Meaning of COLOMBIA, FLAG OF in English

horizontally striped yellow-blue-red national flag. Its width-to-length ratio is 2 to 3. Local opposition to Spanish rule in what is now Colombia began on July 20, 1810, at Bogot. Rebellion soon spread to Cartagena, the Cauca valley, and Antioquia. Each area proclaimed independence under a separate flaghorizontal stripes of yellow over red, a tricolour of blue-yellow-red, blue and white stripes within a silver border, and others. The victory of The Liberator, Simn Bolvar, at the Battle of Boyac on August 7, 1819, assured the independence of Colombia, and in December of that year Colombia adopted as its national flag the horizontal tricolour of yellow, blue, and red under which Bolvar fought. In 1834 the stripes were changed from horizontal to vertical, and a white eight-pointed star was added in the centre. Subsequently coats of arms appeared on the flag for specific official purposes. The present national flag was established when the government reverted to the horizontal yellow-blue-red on December 10, 1861. In doing so, however, it made the yellow stripe twice the width of either of the other stripes. Provision was made for distinctive symbols in the centre of the flag for such purposes as identification of the diplomatic service, navy ships, privately owned vessels, and the armed forces. Essentially the same symbols had already been in use for half a century, but the exact artistic rendition had varied from one regime to the next in reaction to the changing political landscape. Whitney Smith Government and social conditions Government Under the constitution of 1991 Colombia is a republic, the public powers of which are divided between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The president, who can serve only one four-year term, is elected by universal suffrage. The executive is assisted by a ministerial cabinet. A Senate and a House of Representatives constitute the bicameral legislature, whose members are elected to four-year terms. The House members are elected by districts corresponding to the departments, while 100 of the 102 members of the Senate are elected by a nationwide constituency and two by the indigenous communities. The country is divided for administrative purposes into 32 departments and the special district of Bogot. The departments are headed by elected governors, and each has an elected legislature. The departments are subdivided into municipalities, which are headed by elected mayors. The Colombian political process originated during the formation of the republic. Since then, the two largest political partiesthe Liberals and the Conservativeshave almost constantly vied with each other for power, the exception being 195774 when they formed a coalition government (see La Violencia, dictatorship, and democratic restoration). Suffrage is extended to all citizens 18 years of age and older. Citizens are guaranteed civil rights, including the right to strike, to assemble, and to petition; freedom of the press is also guaranteed. All male citizens between the ages of 18 and 30 may be called for military service. Education The educational system includes kindergartens (preschool facilities), primary schools, secondary schools, and other educational facilities that offer training in industry, domestic science, veterinary science, business, nursing, theology, and art. The majority of the country's universities are located in the capital city, although there also are colleges in other major cities such as Medelln, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Popayn, and Cali. Public institutions of higher learning in Bogot include the National University of Colombia, the Francisco Jos de Caldas District University, and the National Pedagogical University, and major private schools there include the University Foundation, the Xavieran Pontifical University, and the University of the Andes. History The following treatment focuses on Colombian history from the time of European settlement. For events in a regional context, see Latin America, history of. Preconquest Even before the Spanish conquest, the western mountainous part of Colombia attracted the bulk of the population. The more advanced Indian cultures were found in this region, and the most favourable location for the growth of civilization was the high plateau in the Cordillera Oriental of the Colombian Andes. The present capital city of Bogot is located near the southern terminus of the plateau, which extends northward to the mountains dividing it from the drainage of the Cesar River. There the Spanish found the major concentration of the Chibchan-speaking peoples. At the time of the Spanish conquest, the Chibcha were in the process of consolidation by warfare and had not achieved firm union and political institutions. Except for the invading Carib peoples in the deep mountain valleys, there was considerable similarity among the Chibcha, sub-Andean, and other cultures of Colombia. All were characterized by intensive agriculture, fairly dense populations living in villages, organized religion, class divisions, and matrilineal inheritance of political and religious offices. The sub-Andean culture in the Cordillera Central and the narrower portions of the Cauca valley generally lacked large villages because the terrain was unsuitable for them. The more advanced Chibcha made war for political ends, using large forces armed with darts and dart throwers. Geographic and climatic conditions placed limits on the development of the Chibcha and other cultures in Colombia. Of the total Indian population at the time of the conquest, probably about one-third were Chibcha. None of the larger domesticated animals and their wild related species found in the Central Andes existed in Colombia. The Chibcha were adequate