La Guajira (Spanish pronunciation: [laɣwaˈxiɾa]) is a department of Colombia. It occupies most of the Guajira Peninsula in the northeast region of the country, facing the Caribbean Sea and Venezuela in the northern most part of South America. The department capital city is Riohacha.
Various indigenous tribes populated the vast arid plains, such as the Wayuu, Guajiros, Macuiros, Anates, Wayunaiki, Cuanaos and Eneales among others prior to the Spanish arrival to the Americas. In 1498 Alonso de Ojeda navigated around the peninsula of La Guajira, but the one who disembarked in what today is La Guajira was Juan de la Cosa. During the colonial era the territory was disputed by the governors of Santa Marta and Venezuela due to deposits of pearls. English pirates, French, Germans also disputed the territory. Martin Fernandez de Enciso found the city of Nuestra Señora Santa Maria de los Remedios del Cabo de la Vela, first village in the territory but due to constant attacks, in 1535 Don Nicolas de Federman had to refounded as the village of Riohacha and in 1544 was moved present-day Riohacha. In 1871 the region is separated from the Department of Magdalena and is created La Guajira as part of the national territories. In 1898 was created the Intendance of La Guajira.
In 1911 the Colombian government created the Commissary of la Guajira, followed by a wave of Middle Eastern immigrants (Christians and Maronites) from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan, countries under the Ottoman Empire arrived to La Guajira in the c. 1930s and establishing mostly in Maicao. In 1954 was once again created the Intendance of la Guajira and Riohacha was declared a municipality. Finally in 1964 the Department of La Guajira was created.
The economy of the department is mostly based on royalties from the coal mining at Cerrejón, which produced 24.9 million tons of export coal in 2004, Natural gas exploitation and salt mine.
A popular tourist destination is Cabo de la Vela, a small fishing village located on the tip of the peninsula in the Guajira desert.
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