My Pseudo-Deportation from Colombia

I spent some time in Peru last year, enough time to write 7 articles featuring over 200 pictures.

The trip was planned – sort of. I planned to spend two weeks in Lima getting a new Colombian work visa. A new work visa, as opposed to a renewed visa with the same employer, must be applied for outside Colombia’s borders. I could get it at any Colombian consulate in the world. Last time I chose Buenos Aires. This time I chose Lima so I could sneak down to Arequipa for a few days and see old friends. And I missed Peruvian food!

I had been hired by a Colombian to develop an internet strategy for his business. I’d spend most of the day promoting his website and generating clients via the web. Most of his clients were Colombians, but some were gringos so I could also take phone calls and translate documents.

After I was fired because of this blog, I decided I wouldn’t hide this site anymore. I’m going to tell anybody who may hire me. 100% disclosure – I want people to know exactly who they’re dealing with.

This Colombian businessman is fluent in English, and I sent him my worst articles to read. I mean, the WORST. He read my sleaziest stories and still wanted me to be his internet marketing guy. Plus, he was willing to sponsor a work visa.

Colombia is rare for Latin America in that it limits tourist visas to six months per calendar year. In Peru, on the other hand, you can get a 90 day tourist visa every time you enter. I know a woman who lived in Peru for six years, leaving the country every 90 days just to get a new tourist visa. Sometimes she’d simply drive to Arica, have lunch, and come right back. Colombia’s 60-day tourist visas can only be renewed twice per calendar year. I was fired in March (hence losing my work visa) so a tourist visa started by default, but did not include the one month I spent in St. Louis. My 6 months as a tourist would end in mid-October.

I started work before flying to Lima. In fact, I delayed leaving until the last day before my tourist time expired.

When I got to Lima one of my documents was missing a stamp. I emailed the Colombian and he drew up a new one, then had it notarized and mailed to Lima. I spent a few days in Arequipa, then returned to Lima. The new documents had just arrived. I logged onto the internet to confirm receipt, only to see a surprising email from him (lightly edited):

Some government employees came to talk to me about your web-sites. Even though I don’t hold anything personal against said web-sites, I have to regretfully cancel any work relationship with you. So when you get the signed work offer, please disregard it. This notification supersedes any previous agreement.

Without stating the formal reason why, we have notified the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores and the DAS.

Fired again – and this guy knew about me beforehand!

I honestly don’t blame him. He was willing to take a risk. He believed in me, enough to bet on me. But he underestimated the pressure he’d have to endure as the sponsor for my being in Colombia. Whatever the funcionarios said, it was enough to change his mind. But we’re still friendly. We had lunch as soon as I came back.

Back to me sitting in my Barranco hostel, having just been fired via email. I had a suitcase with a week’s worth of clothes, and I just learned that I’m stuck in Peru for two extra months. Everything I called a “life” back in Bogota – my apartment, my clothes, everything I own, my gym membership, my cell phone bill, my clients, my friends, my squeeze, everything – I couldn’t return to. It’s a strange feeling if you’ve never felt it.

I feel a new kinship with my Mexican friends who were deported. Only it’s not supposed to happen this way, gringos getting booted from Latin countries?

I wasn’t technically deported. But when people ask why I left Colombia, what should I say? I say I was “pseudo-deported.”

Another interesting angle to this is that I had only been working for this Colombian a very short time. How the hell did anybody know I was working for him? I’d showed the paperwork at the Colombian consulate, but they didn’t receive them. They just noted one’s lack of stamp and dismissed me. They didn’t even get my name.

I thought and thought and eventually realized one way I could’ve been linked to his business, but it was a long shot. And they would’ve had to been watching me very closely. They either found out that way, or I have no idea how.

Imagine how pissed my landlord was to hear me call him from Peru saying I wouldn’t be around to pay rent until January 🙂

I’d already endured the DAS and MIA incidents, so I anticipated something going wrong before flying out. So I paid extra for a fully flexible flight. I rescheduled my return trip to Bogota for January. Coming through (formerly DAS) Migración Colombia, I was more nervous than ever. But the guy was as friendly as could be, described in The DAS Incident(s). So I must not be in any computer system.

Soon after returning, the Colombian and I had lunch. He was happy to see I’d closed the brothel tours. He added that if I change the subject matter of this blog, he’d offer me a full-time contract – the salary of which would afford an estrato 6 lifestyle.

A few weeks later he called to tell me the government people really don’t like me. They came into his office asking for all his employees’ IDs. They’d heard there were gringos working there. I hadn’t been in the office since October, and this happened in February.

Given the timing of their timing of their two visits to my boss (just after I left for Lima and soon after I returned), I’m even more paranoid than before.

I’ve also re-thought getting fired by Institute Pimp. I no longer believe he found my site on his own. They’re quite inept with web concepts. I now believe he was contacted by government people, given the timing was within a week of renewing my visa with them.

