San Jose de Suaita

San José de Suaita

San José de Suaita is a former industrial village (mill town) located in the Department of Santander, Colombia. It officially became as a "corregimiento" in 1924, through an act of Suaita's municipality Council.


San José de Suaita
Map of San José de Suaita
"The Colombian industrialization cradle"
Founded 1924
District The pomarrosal
Number of Blocks 35
Mayor Rigoberto Rodriguez Almeyda
Nit 890204985 (Suaita)
Municipality rank 6
Dane Cód. 68770002 (San José)
ICFES Cód. 032714 The Inscomercial
Area 85 km²
Time zone UTC/GMT-5
Demonym Josefino(a)
Altitude 1276 "msnm"
Latitude 6° 10' 0N (6.1667)
Longitude 73° 28' 0W (-73.4667)
Currency Peso Colombiano
Calling code 57
Internet TLD .co
Source Interactive Map


Located on the East Cordillera in the Colombian Andes (The world's longest mountain range,) and ruled by the municipality of Suaita, San José de Suaita is about 199 kilometers north of Bogotá, (The capital of Colombia,) 196.8 kilometers south of Bucaramanga (The capital of the department of Santander), and 8.3 kilometers north of the municipality of Suaita. This village holds the ruins of an old cotton factory and zebu Hindu-Brazil cattle rising, which was founded in 1908 on lands owned by the Caballero Barrera family, once responsible for about 10% of the national production of cotton cloth and thread. This town is well known as the Colombia industry cradle since before the cotton factory there was a wheat mill, chocolate or cocoa manufactory, and liquor distillery.

This picturesque village has beautiful landscapes such as the Knight falls, where water pours from a cliff with about 100 meters in height. The weather is consistently beautiful, and every year, at the end of June, a cattle and harvest festival takes place. This festival has traditional parties and a pageant or beauty contest as well.


Demographics: According to Colombian economic historian Luis Eduardo Nieto Arteta, indigenous in Santander were completely destroyed and killed. From the Guanes, a Muisca indigenous branch, San José de Suaita just keeps its name: "Suaita" that means "Sun's garden," such as it can be seen at its Coat of Arms.It also has been said by some colony chronicler that those native Americans had some caucasian features. Mainly people from San José de Suaita comes from Spanish people (65%.) The times of the industry setup left a (10%) Anglo and French-Saxon descendants, and brought a (25%) of mestizos from closer departments such as Boyacá and even Tolima.

Population: 1,212 residents (323 in the town, and 989 in the rural areas). There are 280 households out of which 40.2% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.8% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.2% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average family size is 4.35.

Far away from those days of the industrial past, San José de Suaita is slowly becoming in a peasant town. Although this village has a commercial trainer school called "The Inscomercial" which was founded in 1970 by Rodrigo Wandurraga and others, quite a few young people must go to Bogotá, Bucaramanga or even abroad to find a better future. There are few work places to apply for, and those that still exist are given by the government without hope to be expanded, rather it is being cut off.


Time line

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 from: 1900   till:  1980  text:San_José_de_Suaita's_Factories color:green
 from: 1980   till:  2010  text:Village_of_San_José_de_Suaita color:yellow

 bar:Event color:orange

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 from: 1900   till:  1902                text:
 from: 1902   till:  1903 shift:(4,1)    text:Chocolate~Factory
 from: 1903   till:  1912 shift:(0,1)    text:
 from: 1912   till:  1913                text:Textile_factory
 from: 1913   till:  1923                text:
 from: 1923   till:  1924 shift:(4,-15)  text: The_town~came up
 from: 1924   till:  1936                text:
 from: 1936   till:  1937 shift:(4,10)   text:Big_fire
 from: 1937   till:  1942                text:Administración~lawcase
 from: 1942   till:  1947                text:
 from: 1947   till:  1948 shift:(4,-15)  text:General_strike
 from: 1948   till:  1949 shift:(4,1)    text:Dam
 from: 1949   till:  1978                text:
 from: 1978   till:  1979 shift:(4,12)   text:family_presidential_scandal
 from: 1979   till:  1980                text:Last_strike
 from: 1980   till:  1981 shift:(4,-17)  text:Factory_end
 from: 1981   till:  1985                text:
 from: 1985   till:  1986 shift:(4,3)    text:Galán_visit
 from: 1986   till:  1994                text:
 from: 1994   till:  1995 shift:(4,-10)  text:Lawsuit_effect
 from: 1995   till:  1996 shift:(4,12)   text:Panelera_Bonanza
 from: 1996   till:  2004                text:
 from: 2004   till:  2005 shift:(4,-15)  text:Paramilitarism
 from: 2005   till:  2006 shift:(4,1)    text:Museum
 from: 2006   till:  2010                text:

Founded in a prosperous and most inhabited region of the early Colombia, San José de Suaita as a largest property, was an old pay given to the Caballero Family, an elite politician family which claimed other lands like Silvania in Cundinamarca, and Tipacoque in Boyacá from colonial times, such as it was revealed by the 1974-1978 former Colombian president Alfonso Lopez Michelsen in his book "Pending Words" (Palabras pendientes,) whose matrimony with Cecilia Caballero, a Caballero member, give him a special place to know how it was the land adjudication: Through a legal possession case.

