Censorship and the Image of Colombia

Alternate Title: Promoting Colombian Tourism Better than Anywhere Else on the Web

“Don’t hit me with that positive shit, I know you lyin’.” – DMX

I’d be rich if I had a dollar for every time a gringo or gomelo complained that I “perpetuate the negative image of Colombia.”

My friend Joey was reading my copy of Killing Pablo soon after arriving. Some Colombian gave him shit, told him he shouldn’t be reading it! I couldn’t believe that. One of the most compelling news stories from the continent, and the world’s most famous criminal in a generation – he shouldn’t be reading it. That’s not just Latinos’ aversion to reading, it’s a form of censorship in Colombia. They want foreigners only to read about their coffee, flowers, and pink dolphins.

If you’re familiar with the Colombian English-language blogs, you’ll see most claim to “challenge stereotypes,” to show the “real” Colombia – safe and friendly and beautiful and magic and pasión. Here’s a perfect example, from This is Colombia (I’m picking on him because he’s a friend):

Our aim is to offer an accurate overall representation of the country of Colombia. We hope to increase the general understanding, challenge stereotypes and pass on information for those who would like to know more about what Colombia has to offer…

There’s a real effort to change the image of Colombia from the old stereotypes of cocaine, kidnapping, and guerrillas. It’s a good effort they’re doing, because the country has changed. I wouldn’t have moved here in the 1990s.

But unlike those good gringos, I have no agenda. I don’t give a fuck about your perception of Colombia. If something I write dissuades you from visiting, I won’t lose a minute of sleep. I just don’t care.

I’m not here to perpetuate stereotypes, but I do write about sex, drugs, crime, violence, and vice. It’s just a coincidence I live in Colombia. When I started writing, I had no ambitions of making money as a blogger. I didn’t know what a blog was! I definitely didn’t want to write about Peruvian or Colombian culture.

I was influenced to start writing by Tucker Max. My literary influences include Hemingway, Updike, HST, Garcia Marquez, Burroughs, etc. Like them, I never had any intention to write about sterile subjects. I specifically believed that people only want to read about SIN. Sex, drugs, crime, violence, los pecados capitales, your most hidden secrets and ugliness. That’s what people want to read, and that’s what I set out to create.

Many gringos and Colombians lead clean lives in Bogota and greater Colombia. OBVIOUSLY! People aren’t stupid. You don’t have to tell them that ALL lives in Colombia are not exactly like MY life in Colombia. You can live in the North and never cross 72, which should keep you from ever meeting deported Colombians. You can steer clear of drugs and whores. You can think drinking in Zona Rosa till 3 am is a wild night out. You can hang out with CouchSurfers who play kickball. You can go to megachurches and hang out with Protestants who put their arms in the air while singing Christian rock in Spanish. You can be as square as you want in Colombia, and you can only read about Colombia’s coffee, flowers, and pink dolphins.

Colombia’s sins are on display here only by coincidence that I chose to live in Colombia. But maybe the do-gooders haven’t considered something. What if I was attracted to Colombia specifically because they have the hardest culture of sin?

My old man used to say about me: It doesn’t matter where you put Colin. He will make friends with the lowest common denominator.

Latin America has some of the most corrupt cultures and governments in the world. And the more you learn about Colombian history, the more you’ll come to see Colombian culture as the most corrupt of Latin America. The more you learn about Colombia’s underworld, its sex culture, its drug use, the more you’ll believe Colombia is the devil’s top playground.

Colombia offers the hardest partying in the world. In the first world, you have to make A LOT of money to do what I do. Here, it’s free for us gringos. In the first world, it’s easy to go to jail. Here, it’s hard. You have to be a real asshole to get locked up in Colombia.

The do-gooders have a noble agenda, but some go too far in trying to discredit me. Instead of trying to silence me, why don’t you go after Colombian culture? If you criticized my brothel tours, did you also go after the “Chicas! Chicas!” guys in Zona Rosa and along 15? Do you criticize Colombians who worship beauty pageants, super-models, and plastic surgery? Did you have a problem with Yandar and Yostin’s song, Cripy Cripy or El Capo? Or do you just have a problem with a gringo talking about those things?

When Adriaan Alsema first implied my DAS incident equated censorship, I actually didn’t agree. But given the gringos trying to shout me down COMBINED with my government troubles, I’ve turned 180 degrees to agree with him 100%.

