Saturday, 27 August 2016

Being Colombian And Watching Narcos On Netflix

Being colombian and seeing the Narcos suggestion on Netflix, I felt it was my duty to not watch it; to not promote this kind of negative image of my country which was been widely spread for decades in ridiculous misinformed ways by the film industry like showing Bogotá as a jungle with cannons at all sides and missiles shooting, everybody being drug dealer, guerrilla, prostitute or corrupt or humble farmers and also, apparently, we Colombians also wear traditional Mexican attire (rolling eyes for the millionth time here). I was firm on my ground for the longest time, until last weekend when curiosity took the best of me. And boy! Was I wrong about Narcos.

For those of you who don't know it, Narcos is the story of drug trafficking in Colombia beginning in the 80's, told from the view of a DEA agent who moves to Colombia to aid with the conflict. I must warn you, it is sexually explicit, very violent and a lot of cursing. One of the things I like is the amount of amazing Colombian actors. I would point them out to my husband every time another one showed up and he found it funny that I was declaring them all as "one of the bests". Well, it is true. They did indeed cast the best actors of Colombia for the majority of the characters. Actors I grew up watching and admiring their acting skills which where spotless every time. And of that, we have a lot of (I should clarify that none of them are part of the main characters roles, nor you will, unfortunately, find them if you Google Narcos cast).

Despite of the warning at the beginning saying the names are mostly fictional and it would be coincidental otherwise, they are the right names, at least for the Colombian characters I remember from back in the day: Presidents' names, leaders (whereas be drug dealers, military or guerrilla) and big names in Colombia. Some characters are not accurate with the appearance of the real ones, like Valeria Velez who is actually a red haired caucasian woman and Diana Turbay who was blonde with short straight hair and Caucasian as well (she is represented with darker skin, curly and long black hair).

So far the only thing I saw that was highly wrong was the moment when the then presidential candidate Carlos Gaviria gives a speech that would define on which side he will be and it starts with "there's a story in Colombia that says God made Colombia so beautiful and rich in landscapes and biodiversity that it wasn't fair for the other countries, so he inhabited it with bad people". That's the only time I felt offended because it implies ALL Colombians are bad people which is clearly NOT. The original story about the creation of Colombia ends instead with "so he gave them bad leaders" which makes more sense and is accurate too.

But what draw me in was the historic accuracy. It is heart wrenching for me to watch it as a Colombian who grew up in the middle of this conflict. The pain, the fears, the frustrations of many of us who couldn't do anything about it but pray that we weren't in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is a sad truth but a truth indeed and I appreciate that effort in the show. Why? It gives me a better, wider understanding of why so many unbelievable things happened and how everything was connected. I appreciate the humanity placed in the show for the victims and the people who were trying to do what was right. I appreciate that it shows the world what really happened and hopefully change their thoughts towards Colombians with what is true; that no, we are not all terrorists, guerrilla, narcos or prostitutes and it is not correct to make fun of it in front of a Colombian because it hurts, a lot. We might put on a smile, but inside is a different story. Putting it simple, you wouldn't joke with a Syrian refugee about their country's conflict and what they went through, would you?

I personally had friends and relatives saving themselves from a bomb by a hair, many times, because they had a last minute change of heart about going to the location that would be bombed right after. Back in the day we didn't have cellphones so we had to be calling relatives constantly from public phones every time we were going somewhere else so we could know who was where in case a bomb exploded and we would freak out if the didn't show at the agreed time frame. I woke up one morning to the sound of police sirens because someone had been killed in front of our building by a hitman; narcos related crime. I knew people who had been kidnapped and escaped in epic, unbelievable ways and people who survived a kidnapping attempt. I was too young to go clubbing at the time but if you were old enough, you were better off going to a house party. It was safer. If you went clubbing, you were teasing your luck. In an act of rebellion, many went clubbing anyway, many became witnesses of assassinations and kidnappings. It was indeed a war zone and we were all caught in it.

So if there's a show about drug dealers you are going to watch, please make Narcos from Netflix that choice. They have done their homework indeed. 

Friday, 15 July 2016


Today is Friday. 

I don't watch the news; I can't trust them anymore. They have become a twisted spectacle, the show off opportunity of evil to promote itself. The media has been corrupted for a very long time, feeding in opportunism and twisting facts (even making them up) for the gain of someone's personal agenda. 

But today is Friday and I have like everyone else, profiles on different social media platforms and tragedies lurk in. Just on this week, a 5 year old was kidnapped and killed in the city I live in, after her mother was killed in their home. We all prayed and hope for a happy ending, we all hoped that it was not going to go the same route as the previous Amber Alert. In France, another terrorist attack, cruel and raw as a sick person with twisted motives drove a truck over a crowd of families and Turkey just fell under a military coup. And that's just the surface. Honestly I don't want to know about the rest. Is not because I want to pretend everything is ok and play a blind eye on current world events. It's because I don't need a constant reminder of the cruelty that seems to be conquering our world. I don't want despair to be my mindset but hope and goodness.

