Colombianness

I don’t consider myself Colombian.

People that know me and have seen me rise in defense of Colombia and Colombians might think I’m being hypocritical, but the truth is I am of Colombia but not Colombian. Never once, in all the times I have met a Colombian, or any other Hispanic, have I ever been correctly guessed to be Colombian (or of Colombia). The flip side of this is that most of the more “Anglified” of United Staters don’t see me as being one of them; my accent is just a little too hard to place, and I seem a bit of a strange bird, but that’s a whole other can of worms.  I can see very little virtues to the nationalistic streak that runs so strong in people and am glad that I don’t feel it.

While living in Spain I would meet people that knew a whole lot more about Colombia than I, especially the liberal perspective that one seldom hears in the United States regarding any Latin American country. I have been wanting to learn much more about Colombian history and its modern politics but found it impossible to accept what I was hearing from family members; after all, while not everyone in my family is landed gentry, at least 30% of them with the rest enjoy the pleasurable and status-raising benefits that the blood connections allow. In my view, Colombians put too much stock into blood connections and a large part of the class warfare struggle they have been enduring for so long is a result of this. My father would probably me angered for me to say it, but it seems like he and my mother’s parents were the poorest in our very large extended family tree. Adding to this my family’s choice to emigrate to the United States to be part of the working poor here and it seems like we should definitely consider ourselves part of the lower end of the class struggle. Because of our bloodlines, my family sides with the rich and controlling elite.

They are of them but are not them.

What has caused me to go on this tangent is an essay in an email from my father complaining of the injustices against the working poor in Colombia, using as an example someone I don’t know who is evidently a pretty close friend of his. This essay is quite of of character from what I’ve come to expect from him, and I could not be happier. Of course, he sent it to everyone in his contact list, so I wonder what some of our cousins might think of it.

For example: In the 90’s, several of my distant cousins that live on working farms were victim to extortion from military groups. This caused the whole of my family to cry in uncharacteristically bloody rhetoric about obliterating the FARC.  While the details are still sketchy to me, the region of the country where my family have farms are more prone to extortion from the conservative paramilitary groups that promise protection from the FARC.

A second cousin of mine that I knew well from trips to Miami was kidnapped and later killed during an escape attempt about 15 years ago.  His father had organized a small army to try to save his son and I believe was witness to his being shot. The only detail I know is that my cousin tried to make a run for it with a blindfold on. I never asked as to whether this was a FARC or ELN or even a non-political group that kidnapped my cousin, but it doesn’t much matter.

Most countries have a certain political push and pull of what we call Left and Right wing. The mystery to me is why this leads to such blood-shed in Colombia.

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