Tierra Fría or Tierra Caliente

One of the defining characteristics of Colombians is that –well—they are difficult to define. Colombia is divided into several geographic regions. Each one retaining its own unique identity. This identity is reflected in the food they eat, the clothes they wear, the music they listen and dance to, their accent and vocabulary, and even the way they act.

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.


Camilla said…
Thank you so much for writing this blog, it is very interesting to follow. And I hope many adoptive parents/and the ones that want to be will find your page.

Nice that you have found my page. Sorry that it is in norwegian. I thought a lot about it, but in the end I decided to stick to my own language. But I still find it kind of hard. So it was nice that you tried the translate button.

Our dossier was sent 11.09.2008, DVA 3.10.2008 and we are waiting for colombia to approve us. Another dossier sent and DVA on the same day has already got their approval some time ago. So I am anxiously waiting...

Sorry for this incredible long comment. Wishing you a wonderful week :o)
"If the capital of Colombia were on the coast (Tierra Caliente), Colombia wouldn’t be Colombia -- it would be --- uh – well – Venezuela."

LOL!!! Nothing wrong with this!!! ;-) Bolivar wanted Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela to be only one country! and Bogota was going to be the capital.
Lili said…
I am Colombian and it is funny to read this because it is true, people from tierra caliente are more open than people from tierra fria. It's maybe because in tierra fria they wear ruana and in tierra caliente poncho, which is more open and light. In any case thanks for the blog and keep posting cool stuff

Liliana G
Anonymous said…
"If the capital of Colombia were on the coast (Tierra Caliente), Colombia wouldn’t be Colombia -- it would be --- uh – well – Venezuela.

I didn't like the comment
Anonymous said…
The future capital of Colombia became an important settlement in the Spanish empire since its founding in 1538. At the time it was rare to find a mayor settlement that was not a port or that was located as far away from the ocean as Bogota is. Add to this the remarkable traits of the people who inhabited the area before the Spanish arrived and you start understanding Bogota's peculiar culture.

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