I published the articles all out of order, but here’s the timeline of my troubles.


2011: Year of Knocks

March 2011 – Fired for this Blog
May 2011 – The MIA Incident
June 2011 – Colombia Reports Controversy Part 1
July 2011 – The DAS Incident(s)
July 2011 – Colombia Reports article on censorship via Expat Chronicles and Brian Andrews
September 2011 – Colombia Reports Controversy Part 2
October 2011 – My Pseudo-Deportation from Colombia

Don’t forget the anonymous snitches and dedicated haters I have. Anyone close to me knows how paranoid I was in the second half of last year. I wouldn’t talk on the phone, email, FB, nothing. I got a glimpse of what it must be like to be a gangster. But if I were a crook or gangster I wouldn’t have a goddamn website!

These songs sum up my 2011:

Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me
hook on this track sang by Michael Jackson RIP

Rolling Stones – Fingerprint File
all-time most underrated Stones song

TRU – I Always Feel Like
OK, so this samples Rockwell but it still captures the feeling

Geto Boys – Mind Playing Tricks on Me
my first ever gangsta rap tape

50 Cent – Many Men

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  1. Looks like you are doing well man! Enjoy the care-free life. I sure miss it. If I win the lotto, Ill be down there with ya!


  2. some would tell you … reap what you sew other would say censorship
    I say Jesus Christ eventually you will get the right one pissed off
    someone once told me if anyone ever found out we were there then we were not doing our job right
    maybe I should send him to teach you a few things
    if you continue you will go down for something or you will make it harder for the rest of us down there


  3. I think it might be time for a series of articles on Colombia’s robust floral industry and low debt-to-GDP ratio.

    Also: Pictures of cats.

    And you might want to take down the posts bashing Colombian cuisine. Somebody’s brother probably owns a restaurant.

    Hope you can get all this sorted out.


  4. Of all of the country’s problems (and any country for that matter), it’s funny to see you’re such a high priority target.


  5. William Burroughs had the same thing happen to him in Mexico 60 years ago…. he wrote too much about the seedy side of nightlife in the DF 😛


  6. Colin – Jesus Christ on a pony! You’ve gotten yourself noticed by a government of a fucking country! Freedom of speech always comes at a price. Can’t help but notice a parallel between you and John Lennon. Both ex pats who ened up on the govenment radar of their adopted countries for nothing more than telling it like it is. As a writer (and a talented on) please wear that shit like a badge of honor my friend. Been reading you for a couple years now (stumbled upon this blog almost from day 1) and it keeps getting better. Keep writing. Thanks brother… BTW – Is the Mick still breathing?


  7. love that stones song. had almost forgotten about it. thanks for reminding me. funny, after listening to it, i walked downstairs and James Brown “I feel Good” was paying on the radio. Easy to hear where Mick’s influence came from


  8. I think it’s the MIA one that’s done it! Couldn’t you have put it under the ‘contributed stories’ section? I guess it’s a writer’s responsibility to say things as they are but it is also their responsibility to stay around to be able to write more and address future issues. It may be honorable and romantic for a writer in extreme cases to die for their beliefs but only when the ideal is noble enough to touch the hearts of the community. In the MIA article you pretty much turned informant on yourself! Put yourself in the shoes of DAS, what would you expect, they can’t really let it slip away into oblivion! Let’s face it, if any other organisation were trying to pull DAS down, it would be great for them to point out that the ‘MIA’ info was online for all to see and they did nothing about it!
    Just my thoughts, love your blog!


  9. Yeh that’s true the MIA story is pretty ass-out …. I was smh the whole time I was reading it….

    I’ve been offered MANY times to smuggle shit, and to do all sorts of illegal and dangerous shit, ALWAYS turned them down. It’s not worth having to look over your shoulder constantly for YEARS afterwards…


  10. Wow Colin, I have lived in Latin America for 20 years, mostly in Mexico, and have also experienced some crazy bouts with immigration. I hope you can help me on this one. I am a US citizen living in Bogota one year past my expired tourist visa. In June I plan on leaving Colombia for good and returning to Mexico. Could you please give me any advice on how to get deported without getting skinned with a huge fine. I appreciate any advice you can provide,. Thanks


  11. Salvatore –

    Colombia doesn’t give you a huge fine. From what I’ve heard, you pay it and you’re in the clear relatively pain-free.

    I’m a different situation because they wouldn’t ignore me living in country illegally, they’d actively search me out and deport me.


  12. I think your paranoia is probably justified. I think it’s time for you to start using encrypted email. Try OpenPGP. You share a public key with your recipients (and their key with you) and you decrypt each others emails. This is the safest way to communicate electronically.

    Also consider encrypting your laptops hard drive if you haven’t already…

    Good luck and keep writing!


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