Colombia is the third most populous country in Latin America. The population has grown rapidly for a long time and has more than tripled since the beginning of the 20th century, but now the growth rate is low. A majority of Colombians live in cities, mainly in the highlands in the west. Most are white or of mixed origin from mainly Europeans and indigenous peoples.
Population growth in a 2018 census turned out to be significantly lower than expected – according to preliminary figures, the number of residents was 45.5 million instead of the 50 million expected.
In the previous census in 2005, one in ten residents identified themselves as Afrocolombian. They are descendants of African slaves brought into the country by the Spanish colonizers. The Afro-Colombians, who are often spurned also by Europeans and indigenous peoples, live mainly along the coasts.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Colombia, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
More than three percent identified themselves as belonging to the indigenous peoples. The indigenous peoples (sometimes called Indians) lived in the area when the Spanish arrived in the early 16th century. They fell sharply in numbers over a couple of centuries as a result of epidemics and repression. Today, there are estimated to be around 100 groups of indigenous people in Colombia. They live in enclaves scattered throughout the country, with especially many in the otherwise sparsely populated forest areas in the east.
Both indigenous peoples and blacks are at the bottom of the social scale, their level of education and access to health care are worse than other groups and they are more severely affected by the violence. The upper class of the country consists mostly of whites.
The protracted civil war and violence linked to drug smuggling has forced millions of people to flee the country and, for many years, Colombia has had the most internally displaced people in the world (see further Social Conditions). Several millions of Colombians also live abroad, mainly in the United States and Spain. Many people also applied to Venezuela in the past, but the deep crisis there causes hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to apply to Colombia in the past year. In September 2019, 1.4 million Venezuelans lived in Colombia, according to official statistics.
Almost all Colombians speak Spanish, which is also an official language. In addition, there are approximately 65 languages of origin that have official status in their regions. However, many of them are spoken by so few individuals that they run the risk of dying. There are also two Creole languages, one of which, palenquero, is said to be the only one in Latin America based in Spanish.
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
majority of mixed origin white / indigenous people, white, about 10% black, 3.4% indigenous people
Number of residents
45 500 000 (2018) 1
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
80.4 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
15.2 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
6.0 per 1000 residents (2016)
0.8 percent (2017)
1.9 number of births per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
50.8 percent (2017)
74 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
78 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
71 years (2016)
Spanish, about 65 minority languages are also spoken
- Preliminary data from censusSources
New ceasefire by Farc
Farc announces a new unilateral ceasefire on December 20, this time without a further limit.
Peace talks resume
The government and Farc agree to resume peace talks in Havana (see November 2014).
The peace talks are canceled
The government suspends peace talks with Farc since five people, including an army general, were removed to the Chocó Department. Farc recently announced that two years ago, the cessation of abductions was about civilians, not military. It is the first time during the half-century conflict that the guerrillas kidnapped a general. After two weeks, all five kidnapping victims have been released.
Clear sign of referendum on peace treaty
The Constitutional Court approves a congressional decision to hold a referendum on a future peace agreement. At about the same time, the State Council states that militants are also victims of the conflict and should be subject to the right to receive compensation.
Criticism of closed border
Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín is expressing sharp criticism of Venezuela’s unilateral decision to close the common border at night for a month, in an attempt to stop the extensive smuggling of fuel, food and other goods to Colombia. Comprehensive government subsidies in Venezuela are behind the smuggling, she says.
New Santos government takes office
Santos is entering his second term with a government consisting of the U-Party, the Liberals, Radical Change (CR), the Conservatives and two independent ministers. Of 16 ministers, 7 are women. In addition to the ongoing peace process, Santos wants to invest in school and social justice.
Attacks hit hard at port city
Buenaventura darkens after a high voltage line is blown, probably by Farc. Without electricity, the situation will soon be strained, for example at the hospitals in the city, which has close to half a million people and a very hot and humid climate. Authorities face a ban on carrying weapons and selling alcohol.
International support for peace talks
A “third way” summit is held in Cartagena, with celebrity attendees such as former US President Jimmy Carter and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as several former Latin American leaders. Santos receives strong support for the peace talks and talks about a new investment in a “third way” development strategy.
Santos wins the presidential election
In the second round, Santos won by just under 51 percent of the vote, against 45 percent for Zuluaga. The remaining votes are blank. The turnout is close to 48 percent.
Preparatory call with ELN
The government and the ELN announce in a joint statement that they have been preparing preparatory peace talks since January. No details are given, but according to Santos, the plan is that the negotiations should be similar to those conducted with Farc. Zuluaga says the message is a “desperate” attempt to influence the election.
Left support for Santos
Left candidate López gives Santos his support for the crucial round of presidential elections, and says she supports peace.
Truth Commission on the death victims should be appointed
The government and Farc agree on a Truth Commission to investigate the 220,000 deaths that are believed to have been caused by the conflict (see July 2013). The parties shall allow victims and their relatives to speak in Havana. The agreement is seen as an important step in the peace process.
No winner in the first round of the presidential election
No candidate gets over 50 percent of the vote and thus the victory in the first round of the presidential election. The two candidates who advance to the second round are Óscar Iván Zuluaga (CD) who gets 29 percent of the vote and Juan Manuel Santos (U-Party) with just under 26 percent. Conservative Party candidate Marta Lucía Ramírez gets 15.5 percent, followed by Clara López from left-wing Polo who gets 15.2 percent and Green Party’s Enrique Peñalosa with 8.3 percent. The turnout is 40 percent, the lowest figure in 20 years.
Third point clear in the peace talks
The government and Farc reach agreement on cooperation to stop the drug industry in the country.
Bogotá’s mayor reinstated
Bogotá’s supreme court unexpectedly orders Gustavo Petro to be re-elected as mayor of the capital (see December 2013), citing a statement by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) that his rights were violated. The provision has caused several trips in the country’s courts.
The government retains a majority in congressional elections
In the congressional elections, the government alliance National Unity (UN), consisting of the U-Party, the Liberals and Radical Change, retains its majority in both chambers. The U-Party remains the largest party in the Senate, though with a marginal margin. Uribe’s newly formed CD gets almost as many Senate seats and Uribe himself becomes a senator. Distribution of seats (in the House of Representatives / Senate): U-Party 37/21, Conservative Party 27/19, Liberal Party 39/17, Radical Change 16/9, Democratic Center 12/19, Green Party 5/6, Citizen Alternative 5/6, Polo 5/3.
Military commanders and generals are allowed to go
Military commander Leonardo Barrero and four other high-ranking generals may go after accusations of widespread corruption within the army. The Ministry of Defense’s decision is the result of information on bribes and stolen public funds in the journal Semana.