craftsmen, but their work shows more interest in utility or in the expression of ideas in contrast to the skilled workmanship among some sub-Andean peoples. The economy In the colonial period the economy was based almost entirely on gold mining, including the robbing of the metal from Indian graves (guacas). The modern economy is much more broadly based, with the exploitation of hydrocarbon fuels and several metals, agricultural production, and the manufacture of goods for export and home consumption. Private enterprise dominates the economy, and direct government participation is limited to such industries as the railways, petroleum, and telecommunications. The government has attempted to foster economic stability and to encourage private enterprise through indirect measures, such as a favourable system of taxation and the extension of credit to new industries. Regional development organizations, such as the Cauca Valley Corporation, have been established to promote more balanced industrial growth, with emphasis on hydroelectric power development and flood control. Economic growth was quite substantial through the mid-20th century, but in subsequent decades inflation and unemployment grew alarmingly as the growth rate declined. Nevertheless, Colombia was one of the few Latin American countries not to suffer a debt crisis in the 1980s, and in many ways during that decade it had the healthiest economy in the region. Agriculture remains a major component of the Colombian economy, although industrial development since the 1940s has been remarkable. A substantial proportion of Colombian land is uncultivated because of the prevalence of poor soils and unfavourable climatic conditions. The eastern plains are sparsely inhabited, the Pacific coast is still in forest because of high rainfall, and large areas in the Magdalena valley remain in open range or are unused. Resources Colombia has an abundance of nonrenewable resources, including reserves of gold, coal, and petroleum; its renewable resources include rich agricultural lands and its rivers, which have been harnessed increasingly for hydroelectric power. Gold deposits, particularly in the west-central section of the country, have been important since colonial times. In some areas the gold-bearing gravels also contain silver and platinum. The coalfields of La Guajira are the largest in all of northern South America. Ferronickel reserves are located along the San Jorge River, and there is a large copper deposit in western Antioquia. The Cordillera Oriental has long been an important source of rock salt, marble, limestone, and, especially, Colombia's highly prized emeralds; the country is the major world producer of emeralds. Petroleum reserves have long been exploited in the Magdalena and Catatumbo river valleys, and major new fields were opened in the Llanos and in Amazonia in the late 20th century. Colombia's potential for hydroelectric power is greater than any other nation on the continent except Brazil, and hydroelectric plants generate roughly three-fourths of the nation's electricity; however, severe droughts (notably in 199293) have occasionally interrupted service, and supplemental thermoelectric plants have been built in many areas. The land Relief Few countries boast such striking physical variety as does Colombia. Its broken, rugged topography, together with its location near the Equator, creates an extraordinary diversity of climates, vegetation, soils, and crops. The Andean cordillera, one of the world's great mountain ranges, dominates the landscape of the western part of the country, where most of the people live. North of the border with Ecuador the cordillera flares out into three distinct parallel ranges. Two great river valleys, those of the Magdalena and the Cauca, separate them and provide avenues of penetration from the Atlantic coastal lowlands into the heart of the country. Volcanic activity in the geologic past blocked the middle course of the Cauca River to form a great lake that once filled the western inter-Andean trough for some 120 miles (190 km) south of Cartago. The river eventually broke through the dam to leave the level floor of the Cauca valley at some 3,000 feet (900 metres) above sea level; today it is one of the nation's most productive agricultural areas. The Colombian cordilleras belong to the northern portion of the great Andean mountain system, which extends along the Pacific coast of South America. The Andes are among the world's most youthful mountain ranges and among the highest. The geologic history of this northern sector is less well understood than that of the central and southern parts. It is clear, however, that the entire cordillera has been thrust up through the subduction of the crumpled eastern margin of the Nazca Plate and, to the north, the Caribbean Plate under the more rigid but lighter South American Plate, which has been forced westward by the spreading Atlantic seafloor. These tectonic forces, similar to those found elsewhere around the Pacific Rim, continue to operate, as is evidenced by the high frequency of often destructive earthquakes. At the Pasto Massif, near the Ecuadoran border, the mountains divide into the Cordillera Occidental (Western Range), which runs parallel to the Pacific coast, and the Cordillera Central (Central Range), which, with its numerous volcanoes, forms the backbone of the system in Colombia and runs generally southwest to northeast. At the Great Colombian Massif of the Cordillera Central, near the San Agustn Archeological Park, the Cordillera Oriental (Eastern Range) branches off in a more decidedly northeasterly direction. Of the three ranges, the nonvolcanic Cordillera Occidental, which forms the barrier between the Cauca valley and the rain-drenched Pacific coast, is the lowest and