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The Compañía Colombiana de Tejidos, one of the oldest and largest textile firms in Colombia, was founded in 1907 in Medellín by the wealthy Echavarrías family of merchants. Developed initially as an extension of Alejandro Echavarría's cloth import and retail business, Coltejer grew to become the country's single largest industrial enterprise within the next half century. Most of the company's growth occurred in the 1930s and 1940s, when the worldwide economic depression and World War II disrupted the supply of foreign-made goods and gave Colombian manufacturers a chance to fill the breach. Besides expanding plant size and acquiring modern equipment, such as the two hundred automated looms imported from England in 1932, Coltejer also took the lead in technological innovations. With the help of machines imported from Czechoslovakia in the early 1930s, it became the first manufacturer of printed cloth in Colombia, setting the pace for other Colombian textile companies.

By 1940 Coltejer was able to compete with foreign producers in the production of fine fabrics, and its merger with the Rosellón company in 1942 marked the peak of its expansion in this period. Acquisition of Rosellón, third or fourth largest producer in the country at the time, doubled Coltejer's plant size and capital reserves. By 1943 the company had 1,900 looms and close to 4,000 workers. Its labor force had also changed, from all female in the early years to virtually all male after 1945. Coltejer has prided itself on its paternalistic policies toward workers, which, in the late 1940s and 1950s, began to include provisions for social security, annual paid vacations, overtime compensation, low-interest home loans, and various other services that preceded national legislation on these matters.

See alsoTextile Industry: Modern Textiles .


Enrique Echavarría, Historia de los textiles en Antioquia (1943).

Fernando Gómez and Arturo Puerta, Biografía económica de las industrias de Antioquia (1945).

Fernando Botero Herrera, La industrialización en Antioquia: Génesis y consolidación, 1900–1930 (1984).

Alberto Mayor Mora, "Historia de la industria colombiana 1930–1968," in Nueva historia de Colombia, vol. 7, edited by Jesús Antonio Bejarano (1989).

Additional Bibliography

Farnsworth-Alvear, Ann. Dulcinea in the Factory: Myths, Morals, Men, and Women in Colombia's Industrial Experiment, 1905–1960. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000.

                                        Pamela Murray

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