Cultural Riches Of Colombia: 10 Examples Of Traditions

The cultural richness of Colombia is represented by some of the important cultural traditions and events, such as the Barranquilla Carnival, Holy Week, Carnabal, the night of the candles, the Silleteros Parade and other festivals.

Colombia is a melting pot of cultures that have been mixed and decanted over time. The indigenous population that already inhabited these lands with their ancestral legacy, the Spaniards who conquered the region and imposed their language, religion and customs joined from the 16th century.

cultural wealth of Colombia

The Iberian conquerors brought after them, as slaves, the blacks, who also contributed a rich heritage. All these ethnic groups have left their mark on the country that is now known as Colombia.

On some occasions, the influence of some of them in certain manifestations can be clearly identified, depending especially on the region, but other times a true amalgam can be seen that results in original and unique expressions in the world.

Colombia has experienced a vertiginous economic, political and social development in the last decades that has also left its mark on the cultural world and has influenced with new contributions from the South American nation.

List of the 10 most important traditions or cultural events in Colombia

1- Barranquilla Carnival

It is without a doubt the most important carnival festival in Colombia and one of the most important in Latin America. It has been celebrated since the mid-nineteenth century and it is one of the most sophisticated expressions of cultural syncretism that we can find in the country.

The first record of the reading of the Carnival Party, an activity that is celebrated every January 20, San Sebastian Day, dates from 1865, although there are testimonies that indicate that the carnival was already celebrated before.

For 5 days -from the Saturday before Ash Wednesday until the following Tuesday- the city of Barranquilla, located on the Caribbean coast and capital of the Department of Atlántico, takes to the streets with music, dances, floats, costumes and parades. , under the baton of King Momo and the Queen of Carnival.

It is estimated that around a million Barranquilleros and visitors from other parts of the country and abroad participate in the celebration.

These festivals were declared Cultural Heritage of the Nation by the National Congress in 2001 and a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by Unesco in 2003.

2- Ibero-American Theater Festival of Bogotá

It is one of the most important theatrical meetings in Latin America, which brings together groups from all over the world in Bogotá every two years.

It was created in 1988 by Fanny Mikey, a Colombian-Argentine actress, director and theater entrepreneur, and Ramiro Osorio, a prominent Colombian cultural promoter, who was the country’s first Minister of Culture.

Since then and until 2016, fifteen editions of this theatrical party have been held, which is not limited to filling the show halls of the Colombian capital, but shakes the streets, squares and parks of Bogota with free activities that allow children and adults to participate massively.

Depending on the edition, during the 17 days that the festival lasts – which is usually held between the months of March and April – dozens of groups from between 21 and 45 nations participate each time, as well as hundreds of artists.

In addition to the most diverse theatrical proposals, you can also see other manifestations of the performing arts such as dance, circus, pantomime, as well as musical concerts, workshops and conferences.

3- Festival of the Vallenata Legend, in Valledupar

The Vallenata Legend Festival has been held annually since 1968, between the months of April and May, in Valledupar, capital of the Cesar Department, in northeastern Colombia. The purpose is to celebrate one of the most popular musical genres in the country today.

Vallenato interpreters and composers meet to compete in different categories, in a party that attracts thousands of followers for five days.

Vallenata music is native to the region formed by the north of the Cesar Department, the south of La Guajira and the east of Magdalena and has a long presence throughout the Colombian Caribbean Coast.

It is a clear example of a mixture of the different cultural influences that coexist in the country, as it includes European instruments such as the accordion, the indigenous guacharaca and the box vallenata, a drum of African origin. In addition, the composition of the lyrics has Spanish influence.

Vallenato has been declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Nation and Humanity by the Ministry of Culture and UNESCO, in 2012 and 2015, respectively.

4- Holy Week in Popayán

The Catholic faith is the majority in Colombia and finds in the city of Popayán, capital of the Department of Cauca, in the southwestern part of the country, one of its oldest, most authentic and popular expressions.

The Holy Week processions in this city have been celebrated year after year since the 16th century and they summon thousands of faithful not only from the region but from all over Colombia.

Carved wooden religious images from various artistic schools in Europe, America and the city itself are carried by the parishioners on platforms profusely adorned with candles and flowers, where the episodes narrated by the Gospels are represented.

The procession travels at night, from Tuesday to Holy Saturday, a path in the shape of a Latin cross through the streets of Payanes with the company of believers who pray as it passes. This religious festival was declared a Cultural Heritage of the Nation in 2004 and is registered on the representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of Unesco since 2009.

5- Silleteros Parade, in Medellín

The Silleteros Parade is one of the most popular activities that take place during the first days of August within the framework of the Flower Fair in the city of Medellín, capital of the Department of Antioquia.

The peasants of the village of Santa Helena prepare with thousands of flowers of different kinds various motifs alluding to landscapes, monuments, characters and messages, with great ingenuity and originality.

