20th July

1969 Apollo 11 lands on the moon

1976 Viking I lands on Mars

Colombia Independence Day (from Spain)

At first Columbia was on the route from Mesoamerica and the Carribean to the Andes and Amazon for early humans about 18,000 years ago. The first farmers, the Muiscas around 1000 A.D., grew maize, potatoes, quinoa and cotton – none of which Europe had before we discovered the Americas. They traded gold, emeralds, blankets, ceramics, cocoa and salt with neighbouring countries.

Spanish explorers arrived in 1500, and called it the New Kingdom of Granada. A lot of Spanish explorers were looking for El Dorado, the Golden One, a Muisca chief who covered himself in gold as part of an initiation rite. The legend grew until it was about a whole city or empire made of gold.

This golden raft depicts the El Dorado ceremony.

In 1819 New Granada, led by Simon Bolivar, claimed independence from Spain, and renamed itself Colombia after Christopher Columbus (not a very independent name). Venezuela, Panama and Ecuador were part of Colombia then. Bolívar became its first president.

Venezuela and Ecuador separated from Colombia in 1830. Panama separated in 1903 so that American could build the Canal, for which America paid Colombia $25 million.

Colombia had a few civil wars which eventually were finished when their Conservative and Liberal parties agreed to just swap power every four years, but eventually guerrilla groups formed again. America supported the government in suppressing left-wing militants.

Colombia is part of the Ring of Fire, a part of the world shook by earthquakes and volcanoes, and is dominated by the Andes. Its flora and fauna are considered megadiverse, containing up to 20% of the world’s species.

Its national sport is tejo. It is famous for its emeralds, coffee and Shakira.

Dia del Amigo (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay)

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