Colombia lies at the crossroads of Latin America and the broader American continent, and as such has been hit by a wide range of cultural influences. Native American, Spanish and other European, African, American, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern influences, as well as other Latin American cultural influences, are all present in Colombia's modern culture. Urban migration, industrialization, globalization, and other political, social and economic changes have also left an impression.
Many national symbols, both objects and themes, have arisen from Colombia's diverse cultural traditions and aim to represent what Colombia, and the Colombian people, have in common. Cultural expressions in Colombia are promoted by the government through the Ministry of Culture.
Colombian art has over 3,000 years of history. Colombian artists have captured the country's changing political and cultural backdrop using a range of styles and mediums. There is archeological evidence of ceramics being produced earlier in Colombia than anywhere else in the Americas, dating as early as 3,000 BCE.
The earliest examples of gold craftsmanship have been attributed to the Tumaco people of the Pacific coast and date to around 325 BCE. Roughly between 200 BCE and 800 CE, the San Agustín culture, masters of stonecutting, entered its “classical period". They erected raised ceremonial centres, sarcophagi, and large stone monoliths depicting anthropomorphic and zoomorphhic forms out of stone.
Colombian art has followed the trends of the time, so during the 16th to 18th centuries, Spanish Catholicism had a huge influence on Colombian art, and the popular baroque style was replaced with rococo when the Bourbons ascended to the Spanish crown. More recently, Colombian artists Pedro Nel Gómez and Santiago Martínez Delgado started the Colombian Murial Movement in the 1940s, featuring the neoclassical features of Art Deco.
Since the 1950s, the Colombian art started to have a distinctive point of view, reinventing traditional elements under the concepts of the 20th century. Examples of this are the Greiff portraits by Ignacio Gómez Jaramillo, showing what the Colombian art could do with the new techniques applied to typical Colombian themes. Carlos Correa, with his paradigmatic “Naturaleza muerta en silencio” (silent dead nature), combines geometrical abstraction and cubism. Alejandro Obregón is often considered as the father of modern Colombian painting, and one of the most influential artist in this period, due to his originality, the painting of Colombian landscapes with symbolic and expressionist use of animals, (specially the Andean condor). Fernando Botero, Omar Rayo and Oscar Murillo are some of the Colombian artists featured at the international level.
The Colombian sculpture from the sixteenth to 18th centuries was mostly devoted to religious depictions of ecclesiastic art, strongly influenced by the Spanish schools of sacred sculpture. During the early period of the Colombian republic, the national artists were focused in the production of sculptural portraits of politicians and public figures, in a plain neoclassicist trend. During the 20th century, the Colombian sculpture began to develop a bold and innovative work with the aim of reaching a better understanding of national sensitivity.
Photography in Colombia began with the arrival in the country of the Daguerreotype that was brought by the Baron Gros in 1841. The Piloto public library has Latin America’s largest archive of negatives, containing 1.7 million antique photographs covering Colombia 1848 until 2005.
The Colombian press has promoted the work of the cartoonists. In recent decades, fanzines, internet and independent publishers have been fundamental to the growth of the comic in Colombia.
Throughout the times, there have been a variety of architectural styles, from those of indigenous peoples to contemporary ones, passing through colonial (military and religious), Republican, transition and modern styles.
Ancient habitation areas, longhouses, crop terraces, pathways, cemeteries, hypogeums and necropolises are all part of the architectural heritage of indigenous peoples. Some prominent indigenous structures are the preceramic and ceramic archaeological site of Tequendama, Tierradentro (a park that contains the largest concentration of pre-Columbian monumental shaft tombs with side chambers), the largest collection of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in South America, located in San Agustín, Huila. Lost city (an archaeological site with a series of terraces carved into the mountainside, a net of tiled roads and several circular plazas) and also stand out the large villages mainly built with stone, wood, cane and mud.
Architecture during the period of conquest and colonization is mainly derived of adapting European styles to local conditions, and Spanish influence, especially Andalusian and Extremaduran, can be easily seen. When Europeans founded cities two things were making simultaneously: the dimensioning of geometrical space (town square, street), and the location of a tangible point of orientation. The construction of forts was common throughout the Caribbean and in some cities of the interior, because of the dangers that represented the hostile indigenous groups and the pirates who roamed the seas. Churches, chapels, schools, and hospitals belonging to religious orders cause a great urban impact. Baroque architecture is used in military buildings and public spaces. Marcelino Arroyo, Francisco José de Caldas and Domingo de Petrés were great representatives of neo-classical architecture.
