The Maracaibo block is a triangular, continental tectonic terrane that includes two isolated Andean ranges of northern Colombia and western Venezuela: the Sierra de Santa Marta Massif (SSMM; maximum elevation 5700 m) in the west and the Perija Range (PR; 3600 m) to the east. The Cesar-Rancheria Basin (CRB) is an intermontane basin that separates the two ranges. To establish patterns of recent deformation of this elevated region and to infer its tectonic mechanism, we have integrated the following results: (1) analysis of 350 stream profiles and calculations of geomorphic indices, including stream length-gradient (SL) index, ratio of valley-floor width to valley height (VF), and hysometric curves for 20 watersheds in both ranges and (2) interpretation of three seismic reflection profiles within the CRB and adjacent areas. We determine that the northeastern part of the SSMM is tectonically quiescent based on its concave stream profiles, low geomorphic indices, and few vertical-step knickpoints. In comparison, we find that the central, southern, and eastern parts of the SSMM show tectonic uplift and recent fault control based on slope-break knickpoints and values in steepness and geomorphic indices with possible additional controls from lithologies of varying erosional resistance. Correlations between steepness, SL indices, slope-break knickpoints, and topographic elevations of the SSMM and central PR all indicate recent deformation of these areas. We use seismic reflection profiles from the eastern part of the CRB to confirm the existence of late Quaternary faulting and folding in these geomorphologically active areas. We propose that active, southeastward shallow (approximately 10°–15°) subduction of the Caribbean plate along the base of the South American continental crust produces active crustal deformation within the southern and eastern SSMM. The central PR and eastern CRB are also being deformed by active strike-slip faults.

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