22 days into 2013 and thankfully we are now free of the ubiquitous articles in the mainstream press – advertorial fluff made to sell holidays – telling us where the Top 10, Top 7, Top 37 places we have to visit in the year are. And of course, in many of these lists, Colombia makes the cut. Good on you Colombia! Good on the lists, huzzah the journalists who put these lists together and high fives all round to the editors for commissioning these pieces. To those who didn’t squeeze or see fit to include Colombia, no one read your magazines and your circulation clearly will have fallen.
A steady flow of tourism (scratch cruise ships from this list and Venezuelans crossing the border to stock up on provisions) is good for the country, is good for the economy and excellent for Colombia’s self-belief.
I do not need to read the lists; there are so many places I wish to visit just within Colombia’s borders. Putumayo and Popayan are high on my travel wish list this year, we’ll see if I can somehow convince my Santanderian wife that I am required to go on assignment to the South.
As if I needed any coaxing for going away on holiday! I would go at once if I could, what I need are unlimited divisas and oodles of time. So, aside from the normal slog of getting bodies into beds in the Casa Amarilla, writing articles and flogging them the world over, translating for institutions and perhaps the odd piece of voiceover work and guiding, my economic plans for this year definitely include winning the baloto. It has to drop sooner or later in Bogota, yet every time I pay any attention there seems to be a new millionaire created in the department of Cesar.
Colombia is always a holiday destination, travel in any direction for 45 minutes by air and you are transported into another world, let alone another part of the country. The regionalism is striking; the marked differences in cultures, made more so in that no one within 45 minutes of Bogota would claim to be Bogotano and no one a 45 minute flight south of Cartagena into the department of Santander would ever claim to be Costeno and on it goes.
And of course, 14 years overseas, and my friends back in London still believe that I spend my days sitting on a beach being attended to and spoon fed by scantily clad Amazonian waitresses or that I am fashioning a heavy set moustache and wearing aviator drop glasses and planning the next golpe de estado.
So, travel plans aside, for this holiday destination par excellence of Colombia – at least, that’s what the tourism bodies here and the international glossies are saying – what does 2013 herald?
- Peace in Colombia? One really hopes that something can be hammered out between the FARC and the government in Havana. Obviously peace with the FARC does not mean peace in Colombia, but it would be a massive stride forward. We have to have hope.
- More nationwide infrastructure? There is certainly a great deal being done on the Ruta del Sol in Caldas and Cesar. With any luck by 2014 we’ll have a two lane (4 in total) highway to the Caribbean coast. Will anything ever be done about the roads in and out of Bogota?
- Gustavo Petro to hang on to power in Bogota but only by the skin of his teeth. What kind of message does it send out nationally and internationally if a former mayor is under investigation and being tried and we are trying to oust the current guy? This job is a poisoned chalice at the moment and no one is focusing on the big picture, the city needs a steady strong hand…and continuity.
- Alvaro Uribe to launch another bid for the 2014 presidency successfully finding some loophole or another to exploit to get his way. Don’t expect his venomous tweets to stop any time soon either.
- Bogota’s transport to remain in chaos? I predict, albeit a tad negatively that there will still be no agreement neither regarding the Bogota metro nor for a Transmilenio Ligth (sic) on the Avenida Septima.
- I really don’t want to jinx it, but for the feel good factor of the country, I really hope that the cafeteros continue to make significant strides forward and qualify for the World Cup in Brazil 2014. Just imagine the party…like a nationwide version of the Barranquilla Carnival.