Colombian in the Sunday Times UK

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Colombian in the Sunday Times UK

I recently came across an article in British newspaper The Sunday Times entitled Colombian Gold. I worried, of course, that it would be riddled with safety recommendations and warnings that were meant to reassure people but really just bolstered the image of Colombia as a dangerous destination. I shouldn’t have worried at all. Stanley Stewart’s article is an overwhelmingly positive look at Cartagena, and proof of the growing interest in Colombia as a travel destination.

Photo by Omar Vasquez

The article starts out well. It talks about Sir Francis Drake and how in English minds he is a great explorer, a “scourge of the Spanish Armada”, as Stewart puts it. But when Stewart mentions Drake with reverence to a taxi driver, the vehicle almost careens off the road. To the Spanish speaking world, Francis Drake is a renowned pirate with an inherent dislike for the Spanish. In 1568, Drake landed in Cartagena and spent years ransacking and pillaging the town. The whole episode in the article goes to show the importance of perceptions, and how easy it is to mistake your own perception as the unquestionable truth.

It’s an interesting issue to highlight when it comes to a travel article about Colombia, because perceptions of the country remain misplaced. I’ve lost count of the amount of comments I read on forums that are concerned about safety in the country, or from people who have family members that are concerned about the country. I’m glad articles like Stewart’s are coming out because, although safety should always be an important issue when traveling anywhere, it needn’t occupy you so much that you forget to have a good time.

Photo by Omar Vasquez

Certainly, reading about Stewart’s experience, it’s pretty easy to see that he didn’t forget to have a good time. I’ve written before about Colombians being some of the happiest people on earth, but reading about it in The Sunday Times is a whole different thing. What does Stewart put our gleeful disposition down to? Dancing, of course. It’s no secret that we Colombians love to dance, and so enamored by it was Stewart, he says “Colombian dancing would make a corpse happy”. Stewart tries out salsa, and I think he gets far more than he bargained for! Check out this excerpt from the article:

“Two women turned up from nowhere, and before I could say ‘shiver my timbers’”, they had pulled me off my stool. One thing led to another and in no time they were taking turns to bend over and grind their buttocks against my groin. It was enough to give any pirate a wooden leg.”

Looks like it wasn’t just the Colombians who enjoyed dancing so much. And it’s not just the dancing that Stewart enjoyed, his visit to Cartagena seems to have been a mixture of hedonism and education, as he details with awe his visits to the museums and Cartagena’s famous cathedral.

For me it’s good to see such a refreshingly open view in the media towards Colombia, because as I’ve said before, the media have played a big part in creating the reputation that Colombia has suffered for years. It’s no secret that I love Colombia and I think it’s one of the best countries on earth, and slowly but surely journalists and travel writers are catching on too, so the beautiful secrets of Colombia will surely become common knowledge soon enough!

Marcela Mariscal
See Colombia Travel


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