Disclaimer, I write this as a response for a post I didn’t like on the wall of a good friend on FB. And I will be using the word “gringo” just as an adjective without negative or positive connotation.
Since it’s very unlikely that you know me, allow me to introduce my self (as the song goes). I am a proud and hardworking colombian, and thanks to different situations I have been able to travel through South America, The States, Europe and Australia. I know for some of you that may not be much, but where I come from, is quite a lot.
Through those travels, I have faced the colombian stigma. Where? you may ask yourselves. Well, basically everywhere. From borders in some countries where police officers literally can come up with a response to “how is your day so far” with something like “it was good until I saw your passport”. Also in conferences, where people from countries such as India come up with statements like “you all sell drugs, come on”. And of course, for instance, in american/european parties where the norm is to use drugs for “recreation”, but were also the moment you say you are colombian, the first thing that pops into their minds is that you should be a dealer.
It’s a very sarcastic situation, though. I remember once I thought it seems like the “gringos” put the party while latins put the murders. And of course the stereotype continues.
How does a Colombian deals with that? In many different ways. Sometimes you make jokes, sometimes you get angry, sometimes, you just remain silent and say nothing, maybe throw a laugh, hoping they drop the subject. But inside, deep inside, we always ask ourselves. Who the fuck do you think you are to come and talk about drugs. Or in colombian words, quién putas se cree usted para hablarme de drogas.
Yeah, my dear gringo friend, we feel insulted, and ashamed. Or better, first ashamed, later insulted. And make no mistake, we wonder where is your moral ground to judge us, to judge our country? How come a european or american can say anything about us, while combined, as of 2008 you both consumed 289 TONS of cocaine. Please notice the number means tons, and I am just mentioning cocaine and leaving other “recreational” drugs aside. This means that europeans “sniff” a little bit more than 100 full size containers completely loaded with cocaine. Of course those are just the official numbers, and one may expect this datum to be much, much higher.
The full irony of this, though, jumps from a comment made by an italian about Colombia. I post it bellow (leaving the name outside)
8 things to consider before visiting Colombia (otherwise you won’t know where you go)
1) 60 years log conflict still going on
2) highest numer of civilian massacred and desappeared in LA
3)Highest number of union members killed every year in the planet
4) Highest number of journalist threatened for their work in the planet
5) more that 3000 Falsos Positivos
6) higher unemployment and poverty rate in the region
7) more than 5 million of displaced people. Highest in the planet.
8) highest gini rural rate in the planet.
But hey, am I here to say this is not true? No, I know we have problems, I mean, I am colombian. In case you don’t know, dear gringo, I grew up and was raised in this country, which I very much love. But I am not blind. We can’t be. I personally can tell you, dear gringo, that people very close to me has been kidnapped, parents of friends of mine had to live in exile, because their lives were in danger, friends of mine have found their parents in trash bags, dismembered (yeah, you didn’t misread). We grew up, we became old, we went to school and we tried to enjoy life, in the middle of bombs that still remain in our memories. The hope for a better country was killed in front of our eyes by some “sicarios” over, and over again. We cried, many times, we felt desperate, we felt like there was no tomorrow. Colombia is a very amazing country, so amazing, you can grow anything you want all year long. Unfortunately, that also included marijuana, cocaine, heroine, etc.
So, the italian friend has a point. We do have all those problems. And probably, someone else in his defense, had a point when mentioning that this person is trying just to “portrait the reality of Colombia”. Because I don’t want to lie, those things probably true. But that is only a part of the reality of Colombia. That is not the whole story. And most importantly, those words just help perpetuate the colombian stigma that we have fought so hard to change.
If you want to tell the reality, you should add to those statistics, that it all happens because of drug trafficking. You should add, that every time you sniffed cocaine, or smoked marijuana, you, helped murdering one of my friends, you helped kidnapping one parent of some relative, you helped a group of amazingly violent people get guns and displace poor people out of their houses.
If you were to tell the truth, dear italian. You should mention that the president of your country helps colombian drug cartels, either with drug trafficking or by consuming it’s by products. Because what you are trying to say is just a very little tiny part of the reality, never the entire story.
But hey, who am I to ask you to be absolutely honest and tell me if you have helped a murderer by smoking pot? Who am I to demand you to disclaim that Scotland, which is not bigger than a 5th of Colombia is the biggest consumer of cocaine in the planet. And therefore, they are indirect murderers, indirect kidnappers.
You are right, I am no one.
But one thing I can ask you, in your comments and in the material you produce. If you are to tell the reality of my country, show some respect, and tell the evolution of that story, not just the state as of now. Because if you see the evolution. If you see the data, you may be thrilled by so many positive facts in that story. Maybe that the homicide rate in Bogota is comparable (and lower) to those of NY or Washington DC. Or that Bogota has been awarded remarkable prices in International scenarios when competing with some of the most developed and “safe” cities.
Because if you were to tell the truth, you may help us defeating the “colombian stigma”. And you may see there is progress in the middle of all the trouble you and I know exist. As another colombian once said, we have been inside the lions mouth, we know how much it’s teeth stink, but we fought hard to get out of there, and continue doing so.
Final disclaimer, forgive my rusty English. You may notice and see some mix of Spanish grammar in there. Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name… So if you meet me, have some courtesy, have some sympathy and some taste… as the song goes…