The San José de Suaita history just begins with the development of the industrial project in the first days of the 20th Century as happened in Lowell, Massachusetts (USA). This suitable land for the cotton crops since the Indians times, which was highly appreciate by the Spanish people in the first times of the colony by its cloths made in indigenous looms, supported a great idea to his owner, Don Lucas Caballero and brothers, to become it in the first modern agro-industrial complex in the earlier days of the twentieth century, hence that some historian make a mistake when they assert that the "Pico de Oro", a 1989 handcrafter disturbance against Germany and England interest, were assisting by people from San José de Suaita.

Lucas Caballero Barrera, a liberal partisan member, who signed the pace among liberal and conservator parties in Wisconsin treatise in 1902, and who was treasure's minister in Rafael Reyes' administration, known in Colombia as the beginning of the modernization age, brought about the birth of a chocolate factory, a small sugar refinery and a distilleryon, which turned into (SIFB) textile corporation founded in Antwerp in 1912 with Belgium and French capital. The new textile corporation is a story of strong-will, Lucas Caballero had to face many financial challengers, and the problem of bringing all the machinery from abroad through Atlantic ocean and Magdalena river, carried it on mule back, and even by ferry on "Fuquene" lake.

The administration of the new corporation, which was settled in foreign hands due to the deal between Lucas Caballero y the European banks, led the enterprise in a peaceful way until the first days of 1940's when Lucas Caballero claimed the return of the administration on the Caballero hands due to the banks had no made his best job, and because they were looking for the return of their lands, which they had given to become in shares and to make sure the loan. This fact, which was widely comment on the newspapers, walked along with many good news from the foreign administration to the work force; the Baron Christina Du Rivau pointed out the great benefits that the company had made to the employed, the company had built one hospital, a reading room, a little movie theater, a room to care newborn, campsite to labor force, houses, the "Agustin Nieto Caballero" elementary school, etc., all this made possible to solve a great strike, calm down the problems in the cotton national industry by the American and Colombian treatment, and to get the first Santander textile company announced to foster the industrialization in Santander.

Soon the factory had to face new issues such as bringing cotton from far crops, lacks of transportations means, and low qualified labour force accustomed to industrial discipline. The great spread of Japanese Industrialization had begun to threaten the national industry. The lands, which had been said was the best to the cotton growth, to the 1940 have been depleted changing not only the future of the farm activities toward the sugar cane but also the ancient rural traditions, which expelled hundreds the peasant out of the farms where they had lived and worked for some cornmeal, and where the cotton seed was given to plant in return of less than one quarter of yucca crop plus some cane honey to sweeten their guarapos. Issues such as that had been faced in other way since the 1936 constitution amend, in which the labor organizations met new rights given by the "revolution in march." started by Alfonso López Pumarejo.

The violence age paid his toll as well. Although San José de Suaita had not had to see many dead people, the conservative politic control sent police corps, called the chulavitas, on the purpose to find and capture liberal opposition. The church, great allied to the conservative government not only kept an eye on the liberal partisan but also on the labor union by suspect to belong to the communist party. However, this stage through without big troubles, on the news paper were published some strikes but it didn't have big impact, besides the enterprise started to understand that other projects such as the Century plant, woad (or glastum) to get Indigo dye to produce deep navy blue colors, and soy bean plantation have been a disaster. Maybe, the only worthy one to mention is the built of the dam in Guadalupe and Santana (Boyacá) called "The Comoda" and the electrical company founded by some Caballero member such as the writer Lucas Caballero "Klim" whose profits still remain in ESSA, the Santander electric company with about 40.205.710 of Colombian pesos in shares

The 1960s and 1970's was followed by several strikes. In the Meseta, a large plain close to San José de Suaita town, the factory administration began to set up a cattle rising, but it prove to be another bad decision, once the company future was awaked the herds were sold. As the retirement pays were fast growing, the company started to pay it with lands for exchange, fact that was the built of the town but the end of the industry age. Finally the factory was out of business in 1980 then of some financial scandals linked to the Lopez Caballero presidential family, some of them burning by some Caballero members, which put the finishing touches to the last project to become San José de Suaita in a competitive zone whit the built of the national highway planned to through this land.

