Traditions and customs of Colombia

What traditions and customs are there in Colombia?

Large number of customs and traditions of Colombia, detailed here.

Food in daily life

Most middle-class families eat elaborate meals that reflect Spanish and indigenous traditions. A typical meal is identified by its size and not its content, such as a light breakfast, a substantial lunch at noon, and a lighter meal at the beginning of the evening.

Dinner consists of fresh fruit, homemade soup and a main course with meat or fish accompanied by rice and/or potatoes. Low-income people eat a diet richer in carbohydrates. Meals usually end with a very sweet dessert, often made from panela, a type of brown sugar.

There are regional differences in food. In the hinterland of rural regions, a good breakfast consists of a strip of pork, rice and beans, sweet plantains, and a large steak with fried eggs. Dinner is similar, except for the eggs.

In the coastal region, the emphasis is on seafood. In Cartagena, the typical lunch consists of coconut rice, fried plantains, and shrimp. Colombians enjoy a wide variety of national and international cuisines.

Special dishes are eaten during holidays. A dish associated with the capital is ajiaco, a stew with three types of potatoes, chicken, and corn, served with capers, cream, and avocado.

Another dish served during religious festivals is pastels, while along the coast, people eat sancocho, a fish or chicken stew. Colombians consume large amounts of beer and coffee and relatively little milk or wine. The aguardiente combines the local rum with a corn brandy.


Arranged marriages are no longer common, especially among the upper and upper middle classes, but members of these groups are encouraged to marry within their own class. While men and women can date whoever they want, they must be accompanied by a chaperone. Before getting married, couples usually court for at least a year.

Members of the lower and middle classes strive to marry someone outside their class; mestizos, mulattoes and blacks prefer to marry into white families. However, when intermarriage occurs, it is generally white men who marry Indians or blacks.

Most people, especially in urban centers, get married in the Catholic Church. The upper class uses this religious rite to create powerful family bonds. Church weddings are expensive and allow families to demonstrate their economic and social status.

Due to the expense, members of the lower middle class may opt for a civil marriage. Others choose a consensual marriage. Divorce for civil marriages was not allowed until 1970.


Social interaction in the upper class is generally formal and respectful. Members of the lower socioeconomic groups in the interior take pride in their good manners.

Unlike their coastal counterparts, the lower-class people of the interior express mutual respect for each other and their elders; women are treated with respect and receive special attention.

Personal space is highly prized, so conversations take place at a distance. Violation of this space, even in crowded shops and museums, is considered disrespectful and hostile.

Exceptions occur at crowded bus stations and on buses. Formal greetings between strangers are required, while greetings between acquaintances are informal.


Religious beliefs

95% of people consider themselves members of the Roman Catholic Church and place great importance on the Catholic sacraments. More than 85 percent of Catholics in urban parishes attend Mass regularly.

People in rural areas are said to be more devout than those in cities, but their Catholicism is different from that of the urban upper and middle classes. In the countryside, Catholic practices and beliefs have been combined with indigenous, African, and Spanish customs from the 16th century.

People pray to a patron saint, who is considered more accessible than God. Rural towns have a patron saint who is honored each year with a festival. Traces of rural folk religion are also found in lower-class urban communities, particularly those with many rural migrants.

Although the 1991 Constitution established religious freedom and does not mention the Church by name, the Catholic Church continues to have significant influence. A Protestant movement has attracted more than 260,000 people. Protestants are a minority on the mainland but a majority on the islands of San Andrés and Providencia. There are also small contingents of Muslims and Jews.

The Spanish began a conversion process among the Indians in the 16th century, and the institutionalization of the Catholic Church was a high priority for the colonial government. That church destroyed most of the indigenous religious rituals and customs. The Inquisition is empowered to summon and interrogate, often by torture, anyone accused of heresy and has the power to confiscate the property of those convicted.

Religious professionals

Local priests are often the main figure of authority in small communities. Most of the priests and bishops were born in the country. Like most elites, priests have gravitated toward urban areas, leaving a vacuum of religious leadership in some areas. Colombia supports more than 30 monasteries and 80 convents.

