The Culture of Colombia lies at the crossroads of LSouth America. Thanks partly to geography, Colombian culture has been heavily fragmented into five major cultural regions. Rural to urban migration and globalization have changed how many Colombians live and express themselves as large cities become melting pots of people (many of whom are refugees) from the various provinces that have hit Colombia throughout its violent history, more recently is the displacement caused by the Colombian armed conflict to cities and other countries.
According to a study in late 2004 by the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Colombians are one of the happiest people in the world.; this despite its four-decade long armed conflict involving the government, paramilitaries, drug lords, corruption and guerrillas like the FARC and ELN. Colombians are sometimes called locombians for this paradox and for their joie de vivre.
What is Colombian culture
Many aspects of Colombian culture can be traced back to the culture of Spain of the sixteenth century and its collision with Colombia's native civilizations (see: Muisca, Tayrona). The Spanish brought Catholicism, African slaves, the feudal encomienda system, and a caste system that favored European-born whites. After independence from Spain, the criollos struggled to establish a pluralistic political system between conservative and liberal ideals. The conservatives supported the involvement of the Catholic church in the state while liberals favored the separation of these. The conservatives managed to outsource public education to the catholic church and for many years the church controlled the country's education system. Both parties engaged in multiple civil wars resulting in a slow development of the country and the isolation of regions until the end of the 19th century. Ethno-racial groups maintained their ancestral heritage culture: whites tried to keep themselves, despite the growing number of illegitimate children of mixed African or indigenous ancestry. These people were labeled with any number of descriptive names, derived from the casta system, such as mulatto and moreno. During this time it was normal for white individuals to marry a sibling or close cousin to maintain their inheritance within the family. Blacks and indigenous people of Colombia also mixed to form zambos creating a new ethno-racial group in society. This mix also created a fusion of cultures. Carnivals for example became an opportunity for all classes and colors to congregate without prejudice. The introduction of the bill of rights of men and the abolishment of slavery (1850) eased the segregationist tensions between the races, but the dominance of the whites prevailed and prevails to some extent to this day.
The industrial revolution arrived relatively late at the beginning of the 20th century with the establishment of the Republic of Colombia. Colombians had a period of almost 50 years of relative peace interrupted only by a short armed conflict with Peru over the town of Leticia in 1932.
During the 1940s, Colombia started to develop its tourist industry having as main attraction the Caribbean coastal city of Santa Marta and the Magdalena river basin main towns which also had a flourishing economy and an important flow of immigrants from Europe and the Middle East due to World War II.
With the advancement of the ideas of communism around the world, Colombian radical liberal politicians and thinkers adopted these ideas and adapted to their political rhetoric. Tensions between the United States and the USSR during the Cold War revived tension between local Colombian liberals and conservatives, polarizing Colombian society. Radical communist guerrillas surged sponsored by the USSR while the US government aided the Colombian government.