We descend into the valley of the Magdalena River and climb into the Central mountain range into the coffee region that extends through four states. Large populations have colonized this vast territory which is predominantly an Andean tropical forest characterized by richly bio-diverse steep slopes and river networks. Since the mid-1800s, settlers have sought new forms of livelihood based on corn and on an export economy specializing in growing, processing, and developing the international market for coffee.
This ecosystem, with its favorable climate, volcanic soils, and optimal weather conditions, is well suited for growing coffee. A largely manual process of cultivation and production enables entire families to participate in this work that sustains the rural economy. A culture and a vigorous sense of identity associated with the coffee industry have emerged, which integrates work, housing, transportation, crafts, and foodways, and gained national and international renown.