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Cucuta is a Colombian city, capital of the North Santander Department and located in the northeast of the country. Due to its proximity to the Colombian-Venezuelan border, Cucuta is an important commercial center. The city has the constitutional category of Special District, conforms the most active international border in South America and it's connected by roads with Bogota, Caracas and Cartagena. Its air terminal, the Camilo Daza International Airport is one of the most traveled the country.

According to the 2005 census it has a population 918,942 inhabitants, which rank it as the 5th largest city in the country. The Metropolitan Area of Cucuta (conformed by other 6 municipalities) has a population of 1'298.187 inhabitants, having the same position in the conurbations. For several years has had the lowest unemployment rate in the country, which nowadays is 8.6%.

It is situated in the Cordillera Oriental in the Andes and is connected with Venezuela through the Pan-American Highway. Its area of 1176 km represents 5.65% of the department. Its altitude is 320 m above sea level, with an average temperature 28C and annual average precipitation of 1,041 mm.

The city is bordered to the east by Venezuela and Puerto Santander, to the south by Villa del Rosario, Bochalema, and Los Patios, to the north by Tibu, and to the west by El Zulia and San Cayetano.


The city of Cucuta was called San Jose de Guasimales from 1733 to 1793, the year in which the name changed to San Jose de Cucuta"San Jose" (Saint Joseph) denotes the Virgin Mary's husband, and "Cucuta" means "The House of Goblins", from the language of the Bari indigenous group.

In the city's seal, a legend states, Muy Noble, Valerosa y Leal Villa de San Jose de Cucuta .

The city has the nicknames "City Without Borders", "Gem of the North," and "City Forest.".


Cucuta was originally a pre-hispanic settlement. It was entrusted to Sebastian Lorenzo by Pedro de Ursua as an encomienda in 1550. Juana Rangel de Cuellar founded Cucuta on June 17, 1733, and donated a further . The village, centred on a church, grew considerably due to its strategic commercial location, and eventually became a city.

Seeveral important events that forged Colombia as an independent republic took place in city: one of these events was the Congress of 1821, where the Constitution of Cucuta was written and approved. This constitution created the Greater Colombia, a nation conformed by the present-day territories of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. The city preserves places where these historical events took place: the Historical Church of Cucuta, the House of Santander, and the Park of the Great Colombia.

As the site of the Battle of Cucuta the city was the beginning of the Admirable Campaign led by Simon Bolivar. This campaign resulted in the independence of Venezuela.

16th Century: First European incursions

The first European in the North Santander territories was the German conqueror Ambrosio Alfinger, who in 1530 came from Santa Ana de Coro (Venezuela) with a troop of aventurers and invaded the unexplored eastern region of the newly created Gobernation of Santa Marta.

Alfinger, in search of El Dorado, arrived in an area of indigenous settlements called Tamalameque along the Magdalena River, fighting and defeating several tribes. Alfinger was eventually killed in the outskirts of present-day Chinacota in a battle with Chimilas and Chitareros Indians. With Alfinger dead, Fedro St. Martin took command of the troops and returned to Coro, passing through the territory of Cucuta.

The 1541 Hernan Perez de Quesada, reached the territory of Chinacota, but had to turn back the same year due to the resistance of indigenous people. Shortly thereafter, Alfonso Perez de Tolosa, left Tocuyo (Venezuela) and went to Salazar de Las Palmas, through Cucuta, but also had to turn back after losing a lot of soldiers in clashes with the natives.

In 1549 Spanish troops, commanded by Pedro de Ursua and Ortun Velasco, invaded North Santander and reached the valleys of Pamplona. In tribute to the Spanish city of Pamplona, the Spaniards founded a the city of Pamplona. The new town soon attracted numerous people because of its agreeable climate and gold mines that were discovered in the region. From this town came further expeditions which completed the conquest of the current territory of North Santander.

An expedition commanded by Diego de Montes founded the town of Salazar, but it was soon destroyed by the Cacique Cinera. In 1583 the town was rebuilt by Alonso Esteban Rangel (great-grandfather of the founder of Cucuta) on a site more appropriate for its defense in the event of new attacks by the natives.

The second expedition commanded by captain Francisco Fernandez de Contreras reached to the lands of the Hacaritamas indigenous group and on July 26, 1572 founded the city of Ocana, calling it "Santa Ana de Hacari", while some of his colleagues the named it New Madrid, and others Santa Ana of Ocana. The next year, Antonio Orozco, subaltern of Fernandez, founded the town of Teorama, while the Friars Augustinians founded a convent in what is today the city of Chinacota.