The National Capitol is a great representative of romanticism. Wood is extensively used in doors, windows, railings and ceilings during the colonization of Antioquia. The Caribbean architecture acquires a strong Arabic influence. The Teatro Colón in Bogotá is a lavish example of architecture from the 19th century. The quintas houses with innovations in the volumetric conception are some of the best examples of the Republican architecture; the Republican action in the city focused on the design of three types of spaces: parks with forests, small urban parks and avenues and the Gothic style was most commonly used for the design of churches.
Deco style, modern neoclassicism, eclecticism folklorist and art decoornamental resources significantly influenced the architecture of Colombia, especially during the transition period. Modernism contributed with new construction technologies and new materials (steel, reinforced concrete, glass and synthetic materials) and the topology architecture and lightened slabs system also have a great influence. The most influential architects of the modern movement were Rogelio Salmona and Fernando Martínez Sanabria.
The contemporary architecture of Colombia is designed to give greater importance to the materials, this architecture takes into account the specific natural and artificial geographies and is also an architecture that appeals to the senses. The conservation of the architectural and urban heritage of Colombia has been promoted in recent years.
Colombian music blends European-influenced guitar and song structure with large gaita flutes and percussion instruments from the indigenous population, while its percussion structure and dance forms come from Africa. Colombia has a diverse and dynamic musical environment. Many musicians, composers, music producers and singers Colombians are recognized internationally such as Shakira, Juanes or Carlos Vives.
Caribbean music has many vibrant rhythms, such as cumbia (it is played by the maracas, the drums, the gaitas and guacharaca), porro (it is a monotonous but joyful rhythm), mapalé (with its fast rhythm and constant clapping) and the "vallenato", which originated in the northern part of the Caribbean coast (the rhythm is mainly played by the caja, the guacharaca, and accordion).
The music from the Pacific coast, such as the currulao is characterized by its strong use of drums (instruments such as the native marimba, the conunos, the bass drum, the side drum and the cuatro guasas or tubular rattle). An important rhythm of the south region of the Pacific coast is the contradanza (it is used in dance shows, as a result of the striking colours of the costumes). Marimba music, traditional chants and dances from the Colombia South Pacific region are on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Important musical rhythms of the Andean Region are the danza (dance of Andean folklore arising from the transformation of the European contredance), the bambuco (it is played with guitar, tiple and mandolin, the rhythm is danced by couples), the pasillo (a rhythm inspired by the Austrian waltz and the Colombian "danza", the lyrics have been composed by well-known poets), the rajaleña (it is performed by people that play the queco flute, the tiple, the carangano and the drum), the sanjuanero (it originated in Tolima and Huila Departments, the rhythm is joyful and fast). Apart from these traditional rhythms, salsa music has spread throughout the country, and the city of Cali is considered by many salsa singers to be 'The New Salsa Capital of the World'.
The instruments that distinguish the music of the Eastern Plains are the harp, the cuatro (a type of four-stringed guitar) and maracas. Important rhythms of this region are the joropo (a fast rhythm and there is also tapping as a result of its flamenco ancestry) and the galeron (it is heard a lot while cowboys are working).
The music of the Amazon region is strongly influenced by the indigenous religious practices. Some of the musical instruments used are the manguaré (a musical instrument of ceremonial type, consisting of a pair of large cylindrical drums), the quena (melodic instrument), the rondador, the congas, bells, and different types of flutes.
The music of the Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina is usually accompanied by a mandolin, a tub-bass, a jawbone, a guitar and maracas. Some popular archipelago rhythms are the Schottische, the Calypso, the Polka and the Mento.
Theater was introduced in Colombia during the Spanish colonization in 1550 through zarzuela companies. Colombian theater is supported by the Ministry of Culture and a number of private and state owned organizations. The Ibero-American Theater Festival of Bogotá is the cultural event of the highest importance in Colombia and one of the biggest theater festivals in the world. Other important theater events are: The Festival of Puppet The Fanfare (Medellín), The Manizales Theater Festival, The Caribbean Theatre Festival (Santa Marta) and The Art Festival of Popular Culture "Cultural Invasion" (Bogotá).
