Location map of the municipality and city of Villavicencio in the Department of Meta.
|Department||Department of Meta|
|- Mayor||Héctor Raúl Franco Roa|
|- Total||1,328 km2 (512.7 sq mi)|
|Elevation||467 m (1,532 ft)|
Villavicencio is a city and municipality in Colombia, capital of the Department of Meta, with 361,058 inhabitants. (2005 census) The city is located at 4°08N, 73°40W, 75 km (about 45 m) southeast of the Colombian capital city of Bogotá (DC) by the Guatiquía river. It is also known colloquially as "Villavo".
Lying in a rural zone of tropical climate, Villavicencio is on the great Colombian-Venezuelan plain called Los Llanos, which is situated to the east of the Andes mountains. Villavicencio is also called "La Puerta al Llano," or "The Gate to the Llanos," due to its location on the historical path from the Colombian interior to the vast savannas that lie between the Andes range and the Amazon rainforest.
Villavicencio's proximity to huge mountains and great plains make the city an example of Colombia's geodiversity. Because it is located in the foothills of the Andes, the morning and evening breezes cool the city that is very hot for most of the day.
The German Conquistador Nikolaus Federmann reached the altiplano of Bogotá by approaching it from the plains of Venezuela, a large unsettled area that is formed by the Orinoco basin, in 1536. However, this vast area, remained unexplored and uncolonized for the next 300 years. Colombia was settled along the mountainous folds of the Magdalena and Cauca valleys, and all of its commerce with the outside world was oriented towards the Caribbean sea, thus, because of its geographical barriers, the extreme heat, and inhospitable climate, the "Llanos" remained forgotten and unsettled.
In the 1840s, some farmers from Caqueza, a town on the eastern folds of Bogotá started the modern settlement of Gramalote, which officially became the parish of Villavicencio in 1855. Antonio Villavicencio was a patriot in the Colombian war of independence.
The llaneros, the inhabitants of the plains, were fierce horsemen who first fought for the Spanish royalists and then for the Venezuelan and Colombian rebels during the war of Independence. By crossing the Andes mountains with Bolivar, they surprised the Spaniards on the plateau of Tunja and cleared the way for the taking of Santa Fe de Bogotá in August 1819. Vaccines, a mule road, and the availability of vast areas of free land, drove new colonizers to continue the settlement of Villavicencio. As the roads improved the access to the Llanos, the farmers could send their produce and cattle to the markets of Bogotá.
After the assassination of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, a popular Liberal politician in 1948, the large landowners saw a pretext to drive farmers out of their lands. The llaneros resisted by driving the army out of its populated centers. The guerrillas never took Villavicencio, but they brought the fighting to the military base of Apiay. As the fighting between the government and the llanero guerrillas was out of control, a military coup in June 1953, took Gustavo Rojas Pinilla to power who immediately negotiated a cease fire and amnesty for the insurgents.
Since the 1960s and with the development of the Colombian Civil War, thousands of people have been displaced from their land and have come to Villavicencio from all over Colombia seeking refuge and protection from guerrillas, right wing paramilitary groups, and even the Colombian military. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees tried to bring minimal assistance to these displaced people.
Villavicencio has grown from a small settlement of hardly 20 people in the 1850s to an uncontrolled and disparate city of over 350,000 inhabitants in 2007. It is a vast modern city which has grown out of control. It does not have clean water for all of its inhabitants, its sanitary system does not exist in poor neighborhoods, and even its electrical grid is not sufficient to meet the needs of the city.
A modern road has shortened the driving time to Bogotá to one and half hours.
 Geography and Climate
The climate is hot and very humid due to its proximity to the footsteps of the Eastern Ranges of the Andes. Average temperatures is 27 degrees Celsius.
The city is located in the Orinoquia Region, where the Eastern Plains begin. Most of the city's urban layout lays in a flat terrain. The Guaitiquia River borders the city to the north.
Cattle, agriculture, and the exportation of crude oil fuel the Villavicencio economy. Beer and soap are manufactured in Villavicencio. Imports from the surrounding area include coffee, bananas, and rice.
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