Colombia, you’re not helping Yourself, but neither is the World.
I’ve been living in Colombia for a year and a half. During that time, I’ve witnessed too many large-scale tragic acts of violence unfolding – in my home country, via the internet.
Bad things happen in Colombia, too. Bad things have happened to people I know. Last week, a U.S. DEA agent was murdered in Bogotá.
Huffington Post and its slew of ignorant commenters love the conditions – A “meeting” at a restaurant led to a horrific event in a violent drug state, the victim involved in a dangerous line of work.
Wait, what? Bogotá’s newspapers El Tiempo and El Espectador said that he was watching the NBA finals with friends. Because, ya know, it was Friday night and they were in one of the nicer bar and restaurant zones in the city, not at the embassy or breaking up a coke ring in the southern slums. He made the grave error of hailing a taxi off the street as opposed to calling for one, and he got “Paseo-ed.” Paseos Millionarios, or Millionaire Rides, are not a Bogotá invention, but they’re increasingly common. Taxis cruise around at night, particularly in the fancy going-out zones, pick up unsuspecting passengers (bonus points if they’re foreign), collect accomplices off the street and threaten or drug the passengers into withdrawing all their cash at various ATMs. They are “typically” non-violent.
It’s a very sad event for the agent’s friends and family. It’s also sad for Colombia. Colombia’s not a bad place. It’s not a dangerous place the way the media wants it to be. People ask me if I feel safe here, and generally the answer is yes. In the big scheme of things, I feel safe. Sometimes I don’t feel safe, like when I’m walking a few blocks farther than I want to at night by myself. Every time I cross the street I half-expect to get flattened. Sometimes I don’t feel so great on buses. Safety is a state of mind. Safety is highly dependent on choices we make.
I’m ok here. And for anyone who is thinking of traveling to Colombia, you’ll be ok here too.