From what I've seen, the thing to do here, in leading into any discussion of Colombia, is to open with great big gestures toward magical realism. Whether it’s Anthony Bourdain, or Narcos, or even Colombia’s own Ministry of Tourism, so often, Colombia = magical realism : CO : MR: co : mr : co : mr … (bulletproof generals, yellow butterflies, feral hippos, and so on).
Though these can sometimes be tiresome, reductive, and silly, it’s probably necessary on some level. And it’s a lot more desirable, I think, than other go-to distortions, like Colombia=cocaine for yanqui nostrils, Colombia=guerillas & paramilitaries, etc. It can also make for a delightful pastime on long bus rides, imagining yourself a writer for a middlebrow travel magazine:
Passing slow traffic along precarious highways through Andean cloud forests has its roots in magical realism. Mary full of grace, we truckers and mechanics ask your protection.
Men with tattoo guns, ink kits, and iphones coming to a neighborhood near you are today’s main purveyors of magical realism. Por que te quiero, te pinto.
In the imposition of the four gospels on the New World lies the absolute origin of magical realism. And our Lord did juggle the bread.
A desire to reckon the heartbreaking beauty of life and being with the absurdities and horrors of the violence these entail… (OK, maybe that one does have something to do with magical realism).
Sausages, having absorbed all the green-spectrum particles and waves of the Cordillera Central, now infuse our bodily humours with magical realism.
Alright. I know, that’s enough.
Actually, aside from coming up with fake hooks for the alumni magazine, we were there on other errands too.