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Faces: Colombia pt. 1

Every year, in between those lazy limbo days after Christmas and before New Years, my hometown of Cali throws a week-long extraordinary salsa festival unlike any other. So famous is the Feria de Cali, that many around the world travel to see the almost supernatural dancers twist and turn incredibly fast, sprinkling flavor across the stage with an intricate agility. The salsa culture in Cali has become its most representative feature, schools ranging from ages 3 and up are easily found, always polishing and perfecting the next best dancers. The delicious dance entices travelers from all over, who visit Cali just to even get a whiff of the appetizing movements and have a stab at it. The Feria not only demonstrates the rich culture of Cali but also of Colombia in general, through one of the most joyous human forms of expression, dancing. 

My trip to Colombia was not planned at all. But one thing and another piled up and it just happened to be that I spent Christmas, New Years, and a wedding in my beloved country. I could talk about Colombia forever, there’s a plethora of experiences and memories I could share. But I feel as though the time I dedicated to visiting this time around wasn’t for traveling but rather seeing loved ones. For this reason, I have little to share with the public, for now. 

One day, I will pack my bag and devote my indivisible attention to one of the most beautiful countries in the world. 

Before viewing the pictures it is of the utmost importance that you accompany them with this song. And don’t tell you I didn’t warn you, the music will make you shimmy. You may proceed. 

Toribío, Colombia 

As many may already know (thank you novelas that overshadow the much more abundant history of Colombia), the Colombian drug war has been anything but “cool.” The violence is often embellished in the latest trending Netflix series, stuffed with rad tactics, and incredibly action-packed scenes. But in reality, the war has truly been a divisive tragedy that affects every single civilian in the country. The situation has led politicians to satiate their gluttony with money birthed from the narcotics, intermingling in their pockets with the money of the people and the cartel. Complicating the corruption, the FARC, for some time, protected farmers who grew coca, in exchange for a large portion of their income. These same farmers would later be displaced from their homes, ambulating into traffic packed cities, whose job market could not match the ever-growing migrant’s population. In fact, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “a shocking 5,840,590 people were registered as being internally displaced in Colombia” in 2014.

But in 2016, two extremely important events occurred in Colombia:

  • After 52 years of the insistent civil war many had been born into, the FARC neared ending talks to sign a peace treaty with the Colombian government to lay down their weapons. The peace treaty became official in 2017. 
  • Marijuana was legalized for medicinal purposes.  

Both decisions have been met with traditionalist opposition: Peace treaty? Those criminals should be sent to jail to pay for their crimes! Marijuana? Now you’ll have a bunch of addicts meandering the streets.

Whatever the opinions of others may be, I have an anecdote to share about post-civil war, post-legalization, from the little town of Toribío.