17th Century: Foundation

In the early 16th century a great part of the valleys of Cucuta belonged to Captain Christopher de Araque Ponce de Leon. The land passed through inheritance to his son Fernando Araque Ponce de Leon, who was owner of the entire territory from the Valley of Cucuta to the village of San Jose; jurisdiction of the city of San Faustino. These fields had been donated to the master Araque by the Governor of the Province of New Merida heading in September 9, 1630.

The constant hostility of the Motilones indigenous group with the whites who lived in the valley and their economic ambitions were key factors to request the erection of a parish with the name "San Jose". Juana Rangel de Cuellar donated on June 17, 1783 for the construction of a church and land for Spanish families. Today this area is the neighbourhood of San Luis.

19th Century: Major events

Battle of Cucuta

The Battle of Cucuta was one of the most important events of the Spanish American wars of independence, due to its role in the independence of Colombia and Venezuela. This battle was the beginning of the Admirable Campaign of Simon Bolivar. On February 28, 1813, the Bolivar captured the city after a battle that lasted from 9:00 a.m. until noon. About 400 men led by Bolivar fought 800 troops led by the Spanish general Ramon Correa. Two Colombian soldiers were killed and 14 injured; on the opposing side, 20 Spanish forces were killed and 40 injured. The victory freed the city of Cucuta and started the Admirable Campaign.

Colonel Simon Bolivar then launched a major offensive against the Spanish forces who were on the east bank of the Magdalena River and quickly achieved resounding victories that carried him to undertake a journey to liberate the Valleys of Cucuta held by the command of royalist Colonel Ramon Correa.

Congress of Cucuta

On August 30, 1821 the Congress of Cucuta took place at the town of Villa del Rosario (today part of Cucuta) in the church known today as the "Historic Temple of Cucuta". The congress was established by Antonio Narino and participants included Francisco de Paula Santander, Simon Bolivar, and other leaders of Spanish America's struggle for independence from Spain.

The main objective of this congress was to unify the nations of the New Granada (Colombia and Panama) and Venezuela and thus create a huge state to be known as the Republic of Colombia (Gran Colombia). Ecuadorsubsequently joined Gran Colombia.

At 11 am on October 3, 1821, the Simon Bolivar entered in the meeting room located in the sacristy of the church. He took a seat next to the president of Congress and was sworn in as president of the fledgling Republic of Colombia.

Earthquake of Cucuta

On 18 May 1875, Cucuta was largely destroyed by the earthquake of Cucuta, also known as the "Earthquake of the Andes". The earthquake occurred at 11:15 a.m.; it destroyed Villa del Rosario, San Antonio del Tachira and Capacho, seriously damaged the Venezuelan settlements of San Cristobal, La Mulata, Rubio, Michelena, La Grita and Colon (among others), and was felt in Bogota and Caracas.

Industrial Revolution

In the 19th century, the construction of a railroad set off an Industrial Revolution in the city. The railroad had four branches: North, East, South and West. The North branch was constructed from 1878 to 1888, and connected Cucuta with Puerto Santander and Venezuela. Construction of the East branch began in and South branches began in 1878; the South branch linked with Pamplona, Colombia, and ended in El Diamante. The West branch was not built owing to economic problems. The railroad company fell into bankruptcy and was closed in 1960.

The population of the city's metropolitan area was 59,323 in 1939, 532,564 in 1990, and 950,000 in 2005.

Many of the city's historic buildings lie within the Park of Greater Colombia, including the House of Santander, the historic church, and the historic tamarind. All these are well preserved.

Geography, climate and layout


The city is located in the eastern part of the Department of North Santander, in the Cordillera Oriental, close to the border with Venezuela. The city's area is 1,176 km, or 5.65% of the area of North Santander. The elevation is above sea-level.

Rivers in Cucuta and Norte de Santander include the Pamplonita River, Guaramito River, San Miguel River and Zulia River.

The Pamplonita River crosses the Norte de Santander Department.


Cucuta has a tropical savanna climate. The mean temperature is 28.0 C; high temperatures are around 35 C. There is a sharp contrast between the wet season and the dry season. The driest months are December, January, February and March; the wettest are April, May, September, October and November. June and July usually have significant precipitation, whereas August is sunny and windy. The annual precipitation is around 1,041 mm.


Cucuta's streets are organized in a grid layout adopted from Spain in colonial times. Calles (streets) traverse from east to west, perpendicular to the hills, and numbering increases to the north and to the south from Calle 1. Avenidas (avenues) traverse from south to north, parallel to the hills, and numbering increases both east to west, and west to east from a central avenida numbered 0 . From west to east, avenues are numbered with an E added to their number, as to denote East (este) .