Rituals and sacred places

Priests in churches perform most of the Catholic sacraments. The rite of baptism is the sacramental entry into the Christian life, and communion is a memorial of the death and resurrection of Christ.

Death and the afterlife

Christian dogma holds that the spirit lives on after the body has died. A divine judgment of the person’s life determines the well-being of the spirit after death. An elaborate ceremony preparing the deceased for his burial by relatives is accompanied by a prayer and followed by a period of mourning.

Secular celebrations

Numerous national holidays celebrate the country and its culture, and many religious holidays are celebrated as national holidays. Important church holidays include Epiphany (January 6), Holy Week (March or April), All Saints’ Day (November 1), Immaculate Conception (December 8), and Christmas (December 25th). Colombia also celebrates the holidays of various saints at the national and local levels.

Feminine beauty is considered very important, and the country celebrates it every November with the coronation of Miss Colombia. Apart from soccer, the Beauty Reign is the most popular sporting event.

Other important national holidays are Independence Day (July 20), which celebrates the declaration of independence in 1810, and August 7, which commemorates the Battle of Bocayá, where Bolívar defeated the Spanish.

Other festivals focus on regional and local cultures, such as the Barranquilla Carnival, the Cartagena International Caribbean Music Festival, the Medellin Flower Fair, and the Devil’s Festival in Río Sucio.

The arts and humanities

Arts support

Art is considered one of the defining features of Colombian culture. The arts are supported through individuals and foundations such as Fundación Telefónica, the Medellin Chamber of Commerce, the Colombian Tobacco Company, the Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia and the Bank of the Republic of Colombia, which supports the world-renowned Museum of Prayed.

The government, through the Ministries of the Interior and of Education, also provides substantial support to numerous museums, theaters and libraries throughout the country. Government-supported institutes include the National Museum of Colombia and the Colombian Institute of Culture, both of which support artists as they strive to preserve Colombia’s rich history.

In addition to these traditional institutes, local governments and private transportation companies support local artists by hiring them to colorfully decorate city buses.


Colombia did not begin to develop a literary tradition until the arrival of the Spanish, and its literature still shows strong European influence. After independence, writers began to develop their own styles, writing on national rather than European themes.

Early writers like Jorge Isaacs and José Eustacio Rivera addressed the values ​​of rural peasants and their struggle for existence. These and other stories about regional populations influenced the development of distinct regional literary styles.

One of the writers whose style emerged from the artistic influences of the Caribbean coast is Gabriel García Márquez, winner of the Nobel Prize in 1982.

As a member of the José Félix Fuenmayor Group of Barranquilla, García Márquez became known for his juxtaposition of myths, dreams, and reality (“magical realism”). García Márquez and other writers are influencing a group of writers who are embracing modern and postmodern themes.

Graphic arts

More than 2,000 years ago, the native peoples of the Andes produced intricate works of art. After colonization, native artistic influences were abandoned in favor of European styles. However, Colombia tries to gain a foothold in the international art world with the production of works by painters such as Fernando Botero and Alejandro Obregón and the sculptor Edgar Negret.

One of the leaders of national art was Pedro Nel Gómez, whose murals were of social criticism. Other artists followed the nationalist and indigenous themes of the movement, although their technique was more traditional. Colombia is proud of its artists, many of whom continue to use nationalist and indigenous themes while incorporating international elements.

Performing arts

The diversity of Colombian music is intimately linked to its many different regional differences. Vallenato, a type of Colombian music and dance, originated on the Atlantic coast and is enjoyed throughout the country. Currulao, a type of music from the Pacific coast, uses the sea, rain, and rivers as its central themes and employs mostly ordinary wood instruments.

In the interior of the country, the two types of traditional music played throughout the Andean region are Bambuco and Guabina. Both types of music have considerable mestizo influence, often using themes emphasizing land, mountains, and lakes as a base. The joropo is considered “fierce” or plain music because it is played in the Eastern Plains and reflects the arduous way of life of the ranchers.

The music and dance of cumbia are considered Colombian national treasures whose rhythmic cadence and melodies echo the mulatto and indigenous flavor; It has become the flagship of Colombian musical genres. Special mention deserves the “musical city” of Ibagué, which has contributed to the enrichment and dissemination of Colombian music.

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