"I think Colombia is so fertile that if one stands too long in one place, you will take root. It certainly happened to me," Barry Max Wills, Australian - Letters from Colombia
To those of you who have never visited and experienced the splendor of Colombia, how can anyone begin to dispel the misperceptions, unjust lies, or the deliberate and accidental campaigns of disinformation and misinformation presented by a multitude ill-informed, often time opportunistic international reporters about a noble, democratic-loving nation, full of wonderful people?
The fact is that Colombia has been the victim of an unbridled image-assassination.
Difficult as it may be to accomplish, a strong and consistent effort must now be made (by many) to present a more accurate depiction of Colombia, as the nation has earned it, yearns for it, and deserves it.
The first image-item on which to focus –Colombia’s size and importance:
Most world inhabitants grow-up viewing a style of map called the “Mercator projection,” which unbeknownst to the viewer, exaggerates the size of the Northern Hemisphere. One sees Canada, Alaska, the Nordic nations and Greenland covering massive amounts of territory, in which Greenland for example, appears to be bigger than Brazil. In reality, Greenland is barely a fifth the size of Brazil, and Alaska, which appears to be about five times the size of Colombia, is actually nearly the same size as Colombia. In other words, Colombia is a robust, mid-size nation, twice the size of France, and about as big as Texas and California combined.
The greatest biodiversity in the world (per square mile) is actually found in Colombia. In fact, Colombia is a bird-lover’s paradise, ranks second in butterfly species, and is the nation with the greatest variety of orchids. It is also fast becoming the new snorkeling and eco-tourism epicenter of the world.
Nowhere else in the world will you find a greater variety of eco-tourism choices, with Andean mountains peaks that are taller than the Alps or the US mainland Rockies, access to the Pacific and Caribbean/Atlantic Oceans, pristine lakes of all shapes, colors and altitudes, marshes, the fabled Amazon, Magdalena and Orinoco Rivers, pine tree forests, eucalyptus forests, rainforests, two jungles, vast verdant cattle plains, archipelago island-paradises, springs, volcanoes, deserts and grand canyons –as with one of the top eight wonders of the world: the Chicamocha Canyon –which now boasts the longest tourist cable-car system in the world.
It is no wonder that the quality of life in Colombia is so good, that in 2009, it actually ranked as second happiest nation in the world, after the tiny South Pacific Island-Nation of Vanuatu. An in-depth world-wide study conducted by the British organization New Economics Foundation’s –Happy Planet index, not only placed Colombia as second happiest place, but it also ranked it second for being the most ecological-minded nation as well.
Colombia has a population of over 46 million people, making it the most populous Spanish speaking nation in South America, significantly larger than Argentina’s 40 million, Canada’s 33 million, or Australia’s 20 million.
In fact, Colombia is one of the largest, most important western democracies in the world, and perhaps, more surprising to our readers, it is the second oldest uninterrupted constitutional democracy in the world –after the United States!
During times of global conflict, this nation has consistently been on the side of the allies, often sending troops and shedding blood in most major armed conflicts which have occurred over the past century.
The second image-item to focus on –is image itself:
No, no, no, NONE of the films such as Romancing the Stone, Mr. and Mrs. Smith or Behind Enemy Lines –Colombia, were ever filmed in Colombia!
The depictions of Colombia by Hollywood producers and others are not only highly ignorant and inaccurate; they are sometimes ill-spirited and insulting. No less insidious, is the fact that Colombia’s sacred legend of El Dorado has been portrayed by Disney as emanating from Mexico, instead of where the legend actually started, at a deep-lake near Bogota, Colombia. The main air terminal of Bogota is in fact called El Dorado International Airport.
In the case of the popular movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the depiction of Bogota as some steamy, little tropical town, where all you see through the windows of the ceiling-fan-filled hotel room are explosions, caused an immediate uproar in Colombia, particularly amongst cosmopolitan Bogotanos. So much so, that even official letters of protest were sent to the film’s producers.
We invite Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to come to Colombia as genuine “truth seekers,” and to please help us correct the great injustice that has been perpetrated against Colombia’s “true” integrity, year after year by Hollywood producers and others. If Grace Kelly, Brigitte Bardot, and more recently, Hilary Duff (just to name a few) can come to Bogota and enjoy it, why can’t you?
It is time for the world to have a more accurate understanding of Colombia and its cities. Colombia is an highly urban nation, where more than 80% percent of its citizens live in its principal cities, and are therefore far more cosmopolitan than perceived abroad.
The main cluster of urban centers is comprised by Bogota, Medellin, Pereira, Manizales and Armenia, cities situated high in the Andes Mountains. Other large cities such as Cali, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Bucaramanga, Ibague and Cucuta are at lower altitudes and/or at sea-level. Yet none of these cities are anywhere near any jungle! …in fact no major city in Colombia is anywhere near a jungle.
