Ten facts that prove Colombia is fictional

My name is Victoria and I have spent the past six years, two months and twenty-four days writing almost 250 stories that have attempted to tell the truth about a country called Colombia, and every single one of them has failed.

That’s because the more truthfully a writer writes about Colombia, the more fiction he or she produces. Bemused by this, I have ensured every story I write about Colombia is more detailed and more accurate than the previous story I have written about Colombia and every time it has turned out more fantastical. The more honestly and sincerely I write, the more letters I receive that say, “Dear Victoria. I admire your writing. I just don’t believe a word of it.”

This is not my fault. I am a beginner, I’m barely ready to poke my toe into the well-trodden footprints of greats like Gabriel García Márquez and yet I find he had the same problem. García Márquez wrapped himself in the cloak of a genre called magical realism so he could write the truth about Colombia and pretend to the rest of the world he was writing fiction. García Márquez is now at peace, of course, and therefore relieved of the duty of writing about Colombia’s inability to achieve the same. I make no pretence at writing fiction and therefore consider myself relieved of the same burden.

This is why no-one would believe me if I tried:

  1. The guerrilla kidnap children, hand them a gun and tell other children to shoot them if they try to go home. In the aftermath of the plebiscite, they were the ones who sounded reasonable.
  2. The man who demonstrates eye-popping apoplectic rage at the prospect of anyone having impunity, has impunity.
  3. Those who insist the war continue insist they cannot be the ones to fight it.
  4. The families of victims were out-voted because peace wasn’t worth the sacrifice.
  5. The YES are full of hatred for the NO because they are full of hatred and voted NO.
  6. The guerrilla forces women to have abortions. The rest of society forces women not to have abortions. Both criticise the other’s attitude towards women.
  7. Those most outraged by the peace agreement are the ones who haven’t read it.
  8. The guerrilla cannot be allowed in Congress because they are criminals fuelled by drug money.
  9. Colombian peace was signed and celebrated before the vote that would decide if it could happen.
  10. The president failed to achieve peace and, within a week, had won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Like this? You’ll love Colombia a comedy of errors.

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24 Comments

  1. David

    People didn’t get vote no because they wanted war, but because of they thought rewarding violence with political representation might cause more violence sure in future. Not an unreasonable viewpoint.

  2. ArtyCraftyBink

    Number 3 – I saw a NO demonstration on the Autopista before the vote – Range Rovers, Mercedes, etc., the newest iPads filming themselves, and a Chiva full of private school kids who in no way, shape or form will ever be sent off to do National Service. Who doesn´t love an irony??

  3. SNanda

    I’m so grateful you’ve taken the time and dedication to write about Colombia, and that for the past 6 years have tried to bring a little bit of our country to the outside world…. but perhaps you could dig deeper into what the Plebiscito really was, and what we Colombians were voting on. The vote was not whether or not one was in favor of war, no one wants war; the vote was about if one was in agreement with the Tratado de Paz and all it implies.

    I am so pleased that you love my country, but please keep in mind, the Colombia you know today is not the one most adult colombians know, but is a Colombia born of the hard labor of the past 2 administrations… you don’t know the differece and I’m so glad for that. But I would ask you, as a reporter to please dig deep, ask questions and really wonder:

    Why was it necessary to sign the treaty before the vote? That it was done that way, what does it tell you? Why does this happen in Colombia? Why the Peace Prize indeed?

    Are you being fair, do the people who voted NO really want war?… or is it something else they seek? Did the people who voted YES read the treaty, or did they just assume a win was a given?

    Uribe is not the only one with impunity, so is Santos (for much the same reasons, he was the past administrations Minister of Defense)… what does that tell you?

    Can you really say the families of the victims were outvoted, are you 100% sure all the victims were for the YES vote?

    Anyone with a criminal record is not allowed in Congress… did you know that?

