I’ve always considered October to be a month when things get done. Thankfully, there’s only one long weekend (which by Colombian standards is quite ‘mean’) and with what’s left of the year, people seem open to spending that extra saved cash, planning ahead to the end-of-year holidays, and imagining all the potential of what lies ahead.
I also consider Colombians to be a very optimistic lot. No matter how challenging one year may be, over another, there’s always hope that things will inevitably work out for the best. It’s kind of the intangible glue that keeps this society going, getting up before the crack of dawn to make an honest living. Fortitude. Determination. These are qualities of the Colombian spirit.
Even though the year is not over, and it would be unwise to jump to too many conclusions ahead of a December editorial, the country is performing well, on all fronts. There’s enthusiasm for new business ventures pouring in, prudent economic management by the central bank and a post-conflict mindset – which even though the FARC and the government have yet to formalize with a handshake or a treaty – appears to be advancing stoically, despite the occasional verbal meltdowns.
If Colombia can sign-off on a half-century of conflict in the upcoming years, it will become a favoured nation for investment and opportunities, but also one, which increasingly foreigners will look to, as place to start new careers, and new lives.
President Juan Manuel Santos would like to clinch a peace deal with the FARC before the start of next year’s contested election season. And while the nation’s leader may be pressed for time, the FARC seem remarkably self-assured in their role as negotiators, and hardly hurried to return to the hills. The continent’s oldest guerrilla insurgency seem increasingly nonchalant over “continuing the fight,” especially when having to hang out in an Havana hotel for months on end.
I have often written on this page that for many Colombians, what happens in Havana, stays in Havana. Although the country must still confront a ghastly human rights record, the drama of the internally-displaced; the intensity of the armed conflict between the state and the FARC has noticeably dropped, with the public’s attention more focused on crime in the cities, and the out of control violence by football hooligans.
Part of the power of the media is to make the world a more immediate place. No matter on what side of the planet you’re on, you switch on the TV, scroll through your High Definition menu and voilá, you’re there, outside a shopping mall in Nairobi, where women and children are crouching for cover during a hostage taking; and if that doesn’t rattle you out of complacency, there’s always some suicide bomber willing to kill women and children on the steps of a school in Pakistan.
When we are witness to so much carnage around the world, I feel grateful to have ended up in place like Colombia. Yes, much of violence here has been senseless and bloody. And “yes” again, we also have too many widows and orphans of a war, which has dragged on for far too long.
But then, the nature of warfare is changing. Just try to stomach the images we have been subjected to of children being gassed by sarin in Syria. What horror! Hard to believe we have this kind of genocide going on at the edge of Europe, and into the 21st century.
Latin America has its share of injustices and poverty ranks high among them. But I believe that in a world of nuclear threats, religious intolerance, and the advance of Islamic radicalism, Colombia, as the homogeneous society it is, remains very much protected. And the foreigners who come here are aware of this. This is why so many look at a lifestyle choice of making this country, their second “home.”
Colombia for me has been my “first” home for decades. Maybe I’ve become so accustomed to living here, that as the years go by, I would find it hard to imagine myself anywhere else. Besides all the natural beauty this country has to offer, and the possibility of exploring remote and unchartered places, there’s a simplicity to one’s existence.
Even on days you think you’ve had it rough, there’s always some person standing next to you who had it that much harder. Colombia gives you a daily reality check, but it is also a place of many “Buenos Días” and many “Muchas Gracias.” In as much as it is formal, it is also uncomplicated. Colombians safeguard their tradition, but also like that which is edgy and alternative. You won’t be judged here on the color of your skin, or how you take your religion. You’ll be judged only by degrees of kindness.