is the palm, whose varieties and uses are incredibly numerous. On the eastern plains are to be found the “miriti” (Mauritia flexuosa) and the “pirijao” or peach palm (Guilielma speciosa), called the “pupunha” on the Amazon, whose fruit, fibre, leaf, sap, pith and wood meet so large a part of the primary needs of the aborigines. A noteworthy palm of the eastern Andean slopes is the “corneto” (Deckeria), whose tall, slender trunk starts from the apex of a number of aerial roots, rising like a cone 6 to 8 ft. above the ground. It is one of the most fruitful of palms, its clusters weighing from 120 to 200 ℔ each. Extensive groves of the coco-nut palm are to be found on the Caribbean coast, the fruit and fibre of which figure among the national exports. In north-eastern Colombia, where a part of the year is dry, the “curuas” form the prevailing species, but farther south, on the slopes of the Cordilleras up to an elevation of 10,000 ft., the wax-palm, or “palma de cera” (Ceroxylon andicola), is said to be the most numerous. It is a tall slender palm, and is the source of the vegetable wax so largely used in some parts of the country in the manufacture of matches, a single stem sometimes yielding 16-20 ℔. Another widely distributed species in central Colombia is known as the “palmita del Azufral” in some localities, and as the “palma real” and “palma dolce” in others. Humboldt says it is not the “palma real” of Cuba (Oreodoxa regia), but in the Rio Sinú region is the Cocos butyracea, or the “palma dolce,” from which palm wine is derived. Another palm of much economic importance in Colombia is the “tagua” (Phytelephas macrocarpa), which grows abundantly in the valleys of the Magdalena, Atrato and Patia, and produces a large melon-shaped fruit in which are found the extremely hard, fine-grained nuts or seeds known in the commercial world as vegetable ivory. The Colombian “Panama hat” is made from the fibres extracted from the ribs of the fan-shaped leaves of still another species of palm, Carludovica palmata, while in the Rio Sinú region the natives make a kind of butter (“manteca de Corozo”) from the Elaeis melanococca, Mart., by peeling the nuts in water and then purifying the oil extracted in this way by boiling. This oil was formerly used for illuminating purposes. The forests are never made up wholly of palms, but are composed of trees of widely different characters, including many common to the Amazon region, together with others found in Central American forests, such as mahogany and “vera” or lignum vitae (Zygophyllum arboreum). Brazilwood (Caesalpinia echinata), valuable for its timber and colouring extract, and “roco” (Bixa orellana), the “urucú” of Brazil which furnishes the anatto of commerce, are widely distributed in central and southern Colombia, and another species of the first-named genus, the C. coariaria, produces the “divi-divi” of the Colombian export trade—a peculiarly shaped seed-pod, rich in tannic and gallic acids, and used for tanning leather. The rubber-producing Hevea guayanensis is found in abundance on the Amazon tributaries, and the Castilloa elastica is common to all the Caribbean river valleys. Southern Colombia, especially the eastern slopes of the Andes, produces another valuable tree, the Cinchona calisaya, from the bark of which quinine is made. These are but a few of the valuable cabinet woods, dye-woods, &c., which are to be found in the forests, but have hardly been reached by commerce because of their inaccessibility and the unsettled state of the country. The adventurous orchid-hunter, however, has penetrated deeply into their recesses in search of choice varieties, and collectors of these valuable plants are largely indebted to Colombia for their specimens of Cattleya Mendelli, Warscewiczii and Trianae; Dowiana aurea; Odontoglossum crispum, Pescatorei, vexillarium, odoratum, coronarium, Harryanum, and blandum; Miltonia vexillaria; Oncidium carthaginense and Kramerianum; Masdevalliae, Epidendra, Schomburgkiae and many others. Colombia is also the home of the American “Alpine rose” (Befaria), which is to be found between 9000 and 11,000 ft. elevation, and grows to a height of 5-6 ft. Tree ferns have a remarkable growth in many localities, their stems being used in southern Cundinamarca to make corduroy roads. The South American bamboo (Bambusa guadia) has a very wide range, and is found nearly up to the limit of perpetual snow. The cactus is also widely distributed, and is represented by several well-known species. Among the more common fruit-trees, some of which are exotics, may be mentioned cacáo (Theobroma), orange, lemon, lime, pine-apple, banana, guava (Psidium), breadfruit (Artocarpus), cashew (Anacardium), alligator pear (Persea), with the apple, peach, pear, and other fruits of the temperate zone on the elevated plateaus. Other food and economic plants are coffee, rice, tobacco, sugar-cane, cotton, indigo, vanilla, cassava or “yucca,” sweet and white potatoes, wheat, maize, rye, barley, and vegetables of both tropical and temperate climates. It is claimed in Colombia that a species of wild potato found on the paramos is the parent of the cultivated potato.
