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!
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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