ProExport’s Official Colombia Blogger Campaign (I’m not official)

Colombia’s ProExport has recently launched a bloggers campaign to promote tourism. From Mike’s Bogota Blog:

Incidentally, missing – unsurprisingly – from the official bloggers list is Expat Chronicles, by Colin Post.

Colin, a friend of mine, wrote very frankly and explicitly about sex, drugs and corruption, as well as his own problems with addiction and even mental illness. (And about politics, literature and urban planning.) Colin describes a hidden, dirty reality. That exists to some degree everywhere, but no nation, particularly one with as troubled a past as Colombia’s, wants it to be shown off to outsiders. Colin’s entrepeneurial initiative in setting up a brothel tour business may have been legal, but certainly didn’t help his case with Colombian officialdom, either.

Mike’s right. Am I disappointed or surprised that I didn’t make the cut? No. But do I want to make a point anyway? Yes.

ProExport’s official bloggers are almost 100% coffee, flowers, and pink dolphins. All that’s great, but it has a key flaw. That content is only going to appeal to foreigners ALREADY INTERESTED in Colombia. If someone’s already interested in Colombia, they’re likely to visit whether or not they read your coffee, flowers, or pink dolphins articles. A successful Colombian tourism campaign would target the 99% of the world who don’t give a shit about Colombia. In that respect, their campaign will bring moderate results at best.

Who reaches that 99% better than any other blogger in Colombia? Me. I’d bet 100,000 pesos that I reach more of that 99% than ProExport’s entire stable combined. Take the top two sites (by traffic) there, from two friends of mine: Medellin Living and Mike’s Bogota Blog. I bet even Dave and Mike would agree their readers were already interested in Colombia, Medellin, or Bogota. On the other hand, many of my readers (I estimate half) don’t care about Colombia, Peru, or South America. But because of this site they know Why I’m Bullish on Colombia, Enrique Peñalosa’s innovative ideas, Colombian fruit, Fernando Botero, and more. Maybe coffee, flowers, and pink dolphins someday!

See this comment:

Colin, I am not here to learn more about Columbia or paying (or fantasizing about paying) women for sex. I am here because I have an unwavering admiration for your open hearted honesty and ability to take me into your world without making excuses. If you started to write about your toenails growing you’d probably have my attention.

Mike called the campaign “a good, low-budget strategy for Colombia.” I’d say he was half right. I wouldn’t call it good unless it reaches this 99%.

But can you expect huge results from a government-funded organization? Government outfits (outside military and law enforcement) are, by definition, NOT risk-takers or innovators. People don’t want outside-the-box ideas in government. And endorsing me would be career suicide in a bureacrat’s work environment, so I’m not surprised or disappointed.

Here’s more food for thought for boosting Colombia’s tourism. Are we even sure Colombia’s coffee, flowers, and pink dolphins can compete with their sterile equivalents in Brazil, Mexico, Peru, or Argentina? Maybe. I doubt it. But for sex, drugs, and partying, Colombia crushes the competition. There’s no comparison. This year’s U.S. Secret Service sex scandal in Cartagena will bring more tourism to Colombia than any government organizations’ or do-gooders’ combined efforts for a decade.

In fact, I’ve recently decided I can’t live in Colombia because the rumba is too hard. I’m leaving.

Know When to Fold

I may have a substance abuse problem. I’ve been accused in the past. My bigger problem is not just drinking and drugging. I have a habit of making the wrong kind of friends. It’s an overall, high-octane, drinking-and-drugging, hanging-out-with-crooks lifestyle. It’s always been that way (see my old man’s quote above), and I’m wondering if it always will. Either way, I’ve realized I can’t handle Colombia.

Here’s a juicy quote for Colombian tourism, from yours truly:

If you like drinking and snorting with criminal types and dancing reggaeton with sexy Latinas in sketchy neighborhoods on bad blocks, you won’t find anything in the world like Colombia. Sex, drugs, and danger. The only risk is wanting to stay!

It’s so pervasive in Colombia, you should avoid the country if you have trouble with being sensible and moderate. I’m proof. I didn’t get into this stuff in Peru or anywhere else, but Colombia turned me out. So I gotta split.

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  1. Colombia is not safe. It has gotten worse in the last few years, and even in the last few months. My girlfriend in Medellin says robberies are out of control. An American guy got killed in his room in his hostel a week or so ago. Her brother and his girlfriend were victims of a violent robbery last Friday. She is scared every time she goes out. She is a totally square middle-class person who only goes to work, comes home and goes to the mall on the weekend. But you can’t avoid it. Hell I got to see a bus burn in January. Colombia is great but realistically you have to be very careful.