The large legal fight between pensioned, former workers and the corporation lasted almost 15 years. In these times the village survived but many elderly people died without receive their rights. In the meantime, several FARC guerrilla actions were made during this period, and there was at least one killed person by facts linked to the factory bankruptcy. Finally, around 1995 when the legal process finished, and then of one failure land partition plan, the ruins were sold to the San Cyprian Foundation by almost US$ 45.000, amount that close a chapter of misery, it without mention the López Caballero failure to get an answer from the state by law request which was burnt in the Justice palace holocaust in 1985.

Nowadays, this region is a wonderful place to go on vacation, has a police corps which gives protection to people who wants to meet this awesome land, and spend peaceful days in relationship of the nature, near Bogotá and Bucaramanga. It seems that the AUC paramilitary age (2002- March/2005) in San José de Suaita is over.

Industrial history remarks

Outline from The Sorbonne University Scholar Pierre Raymond

As a pioneer of the industry in Colombia, San José de Suaita has a high place in the economic history of this country. It starts as a project to face the modernity which through several stages until 1980 when it was in business out. Here we have some explanations about this failure. It mainly follows a Max Weber point of view.

San Jose de Suaita is likely the first case of the weave and spin crisis in Colombia, its causes are still study matter as it is happening at "Unica" the Caldas weave and spin enterprise failure.


Nowadays, San José de Suaita has mainly incomes from the agriculture and cattle and chicken raising. Sugarcane, shade growth coffee plants, yuca or cassava, plantain, arracacha, pineapple, citrus fruits, are the most important harvest. There are some milk exploitations ranches. The biggest employer in San José de Suaita is the government, following the land owners.

The farmers have associations to improve their harvest and on this purpose the The national federation of coffee growers of Colombia has a big role aside the UMATA, Agrarian Bank, and the National Peasant Association. When it comes to talk about new sources that improve the San Jose de Suaita current economic situation, the ethyl alcohol or ethanol project come out as the last one, but it has to solve first some issues such as financial sources, update of means of transportation, and technification process, etc., if it wants to be a great economic relief.


As Industrial concentration, San José de Suaita had electrical services first than Bucaramanga, there are telephone, cell phone, WAP services, (Wireless Application Protocol), Internet, and fresh water utilities. It has three basketball, volleyball courts, a soccer camp, a kid pool, a sort of big pool aside to the "la Laja" stream, kindergarten, elementary school, high school, elderly house or rest home, small market such as (Teodolindo mall), public squares, three parks, daily transportation network, postal services, and traditional restaurants.


San José de Suaita is well known as the industrial cradle of Santander. Near the factory ruins is placed a Cotton museum which was opening in 2005. It also has a public library whit almost 5000 books. Every year take place at least four festivals: From December 15th to 24th Christmas' novena" in which people are waiting nine days with songs and performing acts until the birth of Jesus; On March 19 takes place San José day, it is the cross-class games open and religious celebration; In the last days of June takes place the biggest festival, it last 5 days and many people celebrate with bull entertainments, night parties, beauty pageants, fireworks, and picnics at the lands close to the Knight's waterfall; and finally it also takes place a small festival on October 12th. with theatrical, traditional dancing, song performing.

Wildlife and fauna

San José de Suaita has a private wildlife sanctuary, whose Colombian laws foresee as a public resource. It contains a 1000 Acres of hardwoods with important species, some of them extinct at miles from this region such as oak tree. It also has a new record for the science: The Aiphanes graminifolia, well known in the region as macanillo."

"The area has some calcareous basement and the forest corresponds to very wet premontane forest, in Holdridge's life zone system (IGAC 1977), and has a closed canopy 30-35 m high, dominated by trees of the Lauraceae, Sapotaceae and Euphorbiaceae; the under story is dominated by Araceae and small shrubs of Melastomataceae and Rubiaceae". There are many orchideas in special and flower in general, and according to National University of Colombia Biologist researchers José Luis fernández-Alonso and Jeroen P. groenendijk, there is a new register: The Zephyranthes Carinata

This forest provide about 92% of fresh water aside of a dam placed in Guadalupe municipality, which holds at least three aqueducts to the farms and the village necessities. There are many species of birds, the biggest one is the Gavilan, also called sparrow-hawk, blue-gray tanger, squirrel cuco and yellow-backed oriole. There are armadillos, anteater, tow-toed sloth, rabbit, faras, snakes which one of them is poisonous Coral snake although are hardly found. It lacks of big fish sources, although it is a miracle to find little sardines and "cabezon" big-head fish in small brooks at about 150 Mts. of a cliff as happen in the Laja stream.

Point of interest

  • La cascada de Los Caballero, (The knight waterfall)
  • Iglesia Principal, (First Catholic church)
  • Pozo del Cura, (Priest's puddle)
  • Quebrada La Vega, (The vega stream)
  • Quebrada de las Tatas, (The Tatas creek)
  • Piedra del reloj en San Roque, (The watch Rock (geology)stone)
  • La cueva del Indio, (the Indian cave)
  • La meseta, (The plain)
  • La fábrica. (The factory ruins)

External links

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