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 rumors about Leticia's history lead back to when the Spanish
first explored the Amazon River
. History speaks of 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. 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.
Just as mysterious are the origins of the name "Leticia". One 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.
It is likely that these stories are largely fictional, albeit with kernels of truth in them. Leticia was originally named San Antonio by the Peruvians, but no evidence of the cross exists.
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.
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 Bogotá
in order to ensure the town's loyalty to Colombia. Most of the people who came from Bogotá 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
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 Tarapacá. 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.
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. They have also promised to bring in a new airline company to compete with AeroRepública
, which has monopolised flights to and from Bogotá, charging near 350 dollars for a round trip flight.
Geography and Climate
The majority of people who live in Leticia come from somewhere else. There is no obvious majority; even many of the people that came from Bogotá
had moved there from somewhere else. People from Bogotá
, and Tolima
are the majority; surprisingly few people from Cali
live in Leticia. A good amount of Natives live in Leticia most having moved from Indian villages around the area to make a "better" living.
Leticia is a melting pot for food even though they commonly eat the same things each week; each region of Colombia's delicacies are made here. For example, many people make Sancocho
, a hearty soup, in different regions of Colombia. Each family will have its own variation. There are also Brazilian and Peruvian influences. Common staples in Leticia are river fishes, but also meats baked together with potatoes, and sometimes vegetables, usually cooked over a stovetop in a pan. A usual Sunday meal might consist of grilled meats, cooked in makeshift charcoal grillers, served with rice and plantains