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Religion in Colombia

Religion in Colombia | How is faith reflected in daily life?

by Sabine
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Languages / Talen

Let’s talk about religion. An important issue in Colombia and something you are sure to come into contact with if you are traveling in Colombia or living here. How is faith in God reflected in Colombian society? Although exact figures are lacking, some 70% of the population seems to be Catholic. In daily life, faith is evident. On the bus, on the street, in conversation with someone, in the use of language, how people approach something and, of course, during the holidays. God is working overtime in Colombia and seems to be responsible for almost everything. In this article I give an overview of typical sayings with the word “God” in them and what they mean, you will read who Colombians really worship and what you will notice about this in daily life and during your roundtrip in Colombia.


The most famous Colombian sayings with the word “God”

Every day when I talk to friends, family or colleagues in Colombia, the words with “Dios” (God) in them fly around my ears. In particular, the following statements are commonly used.

Gracias a Dios

Means thanks to God, and is used in various ways in Colombia. Just like in other countries, when you feel relieved or are grateful for something. In Colombia, however, there is another situation where this saying comes up. If you ask a Colombian “how are you?” you will often get the answer: very good, thanks to God.

Dios mío

Is also a common pronunciation in Dutch and English. It means “oh my God!” and is used in surprise or just when something really bad has happened.

Si Dios quiere and Dios dirá

Standing for “if God wills,” and “God will decide,” just to reiterate how great God’s responsibility is. These statements are very often used with just about anything the person in question has no control over or thinks they have no control over.

Que Dios te bendiga

Or, “God bless you,” is almost always used in Colombia when saying goodbye. Has your meeting ended? Then the “goodbye” or “have fun” is often complemented by “God bless you”. And not just with friends or family. Even if you simply go to buy a sandwich or help someone onto the bus, you will be told this.

Ay Dios!

Used when someone is very excited about something, very scared or, on the contrary, thinks something is terrible. It simply means “oh God!” or “Jesus!”

Que milagro de Dios

Is quite a distinct one. It literally means “what a miracle of God” and is used in various ways. The way I know the phrase is when someone is happy or surprised to see you. The first time it was said to me I was quite surprised myself…. Meanwhile, I myself often say “que milagro” when I haven’t seen someone for a while, though without “de Dios” after it.

Que Dios se lo page

Is actually a very special one. Colombians don’t trust anyone when it comes to paying money and so they very much like to hold someone responsible who will eventually make sure the money does come in. God is obviously the best choice for that, because no one is going to run to Heaven to get the money they are waiting for. The statement “Que Dios se lo page” means something like “God will pay you somehow”. However, when someone says it to you, that person actually means, “sorry, but I will never ever pay you” or “the money will probably get to you someday”.

Ni Dios

Simply means “no one”. It is used to emphasize that it is really about “no one”.

Vaya con Dios

Is like “que Dios te bendiga” a way of saying hello. It literally means “go with God,” but Colombians mean something like “goodbye”. However, this version is less commonly used.


But in other countries we often use religious words too, don’t we?

Yes, right! However, in the Netherlands and many other countries these words are often used in a different context and with non-religious intent. Like “Oh my God!” (among other surprises). Also, the words “God” and “Jesus” are often used in or as swear words. Surely the chances of someone in The Netherlands saying “God bless you” to you are a little smaller. In fact, the chances of someone saying to you that God will pay you are virtually impossible.


Colombians love God, but actually Baby Jesus is much more popular

Say what? Yes, Colombians love God, but actually the biggest place in their hearts is (besides their mother’s of course) for Niño Dios (Baby Jesus) or Divino Niño (Divine Child). Why? From a very young age, children are taught that Niño Dios is the one who gives them whatever they want, no matter how they behave. Divino Niño’s slogan is“todo lo que quieras pedir, pídelo por los meritos de mi infancia y nada te será negado”. In other words, “anything you want, ask for it as merits of my youth and nothing will be refused”. Anything you want, and you don’t have to do anything in return. You understand the popularity of Baby Jesus.

Niño Dios

Although Niño Dios is the son of God, Jesus Christ, the Colombian version is quite special. With his blond hair, blue eyes, a penchant for bright pink robes and arms stretched wide, Baby Jesus is seen as a symbol of protection, economic security and peace. You may just find his name on restaurants, churches, stores or schools across the country. Unfortunately, I can’t find a stock photo of Colombia’s most famous baby, but if you click here you’ll see immediately what I mean.


The patron saints of road users

The Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel serves as the patron saint of Colombian drivers. Although the Virgin Mary is popular in many Spanish-speaking countries, where she is the patron saint of various armies and the sea, in Colombia she rides along in cars, cabs, buses, trucks and on motorcycles. Ready to guide and protect the driver, regardless of the extent to which the driver may or may not ingnores traffic rules. Some drivers go a step further and place a colorful light, sometimes even flickering, next to the Virgin Mary. Which unfortunately only distracts them and other road users more instead of protecting them.


Beating a cross, safe or…

Making a cross is also the most normal thing in the world. When leaving the plane, when you get in the car or take a long bus ride. I know so many people who do this, including my partner, and we’ve talked at times about what kind of feeling that evokes in me. Because while for Colombians this is a way to get from A to B safely, for me it mostly evokes fear. I mean, why make a cross before the plane takes off? Is that necessary? Do you have information that I don’t? Are you expecting dangerous situations? I believe I prefer to trust the skills of the pilot or driver.


This is how important religion is in Colombia | What to expect as a traveler

It is very common to get questions about religion when you are in Colombia. Not only if you live there, but also as a traveler in Colombia. What is your religion? What church do you attend? Are your parents also religious? Why don’t you have children, which is a gift from God, a blessing, isn’t it? And so on.

The times I have been asked these questions can no longer be counted on two hands. I always respond with respect, even if I think very differently. In some cases, I say I believe in God but am not practicing. That I don’t go to church. For example, in certain family situations or when I know it’s extra sensitive.

Sometimes I find it hard to answer. When people tell me “Que Dios te bendiga” or “Si Dios quiere” I don’t really respond actively, but I nod politely. Sometimes I get some pretty interesting questions about not believing in God and how I approach things. And sometimes it’s quite fun to talk about it.

In any case, if someone asks about it answer respectfully. And immerse yourself in this special society so different from your own.


Colombia never ceases to amaze with its lovely people and interesting culture. Especially during the holidays in December, the religious festivals and customs are very special to experience. Like The Night of The Candles. Moreover, throughout the country, even in the tiniest villages, you can find beautiful churches. Often colorful and very photogenic. Wonderful to visit during your tour of Colombia.


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