Thinking of 10 specific things I want to tell Willamette about my country seemed an easy task at first. But now, hands on the keyboard, trying to come up with a list that makes sense doesn’t seem that easy. Also, I’ve been thinking that even when our reality is constantly permeated by sad or violent events, that’s not what I want to show. Let’s leave that for the news. So, again here I am letting you know some fun facts about Colombia.
1. Even though Spanish is the official language, there are 84 ethnic groups in Colombia speaking a similar number of different languages. 3.3% of the population identify themselves as indigenous. Additionally, 10.3% are Afro-Colombian or African descendant.
2. Colombia has an equatorial climate and therefore we don’t have dramatic seasonal changes. We pretty much have the same temperature year round, and it only varies according to the different elevation of each region. Coastal cities have day temperatures in the 70s-80s F and the inland cities in the 60s-70s F. But we do have snow! However, you would have to go to one of the few snow-capped peaks to see it.
3. Colombia is the only South American country that has coast on both oceans, Pacific and Atlantic. It has a total landmass of roughly 1,140,000 square kilometers, which is one-ninth the size of the United States, and is approximately the same size as the United Kingdom, France, and Germany combined.
4. Colombian food is very diverse and varies depending on the different regions, too. In some areas you will find specialties like roasted ants or guinea pigs, but in other areas Colombians wouldn’t even touch those dishes (me included). Also, our cuisine is not exactly a paradise for vegetarians as the Colombian diet includes a lot of meat. The good news for them is that the offer of fresh fruit is overwhelming and many of the varieties are only found there. (I miss my juices!)
5. A fair, a pageant, or a celebration can be found every time of the year somewhere in the national territory. Really, there is always a celebration to be heard about on the showbiz section of the news every single day.
6. Do you like holidays? We love them! While the US takes approximately 10 days off every year, we do it 18 times (among the most in the world) to celebrate religious or patriotic dates. Nine to eleven of the national holidays fall on a Monday most years; that’s an extraordinary number of three-day weekends, isn’t it?
7. Over three hundred beauty pageants are held every year. Every town has a queen for something, for their vegetable, for their music, for their region or whatever… even prisons hold beauty pageants. It is unbelievable! They’re mostly for women, but now men also have the choice to participate in many events.
8. Even though we have 32 departments (states), there are seven main cultural groups representing the different stereotypes of each region: rolos (from Bogotá and the center of the country), paisas (from Antioquia and Viejo Caldas), vallunos (from Valle del Cauca), costeños (from the Caribbean), opitas (from Tolima and Huila), santandereanos (from los Santanderes), and chocoanos (from Chocó). In general people say rolos are stiff; paisas are pretentious; vallunos, opitas and chocoanos speak funny (most of the jokes are about them); costeños are lazy; and santandereanos are bad-tempered. But don’t trust me! I’m paisa… I hope there are no santandereanos reading this.
9. Tourism reflects the good and bad times in terms of security and economy the country has been going through during the last decades. It fell 21 percent between 1995 and 1999 and rose 48 percent between 2005 and 2006; in the first six months of 2011, it increased 14.3% over 2010. Hm? Regarding economy, unemployment is now under 10%, which is an unseen number for over thirty years.
10. Finally, another nice tip. Colombia has the world’s greatest diversity of orchid species (3,500), butterflies (3,000), and birds (1,754 species). It also takes second place for amphibians and third for reptiles. Remember how “small” we are. Impressive, isn’t it?