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Valledupar is a city and municipality in northeastern Colombia, capital of the Department of Cesar founded in 1550 by Spanish Conqueror Hernando de Santana. Its name Valle de Upar (Valley of Upar) was established in honor of an amerindian cacique that ruled the valley; Cacique Upar. Lies between the mountains of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Serrania del Perija to the margin of the Guatapuri River and Cesar River.

Valledupar is an important agricultural, cattle raising and agroindustrial center for the region between the Departments of Cesar and southern municipalities of La Guajira, formerly known as the Province of Padilla. Valledupar is notoriously known for being the cradle of vallenato music, representative of the Colombian culture. The city hosts the Vallenato Legend Festival.

During the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s the city was affected intensively by the Colombian Armed Conflict, with massive kidnappings, forcedly displaced people. and an endemic problem of impunity reflected specially towards crimes against journalists. Valledupar has one of Colombia's most modern maximum security prisons.


The municipality of Valledupar is located southeast of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, 10 degrees, 29 minutes, of north latitude and 73 degrees 15 minutes long to the west of the Greenwich Meridian. Valledupars average temperature is about 28 C. Because of its high altitude but proximity to the equator, this municipality possesses a variety of environments, from hot warm to perpetual snow. The most important heights are the Sierra Nevada de Santa Martas peaks; the Codazzi peak, the El Guardian peak, the Ojeda peak and the La Reina peak. Many rivers descend from its snowy peaks and lagoons; the Ariguani River, Ariguanicito River, Badillo River, Calderas River, Cesar River, Curiba River, Donachui River, Garupal River, Guatapuri River, which borders the city of Valledupar, and the Mariangola River.

The Municipality of Valledupar limits to the north with the municipalities of Riohacha and San Juan del Cesar in the department of La Guajira. To the south with the municipalities of El Paso and Los Robles La Paz in the department of Cesar; to the east with the municipalities of Villanueva and Urumita, also in the Department of La Guajira; and to the west with the municipalities from the department of Magdalena; Fundacion and Aracataca.

The municipality has an area of about 4,977.96 km, from which 72,660 km pertain to the Arhuacos Indian Reserve, 399.52 km to the Kogui and wiwa Indian Reserve, and 425.60 km to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park.



From the place name Valle de Upar (Valley of Upar) named after a legendary local Amerindian cacique named Upar leader of the native American Chimila Nation. The region was first explored by Pedro de Badillo and later forcedly conquered in 1532 by a German named Ambrosius Ehinger, governor of Venezuela who invaded the area belonging to the government of Santa Marta. The city was founded later in 1550 by Spanish conqueror, Captain Hernando de Santana with the name Valle de Upar. The Catholic Church usually named the city Ciudad de los Santos Reyes de Valledupar (city of the holy kings of Valledupar) because it was on the same day the three kings visited Jesus, the 6th day of January, the name later got modified due to grammar abbreviation to Valle Dupar and then to Valledupar.

Since the colonization period the region has been one of the paths for products arriving from the Caribbean sea into the inland. Spaniards transited through the area and established extensive farming, mainly imported European cattle (among many animals) and agriculture. The Chimila Nation was decimated and later exterminated due to the use of them for forced labor and continuous battles.

On May 22, 1810 some 400 inhabitants of the Cabildo of the Valle de Upar insurrected against the Spanish Monarchy and protesting against the then Mayor Colonel Marques de Valde-Hoyos. The mayor seeing angry protests fled to neighboring San Juan del Cesar leaving in charge V. Ruiz de Gomez. In 1813 the independence from Spain was proclaimed by Maria Concepcion Loperena de Fernandez de Castro, a wealthy land owner who helped supply three hundred horses to "El Libertador" Simon Bolivar' independentist army. In 1850 became capital of the Valledupar Province and in 1864 was elevated to capital of the Valledupar Department of the Federal State of Magdalena. In 1915, After the political and administrative division restructuring of the Unitarian Colombian State, Valledupar was proclaimed municipality of the Province of Valledupar, part of the Federal State of Magdalena during the United States of Colombia era. The region maintained a relatively isolation from the rest of the country mainly because of its low importance at the time, and for the violent political struggles of the different governments of Colombia, that were most of the time centered in large cities, like Bogota.

