Un viaje a Colombia: It’s more than just a Narcos series

She’s cool. She’s hip. She has one of the biggest hearts around. This trilingual chica is a social media and tech diva. Maria has one foot in law school and the other one trotting around the world. She currently lives and studies in Bogota.

 Salento, Colombia. Maria rocking the streets.

Salento, Colombia. Maria rocking the streets.

Who are you? What do you do? Where do you live?

I’m Maria! I’m a law student and live in the capital, Bogota, of Colombia. I’m originally from a small town nearby called Neiva.

Why are you proud to be Colombian?

I’m proud to be Colombian because I believe identity is everything and it comes from where you grow up. Growing up in Colombia and the experiences I’ve had here, good and bad, make me a strong Mujer Colombiana. And Colombia has everything to make you feel proud – great food, culture, music, dance, people.

How do you start your day?

I start my day like anyone else’s day. I like to have breakfast in the morning. In Colombia, we have arepas for breakfast, which is also typical in Venezuela. In Latin America, you will find many similarities with regard to food due to the closeness in culture, but there are always slight nuances depending on the country and region. Normally, I start my day at around 5:00 am in the morning to be ready at 6:00 am to avoid traffic, specifically in Bogota!

For a long time now, Pablo Escobar has been associated with Colombia. What’s your opinion here?

My opinon. Well, it’s something we are not proud of, but we know that unfortunately it’s our history. He killed the greatest hero Colombia ever had, Rodrigo Lara Bonilola & Luis Carlos Galan Sarmiento. In Medellin, he attacked the metropolican police, hurt and killed thousands of people, kidnapped and took young girls, who he would sexually abuse. In Spanish they say, “Quien no conoce su historia, esta condenando a repiterla”, meaning if you don’t know your history, you are likely to repeat it. It’s important for us to know about Pablo and the horrible past, but it doesn’t need to be hyped up, like it has been, especially abroad.

 Medellin, Colombia where Escobar grew up and known for the Medellin Cartel. This statue by the artist, Bolero, was blown up during the era of violence.

Medellin, Colombia where Escobar grew up and known for the Medellin Cartel. This statue by the artist, Bolero, was blown up during the era of violence.

 Bolero wanted to keep the bombed bird and put another complete one next to it as a rememberance of the past, but also to show how Medellin has overcome it´s dark past.

Bolero wanted to keep the bombed bird and put another complete one next to it as a rememberance of the past, but also to show how Medellin has overcome it´s dark past.

Who are your Colombian heroes?

 Cartagena, Colombia in the north. A walled town near the coast. 

Cartagena, Colombia in the north. A walled town near the coast. 

Policarpa Salavarrieta. She’s a part of our history because she fought for our country’s independence against the Spanish crown and she gave her life to the cause. Another one is Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, as he was one of the first people brave enough to disclose to the media who was Pablo Escobar, for real. Everyone things the Netflix series, Narcos, is the best way to understand the story, but I prefer a series called Pablo Escobar, El Patron del Mal. In my opinion, this series more accurately depicts Escobar.

I traveled through Colombia about 6 years ago. Many people have asked me if it is safe to travel there. What’s your advice?

Come and visit! You just have to be careful, like you would travel to any foreign country, as there are good and bad parts. The problem isn’t about safety when traveling to Colombia, it’s about falling in love with the culture (or a hot Colombian!) Haha. But seriously, it’s incredibly easy to fall in love with Colombia – the culture, the landscapes, the coffee and most of all the warm and friendly people. 

As a law student, what can you say about FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People's Army (Spanish: Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) and the recent negotiations? Is there a threat or danger still prevalent?

 Medellín, Colombia. Images of people and words of empowerment on the rooftops.

Medellín, Colombia. Images of people and words of empowerment on the rooftops.

Without getting too political here, I’d say the problem has only been resolved superficially. On the surface there is discussions of “peace” and “agreements”. However, if you look deeper at the issue, you see that some things don’t add up. For example, the recent agreement document is very long, detailed and extensive, yet there are multiple areas and information blatantly omitted. Although, the government is aiming to make a transparent process for peace, I’m a bit disillusioned by the entire process, really.

Break down for us your favorite Colombian spots so future travels can plan their next trip to your country. Some of my favorites are Medillin (despite the negative vibe that Pablo cast on it), Cartagena (for the enclosed village feel and energy), Santa Marta (for the chill vibe and beautiful setting).

Bogota’s special. Mostly because that’s where I live! It’s the city that gives me education (my university is here), my good friends and my independence. That’s why I love it.

Neiva is my hometown and is also special because Neiva watched me grow up from a baby to a young lady. Most of my family is there and the food is hands down amazing. It’s lesser known, but to me it’s the best because it’s home. I’d love to share footage of my town and state, check it out:

 Represa de Betania, Huila, Colombia. Lovely landscape and ace food.

Represa de Betania, Huila, Colombia. Lovely landscape and ace food.

Huila https://youtu.be/BcI5Rm2RfdQ

Neiva https://youtu.be/-dfSDPBnqyw

Barranquilla, in the north, is also great. It’s near the beach and has the best carnival festivities in the entire country. It’s the city that gave me my granny (RIP). It’s also the central theme of the song by a famous Colombian musician, Joe Arroyo (RIP).

Other spots to visit include Caño Cristales, Cabo de la Vela, Parque Tayrona, Baru!

 Cartagena, Colombia. Street food cart. Beware it is greasy, yummy and addicting.

Cartagena, Colombia. Street food cart. Beware it is greasy, yummy and addicting.

Your recommendation for food to try?

Colombia is a big diverse country with multiple cultures. For example, Quindio has popular bandeja paisa which includes beans, white rice, chicharrón, carne, chorizo, fried egg, ripe plantain, avocado and arepa and is considered a typical dish. It’s amazing. The gastronomy by the coas is also delicious, so make sure you try anything fresh and fried in Santa Marta, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Valledupar or Monteria. In my opinion it may be a bit greasy to have all the time, in which case McDonalds may be a healthier choice! The best of all is the Colombia achira. It’s hard to explain, it’s sort of like a cheesy Colombian cracker, but better.

Thinking about a trip to Colombia? Where do you want to go? What is holding you back? Let us know!