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Colombia 6th in IL’s “The World’s Best Places to Retire in 2018”

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“Where should I retire?” This is the question we hear most often at International Living, and every January we give you our most definitive answer in the form of International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index.

Conceived 26 years ago, the International Living Retirement Index was their special way of coping with an embarrassment of riches. The result was a huge and exciting variety of choice and opportunity. Fast-forward to 2018. Nearly three decades have gone by, during which IL scouts have scoured every corner of the globe many times over.

But how do you choose? The IL Retirement Index is still the most comprehensive and in-depth survey of its kind. What has their research revealed about the best retirement havens in 2018?

Colombia— Sophisticated and Affordable

According toIL Colombia Correspondent Nancy Kiernan, perfect spring-like weather all year was the first thing that drew me to retire to Medellín, Colombia. I had lived my whole life in the northeast., and I never wanted to see or shovel snow again. While not exactly pioneers, my husband and I are two of the growing number of expats who have discovered that they can live a First-World quality of life in a country that’s only now showing up on fellow retirees’ radar.

Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world, so you can easily find a climate and environment that suits your taste. If you want hot and tropical, consider retiring to the lovely Caribbean coastal cities of Santa Marta or Cartagena, where crystal-clear water laps against warm, sandy beaches. For those who prefer more temperate climates, then I suggest my adopted mountain city of Medellín, or anywhere in the “coffee triangle” of Pereira, Armenia, and Manizales, where you are surrounded by lush, green mountain scenery.

Colombia ranks high as a place for healthy living. The great weather allows retirees to enjoy an active, outdoor lifestyle every day of the year. Walking, hiking, horseback riding, swimming, tennis, and even golf will keep your body strong and your spirit young. Pat Turney, a retired nurse from Idaho, refers to Medellín as “a city with a built-in weight management program,” thanks to all the walking she does.

And then, of course, there are the fresh fruits and vegetables that are locally grown and available year round. I’ve lived in Colombia for over five years, and I still haven´t sampled all the exotic varieties of fruit. Diego, a semi-retired and self-confessed foodie from the U.S. Midwest, is also impressed with the fresh and healthy food. “I love having fresh tomatoes all year round,” he says. In the U.S., he was used to waiting until late summer for the bounty, and then eating what he could and canning the rest. “Now I can get fresh vegetables any time of year.”

As we all reach retirement age, access to high quality but affordable healthcare becomes a front-and-center issue. I was a hospital executive in the U.S., so I know healthcare and understand why Colombia ranks so highly in that category. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Colombia #22 out of the 191 countries it reviews for quality of care. That surpasses Canada (#30) and the U.S. (#37). Colombia is home to 22 of the top 43 Latin American hospitals.

Retirees are discovering they can stretch their retirement dollars, thanks to the low cost of living and the great exchange rate. The Colombian peso has been hovering around 3,000 to the U.S. dollar since late 2015. Monthly rental costs range from about $300 in small towns to $1,500 and more for a penthouse or a sprawling country home. But in many areas of Colombia, a couple’s total cost of living can be $2,000 a month or less. I live in Medellín’s upscale neighborhood of El Poblado for 60% less than it cost me back in Maine. My combined utilities (water, waste, gas, electric, trash removal, cable, internet, home phone) average $94 a month.

Some of the best things about retiring in Colombia don’t show up on a survey, though. For example, the warm, welcoming Colombian people. As the expression goes, “You don’t meet a Colombian…you meet the entire family!” Here you’ll always feel part of the community.

Don’t let a lack of Spanish keep you from trying out Colombia. I saw it as an opportunity to learn something new. As word spreads about all that Colombia has to offer, expats are drawn to the metropolitan city of Medellín, especially the neighborhoods of El Poblado, Laureles, and Envigado, as well as to the coastal communities of Santa Marta and Cartagena. A cute two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in the Castrapol section of El Poblado currently rents for $750 a month, furnished. If you want to put your toes in the sand, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, only two blocks back from the beach in the Rodedero section of Santa Marta, goes for $500 a month.

The top ten IL 2018 retirement options are:

  1. Costa Rica — The World’s Best Retirement Haven
  2. Mexico — Convenient, Exotic, First-World Living
  3. Panama — Friendly, Welcoming, and Great Benefits
  4. Ecuador — Diverse, Unhurried, and Metropolitan
  5. Malaysia — Easy, English-Speaking, and First World
  6. Colombia — Sophisticated and Affordable
  7. Portugal — Europe’s Best Retirement Haven
  8. Nicaragua — Best Bang-for-Your Buck in Latin America
  9. Spain — Romance, History, and Charming Villages
  10. Peru — Low-Cost Living, Vibrant, and Diverse

Read the original article at International Living.