least populated. Two passes at elevations less than 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) between Cali and Buenaventura on the Pacific coast mark the lowest depressions in the range. Elsewhere the crest is much higher, reaching 12,992 feet (3,960 metres) at Mount Paramillo in the department of Antioquia. From there the Cordillera Occidental fingers north into the three distinct serranas of Abibe, San Jernimo, and Ayapel, forested ranges that drop gradually toward the piedmont plains of the Caribbean littoral. A lesser topographic feature on the Pacific coast is the Baud Mountains, separated from the Cordillera Occidental by the valley of the Atrato River, which empties into the Caribbean Gulf of Urab; the Baud Mountains represent a southward extension of the Isthmus of Panama. The Cordillera Central is the highest of the Andean ranges of Colombia, rising to an average height of 10,000 feet (3,000 metres). It is a continuation of the Ecuadoran volcanic structure. Crystalline rocks are exposed at several places on its flanks and are the foci of localized gold and silver deposits. Sandstones and shales of the Tertiary Period (about 66.5 to 1.6 million years ago) are also a part of the older basement that has been capped by ash and lava derived from some 20 volcanoes of the Quaternary Period (within the past 1.6 million years). Several of the latter reach well into the zone of permanent snow, above 15,000 feet (4,600 metres). The highest are Mount Huila (18,865 feet [5,750 metres]), southeast of Cali, and the Ruiz-Tolima complex (some 17,700 feet [5,400 metres]) between Manizales and Ibagu. The fertile ash from their eruptions has produced the high, cool plateaus of Nario department and the often steep slopes to the north that support much of Colombia's coffee production. In November 1985 Mount Ruz erupted, melting the snow and ice that covered it and sending great mudflows downslope, destroying the city of Armero and killing more than 25,000 in one of the country's greatest catastrophes. North of Mount Ruz, near Sonsn in the department of Antioquia, the volcanic Cordillera Central gives way to the deeply weathered, granitic Antioquia batholith (an exposed granitic intrusion), a tableland averaging some 8,000 feet (2,500 metres) above sea level. It is divided into two parts by the deep transverse cleft of the Porce River, which occupies the U-shaped valley in which is situated the expanding metropolis of Medelln, Colombia's second city. The batholith contains gold-bearing quartz veins, which were the source of the placer gravels that gave rise to an active colonial mining economy. Beyond Antioquia the lower, remote San Lucas Mountains extend northward toward the confluence of the Magdalena and Cauca rivers. The massive Cordillera Oriental, separating the Magdalena valley from the Llanos, is composed chiefly of folded and faulted marine sediments and older schists and gneisses. Narrow to the south, it broadens out in the high, unsettled massif of Sumapaz, with elevations up to 13,000 feet (4,000 metres). High plateaus were formed in the Quaternary Period by the deposition of sediments in depressions that had been occupied by lakes. The most important of these is the savanna area called the Sabana de Bogot. Farther northeast beyond the deep canyons cut by the Chicamocha River and its tributaries, the Cordillera Oriental culminates in the towering Mount Cocuy (Sierra Nevada del Cocuy), which rises to 18,022 feet (5,493 metres). Beyond this point, near Pamplona, the cordillera splits into two much narrower ranges, one extending into Venezuela, the other, the Perij Mountains, forming the northern boundary range between Colombia and Venezuela. The Perijs then descend northward toward the Caribbean to the arid La Guajira Peninsula, the northernmost extension of the Colombian mainland. The isolated Santa Marta Mountains, an imposing fault-bounded granitic massif rising to 18,947 feet (5,775 metres) at the twin peaks of Cristbal Coln and Simn Bolvar, is the highest point in the country; it ascends abruptly from the Caribbean littoral to snow- and ice-covered summits. The Atlantic lowlands spread out southward behind it. Although it is a distinct geomorphic unit and not a part of the Andes, some geologists have suggested that it might be considered an extension of the Cordillera Central, from which it is separated by the Momps depression in the lower Magdalena valley. The steep and rugged Andean mountain masses and the high intermontane basins descend into plains that extend along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts and across the eastern interior toward the Orinoco and Amazon river systems. From the shores of the Caribbean Sea inland to the lower spurs of the three major cordilleras extends a slightly undulating savanna surface of varying width, generally known as the Atlantic lowlands (also called the Caribbean coastal lowlands). Dotted with hills and with extensive tracts of seasonally flooded land along the lower Magdalena and the Sin rivers, it surrounds the inland portion of the Santa Marta Mountains. A much narrower lowland apron extends along the Pacific shoreline from the point of Cape Corrientes southward to the Ecuadoran border. A wide range of features characterize the country's two coastlines. Steep and articulated bays, inlets, capes, and promontories accentuate the shoreline on the Pacific side toward the Panama border and on the Caribbean side where the sea beats against the base of the Santa Marta Mountains. These features are interspersed with sandy beaches, along with barrier islands and brackish lagoons. The eastern two-thirds of the country, lying beyond the Andes, differs from cordilleran Colombia in practically all aspects of physical and human geography. The eastern lowland extends