Courtesy Embassy of Colombia, Washington
The emergence in the twentieth century of a fairly
class paralleled the development of urban society and of
institutions of government, education, and social
Although Colombia had always had a small element of
shopkeepers, clerks, and overseers, they had been limited
and had no sense of shared identity.
Most of the modern middle class had developed since the
As a class, the various middle groups distinguished
other members of society by regular employment in
generally did not qualify them for membership in the
The nucleus of the middle class was in the most highly
industrialized urbanized areas--the departments of
Caldas, and Cundinamarca--where institutional changes had
pronounced. These areas had the highest percentage of
employed in professions, government, business, and
predominantly middle-class occupations.
The middle class owed its heterogeneity to its late
and continued expansion. It consisted of self-employed
businessmen, professionals, salaried employees (including
workers), other white-collar personnel, and some members
organized labor. The expansion of the government
provided a number of positions for the middle class.
usually included in the middle class, as were most
officers, most of the clergy, and some intellectuals,
journalists, and musicians.
Owners of medium-sized farms, primarily in the
departments of Caldas and Antioquia, made up most of the
middle class. They derived the greatest benefits from
efforts at agricultural credit, technical training,
development, and expanded primary education. In addition,
possessed a relatively modern outlook in contrast to other
in more remote areas who had accumulated enough wealth to
at the top of the middle class but preferred a modified
existence and traditional outlook.
The diversity of the middle class, which placed some of
members scarcely above the lower class in life-style and
others on the lower edge of the upper class, was striking.
status gradations characterized the internal structure of
class. However, by linking several of the most important
prestige factors, the middle sector can be divided into
parts: an upper middle class and a lower segment in
the lower class. The sectors were differentiated primarily
basis of the attitudes and values they held and on their
the social system.
The upper middle class gradually merged into the elite
and was composed primarily of professionals, medium-sized
landowners, entrepreneurs, managerial personnel, and some
government bureaucrats. Some of these were descendants of
traditional elite who had fallen on the social scale and
the illusion of their families' former status. They often
consider themselves members of the middle group and
attempted to regain a place in the upper class by modeling
manners, behavior, and attitudes on those of the elite.
The members of the upper middle class tended to share a
for culture and outward appearance, exhibited by
consumption. Standards of social behavior were stringently
observed, and active support was given, particularly by
the Roman Catholic Church and numerous religious
completion of academic secondary school was considered
for the child of upper-middle-class parents, and a
degree was becoming increasingly necessary. Whereas
the elite was still determined primarily by family
values, upper-middle-class status was largely determined
by a good
The lower middle class, constituting the bulk of the
class, came primarily from upwardly mobile members of the
class. A large number were clerks or small shopkeepers.
only a precarious hold on middle-class status and tended
to be less
concerned with imitating upper-class culture and behavior
making enough money to sustain a middle-class life-style.
at this level tended to be just as concerned as those at
social levels with giving their children an education.
to send at least one of their children through a
regardless of the financial burden.
Data as of December 1988