Monday, October 24, 2011

Dancing Queens AND Kings

Latin Americans are hard-working people who are very serious about their job, education, duties, career, and overall goals. We strive to achieve the best and always put in our best effort in whatever we do. Most importantly, our friends and family are people to cherish and spend a lot of time with since they are the ones who will grant us warmth and happiness. But also, Latin Americans know how to have fun! There is no doubt about that. One of the things that we consider the most fun is dancing. We are so serious about our dancing that we are even recognized globally for our skills: the city where I am from, Cali, Colombia, is especially enthusiastic about dancing, so much that it is known the the Salsa Capital of the World.

In Latin American countries, when you typically go out to a party or to a club, the main attraction is the dance floor where you will find yourself dancing to various genres of music: salsa, merengue, bachata, vallenato, cumbia, reggaetton, among others. But dancing is not just about the fun of it. We also take it quite seriously and, actually, salsa has very recently been established as a professional ballroom dance style. Salsa has it's greatest influence in Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. The Dominican Republic is known for its sensual bachata. Venezuela has great merengue and most latin american countries share the cumbia or at least some variation of it. Dancing for many is a lifestyle, a way of making a living, and we pride ourselves in our distinct, animated styles of dancing. When you visit one of these magical countries, be sure to go out on the town one night, and take a partner who could dance all night - don't worry, you'll find that people with this ability are relatively easy to find!

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Cafe de Colombia by Marisol Pelaez is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stereotypes and Why You Should Ignore Them

Too often, stereotypes cloud the image foreigners may have of a country and this could deeply affect the country in question. For example, in my case, I have always been subject to judgment based on the fact that I am Colombian, and "evidently" my Dad must be a drug-dealer. This is the stereotype that I have struggled with the most for all of my life.

I do not mean to rant, I just want to clear the air as to the reality of my country. The truth is that yes, Colombia produces a lot of coccaine, around 60% of the world's coccaine. But to specify, 90% of the coccaine it produces goes straight to the States, its main consumer. Oh, the irony... Those of us who have actually visited or lived in Colombia know that coccaine is not a part of Colombians' lives. Rarely do you ever hear about people doing coccaine and most people, especially young people, are willing to insist that Colombians aren't the ones consuming the drugs, it's the consuming countries, and I emphasize the United States, who ironically is the country who stereotypes the heaviest. I am a firm believer in the laws of supply and demand; if there were not so much demand, well obviously the coccaine industry would decrease in response to this.

The people of Colombia are always so eager to bring down those stereotypes, they try very hard to emphasize other products, like coffee or emeralds, and hopefully to be able to crush the coccaine industry and replace it with one of the various other resources we have to offer the world. And also, since people believe that all there is to Colombia is coccaine and drug dealers, then they also think that it is a dangerous place where you will get robbed, kidnapped, or even killed. This is also a lie, those dangerous times were about 15 years ago, and the country is working very hard to make the land a better, safer place for both natives and visitors. To be quite honest, the real danger hides in the rainforest, not in the cities. And if you ever do visit Colombia, you will find that all the natives welcome you with open arms and clearly steer you away from any sketchy parts of town.

Colombians are friendly, welcoming, and have a constant smile on their faces. I hope the world would give Colombia a chance, maybe even visit and find out for themselves what a paradise it truly is. All we really want is vindication.