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Colombia Culture


Colombia was inhabited by diverse pre-Colombian cultures prior to the arrival of the Spanish during the Conquest. Remains of these different groups can be admired in various impressive archeological sites through out the country, such as San Agust√≠n , Tierradentro, and the ‚ÄúLost City‚ÄĚ, Ciudad Perdida in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

With the Spanish during the colonization period came along the slaves from Africa. From these different groups- aboriginal tribes, African slaves, and Spanish-resulted a complex process of ‚Äúmestizaje‚ÄĚ or mixture from which emerged the Colombian population today.

Colombia¬īs ethnical diversity manifests itself through the country‚Äôs traditions, handicrafts, cuisine, arts, architecture, music, dance and theater.
Browse through the Amaterra tours that include visits to culturally rich locations, or visit our tailor made section and have a look at our activities to create your own trip.

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Major Colombian Carnivals and Festivals

Colombia is recognized by its large variety of festivals, carnivals and fairs. The carnival in Colombia was introduced by the Spanish. These festivities have incorporated elements from European culture, reinterpretating and mixing traditions that belonged to the African and Amerindian cultures of Colombia.

Barranquilla's Carnival (Carnaval de Barranquilla) The Carnival was proclaimed by UNESCO as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. You can enjoy four days of a cultural and folkloric event characterized by ethnic diversity, merriment, dance, music, and entertainment.

Cali’s Fair (Feria de Cali), held in Cali from December 25 to New Year's Eve. It is famous for its Salsa marathon concerts attended by the best Salsa bands, multitudinous concerts, and dance groups. There are also horse riding parades (cabalgatas) and bullfights.

Medellin’s Festival of the Flowers (Feria de las Flores), with its flowers parade and the main attraction called the Desfile de Silleteros. It offers also a horse fair, an orchestra festival, the national trova festival (singers in duels of improvised verses), musical and cultural platforms and the chiva carnival (a chiva is the typical open-sided bus built on a truck chassis).

Bogota’s Ibero’American Theater Festival is a major cultural event in Colombia and one of the largest performing arts festivals in the whole world. It takes place every other year in the Colombian capital and brings together the most important theater companies from five co ntinents. For seventeen days, the city becomes the setting for colorful parades; Bogotá dresses up for the party and becomes a genuine Theater City.

Bogota’s Rock al Parque is the second largest rock festival in Latin America, after Rock in Rio. Around 1000 rock bands have participated in this event; both local and international bands. The Bogota's Carnival (Carnaval de Bogotá) starting around August 6th, in order to commemorate the cities birthday, is a combination of various cultural events, including parades, concerts, etc.

Cartagena Film Festival is the only festival in the region that specializes in Ibero-American movies. It has a top international jury and exhibits the best audio-visual work of Latin America.

Mompox’s Holy Week. Mompox, a world historical and architectural heritage UNESCO site located on the banks of the Magdalena River in the department of Bolívar, celebrated Holy Week for the first time in 1564. During the festivities you appreciate the incredible fusion of Catholic religious customs with the magical and pagan elements of the region.

San Andres Green Moon Festival (Festival de la Luna Verde). Here the Afro-Caribbean influence is very strong, with predominance of the English language lyrics of Calypso and Reggae.

Villa de Leyva’s Festival of the Lights. In Colombia, the evening and night of December 7th to the 8th is a unique moment in the year. City streets become a blaze of light, with sidewalks, balconies, and terraces covered with lighted candles. This is the traditional Noche de las velitas; that is, night of the little candles.. In Villa de Leyva you can enjoy the show and the color of the fireworks contest that fills the colonial streets with a special kind of magic.

Pasto’s Carnival of Blacks and Whites (Carnaval de Negros y Blancos) held from January 4 to January 6 in Pasto, an Andean city located in southwestern Colombia. Its origins date back to the Spanish rule times when slaves were allowed to celebrate on the 5th and their masters showed their approval on the 6th by painting their faces black. On these days they either put grease or talcum powder on their faces.

Manizales Fair (Feria de Manizales) celebrated in the city of Manizales the first weeks of the year. Costume groups in fancy dresses take over the city. A congeniality coffee queen is elected and bullfighting (Spanish: faenas) takes place.

Villavicencio’s Encuentro Mundial del Coleo is one of the most important events held in America in the art of being a cowboy. Harp music, joropo dancing, and delicious gastronomy are present throughout the entire festival.

Popayan’s Holy Week festivities are very similar to the ones in Sevilla and Valladolid in Spain, and date back to colonial times. The main events are the famous processions. This tradition, was brought directly from the conquistadors.

Valledupar‚Äôs Festival of the Vallenato Legend is one of Colombia‚Äôs most important music and folk festivals. Literally, vallenato means ‚Äėborn in the valley‚Äô.  For five days, the city becomes an enormous party, full of parades, shows, contests, and good music with a competition to find the best accordionist of the year and to select the Vallenato King (Rey Vallenato)

Palenque de San Basilio. In 2005, UNESCO proclaimed the Palenque de San Basilio village Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The village of Palenque de San Basilio is located in the southeast of the region of Cartagena. It is inhabited mainly by Afro-Colombians, which are direct descendants of African slaves brought by the Spanish. They have preserved their ancestral traditions and have developed also their own language, the Palenquero. (the only Spanish-based Creole language in Latin America). Today fewer than half of the community’s 3,000 residents still speak Palenquero. The Cultural Space of Palenque de San Basilio encompasses specific social, medical and religious practices as well as musical and oral traditions, of which many have African roots.

Bullfighting in Colombia. From the five Latin American countries that have a bullfighting industry, Colombia seems to be the second most bullfighting country. Bullfighting in Colombia formally started with bullfights celebrating the independence from Spain, but was performed by the Spaniards who conquered the region. Bullfighting is legal in Colombia because although there is a national animal protection law since 1984, it has exemptions for bullfighting, cockfighting and coleo declaring them 'an artistic expression of human beings'.