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Urabá, a gulf in northwestern Colombia and the surrounding region of plains and adjacent hills, lying mainly within the department of Antioquia. The region came under European radar when it was explored in 1501 by Rodrigo de Bastidas and Juan de la Cosa, who were impressed by the amount of gold possessed by the native inhabitants. In 1510 Alonso de Ojeda founded San Sebastián, the first Spanish settlement on the mainland of the New World, near the village of Urabá on the eastern shore of the gulf. Conflict with the local inhabitants led to the early abandonment of San Sebastián, and the surviving Spaniards moved across the gulf, where they founded Santa María de la Antigua.

Urabá languished during the remainder of the colonial period, but in the nineteenth century it was the focal point of Antioquia's effort to build a direct outlet to the Caribbean. It was not until 1954 that a road was completed linking Medellín to Turbo, the largest city on the gulf of Urabá. Afterward the region experienced rapid population growth and became a major producer of bananas and other tropical products. During the 1980s, labor unrest, guerrilla activity, and killings by paramilitary death squads made Urabá one of the most violent areas in Colombia.

See alsoAntioquia; Ojeda, Alonso de.


James J. Parsons, Antioquia's Corridor to the Sea: An Historical Geography of the Settlement of Urabá (1967).

Additional Bibliography

Bucheli, Marcelo. Bananas and Business: The United Fruit Company in Colombia, 1899–2000. New York: New York University Press, 2005.

Colombia, Return to Hope: Forcibly Displaced Communities of the Urabá and Medio Atrato Region. New York: Amnesty International USA, 2000.

Martínez Solís, Luis Fernando. Alcides Fernández: Misionero y aviador en Urab: (biografía) 1917–1995. Miami, FL: Palmetto Printing, 2004.

                                              Helen Delpar

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