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People and Culture regardless of the faith. Today, about 3 percent of the pop-­ ulation belongs to various Protestant groups. Another 2 percent, mainly Colombians of African descent, practice faiths that blend forms of spirit worship with Roman Catholi-­ cism. During recent decades, various terrorist groups have kidnapped and killed many religious leaders and followers in an attempt to discourage the practice of ­religion. Society Colombian society, as is true throughout much of Latin Amer-­ ica, is highly stratified. The lower socioeconomic ­ class—­as measured by income, education, power, and other ­indices—­is occupied by fully 75 percent of the population. Amerindi-­ ans, Colombians of African descent, and many mestizos fall within this group. At the opposite extreme, the elite upper class includes about 5 percent of the population, nearly all of whom are white and of Spanish descent. In between is a small middle class, perhaps 20 percent of the population, composed primarily of whites and mestizos. This upper 25 percent of the population, however, accounts for an estimated 80 percent of the country’s gross national product (GNP). They also hold most positions of power and influence. Nearly all of them live in the country’s various cities. The poorest Colombians live in rural areas, small communities, or in urban slums. They are unemployed or underemployed and poor. As a result, they are often undernourished, suffer from poor health, are poorly educated, and have few opportunities to advance themselves socially or ­economically. Customs vary greatly. Urban professionals tend to be very formal. Their clothing is conservative; men wear dark suits and women also dress appropriately for the workplace or social events. Particularly in and around Bogotá, people speak slowly, clearly, and grammatically “proper” Spanish. In the country and small villages, life is much more relaxed. Dress is apt to be casual and comfortable, often reflecting local clothing tradi-­

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Colombia  

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