They also parade through the streets and avenues of the city, carrying them on their backs in saddles – hence the name of the activity – in the presence of crowds who admire and cheer on these creations.

Silleteros pass on the tradition from generation to generation and have made presentations in other cities in Colombia and abroad.

The festival has been held uninterruptedly since 1957 and was declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Nation, in 2015.

6- The novenas de aguinaldos

It is a deeply rooted Catholic Christmas tradition in Colombia and is also widely celebrated in Ecuador. It is very similar to the Posadas that take place in Mexico and Central America.

During the nine days leading up to Christmas Eve, Colombians who profess that faith gather in their homes, in their workplaces, in squares, social centers, churches and even in shopping centers, to pray and sing Christmas gifts and Christmas carols.

This repertoire is accompanied with typical bites of the Christmas holidays. It is a way of evoking the nine months of gestation of the Virgin Mary.

The tradition began with the Franciscan father Fray Fernando de Jesús Larrea (Quito, 1700 – Santiago de Cali, 1773), who wrote these prayers in the mid-18th century, which were published for the first time in 1784 by the Imprenta Real de Santafé, in Bogotá, at the request of Clemencia de Jesús Caycedo, founder of the La Enseñanza school in that city.

A century later, mother María Ignacia made some changes and added the joys (songs), as they are known today. They say that due to this tradition, Colombian Christmases are the longest in the world.

7- Carnival of Blacks and Whites, in Pasto

Although it is called by the word carnival, these festivals, the most important in the southwest of Colombia, are celebrated between January 2 and 7, mainly in the city of Pasto, capital of the Department of Nariño, as well as in the surrounding municipalities .

It is a festivity that originates in the 16th century, where traditions of the Creole population of the Andes, the black culture of the Colombian Pacific and the native indigenous population come together.

The dates correspond to the veneration of the Moon by the indigenous population that inhabited these lands. Each day of the carnival is different: 

On January 2, the Parade of the Colonies takes place, where the pastusos and natives of other towns show their traditions; on January 3, it is the turn of the Carnavalito, dedicated to children and on January 4, the Arrival of the Castañeda Family, which caricatures the reception of a foreign family group.

January 5 is the Day of the Blacks, where the annual day that the slaves had free is commemorated and, on January 6, the White Day, when the Great Parade takes place.

Finally, on January 7, it is called Auction Day, with which the festivities conclude. The Carnival of Blacks and Whites was declared in 2001 Cultural Heritage of the Nation and in 2009 Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco.

8- Night of the candles

It is the feast on which the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary is celebrated, a dogma proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in his bull Ineffabilis Deus in 1854.

On the night of December 7, in all the towns and cities of Colombia candles, lanterns or other types of lighting are lit on the windows and doors of houses, in streets, squares, shopping centers and emblematic buildings, which results in a grandiose light show that kicks off the Christmas holidays.

This popular celebration is especially enjoyed by the child population who participate with joy and joy in lighting the candles and by the families who go to the streets and squares to watch the show.

Each city commemorates this date with special characteristics. For example, in Bogotá, a light show takes place at the Colpatria Tower, one of the highest in the city.

In Bucaramanga, the day ends with a cultural show in the municipal park, while in Santa Marta, the party begins at 3 am on December 8 and coincides with the city’s birthday, which is celebrated with processions and games. pyrotechnics.

9- Folk Festival and National Reign of Bambuco, in Neiva

It is the festival that represents the Department of Huila, in the southwest of Colombia, and takes place in the capital, Neiva, between mid-June and the first week of July.

Its origins date from the end of the 18th century. They were first celebrated in honor of San Juan Bautista and later San Pedro was also incorporated.

The festival was made official in the mid-50s of the 20th century and includes various activities ranging from horseback riding with beautifully decorated horses ridden by men, women and children to parades with illuminated floats and canoes, accompanied by troupes and bands.

There are also musical and dance encounters and contests where one of the main Colombian musical and dance genres such as bambuco is performed and danced, as well as other dances and music such as the sanjuanero from Huilense and the rajaleñas, among others.

One of the most anticipated events is the election of the National Bambuco Queen with candidates representing all the country’s departments. It is an occasion to try the typical Huila asado accompanied by chicha, guarapo, sweets and brandy. In 2006 it was declared Cultural Heritage of the Nation.

10- Cali Fair

It is also known as the Caña Fair and is celebrated in Cali, capital of the Valle del Cauca Department since 1957, between December 25 and 30.

The capital of Valle del Cauca is recognized as the Salsa Capital of the World and for that reason, the show that opens the festivities is the Salsódromo parade, where more than a thousand dancers from the best salsa schools in the city present their choreographies accompanied of important orchestras.

Another great event is the Superconcert that takes place at the Pascual Guerrero Olympic Stadium, with the participation of famous national and foreign artists from various musical genres such as salsa, pop and reggaeton, among others.

Finally, one of the main events of the Cali Fair is the bullfighting season that takes place in the Cañaveralejo Plaza de Toros.


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