Crying runs in my family. It’s as inevitable as sneezing or yawning and can prove just as inconvenient depending on the setting. I have witnessed my aunt cry during commercials, the intro songs of series, and when soccer teams (which she doesn’t follow) win. My mom is the same; and chances are that if I write her a card for any special day, she’ll shed a tear or two. It must be contagious too because my dad cries more now than when we first met.
When we moved to the states, I noticed that my new friends, their families, or my new family didn’t cry so much, so I associated this range of emotions as purely Colombian, or Latino. For a while, I thought I’d been spared the crying gene and been comfortably grouped along with los secos (the dry ones), as my mom referred to non-criers. I sometimes wondered if I’d lived long enough outside of Colombia to lose that stereotypical latina passion emitted between the rise and fall of emotions.
Then I began giving speeches about Colombia, U.S.-Colombian relations to be exact, and that’s when it started. I’d be standing in front of a Rotary Club, a church, or almost any audience, and somewhere between describing Colombia’s biodiversity and picking apart stereotypes and the truth of a country I called home, I’d feel an unstoppable pressure on my tear ducts and a rise in facial temperature that didn’t want to accept what was occurring. My brain would automatically acknowledge what was about to happen, but not quickly enough to stop the tears from caressing my cheeks, red from embarrassment. Tears composed of home-sickness, frustration, and an overwhelming desire to change reality.
Years have passed, but on one of my commutes a few weeks ago, I felt a sensation akin to that of my speech days while listening to an artist play a song and tell his story. It was again too late before I could control my tears from weaving down my cheeks, much like the driver weaving along the traffic. Crying in public is uncomfortable enough, but tearing up on multiple bus rides just seemed odd.
As I pondered possible connections, dismissing potential hormonal imbalances, I realized that this all comes from some innate and deep-rooted desire to change the inequalities of Colombia combined with a realization that change is both difficult and that it can’t be accomplished alone. Even as peace talks hint toward conflict resolution, as tourism rises, and as foreign investors come to the country, issues continue to permeate society that need addressed, not by a distant governing group, but by all of us – which requies me drying my tears.
A sense of ownership for our cities and for Colombia in general is essential if change is desired – peace is not and will not be a constant state, but rather a process that takes root within each citizen. Citizens who regain trust in the government, who learn to respect and to relate to one another, and who can tolerate differences. I can find as much charm in bus musicians as the next person, but I also consider that each musician represents one of approximately 10,900 individuals working or asking for donations on public transportation in Bogotá. Many, who rarely make minimum wage, a mere $660,000 COP per month in the fourth most expensive city in Latin America. I also think about the number of elderly still working as vendors or in other arduous jobs when they could be spending that part of their lives doing what they choose to do (this is relayed information), and I cannot forget the number of displaced citizens nor that Bogotá may be one of the most stratified cities in the world.
Typing this I feel confident in my obsessive love for Colombia, because the equality and peace sought is possible, and not only in my idealistic dreams. I see it in the many organizations that promote the values mentioned above and in the sheer passion and determination of Colombians. But much like doing rain dances so it’ll rain and create growth, Colombia’s rain won’t come unless we all start dancing.