Cartagena streetscape
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Cartagena streetscape
Cartagena fruitseller
PHOTO
Cartagena fruitseller
Sunset over Bogota
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Sunset over Bogota
Columbia\'s Rosario Islands
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Columbia's Rosario Islands
Cartagena balconies
PHOTO
Cartagena balconies
Sited at the southeastern base of the Isthmus of Panama, Colombia occupies the northwesternmost shores of South America, where it is bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the northwest by Panama; and to the west by the Pacific Ocean. From this perch atop South America, modest Colombia, only the fifth largest economy in the entire continent, may be poised for much bigger things to come.
 
Ethnically-diverse Colombia isn't usually associated with projections of success and wealth. The nation frequently labors under an image projected to the world of a frontier state where bands of marauders or drug kingpins divide and conquer as they see fit. Yet this image isn't entirely consistent with Colombia's remarkable resilience and fortitude.
 
The country is blessed by a constitutional government, albeit one wracked by regular discord and strife.  As of late, however, Colombia has organized itself into a formidable market force and one enjoying unusual prosperity. Wikipedia:
The Liberal and Conservative parties, founded in 1848 and 1849 respectively, are two of the oldest surviving political parties in the Americas. However, tensions between the two have frequently erupted into violence, most notably in the Thousand Days War (1899–1902) and La Violencia, beginning in 1948. Since the 1960s, government forces, left-wing insurgents and right-wing paramilitaries have been engaged in the continent's longest-running armed conflict. Fueled by the cocaine trade, this escalated dramatically in the 1980s. Nevertheless, in the recent decade (2000s) the violence has decreased significantly. Many paramilitary groups have demobilized as part of a controversial peace process with the government, and the guerrillas have lost control in many areas where they once dominated. Meanwhile Colombia's homicide rate, for many years one of the highest in the world, has almost halved since 2002. Assassinations of trade union members have also been significantly reduced since the 1990s but unionists continue to be threatened and murdered, albeit at a lower rate than the general population.
To this trend the people of Colombia have added self-determination, enormous productivity, and optimism. Wikipedia:
Colombia's market economy grew steadily in the latter part of the twentieth century, with gross domestic product (GDP) increasing at an average rate of over 4% per year between 1970 and 1998. The country suffered a recession in 1999 (the first full year of negative growth since the Great Depression), and the recovery from that recession was long and painful. However, in recent years growth has been impressive, reaching 8.2% in 2007, one of the highest rates of growth in Latin America. Meanwhile the Colombian stock exchange climbed from 1,000 points at its creation in July 2001 to over 7,300 points by November 2008.
 
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Economic performance has been aided by liberal reforms introduced in the early 1990s and continued during the presidency of Álvaro Uribe, whose policies included measures designed to bring the public sector deficit below 2.5% of GDP. In 2008, the Heritage Foundation assessed the Colombian economy to be 61.9% free, an increase of 2.3% since 2007, placing it 67th in the world and 15th out of 29 countries within the region. Meanwhile the improvements in security resulting from President Uribe's controversial "democratic security" strategy have engendered an increased sense of confidence in the economy. On 28 May 2007 the American magazine BusinessWeek published an article naming Colombia "the most extreme emerging market on Earth". Colombia's economy has improved in recent years. Investment soared, from 15% of GDP in 2002 to 26% in 2008. private business has retooled. However unemployment at 12 % and the poverty rate at 46% in 2009 are above the regional average.
Newsweek brings us up to date on the Columbia of today:
Colombia has become the country to watch in the hemisphere. In the past eight years the nation of 45 million has gone from a crime- and drug-addled candidate for failed state to a prospering dynamo. The once sluggish economy is on a roll. Oil and gas production are surging, and Colombia’s MSCI index jumped 15 percent between January and June, more than any other stock market this year. This is more than a bull run. Since 2002, foreign direct investment has jumped fivefold (from $2 billion to $10 billion), while GDP per capita has doubled, to $5,700. The society that once was plagued by car bombs, brain drain, and capital flight is now debating how to avoid “Dutch disease,” the syndrome of too much foreign cash rolling in. Stable, booming, and democratic, Colombia has increasingly become “a bright star in the Latin American constellation,” as emerging-market analyst Walter Molano of BCP Securities calls it. Michael Geoghegan, CEO of HSBC, recently picked Colombia as a leader of a nascent block of midsize powers, the CIVETS (after the smallish, tree-dwelling cat), which stands for Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa.
Colombia is a beautiful land hosting the South American Andes, which soar to 13,000 feet.  Jungles to the south enter the Amazonian rainforest, while islands dot the country's extensive coastlines on two seas.  Bogata, the country's capitol, sits at 8,500 feet, giving it impressive vistas.  The country is divided into 32 departments, or states interconnected by a national highway system, rail, and air, with the largest airport in Latin America located in the capitol of Bogata.  Colombia's industrious aims seem well complimented by access, travel, and commerce.