Spanish explorers called conquistadors first settled Colombia. They were looking for a rich Indian chief who supposedly had so much gold that he bathed in it. His attendants threw emeralds and more gold into the water while he bathed. Of course the conquistadors never found the famous Indian chief, but they did find gold and emeralds. Colombia is still rich in gold and the largest producer of emeralds in the world today.
This country was named after Christopher Colombus, although it was discovered by Alonso de Ojeda in 1499. Some people call Colombia the “Gateway to South America.”
Before the Spanish discovered what they called New Granada (now Colombia) there were two tribes of Indians living in the country. The Carib Indians lived by the northern coast and the Caribbean Sea is named after them. The Andean Indians lived in the mountains, farmed the land, and made beautiful ornaments.
Most of the people in Colombia speak Spanish or an Indian dialect. A small part of the population speaks English. These people live on some islands in the Caribbean Sea. They are descendants of English pirates and buccaneers who used to attack Spanish treasure ships.
The Andes mountains run through the western part of Colombia where they branch out like three fingers with deep valleys in between. Most of the Colombian people live in the mountains and valleys where they have small family farms.
Bogotá is the capitol of Colombia and it is 8,660 feet high. Although it is close to the equator it has a cool climate because of its altitude.
Colombia’s most important river, the Magdalena, runs between the eastern and central mountain ranges from southern Colombia to the Caribbean Sea. On New Year’s Eve, some families celebrate by taking a river trip downstream from Bogotá on a large paddlewheel steamboat.
Because of the mountains, there are few paved roads and railroads in Colombia. People travel about either by burro or airplane.
On market day families, most of whom live in the country, ride to the city in a small wagon or on a donkey.
Orchids grow profusely in Colombia and are the national flower. Overhead fly the greatest variety of birds of any country in the world.
Music and dancing are especially popular for celebrating holidays in Columbia.
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Place all ingredients into a bowl and stir, adding enough warm water to make a bread dough. Knead dough and then shape into little balls. Flatten dough balls out like little pancakes and fry or bake until crisp. For a variation, place cheese between two arepas and seal like a turnover.