During World War II the city received immigrants from Europe, especially French, Germans and Italians, later on, immigrants from the Middle East came to the city in different waves. In 1956 was proclaimed a parish by the Catholic Church and after the republic of Colombia was created the Department of Cesar was established in 1967, Valledupar became its capital. The region started developing abruptly thanks in part to the political support it received from former president Alfonso Lopez Michelsen, who was the Department of Cesar's first governor and the Colombian Liberal Party. Valledupar came to be known as "sorpresa caribe" (The caribbean surprise) because of its rapid economic growth, during the 1970s, especially in cotton production, which people from Valledupar called "white gold". During one of these years Valledupar even ranked second overall in economic profits for Colombia and began its urban growth and social change. Valledupar also found its cultural heritage and identity through out these years, with the rediscovery of the Vallenato music, which strongly symbolizes the culture of Colombia itself.

Unfortunately, a period of violence erupted during the mid-1980s due to a struggling leftist political party, The Patriotic Union (U.P.), led by their young leader and society's prominent banker; Juvenal Ovidio Ricardo Palmera Pineda. Because of his incendiary remarks during a peasant strike and later uprising in the city main plaza he was jailed and later given an amnesty by then governor of the Department, Jorge Dangond Daza. He then went into hiding, because the national government (indirectly) and conservative groups started a persecution on UP's leaders and followers, with other of his comarades that were also from Valledupar, most of them wento into exile in Europe. He decided to escape into the mountains, getting refuge with the armed brach of the UP; The FARC.

He became a guerrilla leader, and because he was a banker he knew who in Valledupar and the region were wealthy. He began kidnapping (and sometimes killing) prominent political leaders, journalists and rich land owners (including members of his own family) using the ransoms to finance his organization. He started calling himself with the alias of Simon Trinidad.

During this situation delinquency also arose and in October 15, 1994, the national bank El Banco de la Republica (Bank of the Republic) was assaulted. The amount stolen: COP$ 24,075 millions of pesos of non emitted bills (some US$ 11 million) and came to be known as the "El Robo del Siglo" (The Bank heist of the century).

To counter FARC and ELN's abuses, and after approximately fifteen years of asfixiating Valledupar's society and supporting negligence by the Colombian military, some prominent leaders of Valledupar, landowners and those victims of these organizations decided to become part or promote, self-defense forces that later on affiliated with the AUC and assigned another "Vallenatean" as leader Rodrigo Tovar Pupo a.k.a. Jorge 40.

Unfortunately, the self-defense forces adopted methods like the guerrilla including illegal drug trafficking business to finance their operations, and terrorism tactics that also affected innocent people such by selective and random kidnappings and other combinations of racketeering and selective assassinations the trademark of Death Squadrons. Apparently, the AUC helped recover the region from guerrillas, but Valledupar inhabitants now face more or less the same kind of uncertainty as before of having an illegal and terrorist organization controlling their city.

The AUC northeren block demobilized March 10, 2006. With this demobilization remains uncertain if the Colombian military by itself may be able to held these two terrorist organizations accounted for or dismantle them. Because of this violence many displaced people in rural areas have forcedly fled into Valledupar's urban areas and prominent leaders have been either killed, threatened to be killed, forced into bankruptcy or forced to leave the region.

Despite all the violence, Valledupar has quickly developed into an important agricultural and cattle raising center for the region between the departments of Cesar and southern parts of La Guajira since it became capital of the Department of Cesar; however, it owes its high profile for being the cradle of vallenato music, played with accordion, a small drum (caja) and a scraping instrument guacharaca and for having every year since 1968, at the end of April, a four-day festival; the Vallenato Legend Festival.


The Department of Cesar's government and Chamber of Deputies offices are based in Valledupar as well as other Department level entities. At City level, the Major of the City and the City counselors have a three year term in office, and are in charge of local government issues. The major has powers but it is highly dependent on the budgets assigned by the Departmental government in order to execute plans.

Most of the past local government leaders have been involved in corruption cases, been investigated and sometimes incarcerated. Government bureaucracy is highly politized, the execution of some plans is done depending on political interests to have advantages over other political adversaries.

Local judiciary is also vulnerable to corruption and is usually and easily hit by violent actors.

See more: Political System of Colombia

Administrative divisions

In Valledupar 84% of the total population lives in the urban areas of the municipality with a density of aprox. 68,4 inhabitants per km (1).