from the Venezuelan boundary along the Arauca and Meta rivers in the north to the Peruvian-Ecuadoran border stream, the Putumayo, some 600 miles (1,000 km) to the south and from the base of the Cordillera Oriental eastward to the Orinoco-Negro river line, a distance of more than 400 miles (650 km). A region of great topographic uniformity, it is divided into two contrasting natural landscapes by a major vegetation boundary. In southern Colombia the Amazonian rainforest, or selva, reaches its northern limit. From the Guaviare River northward the plains between the Andes and the Orinoco River are mostly grass-covered, forming the largest savanna complex in tropical America. This part of the lowland is called the Llanos Orientales (Eastern Plains) or simply the Llanos. In the central part of the plain, between the Guaviare and Caquet rivers, the eroded rocks of the ancient Guiana Shield are exposed, producing a broken topography of low, isolated mountains, tablelands, and buttes with rapids in the streams. This slightly higher ground forms the watershed between the Amazon and Orinoco systems. Some 60 miles (100 km) south of Villavicencio the elongated, forested La Macarena Mountains rise 8,000 feet (2,500 metres) from the surrounding lowlands, an isolated tropical ecosystem. Drainage and soils In Colombia's rugged terrain the rivers have been historically important as routes of transportation and settlement. By far the most important river system is the Magdalena. Its drainage basin, including that of its major tributary, the Cauca, covers some 100,000 square miles (260,000 square km), or nearly one-fourth of the surface of the country. Within it are found most of the nation's socioeconomic activity and more than three-fourths of its population. Originating in the Andean Pramo de Las Papas, the Magdalena flows northward in the structural depression between the Cordilleras Central and Oriental for almost 1,000 miles (1,600 km) to empty into the Caribbean near Barranquilla. The Dique Canal, begun during the colonial period, links its lower course with the coastal city of Cartagena. The Cauca River, which contributes a substantial part of its total flow, rises in the mountains south of Popayn and, after passing through the floor of the Cauca valley near Cali, occupies deep canyons in most of its passage through the departments of Caldas and Antioquia before emerging onto the floodplain of the lower Magdalena. The Magdalena, a shallow, braiding stream in its upper and middle course, served as a major transport artery for most of the country's history, but deforestation and soil erosion have led to silting and increased flow variation so that its role has become less significant. Because of its rapids, the Cauca has never been of much importance for the moving of goods. Among the major affluents of the Magdalena, besides the Cauca, are the Sogamoso, Cesar, San Jorge, Saldaa, Lebrija, and Carare rivers. The Sin and the Atrato are other major streams that flow directly into the Caribbean. The great eastern watershed is subdivided into two sections, the waters flowing into the Orinoco and the Amazon rivers, which carry them to the Atlantic Ocean. The Arauca and Meta, the lower reaches of which cross into Venezuela, and the Vichada, Inrida, and Guaviare are among the main rivers that flow into the Orinoco. Among the streams that flow into the Amazon are the Vaups, Caquet, and Putumayo. The rivers that flow into the Pacific are relatively short, descending rapidly from the Cordillera Occidental to the sea. They carry large volumes of water, however, because they drain areas of extremely heavy rainfall. Among the rivers belonging to the Pacific watershed are the Baud, San Juan, Dagua, Naya, San Juan de Micay, Pata, and Mira, which rises in Ecuador. The wide variety of soils encountered in the country reflects climatic, topographic, and geologic conditions. Those best suited for modern, mechanized agriculture are the alluvial soils found in the principal river valleys, such as the Magdalena, Cauca, Sin, Cesar, and Ariguan. The former lake beds of some of the inter-Andean basins, notably the Sabana de Bogot and the Ubat and Chiquinquir valleys, also fall into this category. Elsewhere, soils of volcanic origin, especially in the coffee-growing districts of the Cordillera Central, can be exceptionally productive if protected from erosion. The Quindo department, west of Bogot, is especially renowned for its rich soils. The people Language In Colombia much care has been taken to preserve the linguistic purity of the official language, Castilian Spanish, and there are close ties between the Spanish and Colombian language academies. Spanish spoken in Colombia is nevertheless marked by the presence of numerous Colombianisms, many of which have been accepted by both academies. In addition to Spanish there are more than 180 indigenous languages and dialects belonging to such major linguistic groups as Arawakan, Chibchan, Cariban, Tupi-Guaran, and Yurumangu. Ethnicity Approximately three-fifths of the population is mestizo. People of African and mulatto (mixed African and European) ancestry account for nearly one-fifth of the population and are mainly concentrated in the coastal departments and in traditional sugar-growing areas such as the Cauca River valley. The white (European) population, which is mainly of Spanish origin, has declined to about one-fifth of the total. Indian peoples constitute only 1 percent of the population, a much lower share than in other Andean countries. Unlike most other South American republics, immigration has never been much encouraged in Colombia, although small numbers from the Middle East, non-Iberian Europe, and East Asia have been absorbed into the population.

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