My very first blog… ever. Oh, the pressure! I have been flirting with the idea of starting my own blog for a while now. My friends recommended, my family recommended it. A travel blog, would be the theme – my favorite hobby. When the first day of JOUR 5210: Race, Gender and Media came and Dr. Tracy Everbach announced we had to keep a blog for the class, I took it as a sign. So here it is… my first blog post on race, gender and the media.
Being a blog virgin, I’ve had the hardest time actually starting. I want my blog to be great, something people actually want to read… something I can be proud of. So I decided to begin with something I’m familiar with – being Colombian.
From the day I arrived in the United States as a nine-year-old until today as a twenty-two-year-old, I have yet to go one year without hearing a comment about what me being Colombian means to others. Not what it means to me, but what it means to others. It is not rare that when people find out I’m Colombian, they make comments or ask questions such as: “Is your dad a drug dealer?” “Colombia, the land of cocaine!” “Pablo Escobar!” “Do you have __ there?” (Fill in the blank with anything you can think of: Sprite, TV’s, technology, etc.…) “I hear Colombia is really dangerous.” Ask any Colombian and they will all tell you that they have been asked something of this nature.
The California Wildfires don’t compare to the fire that burns inside me when I get questions like these. No, actually – my dad is not a drug dealer, he has a legal career like the majority of Colombians. Oh, and guess who buys all that cocaine you speak of? Pablo Escobar is a dark figure of our past, not Colombia’s figurehead. And yes, actually… Colombia is a normal country just like the United States where we have soda and televisions and technology. I hear the Bronx is really dangerous as well, but who am I to judge? I’ve never been.
What do these comments and questionssay about the public image of Colombia? Clearly that it is not a positive one in the eyes of many. But is it Colombia that is perpetuating this image or is it the world that chooses to adopt this and only thisimage of Colombia? When Colombia receives media coverage in the United States, it is not to talk about our diverse wildlife and geography, our medical achievements, our delicious food or our rich culture. Instead, the media chooses to showcase the drug trade (which once again – who are the customers?), violence or our illegally armed groups.
By no means am I saying that these things aren’t part of our country. They are. We do have a 50-year-old Civil War, we do have violence in some places and we do have drug dealers. These are important things that should be discussed and acknowledged, but they are not ALL that makes our country what it is. It is merely a sliver of our society, one that no Colombian is proud of and which the majority of us play no part in.
The effect of the media only showing negative things about any country has immense repercussions. It feeds people unilateral ideas about what a country is and who its people are. When the public only sees one side of Colombia, they inertly become prejudice every time they meet a Colombian, having pre-formulated ideas and assumptions before ever getting to know that person or our country. What happens when a Colombian family moves to a tiny, ethnically homogeneous town in the middle of Texas where the only thing people have heard about in relation to Colombia is drugs and violence? What sort of prejudices are the town’s people, the teachers, the parents going to have if they know nothing but negative things about this country?
We all know that people’s perceptions of the world are formulated and guided by their upbringing. What many fail to realize is the effect that the media has on us as well. It’s not everyday that we stop to reflect on why the media is telling us one thing over another or take much time to analyze and dissect the effect of what the media is feeding us on our perceptions of others. I speak for Colombia, but I know that this is true for many countries. What do we see in the news about the Middle East? Nothing but war and terror. What are the effects of this? Children like Ahmed Mohamed being unjustly arrested on the premise of religion and ethnicity.
I did a quick google search of “Colombia” under the news tab to see what would come up. Of the 24 news links on the first page, 19 were about politics or something related with drugs or turmoil – including the ongoing peace negotiations between the government and the FARC, disputes between Venezuela and Colombia, conflict-related violence, talk of coca plants, and the unveiling of some international human smuggling operation. Two news links were about a water drought and three were about religion. NONE were about Colombia’s flora and fauna, its people, the culture, our carnivals, our geography or our achievements.
In the eyes of the world, Colombia’s image is slowly becoming clearer and brighter. “It’s Colombia, Not Columbia” is a social movement that promotes the beginning of a change on the perception held abroad about Colombia. Countless travel agencies and campaigns push to showcase the beauty of our country and all that it has to offer, from the mountains to its plains, from its oceans to its rivers, from the Amazon to its desert – Colombia has everything anyone could ever want. Like with anything in life, the first step towards a solution is to become aware of the problem. Always ask yourself, what is the other side of the story? Do your own research. But trust me when I tell you, if you travel to Colombia, you will never want to leave.
Written & Shared by: Emiliana Lopez
Visit her blog at https://foreverenvoyage.wordpress.com/
Pictures were retrieved from: “A Trip Through the Land of Realism” by Alexander Suis. (http://www.buzzfeed.com/alexandersuis/a-trip-through-the-land-of-magical-realism-rfje)