The city of Valledupar is made up 6 comunas subdivided into 138 barrios and Districts.


The Municipality of Valledupar is divided into six different geographic zones integrated by subdivisions called Corregimientos (25), and subdivisions to this called Veredas (125) and considered rural areas of the city of Valledupar:

Northern Zone: 5 corregimientos divided into 42 veredas.





*La Mina

*Los Haticos

Northwestern Zone: 10 corregimientos divided into 4 veredas.




*La Vega Arriba

*Los Corazones

*El Jabo

*Las Raices

*El Alto la Vuelta



*Rio Seco

Southeastern Zone: 2 corregimientos divided into 13 veredas.


*Aguas Blancas

*Valencia de Jesus

Southern Zone: 4 corregimientos divided into 15 veredas.




*Los Venados

*El Perro

Southwestern Zone: 2 corregimientos divided into 30 veredas.



*Villa Germania

Northwestern Zone: 2 corregimientos divided into 21 veredas.


*Sabana Crespo

*Azucar Buena



Largest Middle/High school: Colegio Nacional Loperena (Loperena National School)

Largest university: Popular University of Cesar (Universidad Popular del Cesar) state owned.

The Educational institutions with the highest academic level in the city are the Fundacion Colegio Bilingue, Colegio Gimnasio Del Norte and Colegio Santa Fe.

Overall Educational Statistics

*Kinder = 6,300

*Middle School = 24,561

*Never completed Middle School = 47,996

*High School = 17,026

*Never completed High School = 51,807

*University = 11,910

*Post Grade = 938

NOTE: this statistic is from the year 2004.


Three groups of amerindians, part of the Tairona culture, are based along this region inside Indian reserves; The sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Arhuaco Reserve ; The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Kankuamo Reserve and The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Kogi-Wiwa Reserve . The amerindians culture has contributed with their traditional skills with arts and crafts, the Africans brought by the Spanish colonists as slaves to do hardwork contributed to the music and the Europeans contributed to almost every other aspect, especially the Spaniards. The Vallenato music is a perfect resemble of the fusion of these three cultures; the European accordion brought by Germans, the drum from the Africans and the "guacharaca" from the amerindians.

Other waves of European immigrants during the 1940s to 1950's established in Valledupar while trying to escape World War II or financial hardships. From approximately the 1960s waves of immigrants from the Middle East started arriving into the city, which are usually and sympathically nicknamed "Turcos" (Turks) by locals. Immigrants have always been embraced and even become part of society, mixing with traditional Valledupar families.


The economy of the region is based almost entirely on the primary sector. Agriculture and cattle raising are mainly and commonly exploited. During the 1970s the region experienced an economic boom because of a massive production of cotton. This helped to modernize Valledupar, skyrocketing it to the second most productive region in Colombia for some time. The cotton boom ended during the 1980s because of a decrease on the cotton produce during these years, causing an economic recession that left many in debt and unable to repay loans to the banks. During these years Marimberos or Marihuana sellers also produced and contribute the economic boom, because of the high demand in the United States. Today, Valledupar mainly produces cotton, rice, oil palm, tobacco, coffee, cocoa and others. In the last years the city has beneficiated from the department of Cesar's exploitation of coal mining in the region of La Jagua de Ibirico. The secondary sector as well has been flourishing but mainly from the a few agricultural products and derivates from cattle. The economy has been recovering in the past five years thanks to the increased presence of military forces who are trying to protect among other things, infrastructure and the economic flow into and out of the area from terrorist groups present in the area; FARC, ELN and AUC. These groups also contribute to the illicit drugs industry in the region and plant great quantities of amapola and marihuana around the area. This region has a high demand on technology in order to develop into a more modern city. In a smaller scale other sources of the economy are: fishing, transportation, construction, industrial manufacturation, electricity and gas, commerce, hotel industry, government, real estate, education, healthcare and domestic services.

The Vallenato Legend Festival, has gained economic importance because of its impact in Valledupar's economy. The Festival represents a boon in the tourist industry, almost nonexistent before the Festival and now introduced an attractive cultural gathering that is promoting other local products (besides the traditional); arts and crafts, ecotourism and gasatronomy, giving birth to a Hospitality industry.

