A Gringa in Bogotá: Living Colombia's Invisible War

By June Carolyn Erlick | Go to book overview

La Primera Ronda

Even back then, before the Internet, dvds, and cds, before the TransMilenio superbuses and the Unicentro mall, before the fall of the Berlin Wall and before 9/11, even back then, U.S. travellers avoided Colombia.

I wasn’t one of them.

After five years working for newspapers in the United States, I had taken a year off to explore Latin America. Latin America was in my bones, even if it wasn’t in my blood. My parents had spent their honeymoon in Havana and Cuba; my mother had yearned to be a high school Spanish teacher. During my college years, I lived in a Dominican neighborhood in New York to save money on rent and went frequently with my neighbors to the Dominican Republic. My first job after graduating from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism was covering the Cuban community in New Jersey.

I didn’t know much about Colombia when I arrived in Medellín or precisely, Envigado, in late fall of 1975, after a couple of months in Central America. A few months before in Florida, I had met Elaine, a young Romance language professor from the University of California, and her friend Nena, a bullfighter. I didn’t know then that “nena” was a generic nickname for “girl,” and not a proper name, but I was fascinated by the idea of a woman bullfighter.

I took up their invitation to stay at their farm home in Envigado. People tell me that the town is now one more neighborhood of Medellín, but at the time, it was rural and isolated. I enjoyed the women’s hospitality, but I am an urban soul. Medellín, even when we visited, seemed a bigger version of the cities in Central America. I was bored with beans and the bland saltless variety of small white arepa, the inevitable corn pancake served with the beans and rice. After a few days, I took off for Bogotá, where I had

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A Gringa in Bogotá: Living Colombia's Invisible War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Foreword- A City on Display xi
  • Preface xxiii
  • Acknowledgments xxv
  • La Primera Ronda 1
  • My Gringa Accent 4
  • Life and Rules 6
  • Looking for María 10
  • View from My Window 14
  • Dreaming of Journalism 17
  • War and Peace 21
  • Life on Movie Row 24
  • Redprodepaz- Knitt Ing Peace 28
  • Dogs 31
  • Transmilenio 33
  • Three Tall Buildings 37
  • Displaced 40
  • Time 43
  • Plaza de Bolívar 46
  • Horses and Other Animals 50
  • El Chocó- Never to the Jungle 53
  • Artists- Beyond the Invisible Door 56
  • Dogs II 59
  • A City of Many Hues 62
  • Robberies 66
  • Random Acts of Kindness 70
  • Upstairs, Downstairs 73
  • Ciclovía 80
  • Bombs and Other Loud Noises 83
  • Transmilenio II 86
  • Theatre 88
  • Red, Yellow, and Blue 91
  • Disappeared 94
  • Good Friday- The Passion 97
  • Books 99
  • Gabo 101
  • Santa Marta- Listening to Students 106
  • The Strike 108
  • Remolinos 111
  • Abortion and Citizens’ Rights 116
  • Catcalls and Unwelcome Whistles 119
  • Electing Álvaro 122
  • Jamundí 126
  • Transmilenio III 130
  • Truth and Reparations 132
  • Dreaming of Journalism II 135
  • Cafam 138
  • Epilogue 143
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