While the country has 32 departamentos (or states), they can be grouped into several geographic regions -- roughly the following: the Atlantic Coast (el Caribe), the Eastern Plains (los Llanos), the Altiplano of Cundimarca and Boyacá (Altiplano Cundi-Boyacense), Santander, Antioquia and the Coffee Growing region (Antioquia y el Eje Cafetero), the Pacific Coast (la Costa Pacifica), the Cauca River Valley (el Valle), the Pasto Region (los Pastusos), Tolima & Huila, and the jungle (la Selva).
I will be talking more in depth about each of these regions over the next few weeks. However, for today, I want to simplify. Most Colombians can group themsleves into 2 groups: those from hot places “Tierra Caliente” and those from cold places “Tierra Fría”.
I first learned about this distinction long before I met my husband. I was living in Toronto, Canada, and working in the Hispanic community. Every time I met a Colombian, I would mention that I knew other Colombians. The new person would immediately ask, “Tierra caliente or tierra fría?”
While this may sound silly, it actually points to 2 very important aspects of Colombian culture. First, in Colombia, temperature is determined by altitude – the higher you are the colder it gets. There are no seasons as we here know them. Winter to them means – RAIN. Summer means – NO RAIN. [These two seasons alternate rapidly and without warning in places like Bogotá :)]. Second, temperature is a huge determiner of a specific region’s culture.
Most Colombians know or think they know what to expect about a person based on whether they are from Tierra Caliente or Tierra Fría. The stereotype goes like this: If you are from Tierra Caliente, you are a party animal. You are loud, open, laid back, and do not allow etiquette to get in the way of having fun. If you are from Tierra Fría you are shy, quiet, proper, formal, and well -- boring.
The truth is there are only two areas in the Tierra Fría group – the Altipano Cundi-Boyacense and Pasto. But, the Altiplano is the seat of Government and so they wield more power than this small region might otherwise. If the capital of Colombia were on the coast (Tierra Caliente), Colombia wouldn’t be Colombia -- it would be --- uh – well – Venezuela.
This is important for you as adoptive families because when you go to Colombia, the first question you will want to ask yourself is, “Am I going to Tierra Caliente or Tierra Fría?” This will help you not only determine the clothes you will pack, but what you might expect in terms of your interactions with the people that will be helping you with your adoption in Colombia. It will also help you understand your child and his/her/their idiosyncrasies. For those of you who are already home from Colombia, this might help you make sense of your trip and your experiences there, as well as understand your child better – especially those with older kids.