This is an anniversary issue and we hope you enjoy the selection of interesting and informative articles we put together to mark another milestone in the life of our newspaper. With edition 84 we complete seven years as the longest-running English language newspaper in Colombia, and even though we have much to celebrate, our accomplishments remain a work in progress: having not only opened up print media in a language other than Spanish, but continuously working towards keeping our ever-growing community of expatriates well-informed as to what is pertinent and newsworthy in this country.
Entering our eighth year would not have been possible without the perseverance and total dedication of our General Manager and my life partner – not necessarily in that order – María Claudia Peña. María Claudia’s relentless drive to keep our affairs in order, maintain exceptional commercial relationships with our advertisers and allies, as well shape the editorial agenda has not only put this publication “top of mind” with our ever-growing readership, but also positioned us, as a credible and reliable media entity.
When we started our newspaper on the 9th of April 2008, we had a hunch that English was going to become a necessary part of living (and understanding) Bogotá. We saw first hand, and with plenty of sweat equity as our hunch evolved into a reality; not just for our city, but to a large degree, the country.
Bilingualism has taken root in Colombia and increasingly a younger generation are reading (and singing) with greater ease in both languages. It is always gratifying to receive letters to the editor from well-versed Colombians, and those, which offer valid criticism. It means we are being read. We are being understood.
Colombia remains in short supply of qualified native speakers in key sectors which require constant communication with the outside world. One of the frequent observations we receive at the newspaper is that tourists face great difficulty when trying to understand (and be understood) when travelling outside major urban centres. Like many pressing issues at this moment in our history, what happens in Bogotá tends to stay in Bogotá. And Barranquilla is on a language footing which soon could put capitalinos to shame. But let’s give it time, as right now, Colombians seem more preoccupied about the Chikungunya’s bite than the teacher’s mark.
And if this tongue-twister virus has us avoiding tropical places like the plague, then a more menacing season is approaching, and one which strikes where it hurts the most: the wallet.
Given the sudden and extended slump in the price of crude, the Colombian Government needs to substitute oil revenue from elsewhere. President Santos has been searching high and low, cutting non-essential spending from the budget, while trying to convince the FARC in Havana that peace can be achieved even if the ordinary José (the Colombian equivalent of Joe the plumber) will be that much poorer; trying to figure out how to pay for a 100% increase in the Predial and without facing the tax agents.
It seems the guerrillas are buying into this proposition. While hard-working middle class Colombians are burdened by cumbersome taxation, the FARC scream from the Havana lobby: “Oligarchs must pay!”. Only when our “oligarchs” (not really sure who they are) get straddled with even more taxes, will FARC begin to scour the countryside, picking up all the landmines they planted, hand over their AK-47s and turn lucrative coca plantations into pineapple farms.
Meanwhile our José is still trying to figure out how to escape Bogotá. The FARC seem to have an easier way out: not a single day in jail, no retroactive taxation and the real possibility of spending the rest of their days in sunny Cuba.
If Santos’ peace bursts with an economic bubble, then no matter what was said in Havana will amount to much. And when the time comes (sooner than later it now appears) for the peace accords to be put to a popular vote, if the electorate is hurting financially, all that “good will” could be scrapped at the ballot box. And then what? The FARC will hardly return from Havana in triumph. More likely they’ll be forced to pick up their Harleys in Caracas and some may even return to safe havens in Los Llanos. And there, the Chikungunya really bites!
Before I sign off, I would like to extend a very special thank you to all our writers and photographers who have contributed to help get us to this milestone. And to all our advertisers who have believed in us along the way.