Content

SEND US FEEDBACK


We're always looking for ways to make Geoba.se better. Have an idea? See something that needs fixing? Let us know!

Colombia: Race and Ethnicity
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Race and Ethnicity

RACE AND ETHNICITY


The population is descended from three racial groups -- Indians, blacks, and whites -- that have mingled throughout the nearly 500 years of the country's history. No official figures were available, but according to rough estimates in the late 1980s, mestizos (white-Indian mix) constituted approximately 50 percent of the population, whites 25 percent, mulattoes (black-white mix) and zambos (black-Indian mix) 20 percent, blacks 4 percent, and Indians 1 percent.

Recognizing the impossibility of objective racial classification and not wishing to emphasize ethnic or racial differences, the national census dropped references to race after 1918. Nevertheless, most Colombians continued to identify themselves and others according to ancestry, physical appearance, and sociocultural status. Social relations reflected the importance attached to certain characteristics associated with a given racial group. Although these characteristics no longer accurately demarcated distinct social categories, they still helped determine rank in the social hierarchy.

The various groups were found in differing concentrations throughout the nation, largely reflecting the colonial social system. The whites tended to live mainly in the urban centers, particularly in Bogotá and the burgeoning highland cities. The large mestizo population was predominantly a peasant group, concentrated in the highlands where the Spanish conquerors had mixed with the women of Indian chiefdoms. After the 1940s, however, mestizos began moving to the cities, where they became part of the urban working class or urban poor. The black and mulatto populations were also part of this trend but lived mainly along the coasts and in the lowlands.

Descendants of Indians who survived the Spanish conquest were found in scattered groups in remote areas largely outside the national society, such as the higher elevations of the southern highlands, the forests north and west of the cordilleras, the arid Guajira Peninsula, and the vast eastern plains and Amazonian jungles, which had only begun to be penetrated by other groups in the twentieth century. The Indian groups differed from the rest of the nation in major cultural aspects. Although some continued to speak indigenous languages, Spanish, introduced by missionaries, was the predominant language among all but the most isolated groups.

Data as of December 1988




Last Updated: December 1988


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Colombia was first published in 1988. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

Colombia Main Page Country Studies Main Page




Section 53 of 188






IMAGES


Click any image to enlarge.


National Flag



($) Colombian Peso (COP)
Convert to Any Currency



Map



Locator Map