Areperas, Machorras, Camioneras…
During the Bogotá Pride march last Sunday, I learned lots of Colombian words for dyke. Arepera (arepa maker — arepa is a traditional Colombian corn patty, which is also slang for VAGINA) is a popular one. Toque Lesbico, the drumming group I marched with, wore shirts with Arepera written on them, to say that we are areperas and proud of it, and to sort of reclaim the word in the face of harassment against LGBT people. The theme of the march this year was No al Matoneo Escolar (No to School Bullying), which is a problem resulting in tragic student suicides much like in the US. We had other chants such as “Las lesbianas somos malas y podemos ser peores” (“Lesbians misbehave but can be even worse…”) which is supposed to be kind of playfully irreverent but doesn’t translate that well.
The march was the most fun I’ve had so far in Bogotá. I successfully belted a few traditional Colombian jams for the
drumming group on my trumpet, and generally just had a great time getting a little tipsy and bopping along. We marched for about four hours with the crowd pushing in around us, people spraying shaving cream-type stuff all over us, a fleet of groupie whistle blowers surrounding us, and the occasional creepy drunk weirdo breaking through into the group. The streets were jammed with people watching the march, but according to several people I talked to it was not as well attended as last year. It got a little crazy at some points, with random dykes hugging and grabbing me, but I made it out alive.
I’m going to be working on a blog for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission about the pride march and LGBT situation here and will try to interview various folks (LGB & T) to get their perspective on things. I’ll share when it’s done, which if I can get my ass in gear, should be relatively soon.
Fake Boobs, Good Weather, and Fernando Botero
This is what Medellín, a city I visited this weekend about an hour flight outside of Bogota, is known for. It has a reputation of being LA-superficial, with lots of cosmetic surgery and boob jobs. People in Bogotá are always saying how hot the girls in Medellin are. One thing is for sure: they certainly wear tighter clothes and less of them. As for the good weather, that is undeniable — it has earned its name the City of Eternal Spring. And has contributed further to my horrible farmer’s tan.
Moving on, Fernando Botero is a Medellín-born artist who is popular for his paintings of rotund figures. According to him, they aren’t fat, he just uses the exaggerated forms to increase the drama and expression of the paintings. Of course, when I ask a taxi driver to take me to Botero’s Plaza where many of his sculptures are displayed, he says, “Ah si, la plaza de los gordos.” His works sell for millions and according to a friend of mine here, he was a big hit among the leaders of the drug cartel, who ultimately, and maybe unfortunately, popularized his work over many other (arguably better) Colombian artists.
Another famous thing in Medellín is a cable car system that was installed so that people living in the hilly, extremely poor communities could more easily travel down to the city for work, etc. The hills are so steep that a normal metro car will not do, so there are cable cars that hold six people which take you up, down, and back up a mountain to reach the top where, not surprisingly, there is an amazing view. On the way up I swung over stacks of brick shacks and wooden shanties jammed into the side of hills and propped up with wooden poles. These places, similar to images of the favelas in Rio or campamentos in Chile, looked like they could be blown over by a gust of wind. According to the 2012 gini coefficient rankings (measure of inequality, which I’ve already forgotten how to calculate even though I just finished a Macroeconomics class), Colombia is the 9th most unequal country in the world in terms of distribution of family
income, just behind Haiti.
A quick note on drugs — as I mentioned about Bogotá, there is not the same threat of violence (ie. targeted bombings) there used to be when drug cartels were at their peak. A taxi driver who took me on a long ride back to the airport told me his perspective, that nowadays the narcotraficantes keep a much lower profile. Horrifyingly, he said he was almost killed in two separate car bombing incidents that he came close to as he was driving his taxi around town. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like facing the daily threat of violence. Many people I talk to here have unbelievable stories of growing up in fearful circumstances.
And on that happy note, I love and miss you all. I’m still trying to get postcards in the mail — they barely sell postcards here at all so it’s NOT MY FAULT. So look for those in about a month or so (and please don’t move in the meantime). Lots of love!