Smithsonian Folklife Festival to Celebrate the Culture of Colombia

June 20, 2011
News Release

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This summer, visitors to the 45th annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival will have the opportunity to take a journey through Colombia, from its mountains and valleys, to its lowlands stretching towards the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and into the broad eastern plains and the Amazonian rainforest.

“Colombia: The Nature of Culture” will highlight the country’s diverse cultural and natural heritage and feature 100 participants from six of the country’s primary ecosystems—the Andean Highlands, the Coffee Region, the Momposino Depression, the Pacific Rainforest, the Southeastern Plains and the Amazon Tropical Rainforest. The program also will feature participants from Colombia’s three major cities—Bogotá, Medellín and Cali.

The Festival will be held Thursday, June 30, through Monday, July 4, and Thursday, July 7, through Monday, July 11, outdoors on the National Mall between Seventh and 14th streets. Admission is free. Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, with special evening events such as concerts and dance parties beginning at 6 p.m. The Festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service.

“Colombia: The Nature of Culture” will explore how Colombian cultural expressions are connected to their distinctive environments. The program will demonstrate the profound resilience and creativity of people who live in the different ecosystems as they interact dynamically with nature.

At the Festival, visitors will experience many different aspects of Colombian culture. Participants will demonstrate how to make decorative and occupational crafts using items such as reeds, vines, palm leaves, seeds, leather, horsehair, clay, wool and recycled materials. Visitors can watch as craftspeople carve religious artworks, build a canoe, create costumes for Carnival and make drums, harps and other instruments. The program will also feature hair-braiding demonstrations, and young visitors can play games and learn to juggle. Cooks will prepare regional dishes, using an oven that was built on the Festival site.  

Coffee is central to the country’s economy. Coffee growers will walk the visitor through the entire coffee process from planting the bean to drinking a fine cup of tinto. Visitors will learn how coffee is transported through Colombia both by jeep and by mule.

Gold mining is an important cottage industry in the Pacific Rainforest region. Visitors can learn how to pan for gold and watch a goldsmith make thin filaments for filigree jewelry.

The program’s two music stages will feature a variety of different music and dance performances and workshops. Visitors can listen to chirimia, carranguera, joropo and marimba music, enjoy a cappela songs and learn to salsa and tango. They also can participate in processions and ceremonies.

Visitors will learn about sustainable architecture in Colombia. Many of the structures throughout the program will be built from guadua, a type of bamboo found in Colombia. The program also will feature examples of urban architecture and graffiti art done by urban artists from Colombia’s cities. 


“Colombia: The Nature of Culture” is produced in partnership with the Ministry of Culture of Colombia, with the support of the Embassy of Colombia in Washington, D.C., and the Fondo de Promoción Turística de Colombia. Major donor support comes from the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation and the Smithsonian Latino Initiatives Pool, which is administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center. Additional donors to the program include Caterpillar Inc. and Occidental Petroleum Corp. Citi, ExxonMobil, NTN24, Proexport and UNESCO are contributors to the program. The Bogotá Mayor’s Office and the U.S.-Colombia Business Partnership are supporters of the program.

About the Festival

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, inaugurated in 1967, honors tradition bearers from across the United States and around the world. With approximately 1 million visitors each year, the Festival unites performers and visitors in the nation’s capital to celebrate the diversity of cultural traditions. It is produced by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The Festival’s website is

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