic,
with autonomous district entities. The State organization is based on the three
branches of the public power. The members of the Executive and Legislative
powers are elected
by direct vote. The political administration is organized in 32 departments and 3
districts, with Bogotá D.C. as the national capital. The 1886 Constitution was
updated in 1991 to favor the minorities including in the congress important
minorities like indigenous nations and Afro-Colombian communities. The two
predominant parties which have ruled the country since its inception are the Liberal
and the Conservative. A recent movement, the left oriented Polo Democratic has
broken this trend in some regions.
Congress - Senate
- Chambers
of Representatives
Supreme Court.
State Council.
Constitutional Court.
Circuit Magistrate
Municipal Council
The currency unit of Colombia is the PESO ($).
The bills are in denominations of 1,000, 2,000,
5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 pesos. The
coins are in denominations of 50, 100, 200,
500 and 1,000 pesos.
Giving precise information on the rate of
exchange is quite difficult, due the peso’s
fluctuation in relation to the U.S. dollar or euro.
In September 2009, one dollar cost about Col$
1,900 and a Euro about Col $2.830.
It is advisable that you bring a credit or debit
card (Visa, Master Card…) with you. This is
very useful because you can get cash
withdrawals from most banks and bank
machines around the country avoiding
expensive money transfers.
The Committee will give you Col$150,000 at
the beginning of each month. This
discriminates as follows: Pocket Money
Col$90,000 and transportation
Col$60,000.This latest amount to cover your
transportation to your voluntary work.
For your information, here are some
examples of current prices in Colombia
A cup of coffee
A letter to Europe
A newspaper
A bottle of bear
A photo color film
A shampoo flask
A pop soda
A packet of cigarettes
A tooth paste
A street lunch
A movie
Commuting in a city like Bogotá is not difficult. The city has a modern
transportation system called Transmilenio, which is fast and reliable.
Its price is $1,500 a ride.
There are also private buses whose service price range from Col$1,100 to
$1,300 during the day and from $1,150 to $1,350 after eight p.m
The hour in all
Colombian territory is
the standard (winter)
US Eastern Time.
When is noon in New
York, it is noon in
Colombia; midday in
the GMT is seven in
the morning in
Colombia. There is
no change to
summer time.
The Colombian Committee
offers to incoming two hosting
alternatives: host families and
hosting projects. Most of host
families are in Bogota. Hosting
projects are located in small
towns around the country i.e.
Sora and Tibasosa (Boyaca),
Mesitas del Colegio
(Cundinamarca), La Ceja
(Antioquia), Cartagena
(Bolivar). These projects host
mainly volunteers taking part in
the Weltwärts program from
To give an idea of what you might expect from your family,
we will describe some characteristics of an average
Colombian family which is no guarantee for how your
particular family will be.
In general Colombian families are conservative. The
family follows Colombian traditions at cultural, political and
religious level .The father is the head of the home, he
earns the money; many married women still stay at home
taking care of their children. However, you can find a lot of
women who are head of the family too. Children usually
live with their parents -following home rules and
discipline - until they graduate and/or get married.
Host families -most of which are also sending familiesusually belong to the urban middle class. They are rather
conservative in their customs (attitude, way of dressing,
protection to girls, etc); parents usually have control over
their children living at home no matter how old they are.
Exchangees should keep this in mind because they will be
considered as another member of the family. Their
integration to their families depends primarily on them, and
on how they try to adapt themselves to their daily life.
There is an important detail that you should remember:
formality and kindness are important parts of the culture.
Colombians are very mindful of little compliments,
smiles and politeness.
Colombian diet could seem very
monotonous at the beginning:
rice, potatoes and meat, with
only slight variations of chicken,
green vegetables and fruits,
however you will get use to it.
Especially when you don’t live in
the big cities, you should be
careful about drinking non-boiled
water; in Bogotá tap water has
caused very little problem. You
should also be extremely careful
about buying food in the streets
where hygienic conditions are
not very controlled.
