(Note: Re-posting after some technical issues yesterday. Sorry, everyone!)
News junkies that we are, we subscribe to several online publications and scan the internet every day for the latest global events. It’s always exciting and a little surprising to come across stories about our adopted country that aren’t all about drugs or that notorious deceased criminal whose initials are PE. Colombia is becoming known for much more than that sad and sordid period of narcoterrorism and civil war, finally beginning to recede into the collective memory. The shift is reflected in Colombia news stories, which in recent times have become much more varied and upbeat.
Here are some Colombia news stories that have caught our eye recently.
Colombia’s hippo problem
Well, this story actually has a side connection to that notorious criminal, who left a terrible legacy that Colombia is still trying to overcome. An interesting part of that legacy that’s now coming to the forefront: Hippos. It seems the criminal was obsessed with exotic wild animals and imported many species to roam his estate in Antioquia, including four of these rotund beasts. Today, the hippo herd numbers over 100, and no one quite knows what to do with them.
Good Colombia news for Venezuelan refugees
Sometimes, governments get things right when it comes to immigration problems. In recent years, Colombia has opened its doors to almost 2 million Venezuelan refugees who have fled the repressive regime and terrible economic conditions of their home country. And, as outlined in this United Nations story, just this month President Duque announced that Colombia is granting “temporary protection status” to all of them for 10 years. It’s a move that’s being praised by human rights advocates all over the world, including Pope Francis.
Don’t mess with Colombian panela
Panela is to Colombians as maple syrup is to Canadians, or brown sugar to U.S. folks. Actually, it’s more important than that – it’s a big source of nutrition for a lot of people. Visit any supermarket and you’ll see at least one aisle filled with bricks of the stuff, molded into a wide variety of shapes. Patenting panela is no crazier than patenting wheat flour or regular, processed sugar. In other words, it’s pretty crazy, as described in this New York Times article.
The “Sistine Chapel of the Ancients”
We love this story. It just goes to show how much of Colombia is yet to be explored and discovered. The upshot is that archaeologists have discovered an astounding collection of rock art that spans up to 8 miles (!) of cliff faces in the remote Colombian jungle. Based on depictions of mastodons and other prehistoric creatures, scientists estimate the paintings to be at least 12,000 years old. Astounding!
And for the U.K. peeps and others who have access to Channel 4 programming, there’s now a TV documentary about this amazing find. Check it out here.
Colombia is on its way to becoming an exporting giant. And it’s not just flowers and coffee.
Did you know that the most of the flowers exported to the U.S. for Valentine’s Day come from Colombia? Flowers are a huge industry right here in our home department of Antioquia (here’s a post we did about a visit to a local flower farm).
And on a broader level, here’s a story about Colombia’s growing role as one of the world’s major food exporters.
The latest from the Colombian COVID-19 front
Like most of the rest of the world, Colombia has seen a huge and hopeful downturn in COVID-19 cases recently. And vaccination is FINALLY underway here after a slow start. Here’s a story in today’s El Tiempo about the global drop and how it compares to what’s going on here. It’s in Spanish but easy to translate with Google.
So far, Colombia has received doses of the Pfizer and Sinovac vaccines and is well on its way towards vaccinating all healthcare workers and people over 80. We are in the second group, people over 60, who are supposed to start getting vaccinating in March. If I’m being perfectly honest, I hope we get the Pfizer jab and not Sinovac, the Chinese vaccine, which apparently is less effective. By the time our turn comes, there might be doses of the Johnson & Johnson, Astra Zeneca, and Moderna vaccines in country. We’ll take whatever we’re given, and we’ll be glad of it!
And finally, a book recommendation.
“Magdalena: River of Dreams” is a must read for anyone interested in Colombia and Colombians. Its author, Wade Davis, spent the better part of five years exploring the upper, middle, and lower reaches of the Magdalena River, which runs a thousand miles down the middle of the country. The Magdalena is the Mississippi of Colombia, and, as Davis states, “is the reason Colombia exists as a nation.”
This book is a love letter to Colombia, from an author who has formed that bond over many decades. Here’s a great excerpt from the preface:
Colombia is most assuredly not a place of violence and drugs; it is a land of colores y cariño, where the people have endured and overcome years of conflict precisely because of their character, which is itself informed by an enduring spirit of place, a deep love of a land that is perhaps the most bountiful on earth, home to the greatest ecological and geographical diversity on the planet. It speaks volumes of the strength and resilience of the Colombian people that through all these difficult and impossible years, the nation has maintained its civil society and democracy, grown its economy, greened its cities, created millions of acres of national parks, and sought meaningful restitution with scores of indigenous cultures, a progressive record unmatched by any other nation-state. Colombians today long for peace.
That passage perfectly summarizes everything we love about Colombia and why we feel so fortunate to be able to live in this exceptional country.