Area Handbook for Colombia

By Thomas E. Weil; Jan Knippers Black et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
HISTORICAL SETTING

In 1969 the widespread influence of Colombia's early history on all aspects of life in the country was undeniable. The structure of society, intellectual activity, and the character of the economy clearly reflected patterns established centuries earlier. Although class lines had begun to erode in the mid-20th century, and the elite had been manifesting increasing concern for the welfare of the masses, basic divisions between the elite and the balance of the population were comparable to those established in colonial times. Educated Colombians regarded themselves as custodians of the Spanish language brought to the New World by the conquistadors and missionaries and took pride in preserving the language in its purest form. The influence of Hispanic culture and the Roman Catholic Church was evident in literature, in law and administration, and in the daily lives of the people. Interest in the country's historical setting was demonstrated by the large number of regional historical societies and journals, by the remarkable number of students of history, and by the frequent appearance of articles on historical subjects in newspapers and magazines.

After Columbus' discovery of the New World Alonso de Ojeda -- or, according to some authorities, Rodrigo de Bastidas -- first set foot on the Guajira Peninsula while traveling westward from what is now Venezuela. After establishing bases along the coast, Spanish explorers conquered the rugged hinterland in the northern Andes, the area which was to become the power center of New Granada, forerunner of present-day Colombia. This became one of the most isolated of all the colonies of the Spanish empire in the New World. To an even greater extent than in Peru and New Spain ( Mexico), the population centers, except those on the coast, were located in remote upland valleys and on lonely plateaus.

During some 300 years of colonial rule that began early in the 16th century, Spanish political, economic, social, and cultural institutions were adapted to the new environment. A conscious efort was made to preserve the Spanish cultural hesitage, partly from an

-27-

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Area Handbook for Colombia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Foreword iii
  • Preface v
  • Country Summary vii
  • Table of Contents xi
  • Section I. Social 1
  • Chapter 2 - Physical Environment 7
  • Chapter 3 - Historical Setting 27
  • Chapter 4 - Population and Labor Force 63
  • Chapter 5 - Ethnic Groups and Languages 81
  • Chapter 6 - Social Structure 107
  • Chapter 7 - Family 127
  • Chapter 8 - Living Conditions 143
  • Chapter 9 - Education 175
  • Chapter 10 - Artistic and Intellectual Expression 203
  • Chapter 11 - Religion 229
  • Chapter 12 - Social Values 249
  • Section Ii. Political 261
  • Chapter 14 - Political Dynamics 279
  • Chapter 15 - Foreign Relations 297
  • Chapter 16 - Public Information 317
  • Chapter 17 - Political Values and Attitudes 339
  • Section Iii. Economic 353
  • Chapter 19 - Agriculture 363
  • Chapter 20 - Industry 393
  • Chapter 21 - Labor Relations and Organization 409
  • Chapter 22 - Domestic Trade 437
  • Chapter 23 - Foreign Economic Relations 455
  • Chapter 24 - Financial and Monetary System 479
  • Section Iv.National Security 497
  • Chapter 26 - The Armed Forces 515
  • Bibliographies 539
  • Glossary 561
  • Index 567
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