So it’s already the end of my internship. I was officially done on Friday and I left Bogota Saturday morning for Medellin. It was great to see friends that I haven’t seen in almost two years. As usual Juliana and Lexie’s family were great. We went to la feria de las flores which is a big deal here in the state of Antioquia. Aah, we went pole dancing today, it was hard work – my legs and arms soar really bad now.
My last few weeks in Bogota was amazing, I met more interesting people at the end of my stay. I met other Africans too; a guy from Nigeria and another from Chad cool, right? I also went to Tumaco with my job for a workshop; Tumaco is a very beautiful place, warm climate and great people. Lot of military presence though, apparently it’s the consolidation center for Plan Colombia.
Well back to Bogota, I attended a dance presentation by the Afro-group called PALENKE; I believe you can look them up on YouTube – they are amazing I tell you! It was sad to leave to Bogota; there I experienced very great things as well as bad things. For instance, Bogota was the first place I was robbed and the first place I was called a fucking Nigger. For the good things – I was blessed to meet amazing people, learn about the issues of the black population of Colombia and interview great people.
In case you don’t already know, there are black people in Colombia; in fact Colombia has the third largest population of Black people in the Americas after Brazil and U.S.A. The black folks of Colombia experience a profound type of discrimination, in my opinion different from that of the U.S.A in that they fare worst and are invisibility in Colombia. With the issues of displacement, the blacks are disproportional affected, of the 3 million displaced, more than 1 million are blacks. With the 1991 constitution, blacks (as well as indigenous people) of Colombia were officially recognized, ancestral land were titled to black communities starting in December 1996, which unfortunately collided with the entry of armed conflict between the guerrillas, paramilitaries and the army into the black communities. Since then, blacks have been displaced with little attention given to their situation by the Colombian government.
So the next time you visit Colombia, do not get carried away. The Blacks of Colombia are way more than the dancing you see in Cartagena, they constitute almost 40% of the Colombian population and yet rank lower than the rest in terms of social and economic indicators. So it would be great to think of them when you are in Colombia and if you can, get involved. Some organizations working with the Black Colombians includes AFRODES, Cimarron, PCN and C.N.O.A. Hence the title of the blog.
Tomorrow I leave for Central America.
Greetings from Bogota
Hope you all had a great weekend
The border crossing from Ecuador to Colombia was pretty easy. A 5-hours bus ride from Quito to Tulcan (the border town), 10 mins taxi ride to Rumichaca border, stamp out from Ecuador immigration, cross the bridge to Colombia DAS immigration to stamp in, take a 10 mins taxi ride to Ipiales bus terminal, there take a bus to Cali (10 hours), Bogota or anywhere in the country.
In Cali, I met up with folks from Couchsurfing, we went to a ballet show (which was interesting by the way) and later hung out in a canteen eating Empanadas and chatting. It was a great to be in Cali again, I met some of the amazing people there 2 years ago. Left Cali after 3 days for Bogota, it was a 12 hours bus ride and as usual it was cold in Bogota.
In Bogota, I stayed in a dorm room at Casa Bellavista Hostal, it’s a pretty nice and cool hostal. Very clean, free breakfast and cool staff. At this hostel, I met two graduate students from University of Minnesota who are doing research in Bogota on the same thing as I am, pretty cool right?
Last Saturday, my boss invited me to her house for her birthday get-together. That was my first time seeing so many black Colombians, guess what, I was looking for similarities between them and Nigerians. We dance the same, and I swear some of them looked like a Yoruba person while other looked Ibo or Ewe. Also at the get-together, I met a couple who also worked/research Afro-Colombians; the lady is a PhD student at UC Santa Cruz while the guy is an Anthropologist professor at university of Indiana. Yes to Networking.
This is my second week at the internship, last week I did lots of translation from English to Spanish and vice-versa, was introduced to lots of black activists and to the ways things worked in the organization. Last Friday, I attended my first staff meeting, it was really impressive to see the passion of the staff despite the ongoing threats they face. Just a brief history, black activists and organizations working with the black Colombians have been receiving death threat for some time now; some of these threats have been acted on. Just recently, a black female activist was assassinated in Medellin, so now you might understand the pressure my coworkers are under. One of the main points of discussion in the staff meeting was how to protect themselves and their family.
The office has eight permanent staffs but other folks come by to help out. Two of the three founders of the NGO also work there – the third founder is in exile in the U.S because of the threats directed towards him. I also met an old man who said he was a Yoruba descendent, and had been to Nigeria 34 years ago to learn the Yoruba spiritual religious, he is an herbalist now. Two of my co-workers offered to help me with my research and put me in contact with people who can help me further. Also, I moved in with one of my co-workers on Saturday.
I was invited to a fare-well party by two of my co-workers on Friday, I was fun, there I was introduced to Afro- Colombians university students. They told me they had a national organization that does community service work with the community. On Saturday, went to a birthday get-together of one of my co-workers.
So far I have been treated like a queen by the Afro-Colombian community here in Bogota. They said it felt good to meet folks from the “Mother land” since that’s their root and I told them it felt god to meet my brothers & sisters from another mother. In addition, this community is so generous and kind. After a week here, I know I made the right decision to come to Colombia and intern with an Afro-Colombian NGO.
Sad day at work today, the president of the NGO I’m interning received a death threat, she and others folks working with Afro-Colombian NGOs and UN agencies were given 20 days to leave the city or die.
In another two weeks, I’ll be giving y’all another update…..Until then ciao!