The history of Leticia embraces many legends. One legend goes back to the Spanish and Portuguese exploration of the Rio Amazonas. When Begnino Bustamante established San Antonio in 1867 on orders of the Peruvian government (to prevent Colombia from staking a claim on the river), he called it San Antonio, after a cross inscribed with this name on it. It was to mark the site where a Portuguese explorer and his expedition starved to death.
A second legend states that a Colombian soldier fell in love with a woman named Leticia and he decided to name the settlement after her. It could also be named after Saint Leticia. However, Peruvian records indicate that one December 15, 1867, the port of “San Antonio” was renamed to Leticia by Peruvian engineer Manuel Charon. Charon named the port in honor of a young female resident of the Peruvian city of Iquitos. Her name was Leticia Smith.
There was a long standing dispute between Peru and Colombia over the city of Leticia. This conflict dates back to 1867 when the city of first colonized by Peru. The conflict erupted into war in 1932. The dispute was finally settled by the League of Nations in 1934 when the city of Leticia was awarded to Colombia. In order to ensure that Leticia would remain loyal to Colombia, the Colombia government populated the city of city with people from Bogota, the capital city of Colombia.
|"Main Street" in Leticia at the port to the Amazon River|
In the 1960’s and 70’s, Leticia saw a tremendous amount of growth. This was thanks in a large part to the unmanaged drug trade. With Leticia being a port city, it was very easy to move drug in and out of the city. Drugs were commonly bought on the street during the middle of the day. Eventually the government a larger police force and the cartels were arrested and the drug trade was largely shut down.
The downside to this action was the economy suffered greatly and the city was devastated. The Colombia government stepped in to assist and has been working to make Leticia a tourist attraction, showing off the rich culture of the Amazon region.
The people of Leticia are much like the people of America in that we are a true melting pot of cultures. The majority of Leticia's population have migrated from elsewhere. There is no obviously dominant segment, but migrants from Bogota, Medellín, and Tolima are the majority. Few people from Cali live in Leticia. A significant proportion of Leticia's population comprises native Amerindians. The prevailing trend is for people to move from the village of their birth in far-lying rural communities into the city to make a "better" living.