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How Prostitution In Medellín Has Burst Out Into The Open

Medellín was once a mix of conservative values and hidden perversions, but now the sex trade is no longer a secret to anyone.

Updated Nov. 29, 2023 at 6:15 p.m.


BOGOTÁ — In the 1940s, Medellín wasn't just Colombia's chief industrial city but also boasted the most brothels, sex workers and "red light" districts.

As a columnist from Bogotá wrote, "You enter Medellín through a brothel." One conservative daily newspaper proclaimed in an editorial that the city was a "branch of Sodom and Gomorrah."

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Transparent, Colombia: First Black Trans Parents Shake Latin American Traditions

Valerie and Theo, both students at Cali's del Valle university, are the country's first Afro-Caribbean trans couple to have a baby, with husband Theo giving birth through C-section.

CALI — The day Valerie and Theo, an Afro-Caribbean trans couple from Colombia, found out they were expecting a baby, they became emotional — and a little afraid. They had been trying for pregnancy for six months, in vain, and had decided to give up. Theo began his first semester at university, and Valerie resumed her work and studies in the field of popular education. There was a menstrual delay two months later, and Theo had the right sensation this time: he was pregnant.

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On Dec. 30, 2022, their daughter Mar Celeste was born in Cali, western Colombia. This made Valerie and Theo the first trans couple of Afro-Caribbean origins in Colombia to have a biological daughter. At first sight they seem like any young couple, but their life experience as black, trans individuals meant that the challenge of starting a family was a whole different story. Their priority now is to care for Celeste and they're certain of one thing: They do not want her to become some kind of exception or social "freak."

The gestation process among the trans population remains a taboo. On the one hand there are the hormonal replacement therapies either for testosterone or estrogen, which can affect long-term fertility. On the other, the binary division of sexual and reproductive health services has proved obstructive and can prevent most people from receiving the advice they need.

As the Colombian Trans Health League (Liga de Salud Trans) points out, many trans men are offered bilateral hysterectomy, meaning total removal of the uterus and ovaries, drawing prejudiced comments like they would not "be needing these" if they are going to be "real men."

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An Unearthed García Márquez Essay Collection Reveals: "Gabo, The Chronicler"

A noted expert of the late Gabriel García Márquez is putting to rest the idea that the legendary Gabo was just a fantasist and man of fiction, revealing poignant and pointed essays and literary criticism.


BOGOTÁ — Call it a miracle, of sorts: we have a new book by Gabriel García Márquez, Colombia's late and perhaps greatest novelist. In fact, with painstaking effort, Fernando Jaramillo, a recognized expert on Gabo, has made an informal or "pirate" edition of the novelist's prologues.

His prologue to De sobremesa ('After Dinner'), a late 19th century novel (written as an "anxious" diary, and published in 1925) and the only one by the poet José Asunción Silva, is Gabo's longest piece of literary criticism. He writes of a passage in the book where a character, Helena, disappears: "The style, tone and lyrical breath, all stand out in the trembling, feverish evocations and quietly exploding apparitions. The writing becomes evanescent, ghostly and more in the romantic mode than the decadent style that marks the book."

In a detailed biography of Silva, Almas en pena, chapolas negras (Pained Souls, Black Butterflies) the author Fernando Vallejo shows how that eminently middle-class gentleman was also a sharp business operator — poet or not (he killed himself in 1896). Likewise, this unique piece of prose shows us all the virtues, and vices, of Garcia Márquez.

In his prologue to a book dedicated to Argentine-French writer Julio Cortázar, García Márquez recounts a train conversation with Cortázar and Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes "crossing the divided night of the Germanies, their oceans of beetroot, immense factories of everything, and the scars of atrocious wars and boundless love affairs."

How can one invent such an implausible construction as the "divided night?"

It is of course a hypallage, as it was Germany, not the night that was divided. But it's an easy switch if you happened to be crossing the Cold War border of the two German states, in the company of two literary giants, Fuentes and Cortázar, and you're Gabo, with his immense breadth and knowledge of us all ... not to mention of the night.

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The Left's Apology For Hamas Reveals The Depth Of Its Anti-Semitism

Sectors of the political Left around the world have practically lauded the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel — finally barely bothering to hide their good ol' fashioned hatred of the Jews, rather than hiding behind anti-Zionist rhetoric. Something evil has been re-released.


BOGOTÁ — Marx and Lenin would be turning over in their graves. If only they could see how sectors of the political Left, which is supposed to despise religion ("opiate of the masses"), are now in bed with radical Islam. Those laudable traits the Left proudly claims as its own — humanism, inclusivity and diversity — have been summarily ditched to make way for what is an apparently more fervent passion: hatred of the Jews.

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Héctor Abad Faciolince

How We May End Up Sliding Into The Real "War To End All Wars"

Considering that our "final war" may be arriving isn't so far-fetched when states like Iran, Russia and North Korea are courting confrontation and taking "crazy" risks, a little like the European powers of 1914. But let's proceed with caution.

