Colombia was inhabited by numerous, major indigenous cultures like the Muisca, the Tayrona and the Quimbaya; some groups of indigenous people as the Caribs lived in a state of permanent war, but others had less bellicose attitudes. The area that now is Colombia was conquered by the Spanish through alliances with some indigenous groups when America was 'discovered' by Europeans. The process of conquest and colonization radically altered the social structures of the areas, the indigenous populations shrank dramatically in size and their share of the population has declined ever since. The Spanish Empire brought European settlers and African slaves, while most of the population in the colony was of mixed Spanish and Indigenous ancestry. The Spanish empire brought slaves to their colonies largely using the 'asiento' system, licensing merchants from many slave trading nations to transport slaves.
Independence from Spain was won in 1819 as part of the the "Gran Colombia" Federation, but by 1830 the federation was dissolved. It was one of the five countries liberated by Simón Bolívar (the others being Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia). The success of the independence movements across Latin America was made easier by the Napoleonic Wars that left mainland Spain with two rival governments. What is now Colombia and Panama emerged as the Republic of New Granada. The new nation experimented with federalism as the Granadine Confederation (1858), and then the United States of Colombia (1863), before the Republic of Colombia was declared in 1886. The United States of America's intentions to control the Panama Canal led to Panama becoming a separate nation in 1903.
Colombia was the first constitutional government in South America. Slavery was abolished in the country in 1851. The years following independence were marked by several civil wars, the legacy of these conflicts combined with state repression against leftist militias in rural areas and world polarization caused by the Cold War culminated in a communist insurgent campaign in 1964 by the FARC and the ELN to overthrow the Colombian Government. The years during the conflict were marked by heavy fighting between the communist guerrillas, the Colombian state and military, right-wing paramilitaries and several drug cartels. In the years following 2005 the safety has been improving throughout the country. As part of a difficult peace process the AUC (right-wing paramilitaries) as a formal organization had ceased to function, and in 2012 the government and the FARC started peace talks aiming at bringing the 50-year-old Civil War to an end once and for all. Colombia is in recovery with an rapidly improving economy. Ending the conflict, wealth inequality and rebuilding the nation are some of the issues that confront the country. In October 2016, President Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in bringing the country's five decades of civil war to an end.