What comes to mind when you hear someone saying Colombia? Colombia with an O not with a U. People have asked me many questions when they realize I am Colombian, questions like: do you sell drugs? Is it dangerous to live there? Or even some interesting ones like: do you dance like Shakira? Are there mosquitoes in Colombia? Have you watched Narcos? By the way, I haven´t.
Let me explain to you what exactly a Colombian is and how we live. Colombia is located in South America. It is the 2nd most bio-diverse country in the world and has part of the world’s largest rainforest, the Amazon. So yes, there are mosquitoes there. According to the 2014 Barometer of Happiness and Hope, Colombia is the happiest country in the world, despite its reputation as a dangerous drug-peddling place. It’s one of the most beautiful countries for its helpful, hopeful, and deeply endearing people. As a community we like to help each other, fight hard for our dreams, and give our heart to everything that we do.
Colombians grow up in many particular conditions that challenge us every day. In my case, I grew up in the interesting but chaotic capital Bogota. It has a serious security problem, mainly because of the forced home displacement, unemployment, and increasingly unbearable public transportation and traffic. Also, most of us find ourselves faced with a limited education. As an example, at the music school of the National University of Colombia we have to lock the music stands to the wall, so they are not stolen. We only have 10 practice rooms for about 300 musicians, and one little auditorium that isn’t big enough to house the student orchestra.
Now you may be wondering how Colombia could be the happiest country in the world with all these problems. We are very grateful for every single thing that our country can offer us.What brings us together is the enormous love for our country. What makes us happy is to think that there is hope for a better future and that WE ARE part of this new change. There is nothing more exciting than dreaming of a future where we can all propose new ideas and opportunities in order to help the development of the country that made us who we are. There are problems to solve, among those, to overcome our drug reputation that we obtained many years ago. It was a dark part of our history and it is a past that we cannot deny, but every day true Colombians try to recover from it and fight to defeat the issue.
In order to change our country’s image, many of us leave our families and friends with one goal in mind: to represent our country with the best of our endeavors. Music has given me the opportunity to do this, to see the world from another perspective, it has opened doors for me and most importantly, it has given me the possibility to dream. One of these dreams is to one day help to share the young Colombian talent to the world and change children’s lives by giving them the opportunity to study music. Music led me away from Colombia, and only now do I truly realize the love I have for my country.
I would like to thank those people who have been like angels in my path, people that have trusted me and supported me so I can keep pursuing my dreams. Thanks to my family that has inspired me. From them I have learned to love my country and appreciate the little things that life gives me. Their love makes me stronger and gives me the energy to keep going.
Thanks to my friends who share these dreams with me and in different parts of the world give the best of them to demonstrate that Colombia is more than salsa music and good coffee. Finally thank you to my beautiful country, thank you for challenging me every day and giving me the inspiration to be better in order to one day help to make it better.
-Sara Aldana ’16