Posted: 3/14/2019 | March 14th, 2019
Colombia’s troubled previous – cartels, paramilitaries, poverty, petty crime — casts an extended shadow that also reaches to right now. The nation continues to be considered by many as a spot the place hazard lurks round each nook.*
Having grown up listening to tales of Colombian drug lords, kidnappings, murders, and muggings, these ghosts haunted the again of my thoughts as ready to go to the nation.
Was the nation going to be protected? Ought to I convey my electronics?
The tales and pictures we develop up with don’t go away us simply. They slide to the recesses of our thoughts and wait there, prepared to leap again to the forefront and whisper concern into our ears.
It shortly evaporated as soon as face with actuality.
Colombian historical past is simply that. Historical past.
Sure, there are nonetheless many issues right here in Colombia: the drug commerce continues to be sturdy, paramilitaries nonetheless exist, and petty crime is a significant drawback. The homicide fee, although falling dramatically over the past decade, was nonetheless 11,781 in 2017 and petty crime and armed theft are nonetheless a daily prevalence with 2018 seeing over 200,000 armed robberies within the nation.
Locals usually instructed not going out to sure areas at night time and being additional cautious with my stuff. There are nonetheless points with the paramilitaries (there was a bombing whereas I used to be there by the Nationwide Liberation Military, a radical paramilitary group). Revenue inequality is excessive. Poverty is rife. About 29% of the inhabitants lives under the poverty line.
Colombia will not be good. It’s nonetheless rising, it’s nonetheless creating, and it nonetheless is making an attempt to forged off the lengthy shadow of its troubled previous.
However the large cartel days are over, and most paramilitaries have entered peace agreements with the federal government. Main crimes are lowering every year. Kidnapping has decreased by 92% because the cartel years and homicides have dropped by round 50% over the previous 20 years.
Poverty is lowering as effectively. Since 2002, when the federal government began monitoring poverty statistics, the poverty fee within the nation has dropped from virtually 50% to 29% — and it’s nonetheless dropping by round 3% every year. On high of that, their GDP per capita has elevated virtually five-fold since 1980.
Slowly however absolutely, matters are enhancing.
Tourism from across the globe is on the rise, as effectively, with tourism doubling since 2010.
Foreigners are shifting there in droves (Colombia will get a brand new immigrant each 18 minutes). The nation is a hub for digital nomads and tech firms like WeWork, Fb, and Google. It’s making large strides, typically dispelling guests’ earlier preconceptions.
Hazard doesn’t lurk round each nook the way in which it used. Colombia is a rustic on the transfer and persons are eagerly eager to shed its previous.
This isn’t our mother and father’ Colombia.
The nation continuously blew away all my expectations. (Even my dad, who was certain I used to be going to get kidnapped, commented after seeing my photographs that it wasn’t something like he thought it was.)
The folks have been curious, pleasant, heat, and useful. I had some nice conversations with college students and Uber drivers (I bonded with one over classical music and one other over our mutual love of the e book The 5 Love Languages). Colombians I met in Cartagena took me out and handled me like we had been mates without end. I had numerous different optimistic encounters with individuals who appeared typically glad to indicate their nation to guests.
The infrastructure rivaled what you see within the superior international locations of Europe. Severely, the roads, the ski-style gondolas main into the mountains, the subways, the speedy bus routes, the trams — I solely want the United States had such a complete system.
The culinary scene — high-class gastronomy all through, blended with unbelievable hole-in-the-wall eating places and ceviche and fruit smoothie road distributors — is without doubt one of the most eclectic and cutting-edge within the area.
And with lightning-fast Wi-Fi and tons of cafés, I discovered working there a breeze.
Colombia is full of matters to do and see, from stunning colonial cities like Popayan and Cartagena to vibrant cities corresponding to Bogotá and Medellín, from dancing in Cali to the Misplaced Metropolis Trek, from the seashores of the north to hikes within the espresso area, from the desert of Tatacoa to the ruins of San Agustín.
I believed that spending six weeks within the nation would permit me to dig slightly deeper, however even with that period of time, I nonetheless barely scratched the floor.
Colombia isn’t any Shangri-La.
However it’s rattling shut.
I give it an 11 out of 10.
It might be clichéd to say however I can’t wait to return. Colombia was among the best international locations I’ve visited in years.
I can’t communicate extremely sufficient about it.
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*I don’t imply simply in the US. Colombia has turn into extremely fashionable with Dutch vacationers because of a well-liked TV present that takes place right here however many advised me that older Dutch residents nonetheless ask “Why are you going to Colombia? It’s harmful.” Previous patterns die laborious…regardless of the place you might be on the planet.