Reflections after visiting Colombia

Colombian artist, Fernando Botero used this self-absorbed figure to represent the powerful elite who caused such violence in his country

 

As I write this post, Jorge and I riding the ADO Platino bus from Cancun to Merida. We are more comfortable than we would be on a plane – we have wide, fully-reclining seats, snacks and drinks, free movies, WIFI – and AC. Bus travel has come a long way, Baby.

Over the past 10 days, we’ve been visiting three cities in Colombia – Bogota, Cartagena and Barranquilla – we’ve had a variety of new experiences, excellent traveling companions and we also talked with Colombian people we met. By my yardstick, it doesn’t get much better than this. I feel grateful that Jorge and I could make this trip. Recently I read on facebook:

There are lots of wonderful books found in libraries, but the most interesting stories are found between the covers of your passport.

I could not agree more – and one more thing – travelling widens a person’s perspective. It makes us think. What an important activity this is, because nowadays, there is much that requires careful thought and the forming of judicious opinion.

While in Colombia, many told us how much they love Mexico’s music, food, TV productions (especially “Chavo del Ocho” and telenovelas). They say they’d love to see the Maya ruins and laze on the beaches of Cancun. They seem to admire so much about our country.

But they also expressed distress about the current situation we face. Big change is taking place and the Colombian news channels point out that many Mexicans are not rising to the occasion. It seems we feel afraid of losing what little we have left of our former status as the, “Paradise of Latin America”.

Colombians have more than a little experience with this. Ten years ago they had to overcome many of the same problems we are now grappling with, and they also faced others that we do not have. At great risk, they voted in new leadership and while the results are not altogether to their liking, the situation for most Colombians is much better than it was a decade ago.

On July 1st of this year, Mexico also voted for new leadership, and now that Andrés Manuel Lopéz Obrador is poised to don the tri-colour presidential sash, the traditional media is making a last-minute pitch to weaken AMLO’s base of support.  This a typical move by the desperate “old boys’ club”; they use fear to get their way.

They say AMLO is risking our finances and future with his harebrained schemes like building a train through south-eastern Mexico (a promise made, but not carried through, by both PAN and PRI during past electoral campaigns). Our president-elect insists on scrapping construction of a new airport (that stands on sinking land owned by politicians and their cronies). He wants to build more oil refineries (most of the existing ones were constructed in the 1960s, or earlier). He wants to cut legislator’s salaries and the number of civil servants (anyone who has tried to get a permit or other document issued knows how inefficient the system is) He has already started selling off private presidential planes (more luxurious and expensive than those owned by the USA). And he plans to restructure Mexico’s centralist government (again, consider the current state of inefficiency). The powers-that-be want us to excuse the excesses of the political / business / religious leaders.

Well, I’m sorry, but I can’t. My time in Colombia was short, but it was long enough to strengthen my belief that change is a necessary and positive force.  Of course it must be responsible and I agree that some (not all) of AMLO’s proposals are “a bit out there”. But if his government can achieve even a quarter of what he wants to change, I feel our country will be a much fairer and more productive one at the end of his 6 year term than it is now.

Convincing readers to seriously consider our opinions is what writers aspire to. And like most of my colleagues, I am not always confident of my own abilities and skills. But I am not one to shy away from expressing (as best I can) what I believe to be true.  I know that change is scary, but I also feel we cannot continue as we are, and Andrés Manuel Lopéz Obrador is our best hope.

Published by Changes in our Lives

I am originally from Canada but have lived in Mexico since 1976. My husband is from Merida, Yucatan and we raised our family here. We both worked for many years at Tecnologia Turistica Total (TTT), the tourism, language and multimedia college we founded for local and international students. Now retired, we enjoy spending time with family and friends, My other interests include spending time with freinds, reading, painting, cooking and travel.

6 thoughts on “Reflections after visiting Colombia

  1. Hello, Joanna. This is the first time I’m commenting, although I’ve been reading your blogs for a while and enjoyed your book “Magic Made in Mexico”. I always appreciate your thoughtful, balanced, informed approach. I live in Toronto, but my husband is Mexican, and we have a house in Tepoztlán, Morelos where we will live half the year once I retire, primero Dios. Like you, I am bilingual and here in Toronto many of our closest friends are Colombian. Through them I have learned much about the history, culture and politics of Colombia. The stories I have heard… As Garcia Marquez said in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize (and I paraphrase), what European and English-speaking North America call “magic realism”, in Latin America is simply “our reality”.

    I absolutely agree with your view on AMLO. It is also somewhat frustrating that there is such a long lag period between a president winning the election and taking power, leaving the elite-run media months in which to disparage AMLO, breeding suspicion and sowing discontent before he’s even had a chance to do anything! When he was elected I said if he is allowed to implement even 15% of what he has proposed, it will improve life for the majority in Mexico. Ojalá.

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    1. Hello Miriam… thank you for commenting. I thik you an I are on exactly the same page. My husband and me (along with our 13 friends ) all loved Colombia, but we sensed some scars that have not yet healed. I imagine Mexico is in for the same… the past four + decades have been difficult. But just as magical realism is part of our lives… so is hope. And we have hope in AMLO. We shall see…

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  2. Oh my.

    Wow.

    That painting by Fernando Botero is… hilarious! And… quite powerful. And sad. I just put in on my desktop. OK, now it’s still cracking me up. 🙂

    Thank you for the very interesting insights and for having the courage to share them… for helping us to stay in the present (traveling is key!) and forming “judicious opinion” from “careful thought”—I learn much just from how you language things.

    In this day and age more than perhaps ever before, it seems our opinions change depending on what we are ingesting from the media. Our vulnerable human condition is easily exploited by the external forces of “persuasion” –-I remember Bill Moyers on PBS did an entire fascinating series about that around the time the internet was getting legs—he saw it coming. Unfortunately, as he pointed out, our awareness of it doesn’t mean we still can’t fall victim to it……

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