Colombians have an eclectic and mixed cultural tradition, difficult to summarize or describe in word. The majority of the Colombian population is mestizo. The next most prominent group is white Colombian followed by zambo or afro-Caribbean, followed by various Amerindians tribes. Although only one per cent of Colombians consider themselves to be indigenous the country has over eighty culturally distinct groups, many with a population of less than one thousand. Some of these groups have extremely well preserved traditions and language.
Typically the cities have a high concentration of white and mestizo ethnicity and further out towards rural areas more indigenous populations are encountered. The differing climatic regions of Colombia have also affected diversity, one example of this is the Llanero culture of the Llanos grasslands in eastern Colombia where the ideal ranching territory gave rise to a cowboy culture. The people in this area are descended from the original Amerindian settlers, Spanish colonizers and African slaves who escaped captivity and made a life on the plains. The Llanero version of a rodeo is called a coleo and these people have a traditional dress, dance (joropo) and musical style.
Visitors to Tayrona National Park in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta who encounter the Kogi people will be able to recognize their white robes and the lime gourd carried by men of the tribe. The Guambiano people who live near the town of Silva are a small community instantly recognizable for their distinctive and colorful style of dress.
The presence of such strong indigenous cultural traditions gives Colombia a national identity rooted in diversity. From the lingering sense of ancient civilizations that shrouds the Tayrona ruins of Chairama Pueblito and Ciudad Perdida to the vibrant warmth of the modern day inhabitants Colombia vacations open up a wealth of cultural experiences.
Colombia is predominantly Christian but many indigenous tribes have their own religious beliefs and customs. Another aspect of culture in Colombia is carnival. Carnivals are exuberant affairs, it is impossible to visit them without getting into the Latin spirit and dance is an integral part of these events. Samba, tango and rumba are common along with the Colombia Salsa or Cali Style Salsa and the Cumbia which originated in Colombia among African slaves. One of the most popular festivals is Cali Fair which runs from the 25th to the 30th of December and celebrates cultural, ethnic and musical diversity. The fair features parades, concerts, horse-riding, dancing and a city-wide party atmosphere. Professional salsa dancers flock to the city at this time and the Salsa Marathon is one of the main events of the festivities. Another high profile carnival takes place in Baranquilla; home town of world famous Colombian singer Shakira.
Only a fraction of the diversity and culture can be experienced on a Colombia tour. See recreated petroglyphs in the village of Guane, view pre-Columbian gold artworks in Bogota’s Museo del Oro or pick up a copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude, the universally acclaimed novel by Noble Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez.