Founded in 1721, it is the
capital of the department of Atlantico, (1992 est. pop., 1,018,763), a
city on the Rio Magdalena in northern Colombia, 16 km (10 mi) from the
Caribbean Sea and Colombia's principal Caribbean port. The port ships
cotton from the surrounding agricultural region and coffee and petroleum
from the interior. Diversified industries in the city produce textiles,
shoes, beverages, foodstuffs, furniture, cement, and petrochemicals.
Several publishing firms are located there. With an international airport
and modern railroad and highway connections, Barranquilla draws tourists
to its colorful carnivals. Atlantico University (1941) and the University
of the North (1966) are located there. Settled in 1629, the city grew in
importance when steamboats began to navigate the river. During the 1930s
sandbars at the river's mouth were dredged.
Taking the Troncal del Caribe road to the west towards Barranquilla and driving a short way inland you reach the Flora and fauna Sanctuary of the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta. It is the largest marsh lake in the country, rich in fauna and mangrove swamps, and is an excellent spot for bird watching. On the lake there are several settlements notably Nueva
Venecia, Trojas de Cataca, Buenavista, and Pajarales.
Back on the coast you cross the Pumarejo bridge and reach the department of Atlántico and
Barranquilla, its captial, a city full of history and fun-loving people. There are several places to visit: the Cathedral, the Amira de la Rosa Theater, the Romantic Museum, and its traditional neighborhoods with their beautiful architecture. But Barranquilla is distinguished principally for its Carnival, when the entire city suspends its normal activities for four days in February to participate in parades and dances. The Carnival of Barranquila is one of the most important examples of folklore in Colombia.