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Introduction to Colombia

Colombia is a country of 46 million people named after Christopher Columbus, who arrived in the Americas in the 1400s. The fourth largest country in South America, its boundaries stretch from the Pacific Ocean coast on the west, to the Caribbean Sea on the north, and with Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and Venezuela as its close neighbors. Colombia's capital, Bogotá, is a bustling urban area of over eight million people. The Caribbean coast supports major port cities of Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Santa Marta. Other parts of the country are quite rural, with a strong agricultural presence.

Colombia's rich culture and history have been formed by the melding of its indigenous populations with the influx of the Spanish and European explorers of the 15th century. Some of those indigenous peoples continue to follow their traditional ways even today. Colombia gained its independence from the Spaniards in the early 1800's after Simon Bolivar led the resistance against Spain. Today, many Colombian towns have a "Plaza de Bolivar" named in his honor.

Located near the equator, Colombia's varied geography encompasses mountain highlands, arid plateaus, lush rain forests, and tropical Caribbean beaches. The country is home to a wide range of plant and animal species, some unique to Colombia. The beauty and natural diversity of the country is readily apparent to those who travel outside the major metropolitan areas. Colombia is a major exporter of flowers, particularly roses, to the US and European markets, as well as coffee, leather, and other agricultural goods.