It’s no secret; Colombia has a very bad reputation in the past, much of which people still feel is true today. When Colombia is mentioned in conversation, it is hard not to bring images to mind of Pablo Escobar and his drug trafficking exploits of the 70s and 80s. But it’s time for Colombia to shed these unfair associations. The country is now becoming popular as a tourist destination as the security situation improves dramatically and the level of tourist services increases, and news of the warm and welcoming friendliness of Colombians also continues to spread.
For a better idea of the things that the lovely country of Colombia has to offer, here are 6 of its better-known legal exports.
1) Colombian Literature
Winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1982, author Gabriel Garcia Marquez is regarded as one of the most influential authors of the 20th Century. His most famous works are 100 Years Of Solitude (1967) and Love In The Time Of Cholera (1985). Pioneering a style known as magical realism, Marquez is known for creating dream-like and fantastical events that occur in everyday situations in his stories. Although not referencing any specific location in Colombia, his influences lie firmly in his home country and page-turners can get a strong sense of the essence of Colombia through his work.
2) Colombian Coffee
Known in industry circles for its high quality and distinctive flavour, Colombian coffee is some of the best in the world. Don’t take my word for it; The Speciality Coffee Association of America (SCAA) awarded the Single Origin Coffee of the Year prize to a Colombian producer in 2009.
3) Colombian Dance
Any visitor to Latin America will quickly become aware of the Cumbia dance craze that has been sweeping the continent for the last few years. Cumbia has changed over time to appeal to a more mainstream Latino audience, but its origins lie firmly in Colombia. Elsewhere in the world, salsa clubs are springing up in every town and any aspiring salsa dancer will see the roots of the dance from a visit to Cali, the “Capital of Salsa” and home to numerous Salsa World Champions.
4) Colombian Women
Proud of the reputation of their women as some of the most beautiful in the world, Colombians are quick to showcase their talents. Companies, municipalities and even prisons hold over 100 beauty contests a year, revering the good looks of their women. One universally recognized beauty is Shakira, whose songs seems to be cropping up everywhere. Her most recently globally-heard offering was the anthem for the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup.
5) Colombian Emeralds
The driving force behind the World’s supply of emeralds with between 50 and 95% of production, Colombia is responsible for some of the purest, largest and most beautiful gems on the planet. The largest emerald ever found in the world, “La Galacha”, was discovered in Colombia and weighed in at an impressive 172 grams.
6) Colombian Flowers
Over 70% of cut flowers imported into the United States are Colombian, which makes them world leaders and experts in the art of horticulture. Not to mention a symbol of all things romantic. Since May 1st, 1957, the town of Medellin has hosted the Festival of the Flowers,a multi-day event that culminates in a parade representing an end to the days of slavery when, instead of flowers, the slave class carried men and women on their backs up the steep hills of the town.
Hopefully these examples of famous Colombian exports will serve to break the reputation perceived by so many about Colombia, and instead present a country steeped in art, passion, beauty and romance. With these things in mind, it’s time to book a trip to one of the lesser-known and most delightful locations in Latin America, and enjoy an unforgettable Colombian Vacation.