The Region


painting

El Rio de Luz (The River of Light)

Frederic Edwin Church
1877
Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington


No one is exactly sure who inhabited the mountainous regions of Colombia in pre-Colombian times. This lush, green ecosystem, with semitropical plants and flowers and abundant birds and insects is crisscrossed by waterways that have been trade routes since ancient times. Nearby regions are famous even now for metalwork and gold ornaments that have been transported throughout the region.

From the cool mountainous regions of Ethiopia, coffee spread through the Arab and European worlds in the 16th and 17th centuries, eventually reaching Colombia in the 18th century when commercial production began.

War and economic problems turned the large estates into smaller farms. Early in the 20th century, the National Federation of Coffee Growers was created, an important step in allowing farming families and communities to share knowledge and coordinate production and transportation.

Introduction to the 2011 Folklife Festival program, with curator Olivia Cadaval, Video produced by Charles Weber, visuals by Cristina Diaz-Carrera. [Catalog No. -CFV10321; Copyright - 2011 Smithsonian Institution]

colombian figure

Gold Pendant

CE 800-1500
Near Manizales; Caldas
Gift of Mrs. George (Thea) Heye, 1929
National Museum of the American Indian 16/6124
Smithsonian Institution
Photographer unknown


antio clay figure

Human Figure

Coiled/hand built, modeled, incised pottery
Near Medellín; Río Cauca valley
CE 500-1500
Gift of Mr. Frederick Sharpless,1929.
National Museum of the American Indian
16/3394
Smithsonian Institution
Photographer unknown

Coffee & Land


coffee plantation

Coffee Field

Juan Munduy/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


The "cherry" of the coffee contains the beans that are dried, roasted, and ground to brew the drink the world loves. After the harvest, the coffee cherries must be sorted for ripeness, measured, and delivered to processing plants to be milled and inspected.

The traditional method of growing coffee was to plant within shady forests. However, two coffee trees every year produce beans for just one pound of coffee. In the 1970’s, farmers wanted to increase production by planting in full sun, often cutting down forest to do this. In attempts to eliminate coffee bacteria and streamline production, "technified"" farms developed that used herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides, along with synthetic fertilizers and other chemicals. Serious environmental problems resulted, including chemical pollution of waterways and loss of plant and animal habitat.

Alternately, coffee plants can be grown under a high forest canopy. Coffee may take longer to ripen, but this can improve flavor. The forest can provide compost for a dense natural fertilizer, sustainably harvested firewood for fuel, and tree roots keep soil from washing away on the steep hillsides.

This region of Colombia encompasses both wild countryside and large, modern cities. When coffee can be grown within lively, sustainable habitat, balance can be created, a literal intermingling of the needs of people and the needs of nature.

Shade-Coffee

Photo: Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
National Zoological Park
Smithsonian Institution
All rights reserved

cityscape

Bogota

Darina/CC BY 3.0

landscape

Photo: Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
National Zoological Park
Smithsonian Institution
All rights reserved

Bird Friendly


bird friendly seal

When coffee is grown in a bare field, the loss of habitat for animals is significant. Tall native trees attract a wide diversity of birds, some coming to breed from the U.S. and Canada. The Migratory Bird Center at the National Zoological Park has conducted research since the 1990’s to determine the best methods for shade-grown coffee, and works with coffee growers to implement sustainable methods. Policy must be formed internationally, as migratory birds, by nature, are a global concern. The Center examines the problems and looks toward solutions.

Goals Are To:


  • Preserve habitat for migrating birds and other animals.

  • Eliminate pesticide use.

  • Help farmers with technical and marketing assistance.

  • Work together to support democratic communities and good working conditions.

With producer certification, coffee drinkers can be sure they are supporting sustainable practices that protect wildlife while also supporting the people who grow their well-loved drink.

45 bird species in Colombia


  • Acadian Flycatcher
  • Alder Flycatcher
  • American Redstart
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Bay-breasted Warbler
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler
  • Black-throated Green Warbler
  • Blackburnian Warbler
  • Blackpoll Warbler
  • Blue Grosbeak
  • Broad-winged Hawk
  • Canada Warbler
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Cerulean Warbler
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Cooper's Hawk
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee
  • Golden-winged Warbler
  • Great Crested Flycatcher
  • Hooded Warbler
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Kentucky Warbler
  • Louisiana Waterthrush
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Northern Waterthrush
  • Olive-sided Flycatcher
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Ovenbird
  • Philadelphia Vireo
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Swainson's Hawk
  • Swainson's Thrush
  • Tennessee Warbler
  • Townsend's Warbler
  • Western Wood-Pewee
  • Wood Thrush
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  • Yellow-throated Vireo
bird

Baltimore Oriole

Gerhard Hoffmann
All rights reserved.

bird

Black Throated Blue Warbler

Gerhard Hoffmann
All rights reserved.

bird

Black and White Warbler

Gerhard Hoffmann
All rights reserved.

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Download the Stories of World Heritage App


Discover ten stories from UNESCO’s World Heritage List: The list of the most outstanding natural and cultural sites in the world.


Hear what locals and visitors have to say about the beauty and importance of 10 of the world’s most outstanding natural and cultural sites from UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Have you visited any of them, or would you like to? Add your voice to the conversation through this app!

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