In the case of Colombia’s capital, the megalopolis called Bogota, which sits on a stunning and unique plateau (called: Sabana) at an altitude of 8,661 ft. above sea-level (higher than Aspen, Colorado), you will not find a ceiling fan in the city, as the climate is perpetually cool, evoking a late autumnal day in New York or Paris, but with flowers ever blooming.
But more important to Colombia’s image abroad is the fact that Colombians are not a major drug consuming nation, and most people disdain its use, as they have nothing to do with that illicit industry. Most Colombians are honest, hard working, highly educated, industrious entrepreneurs, and are very happy people, always endeavoring to improve themselves, their nation and its unfair image abroad.
While many Colombians welcome opportunities to work and travel abroad, most Colombians love their country intensely and feel it is the best nation to live in –as previously mentioned; as reflected by a world happiness index study. In fact, Colombians who have been living abroad for many years are now returning home en masse.
The third image-item to focus on –the economy:
It is important to note that any earnings that manage to enter the hermetically protected Colombian banking system from the illicit narcotics trade does not even amount to 1% of the national GDP.
Moreover, the funds that the US contributes under Plan Colombia to help Colombia’s fight its war against drug trafficking does not even constitute 4% of Colombia’s defense budget, an expensive cost that Colombian taxpayers have had to bear the brunt of –for the world!
Colombia is not as poor or underdeveloped as some people may believe it is. It has been an oil-exporting nation for a very long time, with new exploration projects and oil discoveries and revenues at an all-time high. Colombia also possesses one of the biggest coal reserves in the world, and the Drummond Corporation is endeavoring to help place Colombia as one of the world’s top exporters. Additionally, Colombia also posses 90% of the world’s emeralds and possess one of the biggest platinum and gold reserves in the world. And unbeknownst to many of you who may be unfamiliar with Latin America, Colombia, is one of the leading manufacturing nations in the region, producing and exporting very high quality products such as ships, autos, refrigerators, computers and much more all over the world.
Colombia’s formidable energy infrastructure allows it to export electricity throughout the region, and very soon, even to the United States!
No less important is the fact that Colombia is also a world leader in fashion design, textile and leather manufacturing, book publishing and paper products. Moreover, it continues to export the finest coffee in the world, and it now ranks second in the exportation of its beautiful flowers.
Colombia is the only Latin American nation with a major economy to have always paid its foreign debts, but more importantly, to have never suffered the runaway inflationary spirals that made other nations and their currencies suffer, with repeated and oftentimes severe devaluations. Aided by some of the most prudent money-management regulations, the Colombian banks and Insurance institutions are amongst the most solid in the world. In fact, during the recent financial crisis, Colombia was ranked by the World Bank, Merrill Lynch and others, as one on the top 10 economies to be most prepared to survive the current global economic crisis. This has stimulated much investment to enter the country over the past year. The Colombian Peso has been the only major currency in the region to offer refuge and stability for over sixty years. Colombia’s democratic institutions have in fact made its economy survive, if not thrive, despite the many external and internal forces that have challenged its stoic integrity.
The fourth image-item to focus on –security:
Bogota is as safe, if not safer than most North American cities.
No, you will not be shot or kidnapped the moment you arrive in Colombia. Although one travel blogger from Canada once wrote that shortly upon arrival he was soon shoved into a car and made to descend at a popular restaurant where he was forced to dance, eat and drink.
Yes, Colombia is very safe to visit and to live in! Of course, like anywhere in the world, one will always have to take the necessary security precautions to avoid something bad from occurring, but the truth is that cities such as Bogota, Manizales, Armenia, Cartagena, Medellin and Santa Marta are surprisingly safe in most neighborhoods. It is not well known abroad, that along with Santiago de Chile, Bogota is actually the safest of the large Latin American capitals (and we can include Panama City). Ladies wear jewelry late into the evening while out on the town, and gentlemen often sport expensive watches. Bogota ranked No. 1 in Mercedes Benz sales in South America, and the largest Porsche dealership in Latin America was recently inaugurated here, in addition to a Maserati showroom. Such auto sales could not occur in many other Latin American cities due to their serious security concerns.
But that is not all, with security so vastly improved in Colombia in recent years, tourism is booming, and many new hotel projects are can be throughout the country, with over 18 new Five Star projects underway in Bogota alone.
All in all, when you finally visit Colombia for the first time, you will probably hear the same refrain that locals often hear from foreign visitors “…I just never imagined it could be like this!”
The fifth image-item to focus on –the people:
We at Bogota Brilliance sincerely think that the more you travel around the globe, the more that you will acknowledge Colombians to be the single-most amiable, helpful, kind and sincere people. As this may sound biased, we can only say, please come and see for yourself!