  2. Colombia is not a family destination because the kidnapping industry actually has an infrastructure there.

    Couples will not go to Colombia because gringas suffer in comparison.

    Druggies will not go to Colombia because either they are felons or unable to plan that far ahead.

    Single women will not go to Colombia because they can have sex anytime they want in the US.

    Guys who like to dance reggueton in back alleys with a cold beer in their hands will find Colombia to their liking.


  3. Lmao@You can hang out with CouchSurfers who play kickball!! Wtf!!

    So if you’re leaving Colombia where are you going next? And are you going to continue blogging?

    I hear Russia is a pretty raw place where with mafiosos and hardcore partying with gorgeous chicks, you might want to check that out.


  4. I can’t say I’m surprised, they pushed you to the edge and more, threatening your livelihood Everytime an opportunity arose. It’s hard to take that kind of abuse, and props to you for holding out as long as you did.
    Additionally, this blog really helped to showcase the crude (an exciting) underbelly thriving in a blind mans paradise.

    In terms of increasing traffic to your website: write about very generic topics, like something that someone would google and this site would pop up even though the content is hardly related. They would soon browse the rest of the site and word would spread.
    Fo example, I stumbled upon thegmanifesto looking up how to cook a bomb steak in the oven, from there onto roosh, roissy and finally your blog.

    Im Looking forward to the next chapter on this blog.


  5. Like Jim mentioned, I’m concerned Colombia, and Medellin specifically, have become more dangerous since I first arrived in 2009.

    I find myself in the strange position of being a big promoter of tourism and people living there as expats, yet now concerned about my personal safety, as well as everyone else’s.

    After having been robbed last June, I don’t think I’ll ever feel as carefree in Medellin as I did before that experience. Probably normal after someone threatens your life, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy to get past.


  6. People here (or even in other countries) don’t like truths and specially ugly truths. It’s the same kind of people that wants control so they can feel safe, and they think they can achieve control through threats and censorship. It’s the same people who wants autocratic leaders… “the government should….” is the common denominator in a political conversation…

    We need more realistic people (in the philosophical sense), but that’s out of the box thinking nowadays and considered dangerous (hasn’t it always been?). I think is shameful that my own government try to censorship the ugly truth whereas it’s evident for the rest of us living day to day here. It’s some kind of cognitive dissonance but I would call it hipocrisy because our own journalist can write the same you do and win simon bolivars (our pulitzer prize), but because you’re a gringo, you’re allowed only to the light side of our country.

    Colombia has advanced for the better (you would have been expelled ore even killed 20 years ago for your writings) but we’re not as free as we like to think. Hopefully you have opened the Pandora’s Box, and more people are begining to accept that is not wrong to describe those ugly truths, that in fact it helps to know us better as society. I believe that good thinking is bad thinking, we need our dose of realism, specially from another perspective, a very useful “first world” perspective.

    Remember Colin, if you’re on the side of the majority (the good-thinkers) you’re probably doing something wrong. Like you, I’d rather see the whole spectrum, not just the pink colored reality. That’s why I like about this blog.

    Godspeed Colin.


  7. I have loved your posts. Your writing on Colombia has greatly enhanced my desire to go there, and not for drugs and whores, and not for flowers and dolphins.

    Because clearly, it is a place like no other. A challenging and interesting place. A place I want to see for myself.

    I wonder if it will turn me out, or if I will thrive. Either way, I sure do want to find out.

    Cheers, Colin. People ought to know that your blog is the best blog on Colombia out there. And I think that your association with the ‘lowest common denominator’ is really an honesty issue. At least we are honest and straight about our vices and our darkside, as are the local thugs.

    The only difference with the “clean” folk is that they hide their evil better… making them dishonest. As always, your approach involves cutting through the bullshit and not trying to act like things are other than how they are.

    If being honest about myself, people, and life in general is going to have me living out my life chilling with peasants or rougher types, so be it.

    I fit in there better than anywhere else. Maybe you do too.

    I hope your next destination is a prosperous one, my friend.


  8. @Samuel I don’t think being “clean” in one’s writing online and what one chooses to make public for the world to know (forever) makes one dishonest.

