December 03 2013

Colombia, the Country of Sweet Coffee, is Becoming the Country of Great Cities

In Colombia, since the beginning of the twentieth century, when one spoke about moving to la gran ciudad (“the great city”), one always referred to Bogotá. This process of migration was historically viewed as a last resort: in a country rich in natural resources, moving to the city was considered a treason to the national ideal of rural communities “working for peace.”

That concept echoed the American ideal projected by Thomas Jefferson in his famous quote: “When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.”

In the first half of the century 70% of Colombians lived in the countryside and only 15% in cities of more than 10,000 people. Cities in Colombia were far from reaching the development of similar places like Venezuela, Argentina or Brazil.

However, with its history of violent conflict (now in the process of ending) Colombia has witnessed the depopulation of the countryside due to the agrarian crisis. Private property has become highly concentrated, which along with economic restructuring has contributed to transforming Colombia into the most urbanized country in Latin America, and one with the most urban population in the world.

North Highway - Bogota, Colombia

Colombia has five cities that had surpassed the one million people barrier, and its capital city of Bogotá has recently surpassed the ten million mark. It has been transformed into a true megacity with all the advantages and problems that huge urban growth represent.

This is how I think Colombia has something to share with the world: the twenty-first century has been named the century of cities, and as portrayed by the Colombian renaissance of the last decade, our future is an urban future.

Maqueta, Colombia

After the consolidation of the conflict, the economic recovery came from the cities. Cities are now driving innovation and projecting the new image of Colombia to the world: as examples for good practices in urban planning and sustainability with few resources.

All of this is generating true urban renewal and improvement in quality of life for many people in a country that was considered a failed state just ten years ago.

Medellin from the mountains, Colombia

Cities are the answer, and Colombia is the living example of their role for the future as places in which new types of growth can focus, especially for developing countries, as opportunities for their people blossom.

Do you know any other country that can be “saved” by its cities?

Credits: Images by Luis Lozano-Paredes. Data linked to sources.

Luis Lozano-Paredes

Luis Lozano-Paredes is currently a student seeking a Diploma of Architecture and Urban Planning at Belgrano University in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Born in Colombia in 1987, he grew between the cities of Bogotá and Santiago de Cali, and then moved to Argentina in 2006. There, he finished the Common Basic Cycle of Architecture, Design, and Urbanism at the University of Buenos Aires before pursuing studies in Landscape Design at the same Institution. Inspired by the Urban Transformation of Bogotá in the past decades, his interests evolved from Landscape Architecture to his current passion; Urban Planning, Policy Making, and Sustainable Development. He plans to continue his studies in Urban Planning and Sustainability in Canada, Chile, or the U.S.; but for the moment he currently works as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center of Metropolitan Transport Studies of the University of Buenos Aires and is a Member of the Observatory of Urban Sustainability at Belgrano University. Luis’ main interests lay within the study of Smart Cities, Urban Sustainable Development, and Social Architecture in Latin America.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 at 9:29 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Environment, Environmental Design, Government/Politics, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


2 Responses to “Colombia, the Country of Sweet Coffee, is Becoming the Country of Great Cities”

  1. Untapped Staff Picks: Hidden Treasures of NY, Eiffel Tower Replica in Romania, UPS is Looking into Drone Deliveries Too | Untapped Cities Says:

    […] Columbia, the Country of Sweet Coffee is Becoming the Country of Great Cities [Global Site Plans] […]

  2. Jaime Solorzano Says:

    An interesting introduction to Colombian urban phenomena, only similar in its magnitude to Brazil. Colombia was close to be considered as a “failed state” during 1990`s, and part of the increase of urban population was a result of the armed conflict. It`s also important to say that part of this success is because of the planning instruments for local governments and the cooperation alliances for sustainable development, in cities like Bogota, Medellin, Barranquilla and Bucaramanga.

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