Why is bogota the capital of Colombia and not Medellin?

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This is a very interesting question. As you might now, Colombian geography is pretty hard, and it could be seen as nonsense to choose a capital so far from the sea.

In case you don’t know, Bogotá has always been the capital city of the country, both in republican and colonial times. There were brief moments where this wasn’t the case (mainly due to administrative tricks during the civil wars in the 19th century), but Bogotá’s reign has mostly been uncontested.

However, is good to separate colonial and republican times, as the causes were different in both periods.

Colonial times

The New Kingdom of Grenade was founded in the current territory of Colombia with the creation, by the Royal Decree of July 17th, 1549, of the Royal Audience of Santafé de Bogotá. Since this moment, Bogotá became the administrative center of the territories comprised by Cartagena, Santa Marta, San Juan, Popayán, and Guayana, though the kingdom itself was part of the Viceroyalty of Perú.

So, in a way, both the country and the capital started to exist at the same time.

There was a fundamental reason why Bogotá was chosen over coastal cities, which were far more important at that time: Pirates. Cartagena had been sacked before and will be sacked again for decades before the Spanish could successfully finish the construction of the walls of the city. By making the capital an inland, isolated city, months from the sea, the Spanish kings made sure the conquest of the Kingdom was short of an impossible task.

You can see in places where the risk of pirates was low (like Argentina or Peru) the capitals became, indeed, coastal cities (Buenos Aires and Lima). Pirates operated mostly in the Caribbean, so Cartagena was a very easy target.

Now, why Bogota and not Popayán? After all, the latter had significant gold mines, enough to press for the creation of an independent house of coin.

I couldn’t find information about this, but I personally would look for the indigent. The Muiscas, who inhabited the high Andean valleys that surround Bogota to the north, was by far the most successfully conquered population in the sense that they remained in significant numbers, were used to agriculture and to the payment of tribute. This gave great importance to the cities in this valleys, whereas Popayán lacked manpower from an early period and started needing the import of African slaves.

So, in short, Bogotá was chosen by the Kings of Spain in 1549 because it was both easier to defend and to maintain, thanks to its distance to the sea and to the native populations that inhabited there.

Republican times

During the independence, a man called Francisco de Paula Santander actually created a capital city in Tame, Arauca, but this was meant to be a symbol more than a serious issue. Even today, nearly nobody lives in Tame.

However, in the early periods of the independence, there was indeed quite a fight around the matter of the capital city and the control this capital would have over the country. Pretty much all the important cities in this period either supported the king (Santa Marta, Popayán) or rebelled against the centralist government of Bogotá and claimed for more autonomy (Tunja, Socorro, Neiva, Cali, Santa Fe de Antioquia and Cartagena). Even though they were defeated, many of them still had a grudge and they could’ve voted in the latter congress to change the capital. What happened, then?

Spanish reconquest happened. In 1815 a powerful Spanish army arrived at Cartagena. The city was utterly destroyed, their representatives, killed. Many other cities also suffered, but at this point, Cartagena was the most important contestant for the title of Capital. Bogotá surrendered instead of fighting, and thus wasn’t annihilated.

After the Spanish siege of Cartagena in 1815, not much was left of the city and its representatives

When the time came to choose the capital of the newly created country, there was simply no contest. The economic gold crisis of the 17th century (which I know existed, but I’m not so sure what caused it) had made Popayán lose most of its influence, and Cartagena was in ruins. None of the other cities, once important, could compete with Bogotá.

And thus, once again, it became the capital of the country.

Why leave the USA for Colombia?

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Jeff B. wrote, I left for several reasons. I now live in Medellin, Colombia.

I enjoy the climate and the lifestyle here, and I live significantly more cheaply here than I did in the USA. Taxes are less and I get a tax break from the USA by living and earning money outside the USA.

The personal freedoms here are greater than in the USA and Colombia is a more democratic and free country than the USA.

Colombia consistently ranks higher than the USA on the international freedom indexes in every category.

I learned my values were different than Americans’ values with regards to money, spending, freedoms (America says it is free but it is anything but).

Seeing what our country (USA) looks like from far away was very educational. Returned to the US and have been here since, except for some trips.

Once I returned to the jungle of New York.

International life is much more interesting!