In a recent post I mentioned briefly that I’ve been exposed to some new Colombian media since arriving. Over the weekend I added to my repertoire, so to speak. Sampling the nightlife, the recreation and the television of the country.
Friday was a holiday, Independence Day. More than anything else, the day seemed an excuse for the country to show off its military, which is not to say that this is a departure from the habits of other countries. In the build up to the day I heard about parades and street closures as well as annual (rumored) guerilla attacks on cities. None of these happened (in Bogotá at least). On the day before, I talked a bit with a med student who is also in the Navy, or La Armada Nacional. He gave me the full scoop on exactly what was going down. Normally Bogotá is the place to be for a military man on Independence Day, however, this year thousands of servicemen from every branch were invited to festivities being held on the Colombian island of San Andres. He told me to make sure and tune in on TV to catch the pageantry.
And I did briefly. Then later I caught bits and pieces of the recap on the news and discovered that the decision to move the party was a thinly veiled affront aimed at Nicaragua. (hear me) San Andres Island is really far away from Colombia; so far away that it’s close to Nicaragua. So far, in fact, that Panama and Costa Rica don’t even try to get involved. So what better way to passively escalate the international tension then to amass military forces on the disputed territory for a Colombian celebration? I think this remote (relatively inconsequential) island situation is much more interesting than the Argentine-English dispute that keeps popping up in the news. At least Colombia is claiming an island in the same hemisphere.
Aside from the news and military operations, I have had the chance to sit down in front of the TV and catch some other offerings. The first thing I have noticed is that there are certain things you can always find. Soccer, a game show, some Latin music and movies. I think I’ve seen more MLS coverage here than in the US (and the same amount of Red Sox games). Granted, this week saw David Beckham’s debut against Chelsea. On side note, the most impressive thing about this event was the turnout and the enthusiasm of fans at a soccer game in the US not involving a Latin American country. Leave it to LA to get celebrities (or as they’re called there, governors) to a soccer game.
Ok, back to the TV. I have to say that I am impressed with the selection of movies here. I can almost always find something that I could easy sit in front of and forget my troubles for two hours, though I refrain. The game shows are actually pretty interesting. Sure they have who wants to be a millionaire but they also have this twisted game show where people undergo a lie detector test backstage. Then they are brought out in front of the cameras and their family to reveal all. They are asked questions from the backstage interview and they have to say whether or not they are true. They are always true, and that is what troubles me about the show. It is not so much a test of wit or skill, rather it is a contest to see who is willing to be dragged through the mud with their family in tow. I only caught a glimpse tonight (I think it’s on everyday) but a guy outted his best friend who is gay. The other day they were asking a woman questions about whether or not she was making up excuses so that she did not have to go visit her mother who was sick with cancer. A women’s voice comes in and always states “es verdad”.
On Saturday night I made it out to Zona Rosa for my first taste of the nightlife and what the kids are calling Aguardiente. A night out in Colombia must consist of dancing of some kind, and there are several types. Everyone seems to know the many different types of music which sound about the same to me (gringo): salsa, meringue, regaton, cumbia, vallenato, currulao… Before I sound too amazed at the finely tuned ear of the Colombian people I should say that it’s like this everywhere. If you know jazz you start to get really picky, about bop, cool, acid, lounge, new age etc. Likewise, you won’t find too many of my peers calling Kanye, gangster rap. Electronic music is definitely like this; “techno” encompasses a lot more for some than it does for others. In any event, the sustained exposure to the Latin vibes gave me a chance to being to pick up on the subtleties. My personal favorite right now is salsa but young people here think it’s a little too old fashioned and I blame Tito Puente.