Welcome to my Blogotá! Shakira and I hope to use this site to keep a few of you updated on what we’re up to down here in Colombia this summer.Ok ok FINE! Shakira and I aren’t together. We broke up a long time ago. Thanks for bringing it up.
For reals though, I don’t really know what to write on here so I’m just gonna go wild and try not to offend anyone too much (hi mom!!)
I’ll start with some FAQs about my time in Colombia:
How long will you be there? All summer. I’m flying back to NYC from Bogotá August 20th. I’ll be in Bogotá most of the time and traveling around within Colombia during August.
Where do you live? I live with two stoner professor Colombian guys and a cat named Vagabunda in Macarena, the Bohemian neighborhood. The apartment looks like it’s falling apart from the outside and in some parts on the inside but it’s mostly cozy, super convenient (10 minute walk to the office), and I have my own little bathroom which is a big plus.
What is Bogotá like? I haven’t seen too much of it yet since I arrived three days ago, but what I’ve seen I like. I hate making generalizations about personalities of people in a country, but fuck it, people here are really nice (except the guy that sold me my cell phone today, he was a dick). I feel like I don’t attract a lot of attention just by being gringa, which is a nice change from the Santiago cat calls which made my pasty freckled skin crawl. It’s a big city — 8 million people I think — hilly and up against some lush green mountains, with other beautiful mountains in the distance (I like mountains!) It’s high altitude which gets me out of breath walking up hills (more than usual). There are lots of faux hawk/rat tail haircuts. There are lots of police officers standing on the streets with big guns, deterring crime I guess. They mostly look really bored and are checking their cell phones and eating snacks.
Is Bogotá safe? I hate questions about safety because I think they’re really complicated and they cause me to unravel, but since you asked, everyone says that yes, it is safe. Will I get kidnapped and held hostage by the revolutionary guerrilla groups? No. Will I get my cell phone jacked if I take it out like a jackass in a crowded area and start taking pictures? Yup. If you’re interested in how Bogotá has rapidly developed in the last few decades (reduced violence, better public transportation, etc.), I watched a great documentary called Cities on Speed which you can watch in parts on YouTube (link to part 1 here) I’ve much to learn about the armed conflict that has been going on in Colombia between the guerrilla groups and the military, but what I’ve heard is that Bogotá is not a conflict area; I’ll be safe as long as I steer clear of the jungly border with Ecuador.
What are you doing there? Waking up each morning super excited to be in Colombia and wondering if this is the day I’ll have traveler’s diarrhea (actually, today was the day). Also, interning at Colombia Diversa, an LGBT rights organization during June and July. Currently, I’m doing research for a petition that the organization wants to bring to the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights (a regional human rights body, part of the Organization of American States). It is dealing with the murder of a Colombian LGBT rights activist, and particularly the discrimination in the legal system surrounding crimes against LGBT people — ie. the cases are often dismissed, stuck in the early investigation stages, and/or archived without finding anyone responsible. This inaction perpetuates the climate of impunity around violence against LGBT people in Colombia. So, it’s really interesting stuff for now, but next week I may be fixing margins or something. The org is small and mostly women lawyers, and everyone is cool and pretty laid back.
What is the status of LGBT rights in Colombia? Colombia is one of the most progressive countries with regard to LGBT rights in Latin America, alongside Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, BUT the experiences of LGBT folks vary a lot depending on if you are L, G, B, T, etc. If you’re interested, here is a look at what the LGBT situation is in each Latin American country; as you’ll see, it varies a lot by country. In Colombia in the past few years, there has been resistance from Congress to pass any bills related to rights and recognition of LGBT people, but there have been many advances through the Constitutional Court here. Marriage? Nope. Domestic partnerships? Sort of — you can show you have a “de facto marital union” and get partner health benefits, pension and life insurance benefits, etc. Adoption? Not yet, but it could be on the horizon since the Court just ruled that homosexuals have the right to form a family. Unfortunately, there are still three murders per month of LGBT people in Colombia, and various prominent powerful political figures who have made public statements against LGBT people which is concerning.
Ok, future Blogotás will be shorter, but I guess I had a lot to say for this first one. Thanks for reading and please comment, etc. Also please email me your address so I can send you a postcard (if you want one!).
Love and miss you.