That is the slogan with which the Colombian government tries to convince foreigners that it is worth coming to the country, which has such a bad reputation: war, violence, guerrilla, drugs.I have been living in Colombia for more than six years now and being a journalist have had to publish a lot about the violent side of the country. That has damaged the spell I felt for Colombia. There is so much wrong here.
In December I was two weeks on a holiday in Argentina and after that almost a week in at the Devil’s Carnival in Riosucio, in the west of Colombia. In Argentina, which is much to the south of Latin America, I missed the tropical atmosphere of Colombia, although I had a great time and met great people, I must say.
But when I was in Riosucio I felt the spell again which I felt twenty years ago, when I was in Colombia for the first time. I didn’t see any military, which is so common in the country, and I don’t remember having seen a weapon. That is quite a miracle. I didn’t see people fight, I saw people having fun. This bloody war against the bloody FARC was so far away.
Riosucio is a typical paisa (the region of Antioquia, Caldas, Riseralda and Quindio. You recognise the paisa by his hat and his poncho and his heavy singing accent with strong k’s) village surrounded by beautiful mountains. So it is worth the trouble to visit it, even if there is no Carnival. By the way, it is every two years, in the very beginning of January. So the next one is in 2011.
Colombia’s coffee promotor Juan Valdéz, whom you see here on the left side, is also a paisa. If you got curious about this funny Colombian ‘race’, also read Adriaan Alsema’s observations in Colombia Reports.
And read about my passion, the hippopotamuses in Colombia. That is also nice news, although it is a heritage of Pablo Escobar.