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.
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.