White Colombian

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White Colombian
Colombiano blanco
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Total population
approx. 17,519,500
(37% of Colombian population[1])
Regions with significant populations
Colombia throughout the nation, especially in the Andean Region, and the Major Cities.
Colombian Spanish
Predominantly Roman Catholic, Protestant, other Christians, Atheists and Jews

White Colombians are the Colombian descendants of European and Middle Eastern people (including Armenians, Jews[2] and Kurds). According to the 2005 census, 37% of the population is white. They constitute the second largest ethnic group in the country with a share of 25%[3]-37%[4][5] of Colombia's population.

Per these figures, whites constitute the second largest racial group in the country, after mestizo.[4][5]

Numbers and distribution[edit]

White Colombians make up 37% (+17 million) of the Colombian population, according to the National Administrative Department of Statistics.[citation needed]

The various racial groups exist in differing concentrations throughout the nation, in a pattern that to some extent goes back to colonial origins. Andean Region [6] and Bogotá D.C. have the largest concentration of White Colombians. Whites tend to live mainly in the urban centers, like Cali,[7] Medellín or Bogotá, and the highland cities.[8]


Colonial period[edit]

The presence of Whites in Colombia began in 1510 with the colonization of San Sebastián de Urabá. In 1526, settlers founded Santa Marta, the oldest Spanish city still in existence in Colombia.[9] Many Spanish began their explorations searching for gold, while others established themselves as leaders of the native social organizations teaching natives the Christian faith and the ways of their civilization. Catholic priest would provide education for Native Americans that otherwise was unavailable.[9] Within 100 years after the first Spanish settlement, nearly 95 percent of all Native Americans in Colombia had died.[9] The majority of the deaths of Native Americans were the cause of diseases such as measles and smallpox, which were spread by the settlers.[9] Many natives were also killed in armed conflicts with their new neighbours.[9]

Immigration from Europe[edit]

Main article: Jews in Colombia
James Martin Eder. Colombian Jewish entrepreneur.
Portrait of Jorge Isaacs. Colombian Jewish writer and intellectual.

Colombia was one of early focus of Basque and Sephardi immigration.[10] Between 1540 and 1559, 8.9% of the residents of Colombia were of Basque origin. Jewish converts to Christianity and some crypto-Jews also sailed with the early conquistadors. It has been suggested that the present day incidence of business entrepreneurship in the region of Antioquia and Valle del Cauca is attributable to the Basque and Sephardi immigration.[11][12] Few Colombians of distant Basque and Sephardi descent are aware of their ethnic heritage.[12]

In Bogota, there is a small colony of thirty to forty Basque families who emigrated as a consequence of the Spanish Civil War, or because of different opportunities.[12] Basque priests introduced handball into Colombia.[13] Basque immigrants in Colombia were devoted to teaching and public administration.[13] In the first years of the Andean multinational company, Basque sailors navigated as captains and pilots on the majority of the ships until the country was able to train its own crews.[13]

The first German immigrants arrived in the 16th century contracted by the Spanish Crown, and included explorers such as Ambrosio Alfinger. There was another small wave of German immigrants at the end of the 19th and beginning of 20th century including Leo Siegfried Kopp, the founder of the famous Bavaria Brewery. SCADTA, a Colombian-German air transport corporation which was established by German expatriates in 1919, was the first commercial airline in the western hemisphere.[14]

In December 1941 the United States government estimated that there were 4,000 Germans living in Colombia. Another 7,000 German Jews joined their ranks in Colombia's burgeoning cities.[15] There were some Nazi agitators in Colombia, such as Barranquilla businessman Emil Prufurt,[15] but the majority was apolitical. Colombia asked Germans who were on the U.S. blacklist to leave and allowed Jewish refugees in the country illegally to stay.[15]

There had also been Italian immigration of a few thousand persons, however to a much lesser degree than to other Latin American countries such as Venezuela or Brazil.

Immigration from the Middle East[edit]

Colombian singer Shakira is of Lebanese Christian ancestry on her father's side and has Catalan, Castilian, and Italian ancestry on her mother's side

The first and largest wave of immigration from the Middle East began around 1880, and remained during the first two decades of the 20th century. They were mainly Maronite Christians from Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, fleeing because of financial hardships and the repressions of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians and some Israelis [16] continued since then to settle in Colombia.[17] When they were first processed in the ports of Colombia, they were classified as Turks because what is modern day Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Israel were territories of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. It is estimated that Colombia has a Middle Easter population of 700,000.[18] Due to poor existing information it's impossible to know the exact number of Lebanese and Syrians that immigrated to Colombia. A figure of 5,000-10,000 from 1880 to 1930 may be reliable.[17] Whatever the figure, Syrians and Lebanese are perhaps the biggest immigrant group next to the Spanish since independence.[17] Those who left their homeland in the Middle East to settle in Colombia left for different reasons such as religious, economic, and political reasons.[17] Some left to experience the adventure of migration. After Barranquilla and Cartagena, Bogota is next to Santiago de Cali among cities with the largest number of Arabic-speaking representatives in Colombia in 1945.[17]

Ethnic breakdown[edit]

White Colombians are mainly of Spanish descent, from Christian and Jewish backgrounds, who arrived in the beginning of the 16th century when Colombia was part of the Spanish Empire. During the 19th and 20th centuries, other European peoples migrated to Colombia, including Germans, Italians, Lithuanians, and British among others.


The most predominant religion is Roman Catholicism. Under 1% practice Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam, but other religions are also practiced in Colombia. Despite strong numbers of adherents, 35.9% of Colombians reported that they did not practice their faith actively.[19]

Notable White Colombians[edit]

Juan Manuel Santos is the current president of Colombia

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Contador de Poblacion". Dane.gov.co. Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  2. ^ "Jews in Colombia". jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  3. ^ "Colombia". Lcweb2.loc.gov. Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  4. ^ a b Bushnell, David & Rex A. Hudson (2010) "The Society and Its Environment"; Colombia: a country study: 87. Washingtion D.C.: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress.
  5. ^ a b Simon Schwartzman. "Etnia, condiciones de vida y discrimacion" (PDF). Schwartzman.org.br. Retrieved 20 February 2015. 
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ "French in Colombia". Joshua Project. Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  8. ^ Bushnell & Hudson, p. 87-88.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Colombia - History Background - Spanish, Native, Percent, and Country - StateUniversity.com". Education.stateuniversity.com. Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  10. ^ "'Lost Jews' Of Colombia Say They've Found Their Roots". npr.org. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  11. ^ Wasko, Dennis (2011-06-13). "The Jewish Palate: The Jews of Colombia - Arts & Culture - Jerusalem Post". Jpost.com. Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  12. ^ a b c Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World by William A. Douglass, Jon Bilbao, P.167
  13. ^ a b c Possible paradises: Basque emigration to Latin America by José Manuel Azcona Pastor, P.203
  14. ^ Jim Watson. "SCADTA Joins the Fight". Stampnotes.com. Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  15. ^ a b c Latin America during World War II by Thomas M. Leonard, John F. Bratzel, P.117
  16. ^ "Israel en Colombia - Bogotá, Colombia - Government Organization". Facebook. Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  17. ^ a b c d e [2][dead link]
  18. ^ "Agência de Notícias Brasil-Árabe". .anba.com.br. Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  19. ^ Beltrán Cely, William Mauricio. "Descripción cuantitativa de la pluralización religiosa en Colombia" (PDF). Bdigital.unal.edu.co. 
  20. ^ "Juanes is a Colombian musician who has Basque descent" (in Spanish). Centroestudiovascoantioquia. Retrieved 28 May 2013. 

Works cited[edit]