More than 300 neighborhoods form the urban network. Affluent neighborhoods are primarily situated in the north and north-east; poorer ones are in the south and south-east, many of them squatter areas. The middle class lives mostly in the central, west and northwest areas.



The red and black North Santander Department flag was exhibited for the first time in 1928, when the first National Olympics were held in Cali. However, the flag of Cucuta was not legalized until Mayor Carlos A. Rangel issued Decree 106 on May 3, 1988.


The shield of Cucuta was adopted in 1958 by Decree 032 on February 3, 1958, after a request by the History Academy of North Santander. The shield is a classic shape, and carries the title conferred to the city by Royal Decree of the Emperor Carlos IV: Very noble, valiant and loyal Village of San Jose of Cucuta.

The upper part depicts the weapons of the city's founder Juana Rangel of Cuellar, who donated lands for the foundation of the city on June 17, 1733. They are five silver and red fleur-de-lis in the shape of reels, on a golden background.

The lower part of the shield displays the weapons that the National Congress adopted for Colombia by the Law of October 6, 1821, at its meeting in the Villa del Rosario. In the center are a quiver of spears, marked with X's, and a set of bow and arrows, tied with tricolor tape. The spears represent attributes of the Roman consuls; the X is a symbol of the right of life or death; the bow and arrows are symbols of the Hispanic Indu race.


The Anthem of Cucuta was legalized by means of Decree 039 of February 8, 1984, by Mayor Luis Vicente Mountain Forest. The lyrics were written by Dr. Manuel Orillo Martinez, and the music by the master Pablo Tarazona Prada. It was chosen as the Anthem of Cucuta by a unanimous vote in a contest held in the Theater Zulima.



Cucuta has undergone a large demographic growth, having 387,481 inhabitants in 1951 and now, 1,196,775. It is the sixth most populous city in Colombia. The metropolitan area, which includes the municipalities of Villa del Rosario, Los Patios, El Zulia, San Cayetano and Puerto Santander, has a combined population of more than 1.1 million people. It is the largest metropolitan area in eastern Colombia and sixth in Colombia behind Barranquilla and Cartagena.

As of the census of 2005, there were 1,196,755 people and 187,041 households in the city. The population density was 2,000/km, making Cucuta one of the more densely-populated cities in the east of the country.


Many notable Colombians are from Cucuta:

Francisco de Paula Santander, the first President of Colombia, known as "the man of the laws".

Virgilio Barco, a former president of Colombia.

Fabiola Zuluaga, the most successful Colombian tennis player

Actors such as Lincoln Palomeque, Endry Carreno, Rafael Garcia Herreros (the founder of Minuto de Dios)

Elias M. Soto, a classic musician.

Marino Vargas Villalta, civic leader and businessman. During the fifities and sixties, he was also the president of the popular and successful local soccer team, the Cucuta Deportivo.

Alberto Villamizar, a former congressman and ambassador to Indonesia, The Netherlands and Cuba, Colombia's first kidnappings czar and leading political figure of the Nuevo liberalismo (New Liberalism) movement of Luis Carlos Galan.


As of 2006, the mayor of Cucuta is Ramiro Suarez Corzo, who has occupied the position since January 2004 (elected by a majority of 62.06%). He represents the movement Colombia Viva.

Cucuta is the capital of Norte de Santander Department, and houses the Department Hall and the City Hall of the Metropolitan Area of Cucuta along with the Francisco de Paula Santander Justice Palace. The Principal Mayor and Urban Council, both elected by popular vote, are responsible for city administration.

The city divided into 10 localities (comunas). The Metropolitan Area of Cucuta is formed by Cucuta (as the main city), Villa del Rosario, Los Patios, San Cayetano, El Zulia and Puerto Santander.

Politics in Cucuta are not defined by a single political movement. Past rivals included the Partido Liberal Colombiano and the Colombian Conservative Party. Today the political landscape is shared by many political parties, none commanding majority support.


The economy of Cucuta is the sixth largest of the country, preceded by cities like: Cartagena, Barranquilla, Cali, Medellin, and Bogota. Cucuta's economy is based primarily in industry and agriculture. The "zone franca" is the most active of Colombia due to its proximity to Venezuela (the second commercial partner of Colombia). The industry of the city is focused on mining, the production of milk, and the cement and construction material production.

Smuggling operations are also common in the Cucuta region.

USColombia Free Trade Agreement implications for Cucuta

Colombia signed a Free Trade Agreement with the United States amidst opposition by Venezuela. Despite this opposition, industries from Venezuela are constructing their infrastructure in Cucuta to export their products to the United States, registering their products as if they were Colombian, a strategy that would allow them to export without paying certain tariffs. For that reason, Cucuta is expected to become an industrial city.

