Jul 09

Colombia: Do you still think it’s troubled and backwards?

Colombia Travel Blog


Before I came to Colombia, I must admit that I didn’t know very much about the continent it was on. I had a vague image of a sultry, tropical land full of passionate people doing some kind of sexy dance while eating tacos in a country with a history of cruel, repressive dictators. I think it’s because I watched Madonna in Evita. Exciting? Sure, but not really the kind of place that would be likely to produce many progressive qualities.

Now, I’m not going to deny that Colombia has its problems. Inequality, corruption, conflict: yes, it still exists in some places. Even though I work for a company that really, really wants you to come here, there’s no point in denying that. However, there are a few things that I personally was surprised to find over here…


LGBT Rights.


Typically repressed Colombians seen in their natural habitat.
Typically repressed Colombians seen in their natural habitat.


90% of the Colombian population regards itself as Catholic, one of the reasons for its impressive array of churches. But, let’s face it: whatever you think about official Catholicism and its awe-inspiring architecture, it does seem to be dragging its feet in regards to the rights of a substantial proportion of its population. So, you could be forgiven for expecting most Colombians to think like this guy.

Sorry to disappoint, but it doesn’t seem to be the case, at least if you look at the legal situation here. Or, if you happened to be in Bogota’s Plaza Bolivar a couple of Sundays ago. It may come as a bit of a shock, but in the major cities at least, there is a thriving, visible, and proud LGBT community, that is backed up by a series of laws giving them pretty much the same legal status as anybody else. Sure, like most anywhere in the world, there is still repression and discrimination in some quarters, but this community is deservedly proud of what they have achieved and how they are. Mad respect, guys.

Let me know if I’m being wildly and blindly enthusiastic with my liberal claims here. What’s your personal experience with regards to this hotly contested issue? The comments box is below 😉


I want to ride it where I like.


Cyclists enjoying the Ciclovia
Freddy Mercury (back) in the inaugural ciclovia in Bogota.


South America, huh? Hmmm… well, if they’re not still riding donkeys in sombreros, they’re probably stuck in a 1950s car somewhere. OK, so while both aspects can be found, did you know this? Colombia invented the word ciclovia.

So what, you say. Let me explain: it actually means something. If you live in a city in which there’s a day where some of the roads are given over to the exclusive use of bicycles, you’ve got Colombia to thank for taking the initiative. Such things have been happening here since way back in 1976! I bet you that some of you Gentle Readers still don’t have that! Starting in Bogota, this weekly event was such a good idea that a bunch of the other major Colombia cities cottoned on. The ciclovia not only promotes the use of low-emission bikes, but turns great swathes of its city into a rolling carnival. Talk about backwards.

Does your city have Ciclovia yet? If not, what’s going on, guys?


Animal cruelty.


And, as a final act of utter cruelty, I was forced to kiss a guy with a pony tail. Photo from Reuters
And, as a final act of utter cruelty, I was forced to kiss a guy with a pony tail. Photo from Reuters


Colombia’s probably a country where bull-fighters strut around the streets stabbing horrendously abused animals for fun, and drug lords slap donkeys in the face just for the hell of it.

You’ve been watching too many movies, College Boy…

Although you can still see the brutal sport of bull-fighting in some Colombian cities, controversial Bogota mayor, Gustavo Petro, made the bold move to outlaw it in the capital. Am I alone in hoping that this is just the start?

Another aspect of the treatment of animals in which Colombia has recently become a leader is the troubled topic of circus animals. Everyone loves seeing a brave lion-tamer mercilessly whip a ferocious lion and elephants subdued enough to dance on their hind legs, right? Apparently, Colombians don’t; and view the carting around of large, abused wild animals in small cages as not only questionable, but positively illegal. This is a lead poor old backwards Colombia has taken from fellow South Americans, Peru and Bolivia, and one that a few progressive Western countries I could name have yet to take.

Is Colombia’s stance on these Animal Rights issues in the right direction? C’mon, let the world know with a comment below!


Let the truth be known, Saffron I mean Lynda!
Let the truth be known, Saffron I mean Lynda!


Oh yeah, and…any other things you’ve noticed about this poor, backwards South American country? You know what to do, Press Gang!


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