    What’s up with the budget for the health-care of our veterans? etc, etc…

    *As a journalist, I’m very sure you can come up with many more and better questions than these ones. What I’m begging you is to please dig in, investigate everything… it doesn’t matter so much what you uncover YES/NO etc, but please just ask the questions and help us build something better, you have the gift of words, please don’t use them in defeat and please don’t go spreading around hatred yourself (#5 is patently offensive and untrue) we have more than enough of that already. This is a painful topic with no easy resolution, neither camp will walk away completely satisfied and concessions do have to be made. YES/NO vote non-withstanding, there is not a Colombian who hasn’t lost, who hasn’t hurt, who hasn’t felt terror because of the conflict (suffering is not quantifiable). Finally, Colombia IS a democracy still, we have not yet lost that. –> Maybe you can even dig into the issues that made the referendum into a plebiscite and how the necessary percentage for the population to vote was lowered? Why are such things acceptable? Why are people so little invested in political matters in Colombia? Idiosincracia Colombiana *face-palm*

    You’ve come to love this country of ours, and as a Colombian I thank you for all you’ve done… you’re even planning to make a future with us and that’s a wonderful thing… but if I may be very bold, could you please help us out? YES/NO, it doesn’t matter so much as having a good reach to keep the population properly informed and most of all… what we need is to keep hope and goodwill and you are very good with that… so please, don’t give up on us yet.

  4. TROY Nz

    had a president win the noble without doing anything. now have a liar, criminal and a blow hard, ego maniac running for president…am living in the land of mordor wanting to move to the land of fairy tales…cant wait till i get there. at least the insanity is more bearable
    then the craziness

  5. David

    “I’m so grateful you’ve taken the time and dedication to write about Colombia, and that for the past 6 years have tried to bring a little bit of our country to the outside world…. but perhaps you could dig deeper into what the Plebiscito really was, and what we Colombians were voting on. ”
    Sadly the exact text is quite hard to find in English

    1. SNanda

      That is exactly the point, if the text is hard to find in English that probably means that many anglospeakers didn’t bother to read it in its entirety; or it could also mean that those like Ms Kelloway (who has 6+ yrs in Colombia) surely read the entire 297pgs in Spanish. However even in Spanish the document is a hard read; it drags, it doubles back on itself, some clauses almost (or rather do) end up negating earlier clauses, and the language used in itself was ambiguos. If Colombias who read it had a hard time with it, I cannot help but wonder how non-Spanish speaking foreigners did while reading it… if maybe they could have missed a fair bit of nuance in the language and in the intricate turns that legal language usually take.

      At any rate my point is: if there are those who didn’t read the entire thing… or if they did read the entire thing but are aware they might have missed some inherent understanding due to language intricacies or that perhaps there is a lack of a complete understanding of the socio-cultural and economic impact… please, just keep your opinions to yourselves. If you know someone who might be speaking without a solid foundation of these issues, please advise them to keep their peace as well. Rather I would ask they remain neutral and simply offer support and comfort to those who have suffered of are suffering right now because of this.

      1. drmariner

        SNanda – looks like we were replying simultaneously. Thanks for your explanation of the difficulties in reading the peace plan. That probably (partly) explains the conflicting media coverage. I’m an expat and several Colombian friends were working on a grant proposal to teach the peace plan to the FARC. I thought about how difficult the intricacies must be for a lay-person to understand and fully appreciate without realizing the difficulties with the document that you mention.

        One of the most memorable things I read about the vote was published in the NY Times coverage of Colombians voting in New York. “What I say is that every person is the sole owner of their pain. We can’t judge anyone for their position in favor or in opposition.” María Isabel Nieto Jaramillo

    2. drmariner

      I searched for the Peace Plan text in English, with no luck. And the English language media coverage was extremely contradictory on the specific details. Does anyone know any good references for those of us who are Spanish-challenged?

  6. David

    “The families of victims were out-voted because peace wasn’t worth the sacrifice.” I am not sure about that, I have family in Cauca who voted no – some of them have bullet holes in their houses due to a Farc attack. It is a lot more complex than that.

  7. David

    @SNanda
    “However even in Spanish the document is a hard read; it drags, it doubles back on itself, some clauses almost (or rather do) end up negating earlier clauses, and the language used in itself was ambiguos. ”
    I think that was one of the reasons why people voted no, people don’t trust what they can’t understand.

    Fear of the Farc turning Colombia into another Venezuela was another one.
    @SNanda
    ” Rather I would ask they remain neutral and simply offer support and comfort to those who have suffered of are suffering right now because of this.”
    I have family who have suffered because of the violence in Colombia. Personally I have no opinion on whether yes or no was the right result. I think both results had both good and bad possibilities, although of course I think ideally all peace deals should follow existing ones – if the Farc could get more than the paras maybe the ELN would fight more to get more than the Farc and future groups would be emboldened to do the same.