Colombian law provides tax exemptions for Venezuelan imports through the Zona Franca, which, coupled with the motorway links between Cucuta and Maracaibo, increases the possibility of exports from Maracaibo into Colombia.


The city's telecommunications services include payphones, WiMAX wireless networks, and mobile phone networks .

Telecom Colombia offers the service of local, national and international telephony and broadband ADSL Internet. There are three mobile telephony operators: Comcel, Movistar and Tigo.


Public transportation in the Metropolitan Area of Cucuta includes the Metrobus system.

For travel outside the city, there is a bus station called "Terminal de Transportes" (to be replaced by a new one), the Camilo Daza International Airport (Colombia) and the San Antonio Airport (Venezuela). Eighty years ago the city had the "Railroad of Cucuta", which connected with Venezuela.

The highway to Bucaramanga (renovated in January 2007) connects Cucuta with Bogota, Medellin and Cali. The highway to Ocana connects the city with Barranquilla, Cartagena and Santa Marta; the highway to San Cristobal with Caracas.

Distances to other cities

sincelejo 500 km

Cities of Colombia















Cities of Venezuela

San Cristobal








The city has many bridges:

San Rafael Bridge official name is "Benito Hernandez Bustos".

Francisco de Paula Andrade Troconis Bridge the prolongation of the Av. 0, connecting the city with the municipality of Los Patios.

Elias M. Soto Bridge rebuilt and extended to 6 rails.

San Luis Bridge imported from England.

Rafael Garcia Herreros Bridge part of the East Anilo Vial.

Six overpasses are under construction.


The basic education and the high school education are in Colombian "Calendary A" for schools (from February to November).


Colegio Calasanz

Colegio Sagrado Corazon de Jesus

Colegio Instituto Tecnico Nacional de Comercio

Colegio Salesiano

Colegio La Salle

Colegio Comfaoriente

Colegio Santo Angel de la Guarda

Colegio Santa Teresa

Colegio Gimnasio Los Almendros

Colegio Gimnasio Domingo Savio

Colegio Carmen Teresiano

Colegio Cardenal Sancha

Colegio Instituto Tecnico Mercedes Abrego

Instituto Bilingue Londres


State Universities

Universidad Francisco de Paula Santander

Universidad de Pamplona

Private Universities

Universidad Libre de Colombia

Universidad de Santander

Universidad Antonio Narino

Universidad Simon Bolivar

Recent development

The city has recently undergone development at an historically unprecedented rate. This has included construction of six overpasses, a convention center, a new bus terminal, a new Integrated Massive Transportation System called Metrobus, modernization of state owned schools, renewal of downtown, and doubling the capacity of the General Santander Stadium.

New industries are expected to come from Venezuela, which will place their factories in Cucuta to export through the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement between Colombia and the United States.



The main monuments in the city are:

The monument of the Battle of Cucuta

The monument of Juana Rangel de Cuellar, the founder of Cucuta

The monument of Camilo Daza, located in the Camilo Daza International Airport.


The main parks in the city are:

Santander Park , the main park of the city located in front of the city hall.

Colon Park , constructed in honor of Cristobal Columbus .

Simon Bolivar Park , constructed in honor of Simon Bolivar and donated by the Consulate of Venezuela in Cucuta.


From its founding, residents have valued Cucuta's trees.

Cucuta has more green zones than many other cities in Colombia. Some consider it an urban lung, due to its many trees and lack of pollution. The greenery is thanks to gifts by prominent Cucutenos, and the legion of foreigners who reconstructed the city after the 1875 earthquake, led by engineer Francisco de Paula Andrade Troconis. The first planted trees were clemones. Soon they were replaced by acacias, peracos and almond trees that adorned the parks and roadsides. An example of this city design is the Avenue of the Lights , that forms a natural tunnel admired in the rest of the country and by tourists.

Palm trees are common in places such as Santander Park, Great Colombian Park, the Bank of the Republic and the Department Hall of Norte de Santander.

External links


City Hall of Cucuta

Gobernacion de Norte de Santander

Education Secretary of North Santander


Hospital Erasmo Meoz

E.S.E. Francisco de Paula Santander

Mass media

Cucuta a moder city

Newspaper La Opinion

Asi Es Cucuta - Noticias de Cucuta

Cucuta Nuestra


Cucuta Linda


Universidad Francisco de Paula Santander

Universidad de Santander

Universidad Simon Bolivar

Universidad de Pamplona

Universidad Antonio Narino

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