Updated Nov. 1, 2023 at 6:50 p.m.


BOGOTÁ — Imagining the arrival of the "final war" could be a hopeful prediction, if we were referring to how humanity may finally be ready to close its long history of bloody conflicts. It would mean that peace has at last come to stay, and we could all live carefree lives in a way the world has never known.

Unfortunately I mean it very differently, in the apocalyptic sense, that the next big war could be the last one, with the losers being the whole human race. Yes, in that scenario, the world would become uninhabitable, and we would die off: all of us, down to the last child in the deepest forests of the Amazon.

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I must admit I have a dreadful feeling that, unbeknownst to ourselves, we are sliding toward World War III. I hope I am mistaken, and this turns out to be mere pessimism, the result of the fears that come with age. If I believed in God, I'd ask Him to make time and reality prove me wrong.

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Juan David Torres Duarte

Shame On The García Márquez Heirs — Cashing In On The "Scraps" Of A Legend

A decision to publish a sketchy manuscript as a posthumous novel by the late Gabriel García Márquez would have horrified Colombia's Nobel laureate, given his painstaking devotion to the precision of the written word.


BOGOTÁ — When a writer dies, there are several ways of administering the literary estate, depending on the ambitions of the heirs. One is to exercise a millimetric check on any use or edition of the author's works, in the manner of James Joyce's nephew, Stephen, who inherited his literary rights. He refused to let even academic papers quote from Joyce's landmark novel, Ulysses.

Or, you continue to publish the works, making small additions to their corpus, as with Italo Calvino, Samuel Beckett and Clarice Lispector, or none at all, which will probably happen with Milan Kundera and Cormac McCarthy.

Another way is to seek out every scrap of paper the author left and every little word that was jotted down — on a piece of cloth, say — and drip-feed them to publishers every two to three years with great pomp and publicity, to revive the writer's renown.

This has happened with the Argentine Julio Cortázar (who seems to have sold more books dead than alive), the French author Albert Camus (now with 200 volumes of personal and unfinished works) and with the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The latter's posthumous oeuvre is so abundant I am starting to wonder if his heirs haven't hired a ghost writer — typing and smoking away in some bedsit in Barcelona — to churn out "newly discovered" works.

Which group, I wonder, will our late, great novelist Gabriel García Márquez fit into?

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Migrant Lives
Adrià Salido

With The Migrants Forced To Face The Perils Of The Darién Gap Journey

The number of migrants and refugees who have passed through the Darien Gap reaches historic figures. So far this year, it is estimated that 250,000 migrants and refugees have crossed through the dangerous Darién jungle, mainly from countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Haiti.

NECOCLÍ — It is 7 in the morning at the Necoclí pier. Hundreds of migrants and refugees pack their goods in garbage bags. Then, they wait for their name to be called by the company that organizes the boats that will take them to Capurganá or Acandí.

Necoclí, a small Colombian fishing town on the Caribbean coast, has become the hub from where daily masses of people fleeing their countries set out for the Darién Gap — a tropical jungle route beset with wild animals and criminal gangs that connects Colombia to Panama. The journey to the UN camps in Panama can take up to seven days, depending on the conditions along the way.

In May this year, the US revoked Title 42, an emergency restriction imposed during the Trump administration. While on paper the order was meant to stop the spread of Covid-19, in practice it served to block the flow of migrants by allowing border officials to expel them without the opportunity to request asylum.

The termination of Title 42 has seen a dramatic increase in the number of migrants and refugees seeking the "American dream". According to the UN, more than 250,000 people have used the Darién Gap this year, over half of them Venezuelans.

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Julio Borges

Don't Be Fooled By The Myth Of Venezuelan And Cuban Doctors

Like Cuba, Venezuela churns out doctors who are poorly trained and overworked. Colombia then lets them practice medicine in the country in yet another senseless gesture of political goodwill toward Venezuela.


BOGOTÁ — Venezuela's self-styled Bolivarian Revolution is a big-old scam. A scam in every way that has hoodwinked everyone, friend and foe, workers and employers alike. Lying is the system's very backbone.

Like a sinister fairy tale, thousands of youngsters seeking opportunities have fallen for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's deceptive promises, and none more so than those lured into becoming one of the state's Integrated Community doctors (or MICs). They dreamed of a career in medicine, but all they have had is a big dose of indoctrination from a ruthless system that has trained them not as medics but as party militants.

I say this in response to reports on social media that Venezuelan community doctors might be allowed to work in Colombia. The Colombian College of Medicine has already warned of the risks of certifying medical degrees given by institutions controlled by the Maduro regime. Its recent statement declared that "the academic training — in theoretical, practical and technical terms — of the MICs is highly deficient and precarious, as their trajectories have not regrettably produced the high educational and professional standards required of a health sector professional."

