Unique perspectives of Latin America

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Upon hearing ‘Bogotá’ you probably had some less than tasteful images come to mind. Cocaine, guns, violence. However, this couldn’t have been more wrong: when we entered the heart of Bogotá, we could see the true beauty that it beheld.

Bogotá is located within the Eastern Cordillera, which is a branch of the Andes Mountains which tower over the city. The most known as a tourist destination is the mountain Montserrat. You can take an arduous hike to the top or a jolty cable car for a matter of pennies to reach the top. On a clear day, the views are breath-taking. One of my favourite memories of my time in Colombia was seeing the indescribable views at night with a friend. This was an emotional moment and a chance to reflect on how proud I was of pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and moving to another continent.

Another thing that shocked me about Bogotá was how bright and colourful it was. Some of the most famous graffiti artists in the world have murals in Bogotá, and the artwork are visual stories recounting the rich history of Colombia. The murals by the indigenous people of Bogotá assert their rightful connection to the land. These showcase their resilience in preserving aspects of their cultural identity despite external challenges. Some also raise awareness of the horrendous time that Colombia endured during the reign of Escobar, portraying scenes of conflict, displacement, and the loss of lives. These images of resilience have stayed with me and asserts the true strength of Colombians, emphasising the grit they have in the face of adversity and how they have overcome their painful past.

These showcase their resilience in preserving aspects of their cultural identity despite external challenges

And finally, how could I talk about Bogotá without mentioning the incredible nightlife. The most renowned is a club called Theatron and is the biggest in Latin America. It has 13 themed rooms and even one that is exclusively for women. One of my favourite memories there was belting Mr Brightside with a middle-aged Colombian man and him proceeding to buy us an entire bottle of Aguardiente because he had never met a British person before.

For those who wrongly characterise Bogotá with its turbulent past, I hope you can one day see what else the city has to offer and fall in love with it as much as I did and I am counting down the days until I am able to go back.

Carnaval de Barranquilla

In the city of Barranquilla, on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia, every February, Carnaval de Barranquilla takes place. Two million people participate in this celebration of culture and tradition. I was lucky enough to attend this year, travelling from my university in Bogotá. 

On arriving Friday night, the anticipation in the air was palpable – music exploded from every street and locals sang joyfully. The ‘Reina del Carnaval’ (Queen of Carnival) had been crowned, and rumour had it Barranquilla native Shakira made an appearance. It was hard to imagine that the city could grow even more animated; it could. 

The anticipation in the air was palpable – music exploded from every street and locals sang joyfully

The next morning, the iconic Batalla de Flores parade took place. Enormous structures passed us by on floats such as giant parrots, sequined from beak to feet, and the newly crowned Reina del Carnaval hoisted above a ten-foot dome of roses. Floats were followed by feathered dancers, moving hypnotically, grinning eagerly into the crowds. Coloured powder and squirty foam flew through the sky; staying clean was not an option. My skin was sticky and sunburnt, my head pounded from the blasting music, my eyes stung from sun cream and an attack of colour – and yet, I was itching for more. 

Luckily, the Gran Parada de Tradición was ready to deliver. Though less visually extravagant and less well attended, the air still sizzled with electricity. As groups of elite samba, salsa and Latin dancers passed us, playful chit-chat, foam fights and celebratory chants made our experience memorable as we gained a familiarity with the ever-welcoming Colombians around us. 

Our day concluded in the legendary Baile la Calle, a massive street party spanning the entire city centre. Every street was a dance floor, every local with a speaker a DJ. Colombians pulled us into their dance circles, and I tried hopelessly to muster up the basic salsa steps we’d learned in salsa class the previous week. Foam wars ensued and the energy refused to let up for a second. 

Carnival was an experience of a lifetime, and like every day in Colombia, it left me dreading the day I must leave.

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