In April 26, 2006 during the Vallenato Legend Festival, the Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia agreed to commercialize local coffee into their products with the name Cafe Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata (Vallenato Legend Festival Coffee), in an effort to promote local small and median coffee growing farms from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Serrania del Perija.

Valledupar also hosts one of the most important Cattle Fairs in Colombia at the end of August every year, used also to promote other products from the region.


Valledupar's cultural background comes from three different major cultures; the European settlers, the Amerindians and Africans brought by the Europeans as slaves during the colonial time. Their mixture developed a unique identity that is mostly accentuated in the music; such as in the vallenato and cumbia. From the beginning Valledupar was a feudal town, where the Spanish Culture left a mark on almost everything: the customs, modes, food, popular religion, music, dances and Castilian language.

This culture is highly influenced by the Spanish; inheriting from them the devotion to Catholicism. The holy week, in April, is celebrated here in the same way the Spanish did during the colonial time; with fasting, church attendance and processions to venerate Jesus and the Santo Eccehomo. Corpus Christi is also celebrated here in July. In religious practices, Christians by far represent the majority of the population, the rest being a very small minority of Muslims.

Traditional oral storytelling helped preserve from generation to generation, stories from past times, myths and legends, such as the very popular "leyend of the guatapuri mermaid", or the "silborcito", the nazarenian without head", "the Lerta", "The duel between the devil and Francisco 'the man'", "the monitos", "The llorona (the crying woman)", "la madre monte (mother nature)" "la mano pelua (the hairy hand)", "el cuco", among other stories that are still alive. Storytellers are very common in the region, as well as traditional comedians. These storytellers, usually travelling farmers selling their cattle around the region, revived the already traditional Spanish juglares (minstrels), arriving at villages and singing the news and stories from other towns and usually playing an instrument. This is how the Vallenato music was believed to be born.

Dances play a very important role in the cultural identity of this society, coming from the three different cultures that founded it, among this dances are: "Tambora La Cumana" "El Pilon Vallenato" "chicote kankuamo" and "Los Diablos danzantes de Corpus Christi" (The Corpus Christi Dancing Devils), this last one was brought by the colonizers in a theater play and tried to recreate the devil and good, these to help Christianize.

Valledupar also celebrates a carnival in Febreuary, smaller but similar to Barranquilla's Carnival. Carnival's celebration of pagan traditions, quickly helped the amerindian and Africans traditions to be adopted by society. As it happened for Vallenato music, considered low class and carnestolendic.

"Vallenatos" or "Valduparenses" (Vallenateans), are considered very warm, generous and embrassing people, representing the innocence and goodwill of the Colombian peasant. Most of them would take care of foreigners as if they were part of the family and serve your needs, but be careful not to offend their traditions, especially their music, a genre that they basically live for.

Casa de la Cultura (House of Culture) and Escuela de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts School):

These two entities are part of the Colombian Ministry of Culture and their main purpose is to promote and preserve local cultural traditions, exploit cultural abilities from the region and promote an alternative to get to know different cultures.


Public Library Rafael Carrillo Luquez and its Consuelo Araujo Noguera Library section, was inaugurated in May 8, 2002; created with the main purpose of contributing to social, educational and cultural development of the community with an initial collection of about 12,000 volumes in all areas of human knowledge. It has achieved up to date, a space for kids, youth and adults, it has given access to all users in this society to literature workshops, plastic arts, music, conferences, expositions and local writer's book presentations.

General collection and reference: It has one lecture room with a capacity for a hundred people, with open shelves and open access to collections for users.

Children's room and workshop: independently, it also has a lecture and workshop room for children, with a collection specialized in children and youth's literature, as well as audiovisual materials and other elements to work in plastic arts. In this room, starting at 10 A.M. on Saturdays, a project of story telling goes on called "La Hora del Cuento" (the story time) and on Fridays at 4 P.M. the presentation of movies for children.

* On-line catalog: this system helps localize information that users need and contains local bibliographical material information that it's connected to the Banco de la Republica's national libraries network.

* Audiovisual Services: the library also has three individual cubicles for the use of audiovisual material, mostly containing cultural and scientific.