What folks in Colombia might reasonably ask is, what is wrong with doctors trained by the Venezuelan state practicing medicine in their country? More doctors save more lives, right? There is a logic to that, but the warning given by the College of Medicine is much closer to facts on the ground.

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Brigitte LG Baptiste

You, Me And 65 Million Chickens: Shifting To Sustainable Food Production, Without The Guilt

Industrial-style farming should certainly be reimagined, but not with a guilt-ridden assault on the livelihoods of millions of farmers, herders and fishermen.


BOGOTÁ — The bones of 65 million chickens eaten every year will leave a mark on the planet, with scientists and diggers citing them one day as evidence of our existence, alongside radioactivity and microplastics. That was the conclusion of a study from the University of Leicester in England, on the ecology of a planet dominated by human settlements.

Chickens, boiled, roasted and shredded, represent perfectly what we are doing to the planet, in material and symbolic terms. Mass violence isn't the preserve of terrorists, to be sure.

Over 5,000 years, this essentially flightless bird, originally from India, according to the Audubon Society, has become the main source of animal protein for people across the world. With their legs tied, caged or sitting in baskets, these birds eventually made their way to the most remote Amazon settlements and to our country's highlands.

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Camilo Pardo Quintero

Sexual Violence In War: Listening And Healing — And Never Again

Three women who were victims of sexual violence during the Colombian Civil War recount their stories of struggle and survival. They speak up in the hopes that the judiciary will open a new case to bring justice to them and many more survivors of sexual abuse perpetrated during the conflict.

BOGOTA – Jennifer, Ludirlena and Diana suffered a living death at the hands of their aggressors. It was their self-love and resilience that saved them, after experiencing sexual violence during the nation’s civil war.

The Colombian government forgot about these women. But now, they are champions in a battle towards justice and dignity. With different perspectives, they manage to find a connection, something that will unite them forever: advocating so that no one else experiences what they endured.

All sides in the war perpetrated sexual violence. But in the case of these three women, it was specifically the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and United Self-Defences of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary groups who exerted power over their bodies, through the cruelty of their crimes.

These were not isolated incidents and, to the shame of our society, they remain a massive, forgotten outrage.

According to official records, during the war in Colombia there were 15,760 victims of sexual violence. Of that total, 61.8% were women, and another 30.8% were young girls and teenagers. Unfortunately, underreporting plays a significant role in these numbers. Organizations such as the Network of Women Victims and Professionals, the collective Focal Groups - Men Victims of Sexual Violence and the British organization All Survivors Project estimate that the real number may be as much as three times higher.

The three protagonists in our story show how armed conflict has marked the lives of thousands of women in Colombia. They are three voices among many that have come together to demand the opening of a "macro-case," or investigation into sexual violence through Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), which would uncover the patterns of sexual and gender-based crimes among armed groups which have devastated entire communities.

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food / travel
Marine Béguin

How 7 Vacation Destinations Are Pushing Back Against Over-Tourism

From setting new rules, imposing tolls and fines, local officials in some of the world’s most desirable tourist spots are trying to figure out the right balance to keep visitors coming without ruining the environment, or the experience.

From the canals of Venice to the beaches of Maya Bay, the world’s vacation paradise destinations are under assault. The second full summer since the COVID-19 pandemic abated has seen a massive rebound in tourism, which has made ever more clear that the effects of mass tourism (or over-tourism) are a real threat to the places and the people who live there. Environmental damage, deteriorating cities, overcrowding, rising prices and an impediment to local people's way of life are all consequences of international mass tourism.

In response, many touristic localities are taking this issue head-on by implementing innovative strategies to combat the negative effects of excessive tourism. These initiatives aim to protect the environment, preserve local culture, and ensure the long-term sustainability of these cherished locations. From Bali to Amsterdam and Machu Picchu, here's an international look of vacation destinations that are trying to find the right balance between welcoming visitors and being overrun by them.

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Charlotte Meyer

The World Is Not Ready For 1.2 Billion Climate Refugees

The number of climate refugees is predicted to hit 1.2 billion by 2050, yet states are still not taking enough action. The Global South will be the most affected, but the West will not be spared.


PARIS — The number of people displaced by environmental disasters is expected to explode in coming years, but governments remain slow to respond.

However, the phenomenon is not new: "Environmental factors have had an impact on migration dynamics since the beginning of humanity," says Alice Baillat, policy coordinator at the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC). "The world population has been distributed on the planet depending on the more or less fertile areas. This is why South Asia and the Bay of Bengal are now among the most populated areas in the world."

But climate change is making the situation far worse. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, since 2008, an average of 21.5 million people have been displaced each year because of natural disasters. The World Bank expects there to be 260 million climate displaced people by 2030, and up to 1.2 billion by 2050.

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