    We (bloggers) all have our own boundaries. I think most of us can appreciate Colin’s boundaries are FAR wider than the rest of the bloggers writing about Colombia, but I don’t think that makes him any more honest than the so called “clean” folk.


  9. Matthew B – Yes, there are CouchSurfers in Colombia – many. I have a few on FB and, yes, they are in a kickball league. Nothing against kickball of course. Just some people get down a little dirtier than that 🙂

    Carlito – exactly right. I forgot to add a paragraph saying something along the lines of how Latin people and governments would rather sweep their problems under the rug than face them. But that’s how you DON’T get rid of them!

    Samuel – I can vouch Dave is a clean dude, but maybe he’s hiding something 🙂 Really though, I couldn’t say they’re 100% coffee, flowers, and pink dolphins because Dave wrote about getting mugged and Mike’s Bogota Blog focuses on social issues, even covering a street war in El Bronx. That’s good honesty if you ask me.


  10. Good luck, Colin. At least this made some (former) DAS man’s day!

    While I’m sorry to see you leave Colombia, as I enjoyed your accounts of that country, it probably is for the best. You were clearly unwelcome on the terms you wished to stay, and that drug addiction thing is no joke. If you consistently find yourself unable to resist temptation, better to stay away from it entirely.

    Let me just come out 100% (well, 80%) in favor of hypocrisy and censorship. The notion that we just need to be open about our problems and then we can deal with them is misguided. The problems are never going to be solved; what is needed are norms and mores and standards and morals and manners, and all of those rely upon men upholding principles they may not always live up to.

    The Cartagena/SS story neatly summed up what I love about Colombian culture: Yes, prostitution is legal, and yes, if you stiff a whore, the cops will take her side. But the front desk still wants her ass out of the hotel by 6:30, i.e. before the guests begin to stir. After all, it’s a respectable establishment.

    There’s every reason to believe that can’t last in the face of modernist sentiment, but I hope that it does.

    Nobody is as free as he thinks. Say something outside the bounds of approved discourse in the US and they’ll come after your livelihood there, too. John Derbyshire, q.v. Or google “proposition 8 boycott”.


  11. Good luck Colin. I’m sure you’re right about your blog attracting more attention to Colombia than ColombiaIsBeautiful.com does. Visits to may own blog boomed after the Secret Service scandal, as I’m sure yours did as well.

    Colombia may or may not have the world’s maddest party drug and sex scene, but the country won’t get all that far marketing itself that way – it would just turn itself into the Latin Thailand. Economically, tho, the country’s generally much better off with tourists spending their money on flowers and dolphin sighting cruises, then on drugs and sex, which CAN finance criminal violence. Of course, if they’d only legalize drugs, it’d change much of that, but that’s still far off.) In any case, when people hear Colombia they already think drugs. Now, the government wants them to think emeralds, flowers and pink dolphins as well.

    Thanks again for your blog, which has informed me about a Colombia I’ve never seen and provided lots of good insights, as well as a frankness and insights which very few people (and I’m not one of them), could match.




  12. If you could say anything about Colombia, it would be it is definitely not a boring place. Colombia will haunt you your whole life, run fast Colin haha


  13. i respect whatever you do Colin. Going to miss your writing though. actually this might have been your best in this series. completely honest. will you keep this blog? I know you won’t stop writing. Do hope you pass your new info along to readers here.


  14. You know the saying “wherever you go, there you are”?

    I’ve explored some of that underbelly myself since living here. First in Bogotá and now Medellín. I couldn’t live in a place that didn’t have that available. I think that that edge bleeds into the culture whether people partake in it or not and make a city much more interesting and vibrant.

    But unlike you apparently, I can step into it for a night or even just a few hours, get what I want from it, and step right out again. I’d have to dig much deeper to do that in NY, which is one of the reasons I live here despite growing in NY.

    And I think that’s the key. I love the pink dolphins, the indigenous communities, the kids and the nature, so I hope the country continues to stabilize where it becomes a relatively safe place and the poor are provided for in a humane way. But I also hope it doesn’t gentrify itself to the point of loosing it’s edge. That’s when I’ll move to Venezuela or someplace to continue exploring my need for vice… for life.

    Ah, that wonderful, sweet vice…


  15. Few comments here:

    1. The fact there aren’t a ton of Gringos there makes it cool. If you upped tourism it would just spoil the beauty of Locombia.

    2. I think Brazil might match Colombia in terms of partying. I would be willing to wage your 100,000 pesos that Rio is far more decadent and party hungry than Bogota or Medellin. The drugs might cost a little more and the girls look a little darker but yeah, I would take that wager.

