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EL ESPECTADOR

Latin American Pride Is At Home - Not In Miami!

Colombians seem to worship all things Anglo-American, "Miami-style" most of all. It's a sign of our own socio-cultural shame and some appalling choices made by past governments.

In Medellin: Tango pride on the wall
In Medellin: Tango pride on the wall
Juan Manuel Ospina

-Commentary-

BOGOTA — Is there a Christmas tree in your house? Do you really know why they celebrate Halloween, or why it now includes children in disguise asking strangers for candy? Did you go shopping on Black Friday or take advantage of discounts at some "Miami-style" (Miamesco) sale? Do you live in a residential compound with a name like Park Seventy One or Country?

I could draft an endless list of pseudo-cosmopolitan affectations that suggest the imposition of a globalized culture and our own society's presumptuous, upstart tendencies — or, excuse me, are those aspirational?

All such affinities are expressions of our inability to identify ourselves and our reality as a society and culture. We notice them across all social classes in Colombia, though more in the middle class, which is thought to convey the conviction that it is moving up the social ladder; as well as the upper class, which insists on feeling a little less Colombian and a little less provincial.

With our conduct we present the spectacle of a precarious urban society, unsure of itself and dazzled by the lights of a consumer lifestyle that is bereft of all human culture or depth. It is a culture sent our way from the north — especially Miami, that paragon of Latin American fakeness.

My land, my language

On the traditional streets of our towns and cities, billboards, shop notices and names are "in English," often badly written though not as badly as they are pronounced. They are pathetic attempts to reassure ourselves that we have left behind our "backwardness" and are nicely settled now on the fast-track train of modernity. We're in and have somehow ridden ourselves, even if symbolically, of certain peasant roots that apparently make us dark, impoverished simpletons.

This social conduct and its potential for money-making have certainly found an apposite cultural space here, especially when we think of one past president whom I shudder to recall, who abolished by decree the teaching of the history and geography of Colombia and its regions. Another one before him had already cleansed school curricula of all teachings about the workings and institutions of democracy, what they used to call civic education.

The result is a society and citizenry — especially its youth — deprived of any sense of identity or belonging. Only the Colombian soccer team and its goals make us momentarily see ourselves and behave as a nation, rather than guests in a roadside motel. Many of our compatriots seem to forget that those they dream of living with elsewhere (like Miami) are actually peoples of the south, Latinos and even Colombians with due and proper ID papers.

I am not urging that we retreat inwards and bunker up behind our native mountains and plains. Certainly, going out into the world to share our culture and goods, our dreams and fears, is a necessary part of growing and enriching ourselves, both in material and cultural terms, as individuals and a society.

The point is to do it from what and who we are, without pedantry or shame, open to giving and receiving. Merely by defending what we have been and are as a people, we shall earn respect and recognition. And therein lies the importance of saying out loud: I speak Spanish and this is my land, my history and my culture. I ask for nothing and owe nothing.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Notes From The Front: How The Russian Army Is Rotting From Within

The deteriorating conditions among Russia’s front line troops, chronicled by a handful of foot soldiers who have spoken out, may explain why Ukraine’s recent counter-assault has been so successful.

Military school cadets of the Russian army in Moscow

Anna Akage

Russia’s ongoing loss of territory in Ukraine can be explained by tactical errors on the part of Moscow’s generals, and the outsized ambitions of Vladimir Putin. But no less important — and evidently related — is the collapse of rank-and-file Russian soldiers.

The sudden collapse of Moscow’s units, having ceded a total of more than 3,000 square miles from both the northeastern region near Kharkiv and southern areas around Kherson, comes amid growing disaffection among Russian soldiers who went to war in Ukraine. Much of it has been chronicled through confessions and critiques that have begun to appear in the media and on social networks.

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To be sure, these are isolated voices among the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of those who for various reasons decided to abandon the army. But they are no doubt an expression of a much wider set of circumstances and sentiments among foot soldiers fighting on behalf of Moscow.

By far the best known of the soldiers speaking out is paratrooper Pavel Filatiev, who wrote a 140-page book-length chronicle of the two months of the war he spent as part of the battalion that had crossed over from Crimea to launch an assault on Kherson on February 24.

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