Appearance is an
important value in Latin
society. Even when
dressing casual,
Colombian men and
women would manage to
look elegant. You don’t
need to “tie up and
button down´ all the time,
but beware of too much
ICYE-Colombia is a legal non-for-profit association founded in 1981 and accepted as a
member of the International Federation in 1982. The Colombian committee is a team of
about 18 people working in Bogotá. Most of its members are university students, teachers
and returnees. Three officials: the Director, the National Correspondent and, the Projects
Coordinator work at the ICYE office in Bogotá.
This is the structure of the ICYE Federation, including the Colombian Committee:
Federation of National Committees International Office
European Region Pan‐American Region Asia‐Pacific Region
African Region
14 Countries 6 Countries 7 Countries 6 Countries
Colombian National Committee
General Assembly Accountant
Fiscal Auditor
Members G. A . Board of Managers
Directive Committee Executive Committee Director Program Director Secretary
Project Administrative
Member Coordonator
Let us introduce our committee. Other than office staff, all the
co-workers are volunteers. Most of them have been
exchangees themselves, and they want to help our incoming
exchangees to live a similar experience with ICYE Colombia.
Omaira Olano
Raúl Parra
Jorge Iván Hermida
: Program Director
: Administrative Coordinator
: Project Coordinator
Board of Managers
: Juan David Vargas
: Catalina Pulido
: Ricardo Ordóñez
: Carolina Moscoso
: Luis Guillermo Ordóñez
: Carlos Palacios
: Vaynik Felipe Morales
: Hugo Velandia
: Susana Caicedo
It is focused on young people from 18 to 26. Besides the Social Voluntary Work, the committee offers other activities: three camps (August, January and June) and 30 hours of basic language training after the first camp. The committee also offers a conference about Colombia. People in the group also organize parties, excursions, walks, picnics, etc.
Social work is offered in serious and recognized placements trying to fulfill the expectations of the volunteers but mainly the needs of the communities.
All the exchangees need a Colombian visa to participate in the ICYE program. Please take
note of information bellow about the type of visa and necessary documents. Once the
papers in order, visa should be requested at the nearest Colombian Embassy/Consulate.
1. Type of visa: Special Temporal Visa. “TS", as Volunteer.
2. Necessary documents to apply for the Colombian visa:
a. Invitation letter sent to you by ICYE Colombia
b. Certification of legal status of your local ICYE committee.
Citizens from Denmark, UK, Germany, Belgium, Suisse
and France should get an official seal named APOSTILLE.
This document must be issued or translated into Spanish.
c. Legal status of ICYE Colombia which will be sent to you.
d. Document showing economical solvency. This could be the
certification of your banking/savings account, and/or a letter
from your local sending organization certifying that they will
cover all the expenses of your program in Colombia.
e. Document TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN… provided by
the ICYE International Office through your local committee.
f. Letter from your local committee certifying that you are
suitable and prepared to do your social work in Colombia.
g. Valid passport
h. Three passport size pictures
Before applying for your visa, please
contact the Colombian
consulate/embassy about their
requirements. It could be some last
moment changes not included here.
The cost of the visa is USD$ 175
Within the first 15 days upon your
arrival, you should request your
“Cédula de Extranjería” (Identity Card
for foreigners) which costs USD $51.
In order to do so, you will require a
blood test to identify your RH blood
factor. You can get it in Bogotá, it
could be less expensive that in your
country. (Col$ 7.000, USD$ 2.39)
The kind of visa that the exchangees
get, does not allow them to get a paid
job in the country.
- “To bring a sleeping bag if possible of
the type that fits in a small bag, because
you’ll need it for camps, travelling and
overnight stays.”
- “we suggest you bring a back pack
instead of a suitcase, because it is far
more practical “
- “Bring with you information about your
own country, because Colombians are very
interested in knowing about other
countries. You will also be required to
make a presentation at the first camp.”
- “You might bring a small present to your
host family, and small items to distribute.”
- “To bring a Spanish-your-own-language
dictionary; a grammar booklet is also
useful. You might consider learning some
Spanish before coming, too.”