The people of Bogota


I’m actually out of the city for a few days – but during my long flight, I reflected on some of the reasons I enjoy this city so much.

Why do I enjoy Bogotá so much?

Well, the people, of course!  Now, I know that people are shaking their heads – but for a small-town girl like me,  a cosmopolitan city like Bogotá is very exciting indeed.   So many festivals, events, galleries and museums**.

But it’s the people who are the heart of the city – and what really brings it alive.   Just this week, I had the opportunity to rub shoulders with and talk to a Colombian film director, a geo-petroleum engineer, a civil rights (labor) attorney  and one of the executives of Caracol.   It’s just that kind of town – like Washington D.C. but down-to-earth and accessible.  [Now, my little eight-year-old friend, Flavia has met President Santos just walking on the street one day, but I haven’t.]  But there are still wonderful opportunities to meet and talk to interesting people who I might not cross paths with in my ‘normal’ life in the hospital.

For example, I found myself sitting next to the film director, Andres Barrientos at a birthday party for a mutual friend. (Of course, the guests at the party were a like a small UN delegation – but less protocol and more fun;  it included Colombians,  two delightful ladies from Venezuelan, a British gentleman, and the guest of honor – another American like myself –except for her beautiful Argentinean Spanish.)  These are all just people and friends I have made wandering around the city..

Of course – talking about the ‘extranjeros’ or foreigners living in Bogotá is an entirely different topic – and one we will get around to one of these days.  But as I chatted with the very normal, very nice Mr. Barrientos (and he politely refrained from laughing at the ridiculousness of my YouTube efforts), it made me consider how many film producers I met in Danville, Virginia, Mexicali, Mexico or Reno, Nevada during my various moves.  (The cumulative answer is: Zero.)  And why would I – on the streets of my small southern town?  But Bogotá is a different matter entirely – it is a global city, with its tenacles on the pulse of Colombia, Latin America and the world.

Global positioning and perspectives

Talking with labor attorneys and several petroleum company officers just brings home some of the amazing lack of insight we (as North Americans) have on some many issues affecting the rest of the world – and our roles within this context.

While Americans are often accused of being willfully ignorant – this just isn’t true.  The reality is that: we are intentionally blinded as citizens to much of the outside world.  I mean, I make a continuous, specific concerted effort to find English language information about issues facing Latin America (for this blog) and it is exceedingly difficult.

What we do see on CNN, BBC and our nightly news and read has already been translated (and censored) for our consumption.  As a result – if it isn’t a  sensationalized report about a bomb going off somewhere – or a huge drug seizure, then there just isn’t much information available – whether we are talking about our southern neighbor, Mexico, the economic powerhouse of Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile or any of another dozen countries.

But when you live somewhere like Bogotá – you become more globally informed just by meeting and interacting with all of your fellow Bogotá residents – from UN representatives, other foreign nationals on down to your every day taxi driver.  (Always talk to the taxi drivers – they are usually exceedingly nice, have a wealth of information and different perspectives on everything from affordable healthcare, the American presidential elections, the environment and Latin American economic policies.  You will be surprised what you will learn.)

That’s just something I can’t get on Main Street, Danville, Virginia..

**Speaking of which – they are offering my book for sale at the Festival de Librarias in Parque 93 this weekend.

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