Colombia ~ Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown Sunday @ 9 pm ET on CNN

The public face of Colombia has changed immensely over the past ten years and is still changing for the better. Tony will explore several regions of the country from the mountains down to the Caribbean coast to the coca leaf growing inlands formerly controlled by drug cartels.

Don’t fear Colombia, enjoy it

I’d thought my unconditional love for Colombia was well established there. I’d visited for speaking engagements. I’d made a giddily enthusiastic episode of a previous series in Medellin and Cartagena. I’d waxed poetically and often about how well I’ve always been treated, how thrilling it is to see how far the country has come from its bad old days.

I’m a fan of its people, its music, its food and its disarmingly injured pride.

But coming out of the remote jungle village of Miraflores, I made a mistake.

I tweeted a photo of myself standing under a shade tree surrounded by young Colombian military recruits.

My old friend and Top Chef colleague Tom Colicchio tweeted right back: “Too soon” — connecting the appearance of machine guns with the then recent Newtown massacre.

I tweeted back that “this is what it looks like in FARC country.”

Of course I meant “territory recently controlled by the FARC,” the unpleasant Marxist guerilla group who’d been terrorizing Colombia for decades with kidnappings, assassinations and worse. They operate hand in glove with the cartels — essentially shaking them down and providing them with protection — in return for funds. And, indeed, not too long before I arrived at the dirt airstrip, merchants in the small town are said to have accepted payment for basic goods and services with coca paste.

Now, Miraflores is swarming with army and police. The FARC, by almost all accounts, have been beaten back significantly.

The phrase “FARC country” was not, however, interpreted as intended, as meaning an area, a neighborhood, a territory once under FARC control. Not in Colombia.

Colombians were outraged.

“I do NOT live in FARC country” and “How come you glorify those bastards?” were common responses. The twittersphere blew up with pissed off, deeply offended Colombians reading second-hand reports of what I was believed to have said. Many misidentified the young soldiers in the photo as being guerillas.

Our fixers and drivers were very, very unhappy — in the uncomfortable position of being closely associated with someone (me) who was (for the next couple of days, anyway) widely thought to be a FARC sympathizer.

Things bled into the print media, and it was a tough couple of days.

It was a clumsy, ill-worded and foolish thing for me to have done.

Colombia is NOT, for the record, “a FARC country.” Far from it.

As I should well have known, the struggle between the FARC, the cartels and various right-wing militias has been deeply felt by nearly every Colombian family. Opinions — even perceived opinions — can have consequences. Just about everybody you talk to — even in a present day Colombia that is much, much safer and secure — has lost someone to violence from one side or the other.

Colombians — more than anyone — have paid a terrible price in lives for the world’s seemingly bottomless appetite for cocaine, and for the greed of a relative few. And if you ever wondered “how come they don’t get a handle on things down there,” all you need to do is look at the place. The country is huge. It is about 70% sparsely populated (and gorgeous) jungle, mountains and coastline opening up onto both the Caribbean and the Pacific. It is ideologically divided. And it has neighbor problems. Venezuela next door has been all too happy to provide safe haven and even covert military assistance to the FARC. Panama’s Darien Gap offers some of the world’s most impenetrable jungles.

Colombia has been very successful in recent years in its war on cartel- and FARC-related violence. But the ludicrous futility of any fully successful “war on drugs” is apparent with a single look out of a plane window.

In spite of all its painful history, Colombia is emerging as what SHOULD be a vacation wonderland.

Have I said yet how beautiful the place is? It’s incredible.

It’s fun. And, yes, it’s safe. Every day, more so.

 parts-unknown-anthony-bourdain-episode-3-on-colombia CNN

Cartagena has some of the most beautiful colonial architecture you’re likely to find anywhere in Latin America. A great bar scene. Amazing food and architecture.

Medellin is a modern, sophisticated, enormously enjoyable place to spend time. It’s as far from its image as a murder capital as you can imagine.

And people are heartbreakingly welcoming and happy to see visitors who have come to their beautiful country for something other than to talk about narcos and violence.

