Andres grew up in Bogota in the early eighties, a city with a bad reputation and a politically turbulent history. Leaving to study in Australia in 2006,
he’s been a long time coming home; returning to a much changed Colombia.
I wondered how much.
Does time away from Colombia make you feel disconnected from your culture, or more proud of your background? It makes you appreciate and feel proud of the things you miss, as well as detach from the things you disapprove of.
After 5 years away what things do you notice most transformed in your old city? Us Rolos were responsible citizens and elected three good mayors in a row. The city’s infrastructure improved greatly and although far from ideal, it seemed like things were on the right track. Five years later the majority of the City Council are being investigated for the misappropriation of the funds allocated for the current development. Now construction has started but can’t be finished because there is no money. The roads are chaos.
5 years ago shops and services were open 24 hours. Bogota has a better safety record now but the flexibility of options has reduced a lot. People meet up more at home now instead of clubs. Mainly since the new lock out at 3am was bought in, also it’s more expensive to have a night out.
After the influence of living in Australia has your political perspective been affected? It reaffirmed my belief that it is possible for some governments to use their duties to genuinely benefit the majority of the community; also that the benefits of Capitalism can trickle down. I also learned that a country doesn’t need 1,000 years to become a modern, egalitarian society. In Australia I appreciated how so many cultures can live together without much friction. So many different ethnic influences can benefit society as a whole.
Has living abroad changed the way you view the government you grew up with? I was already disenchanted with the Colombian Government and the lack of alternatives. There is a continuity of the demagoguery and ‘business as usual’ attitude within the current Colombian political leaders.
What are the quintessential things about being a Colombian that have been polarized since your return? Egalitariansim does not exist in the consciousness of Colombians, instead everyone sees life as a zero sum game. Average people fail to see the full potential of ideas, we refuse to demand a good government, we refuse to have big dreams, we refuse to take big risks. Nobody wants to help, some out of fear, some out of unwillingness and some are just unable.
Pride does not allow us to get help and we are unwilling to follow directions no matter how good they are. We fail to see the big picture, because we are busy with the wrong things. We are unaware of what a bias is. Having an opinion is a dangerous thing. The only ones who learn how things work do so because they want to use the system for their own benefit. With time they become those who dictate how the system works.
We respect no boundaries and we love to add insult to injury. It is something we encourage in our children, celebrate in our friends, respect and admire those who excel at it and even rejoice when we are good at it. Aside from doing ‘it’ because we are innately corrupt, it would be impossible to live our lives without this skill. Corruption is a natural attribute of Colombians behaviour.
But Colombians are inept at rolling with the punches, partying like it’s the last day on Earth and whipping out a sordid joke at inappropriate moments. Things to be proud of.