“Bienvenidos!”, “Welcome to my country!”. Colombia: a country only two decades ago was called one of the most dangerous countries in the world. A country whose history is filled of violence, drugs and displacement. A country that has been deprived of tourism for so long that every single person welcomes you to their country. A country recently rated the happiest on the world. A country where if you stand with an open map people will ask you if you need help. Colombia: hands down one of my favourite countries of the trip.
After travelling through Colombia for exactly one month I can’t stop asking myself one question: how can a community of people who have witnessed so much violence and corruption, who have a high likelihood of having lost a friend or family member to the war on drugs also be some of the happiest people in the world?
During a walking tour in Medellin an old man slowly approached our group, a cane in one hand and a strong coffee in the other, he welcomed us to his country, he thanked us for coming and wished us safe travels. A women in a restaurant welcomed us to town, she was kind and bubbly and showed her affection well, after only talking for 5 minutes she complimented us and told us how lucky we were to have each other. While standing at a bus stop with our bags in a heap a man approached and asked if we were going to the airport, he showed us a place where we could catch a better bus, faster, cleaner and more likely to have seats for us, and then walked off asking for nothing in return. I have loads more of these stories, countless interactions with people that left me smiling.
The Colombian people are a reminder that even when things get tough it is still possible to hold your head high, a suppressed past doesn’t mean there is no hope for the future, and that no matter the day try and find something in it to make you happy. The woman painted in this particular display of street art is an excellent example, is she crying from sadness or happiness? I, and many others believe she is crying out of pure happiness.