Shopping Center:

Guatapuri plaza shopping center its Ubication in the north of the city, near to the "Parque de la leyenda Vallenata. Its construction was made by a company called Conconcreto. The construction started on November of 2007 and it has 3 different parts

Shopping center: It was Opened The 4th of September of 2008 and it has More than 50
Retails from Restaurants up to a Carrefour supermarket.Theatres It was opened the 28th of november of 2008 Its Operated by Cinemark, and it has 4 screens.

Hotels: it will be a Business hotel, and its Construction is supposed to be Finished at the ends of April of 2009


Valledupar has a football (soccer) team called Valledupar FC which plays in the Colombian second division. To a lower extend martial arts cycling, Roller skating, basketball, Softball, volleyball, chess and Athletics (track and field) are also practiced.


City Anthem

See: Hymn of Valledupar

Valledupar's anthem, named Himno de Valledupar, was established in 1984 by then Major of Valledupar, Miguel Meza Valera by public contest. The winner was a composer from nearby Santa Marta, Rita Fernandez Padilla and the music was arranged by Carlos Julio Parra.


The flag has three horizontal equal stripes of different colors;

The top blue; symbolizes the sky and the rivers that flow through the region.

The center white, symbolizes the white snowed peaks of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain and the wished peace.

The bottom red symbolizes the ultimate bloody sacrifices that many went through in history to help develop Valledupar.

Coat of Arms

The coat of arms was recently redesigned to meet new identities of Valledupar that now included the vallenato musical instruments;

The crown on top with three peaks symbolizes the three kings that visited Jesus and also resembles the Spanish heritage and history of Valledupar, once part of the Spanish monarchy.

The letters read the full name of Valledupar in Spanish; City of the holy kings of Valledupar.

The top left picture shows the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain snowy peaks.

The top right pictures the three main instruments of the Vallenato music; an accordion, a caja and a guacharaca.

the bottom left picture shows a bull symbolizing the cattle raising and ranching.

The bottom right symbolizes the agriculture; with the three main produces pictured; cotton, coffee and sorghum.

Media and Services

Newspapers: El Tiempo, El Espectador, El Heraldo, El Pilon, Vanguardia Liberal.

Radio broadcasters: (F.M. (3)) Olimpica Stereo, Maravilla Stereo, Rumba Stereo. (A.M. (4)) Caracol Radio, RCN Radio, Todelar Cadena Nacional, Radionet

TV Broadcasters: (3) Caracol TV, RCN TV and Telecaribe

Cable TV and Satellite TV: (4) TV Cable Valledupar (later was called Satelcaribe and after that it was bought by Telmex), SKY Latin America, DirecTV and Telefonica

Internet provider (s): (2) Telecom Colombia, Edatel


Valledupar has four different land entrances, and it's crossed by national highway route 80 from south to north. Route 80 is still under-construction, a segment between the village of Badillo via the village of Patillal and the town of San Juan del Cesar in the department of La Guajira. as an alternative route 80 also crosses the town of La Paz in order to drive north to the northern department of La Guajira. To the south, the route 80 highway communicates with the rest of Colombia including northern regions of Colombia, like Santa Marta, Barranquilla and Cartagena; Colombia's caribbean coast; to the west two road access to some other villages to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Valledupar's Land transportation terminal provides national and international services through sixteen different transportation companies. Four of whom make trips to rural areas of the municipality. In the urban area transportation services are provided by taxis, and by private and government bus companies covering the entire city by shared routes. Lately, a new form of transportation was born, informal Auto rickshaws (mototaxismo), taking illegally over the bus and taxi services, to a point that are making them go bankrupt. The local government is attempting to penalize the use of Auto rickshaw for safety reasons and are also operating illegally, but because there are so many and tend to violently protest, the issue became difficult.

In Aerial transportation, Valledupar has only a medium sized airport for medium and small aircraft; the Alfonso Lopez Airport that receives national and somee charter flights. Only four airlines cover this route,Avianca, SAM Colombia, SATENA and Aires Colombia.

External links

City of Valledupar official website

Valledupar.com Portal dedicated to valledupar

Valledupar.TV TV Channel of the city

Intervallenato.com freelance local journalism online

MiValledupar.com Portal of Valledupar and the Vallenato music

Vallenato Legend Festival Portal

LaGuacharaca.tv- Portal dedicated to Vallenato music and Valledupar

EL PILON: Valledupar

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