One of the things we’re learning as we travel more widely is that North American media-driven preconceptions about other countries are often not borne out in real life. In Canada, especially, we are very influenced by American (United States) media, which tends to mention other countries only when something spectacular happens – they host the Olympics, or go to war, or suffer a great human tragedy – or when their policies directly affect the U.S. economy.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been subscribing to the Deutsche Welle news feed – the international news as curated by the major German newspaper; something like BBC International out of England. It has been eye-opening to read so much international news, very little of which focuses on North America. (Maybe we’re not the centre of the universe after all!)
So….. back to how this relates to Colombia.
I’ve suddenly had to acknowledge that almost everything I know about Colombia has come from U.S. news stories. As a result, the first things that come to mind when I think about Colombia are cocaine, drug cartels, guerilla warfare (take a look at Wikipedia and see how much of that was directly influenced by U.S. policies and multinational companies back in the 1960’s), and Sofia Vergara.
Onboard preparation for visiting Cartagena included a lecture that really opened my eyes to Colombian history, culture, and biodiversity, none of which I knew anything about until now. THIS is the reason we love Viking cruises: their educational excursions and cultural enrichment opportunities.
The city as we know it today was founded in 1533 by the Spanish, but the Colombian indigenous people had settlements here dating back to 4000 BC. It became home to the Spanish Inquisition beginning in the 1600s, was a huge slave market in the 1700’s, fended off attacks by both the Portuguese and the British in the 1800’s before undergoing a major economic decline, and then rose in the 20th century to become one of the largest and most important port cities in South America.
The country is home to an incredible number of animal species, in part because of the area of Amazon rainforest within its boundaries. In fact, it has the second highest level of biodiversity IN THE WORLD! Imagine a country where an orchid (the cattleya trianae orchid, or Flor de Mayo) is prevalent enough to be the national flower.
Sadly, we will only be imagining it. It’s a port we had to skip due to our ship’s number of COVID19 cases exceeding Colombia’s 1% threshold for admittance.
We sail on….