Colombia’s Atlantic coast: a poor relation starts to prosper

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Long seen as a backwater, the region is beginning to unlock its potential

Gideon Long in Barranquilla, Colombia

When the Spanish first arrived on Colombia’s Caribbean coast in the early 16th century, they had an appalling time. One of their boats was shipwrecked at the mouth of the Magdalena river and when the survivors staggered ashore they were met by a cannibal tribe. They were “miserably and cruelly killed at the hands of these barbarians and buried in their stomachs”, wrote Pedro de Aguado, an early chronicler of the conquest.

Happily, these days the locals are far more welcoming to foreigners, especially those who come to invest. The Caribbean coast, for years regarded as a backward, mosquito-infested and corrupt relation to the rest of Colombia, is well and truly open for business.