Although the Colombian cinema is young as an industry, more recently the film industry was growing with support from the Film Act passed in 2003. Many film festivals take place in Colombia, but the two most important are the Cartagena Film Festival, which is the oldest film festival in Latin America, and the Bogotá Film Festival.
Some important national circulation newspapers are El Tiempo and El Espectador. Television in Colombia has two privately owned TV networks and three state-owned TV networks with national coverage, as well as six regional TV networks and dozens of local TV stations. Private channels, RCN and Caracol are the highest-rated. The regional channels and regional newspapers cover a department or more and its content is made in these particular areas.
Colombia has three major national radio networks: Radiodifusora Nacional de Colombia, a state-run national radio; Caracol Radio and RCN Radio, privately owned networks with hundreds of affiliates. There are other national networks, including Cadena Super, Todelar, and Colmundo. Many hundreds of radio stations are registered with the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications.
Colombia's varied cuisine is influenced by its diverse fauna and flora as well as the cultural traditions of the ethnic groups. Colombian dishes and ingredients vary widely by region. Some of the most common ingredients are: cereals such as rice and maize; tubers such as potato and cassava; assorted legumes; meats, including beef, chicken, pork and goat; fish; and seafood. Colombia cuisine also features a variety of tropical fruits such as cape gooseberry, feijoa, arazá, dragon fruit, mangostino, granadilla, papaya, guava, mora (blackberry), lulo, soursop and passionfruit.
Among the most representative appetizers and soups are patacones (fried green plantains), sancocho de gallina (chicken soup with root vegetables) and ajiaco (potato and corn soup). Representative snacks and breads are pandebono, arepas (corn cakes), aborrajados (fried sweet plantains with cheese), torta de choclo, empanadas and almojábanas. Representative main courses are bandeja paisa, lechona tolimense, mamona, tamales and fish dishes (such as arroz de lisa), especially in coastal regions where kibbeh, suero, costeño cheese and carimañolas are also eaten. Representative side dishes are papas criollas al horno (roasted Andean potatoes), papas chorreadas (potatoes with cheese) and arroz con coco (coconut rice). Organic food is a current trend in big cities, although in general across the country the fruits and veggies are very natural and fresh.
Representative desserts are buñuelos, natillas, Maria Luisa cake, bocadillo made of guayaba (guava jelly), cocadas (coconut balls), casquitos de guayaba (candied guava peels), torta de natas, obleas, flan de arequipe, roscón, milhoja, and the tres leches cake (a sponge cake soaked in milk, covered in whipped cream, then served with condensed milk). Typical sauces (salsas) are hogao (tomato and onion sauce) and Colombian-style ají.
Some representative beverages are coffee (Tinto), champús, cholado, lulada, avena colombiana, sugarcane juice, aguapanela, aguardiente, hot chocolate and fresh fruit juices (often made with sugar and water or milk).
Tejo is Colombia’s national sport and is a team sport that involves launching projectiles to hit a target. But of all sports in Colombia, football is the most popular. Colombia was the champion of the 2001 Copa América, in which they set a new record of being undefeated, conceding no goals and winning each match. Interestingly, Colombia has been awarded “mover of the year” twice.
Colombia is a mecca for roller skaters. The national team is a perennial powerhouse at the World Roller Speed Skating Championships. Colombia has traditionally been very good in cycling and a large number of Colombian cyclists have triumphed in major competitions of cycling.
In baseball, another sport rooted in the Caribbean Coast, Colombia was world amateur champion in 1947 and 1965. Baseball is popular in the Caribbean, mainly in the cities Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta. Of those cities have come good players like: Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Rentería who was champion of the World Series in 1997 and 2010, and others who have played in Major League Baseball.
Boxing is one of the sports that more world champions has produced for Colombia. Motorsports also occupies an important place in the sporting preferences of Colombians; Juan Pablo Montoya is a race car driver known for winning 7 Formula One events. Colombia also has excelled in sports such as BMX, judo, shooting sport, taekwondo, wrestling, high diving and athletics, also has a long tradition in weightlifting and bowling.