7 junio, 2024

Insular Region of Colombia: characteristics, history, culture

The insular region of Colombia It is the sixth natural region in which the Colombian territory is divided. It is the smallest of all the regions and includes all the areas outside the continental territories of the Republic of Colombia. This region includes a group of islands on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and another group on the side of the coast of the Caribbean Sea.

The portion of the insular region of Colombia corresponding to the Caribbean is formed by the islands of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina. On the Pacific side, it is made up of the Malpelo and Gorgona islands. Similarly, on both coasts it has other groups of keys and smaller banks.

According to the 2005 census, around 70,554 people resided in the Colombian insular region. Of all the islands that make up this area, only the largest are inhabited. Among them, San Andrés, Santa Catalina and Providencia have the highest occupancy rate (Caribbean coast).

These islands form an archipelago that is located in the southwestern Caribbean, off the coast of Central America. According to geographic data, this group of islands has the largest barrier reefs in Colombia (78 percent of the country’s coral area) that protect the beaches.

As far as the cultural aspect is concerned, there are varied mixtures. In the typical architecture, the colorful houses built in wood stand out. Likewise, you can appreciate the cultural fusion in music from African, Afro-Antillean and Anglo-Antillean traditions. This feature is conjugated in rhythms such as calypso, socca and reggae.

In the year 2000, the program Man and the Biosphere UNESCO declared the archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina as a Biosphere Reserve. Also, the organization The Ocean Conservancy included it in its report on the planet’s conservation strategy for being one of the six key points for the planet’s health.



The extension of the archipelago that is part of the insular region of Colombia is about 250,000 km² including the marine area. Its location coordinates are latitude 12º 28′ 58» and 12º 35′ 5» north, while longitude is 72º 29′ 47» west.

General characteristics


The population of the insular region of Colombia can be divided into three groups. The first of these is known as the raizal population. This group is mainly of Protestant religion and Anglo-American traditions. His ancestry is primarily African.

In second instance, there is the group made up of the Syrian-Lebanese community. This community, in general terms, is very closed and concentrates great economic power. Meanwhile, the third of the groups are called continental. These are mulattoes from the departments of Atlántico and Bolívar.

On the other hand, the native island population has been progressively surpassed by that of immigrants. This has generated a problem of overpopulation that has led to serious problems of insecurity, among others.

Likewise, other problems such as soil, beach and sea contamination are reported. Similarly, this region, according to the authorities, has been subjected to the destruction of natural resources and the reduction of the native’s vital space. This process has resulted in a high degree of acculturation of its inhabitants.


The economy of the insular region of Colombia is supported mainly by tourism and trade activities. Every day, there is an intense movement of tourists, both national and international. They come in search of rest and recreation

Also, as a complement to tourist activities, subsistence agriculture and fishing are practiced. All the product resulting from these two activities is destined for the consumption of the natives of the islands. Consequently, the rest of the food and articles of daily consumption for the tourist activity must be brought from the interior of the country.

Previously, the main commercially exploited agricultural product was coconut. Additionally, other items such as sugar cane, mango, avocado and cassava were produced.

This agricultural activity declined over the years due to deforestation and urbanization activities that have limited the availability of suitable soils.

On the other hand, both tourist and commercial activity received an important boost with the declaration of the free port in San Andrés on August 21, 1997.

The low cost of merchandise was a great incentive for these two activities. Thus, the number of tourists visiting the island region during the high season increased.


Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina

These islands make up the department of the same name. The archipelago is located in the Caribbean Sea with a total extension of 52.2 km².

San Andrés has an extension of 26 km². For its part, Providencia has an area of ​​17 km², and that of Santa Catalina is 1 km².

Gorgon Island

It is a small island system made up of Gorgona, Gorgonilla and three other islets. They are located in the Pacific Ocean and belong to the department of Cauca with an area of ​​26 km². There is the Isla Gorgona Natural National Park.


This subregion corresponds to the islet of Malpelo. This islet is of volcanic formation. It is located in the Pacific Ocean and is under the circumscription of the department of Valle del Cauca. It has about 1.20 km² of surface surface.

San Bernardo Archipelago

This subregion of the insular region of Colombia is made up of a group of 10 islands located in the Caribbean Sea. In total, they all have an approximate area of ​​255 km², and are located in the Gulf of Morrosquillo.


