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Leticia, Colombia

Leticia is a city in the Republic of Colombia. capital of the department of Amazonas, and Colombia's southernmost town (4.09 south 69.57 west) as well as its only major port on the river. It has an elevation of 96 meters above sea level and an average temperature of 27 C (80.6 F). Leticia has long been Colombia's shipping point for tropical fishes for the aquarium trade. Leticia has approximately 37,000 inhabitants on the left bank of the Amazon river, and at the point where Colombia, Brazil and Peru come together in an area called Tres Fronteras.

A long standing border dispute involving Leticia, between Colombia and Peru, was decided in 1934 by the League of Nations after these two nations engulfed in an armed conflict known as the Colombia-Peru War. This was the first instance of action by an international body in its powers covered by the Monroe Doctrine.

Even though it is a city within the borders of Colombia and a capital of one of its departments, Leticia is very peaceful and isolated from the problems of the rest of the country; FARC activity is limited in the deep south of Colombia.


Early history and etymology

Early rumors about Leticia's history mention a Portuguese explorer who, after becoming lost on the river, died of starvation at the present site of Leticia with the rest of his crew. The city itself was founded by Peruvian captain Benigno Bustamante, who was the governor of the Peruvian department of Loreto, on April 25, 1867. Legend has it that when the Peruvian government decided to colonise the area (in order to prevent the Colombian government from claiming it first) they found a cross inscribed with the words "San Antonio", naming the new the town after this cross.

Regarding the name "Leticia," a legend states that a Colombian soldier fell in love with an Amerindian woman named Leticia and decided to name the settlement after her. It could also be named after Saint Leticia. However, Peruvian records indicate that on the 15th of December of 1867, the port of "San Antonio" was renamed to "Leticia" by Peruvian engineer Manuel Charon. Charon named the port in honor of a young female resident of the Peruvian city of Iquitos named Leticia Smith.

Small border incidents between Peru and Colombia occurred in 1911, and in 1922 a controversial agreement was reached between both governments, awarding the Leticia area to Colombia in exchange for recognizing Peru's rights to the zone south of the Putumayo River, which was also claimed by Ecuador. This agreement proved to be unpopular among the Peruvian population, despite the treaty's ratification in 1928, because the treaty was signed in secret and it awarded Colombia a region that had been founded by Peruvians and that had a large Peruvian population living within its borders.

A small war between Colombia and Peru over the town began in September 1932 when two hundred Peruvians, followed later by military troops, occupied public buildings in Leticia. Hand-to-hand combat ensued between small Colombian and Peruvian forces in early 1933. The conflict lasted until May 1933, when a cease-fire negotiated by the League of Nations went into effect in order to settle the conflict, finally awarding Colombia the disputed area in June 1934.

The Population of Leticia

Though the League of Nations' intervention had officially ended the war, the Colombian government was still wary of the Peruvians, and decided to populate Leticia with people from Bogota in order to ensure the town's loyalty to Colombia. Most of the people who came from Bogota from the 1940s to 1965 still live in Leticia today. During that time, Leticia was greatly expanded, with a new main street being built. However, the city's industries have changed little since then, with agriculture and tourism still being the prime sources of income.

The violent 1970s

In the 1970s, illegal drug trafficking became a new way to make money in this region. During the late 1960s and 1970s narcotic drugs were bought and sold in broad daylight.

For Leticia, this was a time for great growth. Several rich cartel leaders built big houses such as the Casa Grande and contributed to the economy. Drugs were transported by truck to boats on the Putumayo River. This was to avoid shipping by air. The concept was to build a 70 km (~35 miles) highway to the small city of Tarapaca. The first 12 km were all that were ever finished before cartel members were arrested.

The drug business was eventually slowed down when new tough-hitting cops were brought in to Leticia. They stopped many drug cartel leaders in the city, seizing such famous places as the Casa Grande for the government.

Recent history

Little of note has occurred in the city in the last twenty years. In 2003 President Alvaro Uribe came to the region and listened to the issues of the townspeople for 12 hours. He promised to bring in help for Leticia's sagging economy, including building a branch of a famous Colombian resort chain, the Decameron Resort Company, to attract tourism and aid social problems. In late 2004 a hotel was rented to Decameron and has since brought more tourism to the area. Today there are three airlines going from Bogota to Leticia each day. [Aerorepublica.com], [aires.aero] and [satena.com] Prices on flights are low becouse of the competition between the airlines.

Tourism in Leticia has boomed and the town is today the second tourism destination for foreigners after Cartagena de Indias. International students travel to Leticia to learn Spanish at The Amazon Spanish College [*].


Leticia features a tropical rainforest climate with minimal difference in average high and low temperatures throughout the course of the year. Leticia does have noticeably wetter and drier months, with its wettest month (January) seeing a little more than twice as much precipitation its driest month (July). However the terms wettest and driest are relative as all 12 months in the city average above 100 mm of rain.



The majority of Leticia's population have migrated from elsewhere. There is no obviously dominant segment, but migrants from Bogota, Medellin, and Tolima are the majority. Surprisingly few people from Cali live in Leticia. A significant proportion of Leticia's population comprises native Amerindians (as opposed to mestizos or caboclos). The prevailing trend is for people to move from the village of their birth in far-lying rural communities into the city to make a "better" living.


Although the inhabitants commonly eat the same things each week, a wide variety of food is available in Leticia. Dishes specific to each of Colombia's regions are made here. For example, people make Sancocho, a hearty soup, with regional variations in different parts of Colombia. But even within regions, each family has its own recipe. Leticia's cuisine includes Brazilian and Peruvian influences. Common staples in Leticia include river fish, domestic (and occasionally wild) meat, rice, locally-grown vegetables and potatoes. Meals are usually cooked over a wood-fired stovetop in a pan. A typical Sunday meal might comprise grilled meats, cooked in makeshift charcoal grillers, served with rice and plantains.


Vasquez Cobo International Airport

See also

Tabatinga, the Brazilian town and harbour that adjoins Leticia. The two cities cooperate closely, and altogether their urban area and adjacent suburbs along the Amazon river have a population of more than 100,000 people.

External links

Leticia official website

Human mobility in the triple border of Peru, Colombia and Brazil, Marcia Maria de Oliveira, Sao Paulo May/August 2006 .

Territorial-Environmental Information System of Colombian Amazon SIAT-AC website

The Amazon Spanish CollegeSpanish Language School

Visit Leticia Essential Travel Information to Leticia and its Surroundings

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Leticia, Colombia

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