When you visit another place out of your homeland you are eager to try the local gastronomy, to wear new clothes distinctive of the region or to expose yourself to a diversity of cultures and customs, right? Well, when you are a Colombian, you do exactly the opposite.
When Colombians are abroad for more than a fortnight an odd transformation takes place: suddenly change their ringtone to the slogan from “Olímpica Stéreo” or start to listen a playlist by Maluma or Pipe Bueno in YouTube, no matter how annoying they find them back at their usual habitat.
When they are surrounded by familiar sounds, their cravings turn to the familiar smells: secretly they start to ask the local barman for including aguardiente in their cocktail and weeks later openly ask their relatives to send a bottle of Blanco or Antioqueño (not Galeras or Caucano since those are not likely to pass the Customs check because they are powerful enough to fuel a military aircraft).
Days later, they pass from just watching with desire that Paisa tray showcased at a Colombian restaurant to actually eat it, even if they did not use to eat it back in Colombia because that explosive mix of saturated fats and inhuman overload of carbohydrates knocked them down the entire afternoon or weaponised them to the point of shaming the industry of biochemical warfare.
It seems most Colombians have been so heavily indoctrinated into believing there is a thing called “Colombian identity” than when feel exposed to alien experiences and customs get suddenly afraid of “changing”. In my humble opinion, the whole point of going abroad is to enrich our perspectives and, why not, spice our costumes with elements we like from other cultures. After all, national identities are a fiction recently invented to enforce the Modern idea state-nations, it is not like a concept we kept sticked to since the dawn of civilisation.
Colombians are a collage of multiple strong regional identities: our tree is a palm from Quindío, our symbol is a hat from Caribbean coast and most foreigners take Paisa as the “Colombian accent”. People from Cúcuta has more in common with people in Venezuela than with any other Colombian, even blood bonds. The same happens between Colombians from Ipiales and people in Ecuador. And it happens everywhere around the globe.
We are adopting multiple simultaneous social identities. We have more in common with other fans or Marvel Comics, or Renaissance painting, or photography living the other side of the planet than with the guy next door. But we can as well enjoy the richness of our local culture simultaneously. There is no conflict of interests or incompatibilities. So next time you visit China do not expect to watch local films dubbed to your mother language or hang out exclusively with your fellow countrymen: enjoy the local flavours and take a wider, richer and more diverse version of what means to be a Colombian wherever you go.
Autor: Andrés Meza