Santa Marta between the sea and the mountain

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By Albeiro Rodas

Santa Marta, the oldest Hispanic “living” city of the Americas, is located on the Santa Marta Bahia and at the foot of the highest Colombian mountain. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the highest altitude of the planet so near to the ocean, only 40 kilometers away from the coastline.

Picture “Dawn in Santa Marta” by vcardenas.

The last city of Bolívar

Stairs to the Lost City. Picture by Vueltaa.

One of the many proud things of Santa Marta is that it was the place where Simón Bolívar, the Liberator of the Americas, chose to die in 1830. Born in Caracas, Bolívar became an important character for the history of five nations and an inspiration for the continental dreams of liberty, freedom and justice. Although some historians point to him as Venezuelan – and so he was -, Bolívar considered himself a son – and for us a father – of the countries he fought to liberate from any European dominion. His love for Colombia – as for the other American nations – was well known and he became also the first president of what was known as Republic of Gran Colombia. The relation of his last days is well illustrated in the book of Gabriel García Márquez, “The General in His Labyrinth.” It was Santa Marta the last city in the life of one of the most extraordinary men of the history of the New World and today the Hacienda where he died is well kept and visited by many in Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino.

Santa Marta is located in a geographical spot where extremes come together: in a space of 40 kilometers you can go up from an altitude of a tropical 2 meters up the sea level to glacial temperatures at 5.500 meters up the sea level with snowed picks, the only ones you can find so near to the tropical Caribbean Sea. You could think that the mountain belongs to the South American Andes, but no. The mountain is completely independent of the Colombian Andean Ranges and even that it is the highest altitude of Colombia. Anyway, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is not the only snowed mountain of Colombia. Many others are located in the interior of the country with picks above 5000 meters up as Nevado del Ruiz, Nevado del Tolima and many others.

Economy of Santa Marta

El Rodadero Beach – Ronald Newell.

The first sector of the economy of the city is with not doubt tourism in a place that has so much to offer to visitors. The urban center itself as one of the oldest city of the Americas, rich in places like that of Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, the beautiful beaches and views of a very privileged Caribbean Bahia to practice water sports and mountain climbing in Sierra Nevada. The tourist activities has been an object of great attention by the local government in the past years and the number of visitors have increased according with the reports of Cámara de Comercio de Santa Marta that says that statistics went from 75% to 100% between 2004 and 2005.


“The Power of the Men that Fly “, work dedicated by María González to the Arhuako People, the inhabitants of Sierra Nevada.

The second sector of the city in economics is commerce. According with official statistics, it made 97.11% of the total investment in the Magdalena State during 2006 to a number of COP$24.388 million (a. US$12 million) with an increase of 37.25% in comparison with data of 2003.

The third sector is construction that increased in 50% during 2005 and 100% for 2006.

Santa Marta is a spot visited by many foreigners. The citizens of the countries that come to Santa Marta in a bigger number are from Israel, Holland, Denmark, French, Canada and USA. They find a peaceful city, safe, a tourist haven and a kind people. Many haciendas belong to families of interior cities like Bogotá and Medellín that bought properties in front to the sea to enjoy during holidays.

Arhuaco family, people that kept their culture and traditions in Sierra Nevada. Picture by highat.

As a port, Santa Marta is the second one after Barranquilla in the Caribbean Colombian coastland. It connects the cities to ports in Brazil, Venezuela, Florida, Belgium, Portugal, Italy and many others. otros.

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