Colombia Accompaniment Report: Talk on the Streets

Lynne Santangelo and Jean Fontaine’s Accompaniment Report – June 20, 2016

We have received questions about how the Colombians we meet are reacting to the present Colombian peace talks. In reality, there is an intense desire for peace, but a lot of mistrust in the process. Violence has gone on for so long (over 50 years) and there are so many groups of people involved–not all of them at the table in Cuba. People wonder if the agreement will be as fair to those who have lost everything as to those who will lay down their arms. Also, they wonder if there can be enough security to enforce an agreement. As in the United States, there are a lot of weapons out there. If they are not destroyed, they can be taken up again by other people to gain power and land.

This is what people say when we ask them, but this is not what people are talking about. It’s all about Colombia playing in the Copa America Centenario. The open-air stores are filled with racks and racks of inexpensive Colombian soccer shirts and you see people wearing them, from toddlers to seniors. We arrived shortly before Colombia played the US, and the streets were full of shouting and horn blowing when Colombia won. Young people on the street would ask us with a knowing smile, “Who won last night?” Our answer, of course, was “Viva Colombia!” There was little to celebrate when Colombia lost to Costa Rica. But then the streets were resounding again last Friday in a nail biter when Colombia beat Perú. The subject everyone is talking about now as the teams have been narrowed down to four – will the US win on Tuesday, will Colombia win on Wednesday? The final game is on June 26, just a few days before we head home on the 30th.

It’s not unusual to see horse-drawn carts here in Apartadó even though it’s a good-sized city. But we were surprised to see a whole group of Colombian cowboys and girls, hats, ponchos and all, congregating at a street corner last evening. Bystanders said they were there just to ride through the city and it would start when everyone had arrived. The magic number was 21, and ride they did, with little regard for the motorcycles, cars and pedestrians already filling the streets. Everyone seemed as excited as we were as we searched for the best places to watch the spectacle. We had never seen horses with such an unusual gait, and had to consult Google to learn that they are Colombian Paso Fino horses. Look it up for an interesting read and to see videos. Unfortunately we were just in search of ice cream and didn’t have a camera! However, when we were out today, we did see a boy riding such a horse, but without all the regalia.

Tomorrow we head north to El Totumo on the eastern side of the Gulf of Urubá for a few days and then travel south, past Apartadó, to Blanquiseth (southwest of Chigorodó) for the weekend. The journey continues!