Population.—The number of the population of Colombia is very largely a matter of speculation. A census was taken in 1871, when the population was 2,951,323. What the vegetative increase has been since then (for there has been no immigration) is purely conjectural, as there are no available returns of births and deaths upon which an estimate can be based. Civil war has caused a large loss of life, and the withdrawal from their homes of a considerable part of the male population, some of them for military service and a greater number going into concealment to escape it, and it is certain that the rate of increase has been small. Some statistical authorities have adopted 1½% as the rate, but this is too high for such a period. All things considered, an annual increase of 1% for the thirty-five years between 1871 and 1906 would seem to be more nearly correct, which would give a population in the latter year—exclusive of the population of Panama—of a little over 3,800,000. The Statesman’s Year Book for 1907 estimates it at 4,279,674 in 1905, including about 150,000 wild Indians, while Supan’s Die Bevölkerung der Erde (1904) places it at 3,917,000 in 1899. Of the total only 10% is classed as white and 15% as Indian, 40% as mestizos (white and Indian mixture), and 35% negroes and their mixtures with the other two races. The large proportion of mestizos, if these percentages are correct, is significant because it implies a persistence of type that may largely determine the character of Colombia’s future population, unless the more slowly increasing white element can be reinforced by immigration.
The white contingent in the population of Colombia is chiefly composed of the descendants of the Spanish colonists who settled there during the three centuries following its discovery and conquest. Mining enterprises and climate drew them into the highlands of the interior, and there they have remained down to the present day, their only settlements on the hot, unhealthy coast being the few ports necessary for commercial and political intercourse with the mother country. The isolation of these distant inland settlements has served to preserve the language, manners and physical characteristics of these early colonists with less variation than in any other Spanish-American state. They form an intelligent, high-spirited class of people, with all the defects and virtues of their ancestry. Their isolation has made them ignorant to some extent of the world’s progress, while a supersensitive patriotism blinds them to the discredit and disorganization which political strife and misrule have brought upon them. A very small proportion of the white element consists of foreigners engaged in commercial and industrial pursuits, but they very rarely become permanently identified with the fortunes of the country. The native whites form the governing class, and enjoy most of the powers and privileges of political office.
Of the original inhabitants there remain only a few scattered tribes in the forests, who refuse to submit to civilized requirements, and a much larger number who live in organized communities and have adopted the language, customs and habits of the dominant race. Their total number is estimated at 15% of the population, or nearly 600,000, including the 120,000 to 150,000 credited to the uncivilized tribes. Many of the civilized Indian communities have not become wholly Hispanicized and still retain their own dialects and customs, their attitude being that of a conquered race submitting to the customs and demands of a social organization of which they form no part. According to Uricoechea there are at least twenty-seven native languages spoken in the western part of Colombia, fourteen in Tolima, thirteen in the region of the Caquetá, twelve in Panama, Bolívar and Magdalena, ten in Bogotá and Cundinamarca, and thirty-four in the region of the Meta, while twelve had died out during the preceding century. The tribes of the Caribbean seaboard, from Chiriqui to Goajira, are generally attached to the great Carib stock; those of the eastern plains show affinities with the neighbouring Brazilian races; those of the elevated Tuquerres district are of the Peruvian type; and the tribes of Antioquia, Cauca, Popayan and Neiva preserve characteristics more akin to those of the Aztecs than to any other race. At the time of the Spanish Conquest the most important of these tribes was the Muyscas or Chibchas, who inhabited the tablelands of Bogotá and Tunja, and had attained a considerable degree of civilization. They lived in settled communities, cultivated the soil to some extent, and ascribed their progress toward civilization to a legendary cause remarkably similar to those of the Aztecs of Mexico and the Incas of Peru. They are represented by some tribes living on the head-waters of the Meta,