11 Awesome Things You Didn't Realise Colombia Gave the World

Colombian emeralds | © Géry Parent / Flickr
Colombian emeralds | © Géry Parent / Flickr
Photo of Chris Bell
20 December 2017

Colombia has given so many amazing things to the world that you’ve surely heard of: excellent coffee, Shakira, Sofia Vergara, James Rodriguez and much more. However, there are also some wonderful things from Colombia you might be less familiar with, so here are 11 awesome things you didn’t realize Colombia gave the world.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The world-famous Nobel Prize-winning author of 100 Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera may have lived much of his life in Mexico City, but he was born in the small Colombian Caribbean village of Aracataca and spent much of his youth living in cities such as Barranquilla and Bogota. He is known as one of the pioneers of the literary genre of Magical Realism and is one of the most widely read authors in history.

100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez | © Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación Argentina / Flickr


Opinions on who invented the pacemaker remain quite divided, but one thing is for certain: in 1958 Colombian doctor Alberto Vejarano Laverde and electrical engineer Jorge Reynolds Pombo constructed an external pacemaker which was successfully used to sustain a 70-year-old man. They are considered by many as the true fathers of the life-saving device.


Colombia accounts for 70-90% of the world’s emerald market, so the vast majority of all the emeralds you will ever see or buy come from the South American country. Colombian emeralds are of extremely high quality and are much desired for their clarity and purity. Not many people know it, but Colombia is responsible for almost all of the emeralds in the world!

A variety of Colombian emerald | © MAURO CATEB/Flickr

Kangaroo mother care

Also known as skin-to-skin care, this pioneering technique of newborn care, where the infants are placed skin-to-skin with a parent, is highly effective in reducing both death and the risk of hospital-acquired infection. It was first introduced by Dr. Edgar Rey Sanabria in 1978 in Bogota, and his findings were published in 1979.

Cut flowers

OK, so Colombia didn’t exactly invent flowers, but not many people realize that the country actually exports the second most cut flowers in the world at about 15% (way behind the leaders The Netherlands, who export more than 50% of the world’s supply). Therefore, if you buy flowers to decorate your home with, there’s a decent chance that they’re from Colombia.

Colombian flowers | © Iván Erre Jota / Flickr

John Leguizamo

Everyone knows that Shakira and Sofia Vergara are Colombian, but fewer people realize that the critically-acclaimed actor Jon Leguizamo also hails from Colombia. The popular star of Romeo + Juliet, Carlito’s Way and Ice Age was born in Bogota, although he also has Puerto Rican heritage on his father’s side.

Wayuu bags

These beautifully woven bags have become a popular fashion accessory all around the world thanks to their bright colours, excellent craftsmanship and unique designs. What fewer people realize is that the bags are actually handmade by the Wayuu Indigenous people of the coastal northern deserts of the Guajira in Colombia.

Beautiful Wayuu mochilas in Cartagena | © Tanenhaus / Flickr

Cumbia music

Cumbia music is exceedingly popular throughout Latin America, where the genre has taken on many distinct forms over the years, from the psychedelic cumbia of ’70s Peru to popular cumbia fusion bands in the United States. However, cumbia was first invented in the early 19th century among Caribbean coastal populations of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous peoples, where it is still perhaps the most popular genre to this day.

Social urbanism

The architectural philosophy known as social urbanism was first espoused by former Medellin Mayor Sergio Fajardo. It consists of constructing the most beautiful new buildings in the poorest areas of cities in order to foster inclusivity, as well as building ambitious public transport networks to connect the poorer neighbourhoods to the city. The ideas of social urbanism have since been adopted by many other developing cities, but the concept was born in Colombia.

The innovative Medellin Metrocable | Chris Bell / © Culture Trip

Ugly Betty

Remember the huge hit TV show about Betty Suarez who, in spite of her lack of style and supposedly ‘ugly’ appearance, lands a job at a high-class fashion company? The show was in fact based on the popular Colombian telenovela named Yo Soy Betty, La Fea (which basically translates as “I am Ugly Betty”). The show was a huge hit in Colombia between 1999 and 2001 and there were 169 episodes produced before being adapted in around a dozen countries worldwide.


Sophrology was invented by Professor Alfonso Caycedo, a Colombian neuro-psychiatrist, in the 1960s, and describes the study of the consciousness in harmony. It is widely practised throughout Europe, and commonly used in sports, education and social care, as it is thought to have a very positive impact on concentration, self-confidence and energy levels.

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