Colombia and Colombians: Introductory Comments

Colombians are New-World Americans. They live on the best part of the far north of South America.

Colombians are largely of Spanish heritage and they speak Spanish. When you intend to visit Colombia, it may contribute to your pleasure to be prepared to deal with them in their own language.

Have an oral translation app on your iPhone or a bilingual friend with you. You might take a Spanish class where you live or sign up for some classes here. All the biggest and more important tourist cities have language schools available. It is also possible ti make your first visit a guided tour.

If you are making realistic plans for a visit, investigate getting a correct chip for your mobile phone. It may be that your phone won't work here without a change of chips. There are smart phones available here, but you may find them expensive. However, you can, with some care, buy an ordinary mobile phone and have it set up nicely for you at a reasonable price.

In many parts of the major cities and tourist areas you can find pleasing places to eat and sleep and you will also may be able to find a Colombian able to speak in your language or in English.

Enough about you.

This is supposed to be the introduction to a series of tiny essays about Colombia and Colombians. But first a few words about me.

I am an old American citizen who has lived in Colombia among Colombians for some time. Some have said to me, "You have lived here for a long time. Why haven't you written more about Colombia?" and "Why don't you write about Colombia?" and like that. So, instead of thinking of an answer I thought, "Why not?" I can note some of my observations and maybe even something about what I make of a couple of them.

More to come.


by Richard Sheehan

for Mago Bill III




Colombia and Colombians: First comments

   Working from the Pocket Guide of Colombian hostels I find that the Casa Platypus is a good place to sleep in Bogota. Bogota is a great big city and the capital of Colombia. The Casa Platypus is a hostel. A hostel is a kind of hotel designed for foreign travelers. It is a place to get useful information and to have a good chance for finding someone who speaks a language you know. The personnel there are often welcoming persons fro far off lands. This has been the case the Platypus. Their colonial, or republican style building overlooks a plaza called Parque de las Periodistas.

    "Periodistas" can be translated as journalists. I find journalists to be an interesting breed which has not quite died out. "Died out" may not quite be the way to put it. World-wide, journalists seem to be killed before they can die a natural death. Assassinated may be the more honest word.

    Journalists are being assassinated world-wide for doing their best to be honest. They would like to tell us the truth about what they see going on around them. They used to find out about goings on, happenings, and doings far and wide, as well as close to home.

    Some journalists still try to inform us about that which is going on. They have long carried on their craft. However we have been killing them, jailing them, imprisoning them, and hiring fewer of them(as a percentage of our population) for decades. So now we have fewer of them. I remember being told, as a Boy Scout,  that honest was a good practice. Now, because of our lack of interest, it is becoming a death sentence. What are we to tell our youth and children?

    Rather than not getting the back-story, we now, too often, don't even get the story. What are we to tell ourselves?

    It seems that I have heard of a Parque de las Periodistas in other Colombian cities. I may try to learn more about them. Do you know anyone who cares?

    It seems this park in the Cadelaria section of Bogota has bee dedicated to a good, honest, and careful journalist who you may know as a famous modern novelist. That novelist is Gasbriel Garcia Marquez. He is an admierer of those who pracice journalism abd has backed-up his admiration with solid support.

    One cannot even go to be in Colombia without learning something interesting.



by Richard Sheehan

for Mago Bill III

Grasslands of South America: some short notes

In North America, there are prairies and plains. In South America there are pampas and llanos. All four are relatively level grasslands.

In the south of South America one often hears the word pampas. In the north of that continent, one more often hears the word llanos. All of these wide grasslands have their stories. The following may be taken as a kind of appetizer for those stories. 

Only 10,000 years ago people were killing and eating doedicurus not far from the present location of the great Argentinian city of Buenos Aires. I case you are not well acquainted with the doedicurus, they are a kind of glyptodont. You might  want to call those doing the killing and eating, America Indians.

In the late 1500s Spanish Americans began to settle the pampas. By 1833 there were about 40 million (million!) head of 'wild' cattle on the Argentinian grasslands. These cattle were the offspring of those bought and "lost" by the earlier explorers and settlers. Sounds reminiscent of happenings in North America, doesn't it? During the increase of these heards on the Pampa there was a decrease in the numbers of Native Americans there. Between that 'increase' and 'decrease' one might imagine an interesting story or two.

Heading to the north of the continent we could learn about Laneros, men and women of the llanos. Llaneros formed most of Bolivar's cavalry. That cavalry did much to overthrow Spanish rule over the people of the continent in the 1820s.  Descendants of those Llneros can still be found in the llanos of Colombia and Venezuela. Some of them now resist the dominion of "Yankee Capital and Imperialism." I famous old song contains the refrain, "Sobre mi caballo, solo yo; y sobre yo solo mi sombrero" Its about liberty and freedom. In English, it might go "Over my horse, only me; and over me, only my hat." 

Among the first noted horsemen to explore the llanos were German "conquistadors" who's patrons had loaned vast sums of money to Spanish royalty. What did influential Spaniards do with the wealth they gained from their "new world" colonies? What did influential Americas do with the enormous wealth they gained from the great America empire? The sponsors of the three German groups sent to South America gained little wealth from their ventures. Still, Spaniards were able to pay their much of their debts, and Germans profited from starting and running the first South America airlines.

About 270 years after the first Germans were allowed to explore the llanos the Spanish allowed another prominent foreigner into South America and its llanos. That person was the baron Alexander von Humbolt.  Every educated American and European ought to know that name. I do not think that he began his travels as baron, but I choose to call him so. The baron was a Prussian naturalist and much more. He would become the father of modern geography and.... except for Napoleon ... the best known European of his time.

I think that Humbolt told the story of a camp on the llanos where his host was so disturbed early one night, that the baron too felt the disturbance. Unknown to either of them, in the dry packed earth directly beneath his host's hamaca, a very large alligator-like animal was hibernating through the dry season. Just as his host was composed for sleep, something disturbed the crocodilian. To the surprise of all, it erupted from the earth noisily. However it soo left; with an evident air of disgust; one imagines to, to find a more peaceful resting place. The camp too was soon resting peacefully.   



by Richard Sheehan

for Mago Bill