Cali is a party town to rival Miami. The beaches along the coasts are as unspoiled as your wildest fantasies.

And yet many people still don’t go.

I would urge you to put aside the stereotypes.

If you want to find bad people in Colombia, you can surely find them, as you could in New York or Los Angeles. But nowhere have my crew and I been treated better or with more kindness and generosity. I’d bring my family on vacation there in a heartbeat. And hope to soon. As I said before: Colombians are proud. Let them show you what they are proud of.

That said, this week’s Colombia episode of ‘Parts Unknown’ marks another great moment in Bourdainian stupidity.

Faithful viewers of my previous program on that other, less good network, might remember my previous misadventure on an ATV. You’d think I would have learned from that experience, a long barrel roll down a sand dune wrapped around a few hundred pounds of metal and machinery. I was very, very lucky to have emerged from that experience with limbs and skull intact. That maybe I’d be smart enough to realize that maybe off road vehicles were just not for me.

No.

In Colombia, I saddled up once again, and as you’ll see managed to fly off the seat, drive my head straight into the ground (helmet-less, of course) and (my producers insist) somehow succeed in running over my own head.

Though I was “out” for a brief microsecond there, I remember bounding to my feet, unwilling to be embarrassed by the glaringly obvious: I should have worn the helmet they offered. I should have driven more carefully. I probably shouldn’t have been — given my record — driving the damn thing at all.

Comedy Gold.

Source: CNN – Parts Unknown

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Una respuesta

  1. Señores FORO SOBRE PARTICIPACION POLITICA Bogotá., DC

    Esta importante iniciativa nace de la Mesa de Conversaciones que se lleva a cabo en La Habana (Cuba), entre el Gobierno Nacional y las FARC-EP. Instancia nunca antes vista en el país donde podemos aportar con ideas sanas, ausentes de cálculos electoreros y sobre todo en medio de la diversidad.

    Durante décadas los medios alternativos a los oficiales han sufrido la persecución y la estimagtización del Estado. La asimetría en medios ha incidido de manera sostenida en el alargamiento del conflicto social y armado. Solo unas voces en una definen la conducta a seguir de los colombianos en temas como la paz y otros de no menor importancia.

    ANNCOL, Agencia de Noticias Nueva Colombia, fundada en el año de 1995, permanentemente ha sufrido los embates de gobiernos liberales y conservadores para cerrarla. Hoy tienen a Joaquín Pérez Becerra en la Picota/ERON, víctima de montajes judiciales y testigos inducidos por la Fiscalía.

    Desinformar y tergiversar es la constante en Colombia. Maña utilizada por la oligarquía colombiana para aferrarse al poder económico y político alienando a los nacionales a sus ‘intereses’.

    La mesa de conversaciones de la Habana urge de espacios para la difusión de sus avances, logros, y porque no decirlo de sus contratiempos. Espacios transparentes y objetivos.

    Como equilibrar esa asimetría en la información? Sencillo. Aplicar en realidad el gargarismo estatal, “Aquí hay libertad de prensa y expresión”. Nada más lejano de la realidad.

    Por consiguiente:

    1 Solicitamos cesar toda persecución en contra de ANNCOL y exigir la liberación de nuestro director.

    2 Permitir a la agencia ANNCOL, operar físicamente en Colombia junto a su cuerpo de redacción y reporteros.

    3 Permitir en la sana competencia, la ampliación de ANNCOL en otras ramas de las telecomunicaciones e información, como ANNCOL/Radio y ANNCOL/TV..etc…etc…

    4 Evitar el monopolio informativo en manos de cadenas multinacionales .creando serias barreras en la protección de la soberanía del espectro electromagnético de Colombia.

    !!La Paz duradera y Estable se construye con medios soberanos de participación popular!!!

    Atte:

    Joaquín Pérez Becerra Director ANNCOL Dick Emanuelsson Subdirector ANNCOL

    Athemay Sterling Acosta
    Enviado desde un dispositivo BlackBerry® de Tigo

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