Colombia Calling

Gripping television shows such as Narcos, Surviving Escobar and Pickpockets have shone a light on certain aspects of past Colombian society, but nowadays the nation is more renowned for its diversity, creative people and great coffee!


Regarding its diversity, I have always been fascinated just by how different one Colombian town is from another. Let’s say that we drive the equivalent distance in Colombia as Auckland to Rotorua, which is approximately 230km. In a country as big as Colombia, this could mean that the town we are visiting is likely to have a different climate. 


Rather than four seasons, Colombia simply has a summer and a winter, so the weather barely changes for much of the year and this is reflected in how people look and dress. Those from the coastal regions, for example, tend to be have darker skin while the central folk are often taller.


Each city has at least one traditional dish and a unique way of cooking it. In keeping with the country’s diversity, the vast array of fruits and vegetables are also available throughout the whole year. Plantains are among the most popular fruits, though are generally treated as a vegetable by Colombians, to be fried, boiled or baked. 


Food is of a most importance to the Colombian people, their approach often very different to what most New Zealanders are used to—especially in terms of the time taken to prepare and eat meals. Lunch is considered the main course of the day in Colombia, while dinner is the lightest meal as it is believed the body has less time to process the food before sleeping. Meals are also usually accompanied by freshly-made fruit juices. 


Colombians are considered to be very sensitive to the arts. Each region has a traditional gender of music and dance, with the likes of vallenato, champeta, sanjuanero, joropo and porro, being the most popular, regularly celebrated at festivals and tournaments.


Attending a carnival is a must-do for any visitor to Colombia. Each region—and in some cases, each city—has at least one carnival each year, usually based on the area’s main industry. It provides an opportunity for people to celebrate life and embrace their traditions, and an excuse for Colombians to showcase their happiness and friendly attitude! Our nation is a brave one that, having overcome tough times, is waiting and willing to welcome tourists who wish to explore and experience its beauty. The biggest risk now being that you just might not want to leave!


Words: Hugo Armando Diaz Piña