    3. Who dares mention “G-manifesto” and Roosh in the same breath of Roissy. Roissy is a god amongst mortals if you compare those 3.


  16. Haha… You’re right right right… and Colombia is Pasion is wrong.

    I think the image campaigns aren’t only for the foreigners and expats, but the are directed towards the gomelo colombian, the rich, the son of the corrupt politiccian.

    Why I say this? Because they want to make them feel better, to feel right about the country but they commit the mistake of trying to “tapar el sol con el dedo” /cover the son with a thumb. That’s how things like the Margarita’s Gómez and Mateo Matamala’s happen. They get killed by reality.

    But reality ain’t so bad, because what makes Colombia a “dangeou’s place to travel” it’s also one of it’s attractives, people come here out of curiosity and they like that they find some action (in the right citys, in the right barrios) that take them out off their boring life.


  17. Mike C – Thailand’s not doing bad! Lower rate of poverty than the US or UK according to studies I’ve seen.

    Allen – Caracas will be very much on my radar when Chavez is out of power.

    Rawley – there are A TON of gringos in Colombia. Medellin’s completely saturated. Although not compared to BA. Also…

    I spent 10 days in Brazil, 2 in Rio, guided by upper class Brazilians I knew from university in the States. So I was carted around in cars to high end fun, no gutter shit. When I say Colombian rumba’s the hardest, Brazil is the only one I thought could contend. But the difference is level of gutter. Yes, Brazil partying is bigger and probably goes longer into the night (morning). But as far as whores, drugs, and danger, I think you’d have to party in the favelas to get the Colombian level of excitement. But in Colombia you don’t have to go to the slums … It’s everywhere.


  18. I know lots of people who come here from outside (OR people born and raised here even) who just get swallowed up by the debauchery here… I seem to be doing fine, but I was kinda raised around all that shit and I’m very used to it due to being a professional musician all my life 😛



    Please, Please leave us alone we do not need human being like you, Collin. You are a white TRASH. Go to Peru, I beg you, I give you money to leave us alone

    You are an ignorant and low class individual with no morals


  20. What a Shame, you and MIke Bogota, two white trash living and making their earnings in Colombia. Only in that Country white trash like you could survive, your own country do no accept you like you are: How low class you both are.

    I will send emails to the Ministry UNTIL they get bored, really, because people like and MIke Bogota, should be expelled of Colombia.


  21. Jeez Lili tightly wound a bit no? Typical nonsense commmentary…kick out the critics instead of bothering to change any problems in Colombia. And criticizing Mike’s Bogota Blog as written by white trash? Have you read it? Judging by your lousy grasp of English grammar, maybe you don’t understand what you’re reading.

    Get a real argument, or else go blog emoticon smiley faces on one of those government-sponsored blogs where nary a discouraging word is heard about Colombia and its wonderful coffee and emeralds.


  22. sooo if you leave, who is going to be able to decipher that Colombian mystique?? I was excited to read up on a gringo that knew his shit in a Country where people that spoke up at one point or another lost their lives. I am impressed and like your style that brings to light the reality of a culture that runs on greed, sex, and drugs, but like I said years back when I lived there “enough is fucking enough” and I haven’t turned back since. I guess your style doesn’t mesh well with that 3 monkies that cover their eyes, ears, and mouth rule most Colombians live by, because glossing shit over will make it aaaall go away somehow. You live there, you have the right to have an opinion, but be careful, that is not American apple pie your fucking with and Colombians can be just as nasty as the women are slutty. whatevz.
    The problem with that is… if I’m a gullible tourist, as most of us are when abroad, and go to Colombia wanting to smell the fucking flowers with my man; does anyone think that pink dolphins dreams are going to stop me from getting harrassed, or my man from getting eye raped in my face while I get mugged on my fucking iphone?? This will not deter me from Colombia, but enables me to take certain precautions when visiting the country, such as don’t take my fucking man, whip out my cell phone in safe areas and smell the fucking flowers without so many problems. Because if shit like that happens to me you know what I’m going to do?? I am going to write a fucking I hate colombia blog detailing my shit and I won’t be as kind as you who writes about the good, the bad and the ugly, like blogs are suppose to be…


  23. Yeah were a fucked up country. I love this gringo chronicles about Colombia. I really have no respect for gringos, so its just funny to read how wasted they get down here.


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