The capital and largest city of Colombia, South America, Bogota is also the country's commercial and cultural center; it constitutes a Distrito Especial (Special District). The city lies on a fertile plateau 2640 meters above sea level in the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes Mountains in central Colombia. The twin peaks of Monserrate and Guadalupe rise above the city, each with a sanctuary at its summit. The spectacular Tequendama Falls on the River Bogota lie 32 km to the south-west.
Originally Bogota was the center of the Chibcha Indians. In 1538 the area was settled by Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada, who called it Santa Fe de Bogota, after his birthplace in Granada, Spain. The city became the center of Spanish power in South America and in 1598 became the capital of the vice-royalty Nueva Granada. When the area gained its independence from Spain in 1819 Bogota was named the capital of Granada Colombia (present day Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador). In 1830 the confederation was dissolved and Bogota was re-established as the capital of New Granada, later re-named Colombia.
Bogota has had a turbulent political history and has been hampered by massive social problems associated with the high rate of population growth and resulting slum conditions. Between 1948 and 1959 the city was severely damaged by rioting which claimed 200,000 lives.
Because of its inaccessible location and Colombia's political struggles, Bogota progressed slowly until after World War II, when many rural people migrated to the city and communications were improved.
The capital is linked by road, rail and air to the Caribbean ports of Santa Marta and Barranquilla (1200 km to the north) and to the Pacific port of Buenaventura (720 km to the west). It lies on the Simon Bolivar highway, which crosses Colombia between the borders of Venezuela and Ecuador. Further transportation improvements were made for the visit of Pope Paul VI in 1969. Bogota is the home of Avianca, South America's first commercial airline, which is based at the new Eldorado airport.
The city is a major commercial center with 30 banks and a stock exchange (1928).
It is the world's center for emeralds, and industries include the production of textiles, leather goods, chemical and pharmaceutical products, building materials, silver, copper and brassware, beverages and glass, and agricultural processing. The mild climate is especially suitable for cereals (wheat, maize and barley).
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