The history of the archipelago of the insular region of Colombia began in 1510 with the arrival of Spanish navigators. They discovered it when they were traveling from Jamaica to the Miskitos. It is believed that before, in pre-Columbian times, native settlers from other Caribbean and Central American islands approached these territories in order to fish.

Some historians associate the discovery of the archipelago with the second voyage of Columbus. When they granted him the province of Veraguas, he also handed over the insular territories. According to other authors, Alonso de Ojeda and Diego de Nicuesa were the first conquerors to arrive in the territory.

One hundred years later, news spread among Dutch and English privateers, adventurers and smugglers about this group of keys, islands and islets. In the accounts, it was said that they were surrounded by a sea of ​​seven colors.

During the republican government of Colombia, the archipelago benefited from a series of administrative measures. These allowed him to enjoy periods of moderate prosperity.

Finally, in 1912, Colombia decided to create a new political and administrative entity, the Intendencia de San Andrés y Providencia. In 1991, the insular territory was constituted as an Overseas Department

Myths and legends

Regarding the legends of the insular region of Colombia, these manifest themselves in various ways. Most of these beliefs are based on mysterious things and beings. Some of them will be described below.

rolling calf

Popular belief describes the rolling calf as a devilish animal. They claim that it looks like a bull with sparkling eyes. They also comment that it moves by rolling and it always does so surrounded by flames, and when it rolls it exhales a strong smell of sulfur.


The duppy is another of the legends that terrify the superstitious inhabitants of the insular region of Colombia. This name is a synonym of the English term Ghost.

Like its similar in English, its meaning is the spirit of a dead person. Believers fear him and believe that he appears at night or manifests himself in dreams or in lonely places.


Just like with him Duppythe legend of the booboo is used to frighten believers, especially children.

On this occasion, the demonic figure is represented by a three-headed dog with a devilish face. The name of this demon is pronounced as buba.


This legend from the insular region of Colombia has its origin in a custom that is still practiced by the indigenous people of the area.

Is pronounced mouth, consists of cutting the mouth and it is very common in the indigenous tribes of San Andrés. Children are frightened by the representation of faces deformed by this practice.

Pirate Morgan’s Treasure

The legend of Morgan’s treasure originates from the islands of San Andrés and Providencia in the insular region of Colombia. According to her, this pirate would have accumulated a treasure in gold, silver and precious stones that he buried in these islands. They say that this treasure would be the largest obtained in the piracy of the Caribbean

Legend has it that after dividing up the treasure with his fellow pirates, Morgan buried it in a cave on the islands called Morgan’s cave. Four of his favorite slaves would have been in charge of the burial. After finishing the job, they would have been beheaded and buried by Morgan himself next to the treasure.

Also, according to the belief, in order to find the treasure, certain rites must be fulfilled at midnight. He also relates that the spirits of the slaves decapitated by Morgan would be the guardians. Over the years, many Colombians and foreigners have tried unsuccessfully to find this treasure.


Patronal festivities of San Andrés

These San Andrés festivities take place from November 27 to 30. They are held in honor of the island’s patron saint. Within the framework of these celebrations, the Coconut Carnival.

The sovereign of the Reign of the Coconut is also chosen, a contest in which several countries of the Atlantic Coast and neighboring islands participate.

Green Moon Festival

This festivity of the insular region of Colombia is celebrated annually between September 10 and 17. Every year, for 7 days, all the cultural expressions that make up the Caribbean region come together.

It is an international event also known as The green moon festival. Every year countries like Jamaica and Haiti participate.

This festival is considered a rescue of the cultural and social values ​​of the archipelago. There they dominate rhythms such as calypso, reggae, soca and other rhythms that represent the Caribbean culture.

Conferences, documentary screenings, typical dance shows and exhibitions on local gastronomy are also held.

Crab Festival

The Crab Festival is held every year on the first of January. That day, residents of the island of San Andrés and visitors can savor various dishes made from this crustacean. Also, during the event music and dances of the region are enjoyed.


In general, the climate of the insular region of Colombia is warm and has plenty of winds that help alleviate the sensation of heat. With great frequency, these winds can become tropical hurricanes.

As far as San Andres is concerned, this island…

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