Although we are unable to travel at the moment, it’s still possible to discover the joys of Latin America – from the comfort of your home!
Each week we are giving you inspiration from a different destination in Latin America, sharing movies, music, books and recipes to pique your interest, and this weeks destination is a country that was undiscovered by international tourists for decades, Colombia.
Forget everything you think you know about Colombia. This is a land of stunning landscapes, lost cities, romantic Caribbean islands, vibrant festivals and the best coffee in the world! Delve deeper into colourful Colombia with our favourite inspiring read, film, food and music below.
After the Second World War, a literary boom thrust a lot of Latin American authors into the spotlight, none more so than Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize. There are plenty of other notable Colombian writers worth mentioning though, and our pick is Fernando Vallejo, a highly respected iconoclast. We recommend La Virgen de Los Sicarios or Lady of the Assassins, a semi-autographical story about his fictionalised return to his hometown Medellin, after leaving Colombia for Mexico 30 years before.
TV Presenter Simon Reeve has travelled the world documenting life along The Equator, The Tropic of Capricorn and The Tropic of Cancer, to name a few. In Colombia with Simon Reeve, available on BBC iPlayer, he travels to Bogota, Cartagena and Medellin, as well as the jungles of the west coast, to discover how the country is at a pivotal point in its history following 50 years of Civil War, and how a peace deal, signed in 2016, has finally brought peace to the country. It’s an insightful look into one of the most spectacular countries in the world.
You simply cannot talk about Colombia’s cuisine without mentioning its national dish, Bandeja Paisa. Originally a peasant food, providing farmers with enough energy to keep them going for the day, its now a substantial meal consisting of various meats, rice and our favourite, arepas. These little corn cakes are eaten daily in Colombia where there are around 75 variations. Visit one of Colombia’s major cities between August and December and you just might be able to visit an Arepa Festival!
Colombia is known as ‘The Land of a Thousand Rhythms’ and the genre’s found here are as diverse as the country itself. Vallenato is a popular folk music, originating on the Caribbean coast, based on the European accordion. It is the most popular Colombian music genre today and is pretty much played nonstop on long-distance bus journeys. Its three traditional instruments are a small drum, held between the knees and played with bare hands, a wooden ribbed stick similar to a sugar cane, which is rubbed together with another stick, and an accordion.
This Colombian adventure film, released in 2015, translates to ‘Embrace of the Serpent’ and follows two journeys made thirty years apart by an indigenous tribe in the Colombian Amazon jungle, one with an American botanist, the other with a German ethnographer. The film is shot entirely in black and white, but don’t let that put you off. Its a film dedicated to lost Amazonian cultures and has received universal acclaim plus several awards for its cinematography and story’s theme.