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Colombia them. In what rapidly became a ­ two-­tiered society, the Span-­ iards wielded the power, whether social, economic, or political. In a growing cash economy, those who practiced mere subsis-­ tence fell far behind. If there is truth to the statement “money is power,” they were powerless and became increasingly frustrated. They have never played an important role in the political pro-­ cess although have been extremely disruptive to that process. Most of the ­left-­wing insurgents fall within this ­group. European ­Heritage Mediterranean Europe does not have a long history of demo-­ cratic government or political stability. In fact, Spain, itself, has only been democratic and somewhat politically stable for sev-­ eral decades. Colombia (and much of Latin America) still suf-­ fers from the ­“sixteenth-­century cultural baggage” introduced by the Spaniards, mentioned earlier. The system includes many elements that hinder the development of a stable democratic government. Two, however, stand out. First, the country has a highly polarized socioeconomic structure. There is no ­well­developed middle class, with all this implies in terms of human equality (income, social position, political influence, and so forth). Second, given the foregoing condition, a very small ­power ­ elite largely controls the country, and as a result, the majority population is relatively powerless. Such a situation is bound to be politically ­disruptive. Natural ­Environment Colombia’s natural environment also poses a number of challenges to the government. As you will learn in Chapter 7, mountains divide the country into a number of distinct subregions, each with its own “agenda” and strong sense of ­self-­identity. As a result, it is difficult to develop a strong sense of national identity. Many Colombians have a stronger attach-­ ment to their immediate locale than they do to their country. In addition, more than half of the country lies outside the realm


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