Urbanization, Migration, and Immigration
Colombia had one of the highest urbanization rates of
American nation. The proportion of the population living
areas increased from 31 percent to nearly 60 percent from
1973. Over the 1951 to 1964 period, the rate of
averaged 5.5 percent per year. In the 1980s, however, the
both population growth and urbanization fell.
Massive rural-urban migration since the late 1930s was
factor in increasing the urban share of the population
than one-third to almost two-thirds in 1982 (see
Appendix). Urban growth between 1951 and 1973 was
dominated by the
growth of the four largest cities: Barranquilla, Cali,
and Bogotá--all of which were already large metropolitan
more than 500,000 people in 1951. The share of total
these four cities nearly quintupled from 5 percent in 1951
percent in 1973--compared with an increase in the total
of less than 50 percent during the same period.
Observers disagreed about whether the growth of these
which averaged 5.2 percent a year between 1964 and 1973,
into the late 1980s. Since city size determined the
federal funds for various public programs, the controversy
charged with heightened political and economic interest.
Preliminary results from a survey of households indicated
growth rate of Bogotá declined from nearly 6 percent
1964-73 period to less than 4 percent between 1973 and
The decline in the urban growth rate was mainly the
lower fertility in the more recent period and a higher
base size of
the cities, rather than a dramatic reduction in the pace
migration. Indeed, it appears that throughout the 1970s
absolute number of persons migrating to urban areas
increase. However, after 1979 the slowdown in economic
particularly in manufacturing and trade, probably lowered
of rural-urban migration somewhat as job opportunities in
Colombia has experienced little foreign influence or
immigration. During the colonial period, Spain discouraged
admission of non-Spaniards into the colonies. After
there were few economic attractions for immigrants. Civil
another deterrent. The country generally lacked a clear
immigration but never favored it on a large scale. Those
entered from abroad came as individuals or in small family
Immigration laws provided for the admission of persons
not jeopardize the social order for personal, ethnic, or
reasons. In 1953 the Institute of Land Settlement and
was set up to direct the colonialization of the
regions of the country and was given the power to organize
immigration for this purpose. After World War II, Colombia
encouraged the immigration of skilled technicians, and in
procedures were specified for the admission of refugees.
done, however, to implement these measures.
There were several identifiable ethnic groups of
in Colombia, all of them small. The Jewish population was
at 25,000, although in the 1980s many of them emigrated
widespread kidnapping for ransom. There was a constant
Spanish immigrants, many of them members of the clergy.
from the United States were mainly in business or
Germans, Italians, and Lebanese--usually referred to as
(turcos) or Syrians because they came from the
Lebanese part of Syria that formerly belonged to
active in commerce, particularly in the port cities of
Barranquilla, Cartagena, and Buenaventura.
Germans, as well as other foreigners, found acceptance
upper class and frequently married into the white group.
Lebanese married into the Guajira Indian tribe, but
generally were most closely associated with the white
which was generally receptive to ties with foreigners.
Data as of December 1988