I know the world feels very dark right now for all of us. I know it feels like it's being consumed by evil in one big bite, in slow motion. We are seeing it's teeth closing on us but we seem to not be able to do anything to stop it.

Everyday I pray asking what can I do? I pray to God to give me the tools and opportunities to be able to shake us out of it. But I'm just me. A voice that's shy, fearful and easily shut off by many others.

I'm not writing this as an opportunity to find my 15mins of fame (nowadays people do whatever it takes for even just 1minute of fame; it doesn't matter if it's good or bad as long as it exists. Isn't that sad?), using this world's current pain as if it's fashion, something that seems to be the trend nowadays among social media. I'm writing because I'm hurt and heartbroken for the tribulations of this world; our world, just as you are, and I can't stay silent anymore.

We hear so much pain, injustice, violence, blood shedding towards everyone and everything that we feel despair, we feel alone and consumed by it. But there's this thing; a "thing" that seems to be unimportant for the news and social media because it doesn't bring as many followers, because is not trendy enough or worthy of their time. This "thing" is that we keep forgetting we, the good people, the light of this world, are more than the people that do evil. We have more power TOGETHER than evil gathered in one spot. Basically, if we gather on one side all people of good will and on another side the people that have been consumed by their dark side, you will see that we ARE overwhelmingly more and we can win. But we are scattered. 

Divide and reign is evil's mission because it's afraid of us. It knows it can't win so it divides us constantly with lies and deceit to break us and poison us.

The sad truth is that we leave it easy for evil to achieve it. We are quick to forgive the goodness of our hearts because we have to be proud, we have to be the best, we have to be right, we have to be powerful because the opposite is wrong and shows weakness. But here is the thing: our hearts grow and flourish on the opposite, even if it doesn't make sense as I say it, but they do. Trade pride for humbleness and you find a whole range of learning to forgive because you know you have wronged too. We stop judging because our lives are as broken or more. We get closer to each other because we admit we need help instead of pretending that we can juggle all the balls on the air on our own. Trade the obsession about being the best and you'll find your own authenticity, you'll help others grow because they deserve it, not because it will benefit you; you'll find joy because you are not bound by society's standards of what success and being the best should be, but for what makes you your amazing, unique, quirky self.

Social media and the creation of enemies
I think the Internet has a lot of amazing things. One I probably like the most is how it has shortened the distance between countries in amazing ways; we can help each other, collaborate with each other, work together, learn from each other and we have access to a lot of information. I'm very tech savvy so I enjoy things that make life easier because I rather spend my time in more useful things. But I think social media is turning into internet's tumour. For those of you who have worked at an office and had an internal emailing system, might have experienced the group mails from coworkers about very stupid, time-wasting stuff. The coworker that would send humorous videos or photos, the one with the ability to find inappropriate things and send them your way, the .ppt inspirational slideshows and silly games and you will agree with me that social media is pretty much that in a world scale and I'm getting annoyed. It's trash information; we are spoon feeding one another with it and we are liking it.

There's a lot of people out there with too much time on their hands, trying to give importance to their own lives by trying to feel superior and how? Pointing fingers, finding corruption and wrong doing even in the most innocent situations. Guys, we are trying to find the enemy in the wrong places. If you are of certain ethnicity, then you are the bad guy, if you are of certain gender, you are the bad guy, whatever religion or spiritual path you take, you are the bad guy. If you go left or right, up or down or whatever direction you take, you are wrong and therefore you are the bad guy. It doesn't matter what you do. You will always be wrong in someone's eyes. That much we know and it shouldn't affect us. But it makes if difficult when is a bunch of people judging every step you take and the rest stays silent and indifferent with their bags of popcorn eagerly witnessing it all for what's going to happen to you next like a reality show.

Social media has given each one of us the status of celebrity in our own world and we are open for scrutiny; constant scrutiny. We have to "sell" ourselves the proper way so that we don't get destroyed by others, so that people don't think you are a bad person or reject you because of your beliefs or the way you look. Being politically correct has become a burden because it got taken way out of context. Somehow a silent rule appeared about everything online having to be black or white. You are either on this side or that side. Why? We are all full of black and white and shades of gray. Nobody is purely evil or good, we are all imperfect in real life, then why do we have this idea that online has to be different? How about lifting each other up, understanding and respecting each other's opinions and values? I can guarantee you, it's more satisfying than the opposite. To make it easier to understand, trolling and shaming is a male orgasm; satisfying but short. Encouraging and helping each other is a female orgasm. Very satisfying and long. Which one do you prefer?

