I'm not sure where to begin, because this is a topic I hold very close to my heart. Not only was I born in Cartagena, but all my childhood memories reside in Colombia. Even as I am typing this, I can't help but tear up.
Last week, I had to watch "The Mission," a movie about the assimilation of the indigenous people of South America. To make matters hit home, it was filmed (partially) in Colombia. Not only did I have to watch this movie, but every scene triggered something in me. What had happened hundreds of years ago, is currently happening. Investors, are the conquistadors of the 21st century, invading land that doesn't belong to them, and destroying the local communities — this kind of mentality is a disease that must be addressed.
When I was a little girl, I remember "El Centro," the downtown area, as this magical place. It was where you could go to find the town's sales and most fresh fruit. It was a lively place, weird smells and all. There would be vendors in the streets and all sorts of yelling and talking, to get people to buy their goods. When I was 9 years old, I moved to Naples, Florida with my mom, and the home I had known all my life was going to become my summer stay.
I would come back and visit Cartagena every summer. Around the time I was in high school, I saw a shift. El Centro was no longer dirty, and people no longer lived there. My worse nightmare came true; it was becoming gentrified. They upped the rent, and people that had lived their entire life could no longer afford it. The old houses are now either hotels or mansions, the culture that had shaped my entire being was disappearing right in front of my eyes, and I couldn't do anything. I felt so helpless.
Now, when I go home, I don't feel at home. Our plaza is filled with tourist, people taking selfies and detaching from the moment. Colombia was the place where I could go to unplug from the world, I felt at ease, and that is now taken away from me.
Sometime in March, Savannah Montano posted a picture in Colombia.
The original post was deleted from her Instagram, but the copies remain.
At first, I was happy, but then the reality hit me, no no no! The reason why I am so defensive about Colombia is that it is not like any other place. Colombians are not people that need luxuries, we live by the river and under the sky. We don't like to wear shoes and say good morning to our neighbors every day.
We may not have electricity in every place or running water for that fact. Our streets are not all paved, but happiness is real. We don't have the latest technology, but we care deeply and dearly with each other. Our culture may be hard to understand, and most people looking in could never understand how we could live a life in the jungle. For years, the US has tried to tell us that our roads are too small, and our streets too crowded. Our dogs are astray and they need to be on a leash. But this is not the case.
Where you see a poor child running barefoot, I see a happy kid running as fast as he can to hide and win hide-and-seek. Where you see a man wandering the streets, I see a man that has chosen to live a life not attached to material things. Colombia is true freedom. Freedom from material things and debt. Here, we may not be able to afford a flat screen TV, but our coffee grows on a soil that has witnessed the most glorious wars.
We might be a little too noisy, but we have good intentions. We might judge your look, but we stare because we're curious. Our parties are a little too crazy, and our grandmas a little too judgmental, but our food and fruits will make you understand why. We drink too much, and party too hard, but on Sundays, we go to church and have family dinner.
Girl in village picking flowers without shoes.
I guess the part that is hard for me to witness, is the technology aspect. And the fact that people are coming in and making our home an Insta story. Colombia is the place that makes me forget to look at my phone because no one there gives a shit about that. People look you in the eyes and try to engage at the moment. But the last two years, I've gone home, I've seen more phones and selfies than my own college. It sickens me. You must understand, I am seeing it change. People can't dance anymore without people pulling their phone out.
Playa Blanca is this beautiful white beach island. For 19 years, there was no way of getting there if it wasn't by boat or ferry, so, to say the least, it was a hassle. It took about 18 years to pave the roads and build a bridge, why? Because that island is our jewel. And now that the road is paved it has allowed all kind of tourist to come. It is overcrowded, and the littering has gotten out of hand. The water is not as clear as it once was. People, we are destroying our planet! By coming in and stomping all over our Earth without being mindful of it, we are killing it. My biggest fear is not being able to show my kids my hometown.
I want my kids and grandkids to enjoy what I was so lucky to enjoy. I want their memories to overlap with my childhood memories, and I'm scared it won't happen. For this reason, I know that not all countries are meant to be westernized.