    1. SNanda

      @David
      “I think that was one of the reasons why people voted no, people don’t trust what they can’t understand.” –> That is true, and I imagine it had great impact. But it wasn’t just that, it was also that the document lacks clarity; but that’s not surprising, since there hasn’t been a lot of transparency from either side during the entire process, more over negotiations started furtively and in a period of time when just about the entire country condemned the President for going about starting negotiations behind our backs.

      To be fair, one also can’t discount individual pain, or hatred, or fear, or economy being factors for either vote. Nor should we discount them, scars of the soul are far more difficult to heal than those of the body, and I certainly refuse to judge anyone about it. We should also stop just a second and at least give thanks for the fact we live in a democracy, but we should also think very hard on the fact that turnout for the vote was so very low. I think had more people turned out to vote, ‘YES’ would have probably won (but where were the voters? and please let’s not blame the weather)… but they didn’t vote and we really have to take the desicions of where our country is going in our hands.

      I think in many ways we Colombians have forgotten that the President is supposed to be the voice and representation of the people, not the other way around. So seeing ‘NO’ win does mean that the people have a voice, and that that voice is respected… time to wake up and shoulder our share of the responsibility in at least taking the time to vote.

    2. SNanda

      @David
      “I have family who have suffered because of the violence in Colombia. Personally I have no opinion on whether yes or no was the right result. I think both results had both good and bad possibilities, although of course I think ideally all peace deals should follow existing ones – if the Farc could get more than the paras maybe the ELN would fight more to get more than the Farc and future groups would be emboldened to do the same.”

      I think that neither option was perfect, nor will they be. It’s a matter of making sacrifices for something greater than ourselves, but well… even if the Treaty was perfect (or if you voted YES/NO) I can guarantee it grates something awful to have to give away yet more things in this conflict. But that’s the way it goes, concessions have to be made, period. I imagine that from it’s beginnings FARC was also hurting from seeing social injustices done, but it doesn’t change the fact that along the way they turned to drug traffiking, kidnapping and well, escalation after escalation from both sides, and here we are. Either way getting a treaty is going to sting fiercely to both sides, then again, Peace isn’t exactly free but it’s worth the effort.

      I think your idea that Peace deals should follow existing ones is very interesting and probably it’s the correct idea to have, but that not what the government is doing and we have to work with what we have. Right now more than the ELN asking for more concessions, I’d be more worried about the vacuum of power that will probably open up 😦

  8. Icaro jr

    This topic will bring always disagrements. I vote YES, no because I was a naif beliver of “peace” but becouse i really thought this was worth an oportunity to do it diferently. I have nknow direct victims on both sides and what I have found is those on the Yes side (most of them) have forgiven and want to move on, an those on the NO side don’t have reach the point where forgiveness is an option ( I’m not saying they are full of hate). The campaing saw fill with lies ands lowblows from both sides how ever I think We, The colombians missed the spot this time (as always).

  9. juan

    another point to prove that Colombia it’s fictional, foreigners from western countries , are coming to push down to Colombians, what would be unacceptable to them in their own countries

  10. Zehentrenner Damen

    Hi to everyone!

    I was in Colombia in 2010, alone, with no contacts there, and i can say i saw the corruption in everycorner: policemen getting money from citizens, a man tried to change me euros to Colombian pesos, in the evening lot of men tried to sell me drugs and women (YES, SELL, not rent a woman), etc.

    I was in Cali, Tuluá, Zarzal, La Union, La Victoria, Pereira…

    I agree that it´s really pretty country, has a lot to see, to visit, to be wondered about, but it´s sad too, the history, the corruption and the poverty. It is and will be always a poor country, just because the mentallity the people have there.

    Men want always to get easy money. Women want to be always the prittiest at any cost. Children (boys) want to be cool, have lot of money and sex (it´s an obsesion since they are 8-10 years old). And children (girls) want to be like the women (they see women super beautyfull and with lot of money, and they don´t know where is that money comming from).

    It was a really old Colombia, but nowadays you can watch the series about Pablo Escobar and see a bit about this realistic Colombia that i talk here about:

    – Narcos
    – Pablo Escobar, el patron del mal

    They are really interesting and tell the true of that century in which the Terror was in every corner because of Pablo Escobar.

    I hope my comment don´t disturb others here, if it does, i want to say sorry, but that´s what i saw there and what i think about it.

    I whish you all a nice day anyway! 🙂

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