I considered myself a diplomatic person. According to my brother, I have a good emotional intelligence. I don't know about that, it's his opinion and his entitled to it (besides, it's nice that your younger sibling says things like that to you, right?). I believe in probably the only phrase I learned from my philosophy class back in high school: "in the measure you find the truth" (pardon me but my philosophy class was very crappy, definitely a teacher not trained in the subject at all). That phrase made sense to me and it stuck. So when there's a conflict, I don't only hear the loudest version but I hear both sides and come to a conclusion. To put it in an easier way, I basically try to be as Salomonic as possible when it comes to understanding what's going on. And you know what I discover? Both sides are right. It doesn't matter the subject, both sides are right. What creates the problem is which side of the coin is each person looking at. Both see the coin but from a different perspective. And then comes pride, and power seeking and screws it all up because none of the sides is capable of stopping the argument for a second, seat next to the other person and see their side of the coin. Things would make a whole lot of sense and a mutual agreement would suffice and easy to achieve. But no. We chose the quicker and blind road; kick and punch each other like two little boys fighting over a toy. Yes, is as immature as it sounds.

The root of current conflict
We blame the governments, the leaders and their personal agendas. We accuse and judge their motives and we believe they are the cause of it all. It's ok to keep our leaders accountable but we also have to keep OURSELVES accountable. We are all to blame for the way the world is right now. Because WE (that's right, I don't exclude myself because I'm no better than you) are the ones planting the seeds of all this conflict. We are being nosey and judgemental without shame. We have forgotten that while the other has dust in his eye, we have a plank in ours. We show indifference towards each other instead of compassion and kindness. We nag our leaders constantly about everything and they give in. We are so lazy to educate ourselves that we rather make conclusions based in urban myths and dust ideas that travel everywhere and nowhere at the same time (not always the loudest fact is the right one but not always the silent one is the right one either. Do your research). The mass is dangerous and ignorant and we are riding along with it without stopping to think is it's the right thing. We just assume that many people can't be wrong and we fight for it with tooth and nail because we assumed our neighbour has probably done the homework and trust him without realizing that we are all making the same assumptions. Online. Because nobody has the guts to do it in real life, but is effective and powerful. More than you think. And it's right there were evil conquers and feeds and grows from. 

We've all had our fair share of world history. We know about the battles and conflicts that made their mark and shape our current state. But we forget a little detail (we are REALLY good at forgetting what is actually important, yet we seem to be good at remembering meaningless things), wars didn't just appear out of thin air. They were just the whistle of the stove tea pot, the natural consequence of water slowly heating up to boiling point. It took years of "water heating" for wars to happen. I personally feel like we are reaching boiling point fast and it's scary. I am scared. For my son, my loved ones. I'm scared because I'm witnessing the fall of humanity and can't seem to be able to do anything about it but watch ourselves destroy each other.

But there's hope. We can all change the cycle. It might not feel like much, or maybe it will, depending where you are at in your life. It's simple but it needs effort. I know the word "effort" it's threatening for our busy lives but we must do this for the greater good. For once, I beg you to understand the power YOU have of changing the course of history by putting a little effort of your part. The best thing is that it works as a chain reaction AND, the more you put it to practice, the easier it gets until it becomes second nature.


I once caught the ending of a podcast where they explained that love is understanding. We take so literally the phrase "love each other as you love yourself" that we assumed we have to feel butterflies for every single person that crosses our path. But that's not really it. You see, love has different shapes. The proof is in the kind of love you have for your partner, your children, your friends, your acquaintances. They are all different but they are all love. If you understand the other person, their motives and the upbringing that built their motives and beliefs, you have learned compassion, kindness, peace, honesty, tolerance, grace, generosity, goodness. But above all, you'll learn how to love your neighbour. You'll stop evil on its heels, at the root. 

No more indifference. Get to know those around you. Your neighbours (literally. Go next door), that cashier who's face has become familiar. Don't just do quick talk, get involved. No more indifference. You see someone crying, wipe their tears and be a good listener. You see a happy neighbour but hear his/her cries at night, be a listener, be present; be proactive. Someone insults you or treats you poorly, see beyond the anger and find their brokenness and heal it with patience and kindness. There's no better weapon. 

Dig inside your own broken soul to find a way to understand others. Don't say it's not broken. If you are an imperfect being, your soul has its own kind of brokenness and we are all imperfect beings. Find a way to relate to others' pain and joy from what's within you. 

I have to put this into practice too.  Believe it or not, I'm a very shy person. We've been living in our house for three years now and I still don't know my neighbours beyond a quick hello when we happen to leave our houses at the same time. Honestly, it gives me anxiety to go and knock on their doors, feeling like I won't know what to say or do, or I'll make a fool of myself. I can already hear my babbling of jibberish where I forget half of my English and Spanish vocabulary, talk so fast it becomes intelligible and my face turning red as I dig my self deeper in shame. But I Have to do it. You have to do it. We ALL have to do it. Because when we do all that, we feed each other's light and we grow stronger and braver to do what's right, and slowly but surely we will defeat and eradicate the evil of this world. Yes it is possible. If you do your part. I encourage you to DO YOUR PART, don't brush my words off. The time is NOW. In you is the key to make this happen. Just like a grain of sand is dust on its own but together with fellow grains, it becomes sand, you are small but with me, with us, with each other, we become the light this world needs. Now go and do it and share with me how it goes. Your experience, big or small will encourage others too. You are more powerful in goodness than you believe. Now go and do it.

“You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house” (Matthew 5:14–15).