Change one vowel in Columbia to “o”(hint it’s the third to last one), and that’s where I’ll be in three months’ time, gazing out to the majesty of the Andes or tasting the rich spices of empanadas de pipian.
I was born in Colombia, speak Spanish fluently and dance salsa clumsily.
But once I get to Bogota for my journalism internship, it’ll be painfully obvious I’m not really Colombian. My nearly 20 years in the United States will come through in most interactions I have with my fellow Bogotanos.
It’s crunch time, then. I want to learn more about my roots. Because when my friends ask me, “What does it mean to be Colombian?” I can’t really answer their question. I don’t know or fully understand a big part of who I am and who my family is.
So these next few weeks are an investigation into a culture, history and people I really have no idea about. I’ll visit Colombia from afar: reading short stories, analyzing major news in the country, watching Colombian films and trying my hand at some dishes. (That might turn out to be disastrous…)
Besides wanting to learn more about myself, I hope this adventure will make me a better intern. I’ll be at la Fundacion para la Libertad de la Prensa (Foundation for Freedom of the Press). My work there won’t be fully contextualized unless I have a better understanding of the history, cultural values and journalistic environment there.
Journalists are still murdered in Colombia for doing their job: exposing information that will ultimately benefit the public. Just three weeks ago, a journalist was killed at the radio station he ran from his home. Luis Peralta Cuellar, 63, announced he planned to run for mayor of his small town two days before his death.
I won’t be reporting while I’m in Colombia. But knowing that fellow journalists there–and throughout the world–die for speaking the truth and uncovering corruption is jarring and humbling.
I hope to go back to Colombia to start a rural journalism venture of my own at some point somewhere in the Andes, gazing out to a country filled with passion, hope, pain and troubles.