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Ep. 9-11: Colombia – A Land of Magic & A Thousand Rhythms

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

Fabiana Stubrich grew up in Colombia in the 70s and 80s

Sitting at the entryway to South America, Colombia is the second most biodiverse place on Earth and a magical place that captivates visitors with its vibrant music, diverse landscapes, folk legends and warm people.

“As soon as you land, you can feel it,” says Fabiana Stubrich. “It’s all the music, everybody is happy, everybody is dancing. You can feel the passion in the people.”

Fabiana is an architect who grew up in Colombia in the 70s and 80s. She now lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and children.

When Fabiana was a child, her father would drive her and her brother to the jungles of Colombia in his jeep with a big machete. Fabiana’s mother loved orchids and they would go into the jungle to get the beautiful flowers from the tree branches to bring home to their mother.

“We had a big balcony and it was overflowing with all kinds of orchids.”

Colombia is home to more than 4,000 species of orchids and many species of animals and plants that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. It’s the only country in South America that touches both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, and its breathtaking landscapes stretch from the Andes to the jungles and the Caribbean coast.

Way of Life

The Colombian way of life is marked by tradition and an emphasis on conversation.

“In Colombia, the culture is much more about conversation. People sit down at a table and chat. You’re invited to somewhere and it’s to talk or to dance,” says Fabiana.

Family also plays an important role in every person's life. Families are much more tight-knit in Colombia compared to North America and it’s normal for generations to mix, for children to hang out with their grandparents and for family members to do activities together.

When it comes to personal interactions, the culture emphasizes respect and propriety.

“All of Colombia compared to other countries in Latin America is very proper in terms of how people treat other people, how people dress, how people talk.”

Children must respect to their elders and there's a proper way to do everything.

When two people want to get married, the boy will probably have to ask the girl’s parents for her hand in marriage, says Fabiana. “Everything has to be done the proper way.”

Houses in Medellín, Colombia

Culture and Customs

The country's biodiversity also plays a crucial role in shaping its culture and customs. The abundance of different ecosystems has given rise to a myriad of traditions among the various Indigenous communities that have inhabited these lands for centuries.

Colombia's historical wealth, particularly its reserves of gold, has led to the creation of unique crafts and artifacts, which are showcased in the country's gold museums. This deep connection to their heritage and natural surroundings has made Colombians exceptionally proud of their cultural roots.

Colombia's music scene is just as varied as its landscapes. Known as the "land of a thousand rhythms," music is a language

that unites Colombians and it serves as an integral part of their daily lives. Whether it's the national dance of Cumbia, characterized by graceful movements and flowing white dresses, or the energetic salsa in Cali, known as the salsa capital of the world, Colombia's music represents a fusion of European, African, and Indigenous rhythms, celebrating the diverse heritage of its people.

One of the most celebrated cultural events in Colombia is the Barranquilla Carnival. Held annually in March, it's the second largest carnival in the world, surpassed only by the iconic Rio de Janeiro carnival.

During this four-day extravaganza, millions of people flock to Barranquilla city, donning elaborate costumes and masks while dancing in the streets. It's a time of merriment and revelry where social hierarchies are temporarily set aside and people come together to celebrate and mock politicians and public figures. The entire city becomes a nonstop party with dancing, eating, and enjoyment taking precedence over work.

Travel Recommendations

After the war of the drug cartels in the 80s and 90s, the Colombian government has been working to make it safe for tourists to visit again.

“Medellin has transformed its image and today Bogota is way safer than it was before,” says Fabiana.

Here are her top recommendations on where to go if you’re looking to visit Colombia:

· Cartagena – a major city by the Caribbean coast and one of the most enchanting

places on Earth. Explore every nook and cranny of this UNESCO World Heritage site immersing yourself in the magical ambiance of the city's old town and try to stay in one of the boutique hotels that grace its cobblestone streets. For pristine beaches, head to Isla Barú, where you can soak up the sun and bask in the turquoise waters. There’s also Islas de Rosario, an underwater paradise teeming with exotic marine life.

· Bogota – visit the renowned Gold Museum in the capital city of Colombia showcasing magnificent Indigenous artifacts. Take a stroll through the charming Old Town, with its narrow streets, lively bars, and majestic cathedral. For a unique experience, venture just outside the city to the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral, an underground marvel crafted entirely from salt.

· Medellín – this major city has shed its troubled past and its striking architecture will captivate you as you explore its bustling streets. Take a cable car ride up the mountains for panoramic views of the city and surrounding landscapes. Medellin's eternal spring-like weather makes it an ideal destination year-round. If you time your visit right, you might catch the Festival of the Flowers, a dazzling celebration where the city comes alive with vibrant blooms.

Night view of Medellín

· Cali - known as the salsa capital of the world, this vibrant city pulses with infectious rhythms. Immerse yourself in the local dance scene, where salsa clubs and lively music venues abound. Experience the city's rich cultural heritage by visiting its museums, historic sites and bustling markets. Don't forget to indulge in the mouthwatering local cuisine, which perfectly complements the lively atmosphere.

· Leticia - for a truly awe-inspiring experience, venture to Leticia in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. Legend has it that pink dolphins can be found in the waters of the Amazon River, adding to the mystique of this unique destination. Explore the rich biodiversity of the region by taking a boat tour through dense jungles and encountering exotic wildlife. Engage with local Indigenous communities to learn about their customs, traditions and deep connection to the pristine environment.


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