Brown-skinned and in Columbia
Replies: 39 - Last Post: Oct 10, 2012 7:02 AM Last Post By: Fieldgate
Jun 25, 2012 2:02 AM
Brown-skinned and in ColumbiaHello there,
I am an American of Indian (South Asian) origin, born and raised in the West. I am 35-40 years old. I have a vacation coming up, and I am considering travel to Columbia. I would love to spend a week or more in Columbia, and I will be traveling alone.
Here is my question/concern:
Is Columbia mostly dark skinned people, like Mexico, or is it mostly white people like Argentina and Chile? How do Columbian people react to people of color? As a brown-skinned man traveling alone, how can I expect to be treated in Columbia? Will I get ignored in restaurants? Will taxis pass me by? Will police question and harass me for no reason? Will people be afraid of me and not be afraid to show it? I am not expecting to be invited into people's homes or anything, but I do expect to be treated with respect as an equal fellow human being. I am a human being with feelings, and I want to go somewhere where I will not feel discriminated against. I have had very difficult experiences with discrimination in Argentina and Chile, so I am prompted to ask about Columbia.
I would love some feedback. I would especially like some feedback from people of color (Black, South Asian, dark skinned Latino, etc.) who have experience traveling alone in Columbia. If there are any 35-45 year old brown skinned men, I would love to hear from you. Any other feedback is welcome also.
I know this can be an uncomfortable topic for some, so please be gently (but honest) in your replies.
Thank you very much.
Jun 25, 2012 2:31 AM
Jun 25, 2012 2:55 AM
2Colombians are either European, African or mestizo in appearance so you won't stick out walking down a street but most locals will probably be able to tell that you are a foreigner, especially from up close.
I am SE Asian so obviously I really stuck out when I was there. I got a lot of stares but Colombia has only started getting tourists in the past few years so it isn't really surprising.
Most locals I met in South America (including Argentina) were incredibly friendly and helpful. Even the police were really nice. Do you speak Spanish? Even speaking a little makes a huge difference.
Jun 25, 2012 3:19 AM
Jun 25, 2012 3:50 AM
I have travelled to the north coast of Colombia and to Bogota. ON the Caribbean coast there are many black people and overall the skin colour was darker than in Bogota where I saw very few black people, and most people were quite pale skinned (Spanish heiritage like Argentina) or were mestizo. Overall though I have found Colombian people to be the most friendly of all the South American countries I have visited. As a white person with blue eyes I have often been the novelty with children wanting to touch my hair and people staring at me in more remote areas. I never felt threatened though.
I think you should enjoy your trip.
Jun 25, 2012 6:59 AM
5There will always be people who equate how you look with who you are. To say Colombia is absent of that is delusional. I presume you are not one of those people, so you should not have a preconceived notion you would be treated that way. And in rare instances if you are treated that way, there is nothing wrong with you and there is something wrong with whom dishes it out. As another OP said, be confident. You'll be fine.
Jun 25, 2012 8:43 AM
6Actually, the are quite a few Colombians of Philipino descent who were shipped over by Spain centuries ago. They have told me it has never been a problem for them, as the difference between their appearance and that of metsitos is small.
Colombia is pretty close to a rainbow society (of course there are still problems), and most of the discrimination, as stated above, is based on economic appearance.
Jun 25, 2012 9:00 AM
Jun 25, 2012 10:49 AM
8Among Colombia's own population there're all sorts, from white-white to black-black and anything in-between.
Chile and especially Argentina are very different - their population is mostly white of European descent.
Jun 25, 2012 4:52 PM
9Colombia is ethnic diverse, you have no reason to worry. The only barrier can be the language, you really should speak some Spanish.
Remember that word "negro" is not pejorative there, people in that part of the world are still not victims of political corrections and they see the colours. It doesn't mean that they think that some one is inferior because of that.
Jun 25, 2012 9:20 PM
10In Colombia people do discriminate, but based on one's socieconomic class, and if they don't know you, they will determine your class by your behavior and grooming. If you dress well, are well-groomed and act like a cultured person, you will be treated well. If you are poorly groomed, wear cheap/ dirty clothes, act rudely, you will be treated poorly. Your race per se is not important.
Also, very few people speak any English, so if you can't communicate in Spanish you will have an extremely hard time. BTW, it is ColOmbia. It's a common error, though.
Jun 27, 2012 7:20 PM
Colombia is full of diversity, both ethnic and biological. It's still very much structured in a socio economic sense and it's very easy to see how is well off and who isn't.
There are many Indians now in colombia doing IT projects and even doing reforestation: www.pedregoza.org.
If you're in the larger cities like Bogota, Medellin or even Cali, most people won't even think twice about you. Other places, they'll find you different and will stare and be curious but it's not from disrespect or rudeness they just don't see many foreigners in some parts of colombia.
Please make an effort to speak some spanish outside of the major cities. You'll have no problem only speaking english in Bogota, Medellin or Cartagena, but outside of that, it will be much harder to communicate without any Spanish.
Hope this helps!
Jun 27, 2012 9:31 PM
Let me disagree with you (my humble brazilian opinion) when you say "are people dark skinned like in Mexico".
I know how Mexicans look like and I cannot conceive how you think of them as "dark people". They are mostly Aztec Indigenous (native-american) looking.
For a guy from India is way "darker" than a Mexican even though his face is European-like.
The only reason I am saying this is because that is not the first time I hear this.
Another absurdity sometimes I hear is the term "hispanic". Seriously, this is ridiculuos the way I see.
I am thinking about southern Brazil, Northern Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, etc - they are all considered "hispanic"- and they look absolutely different. The brazilian problem is even worse - since people have been mixing for more than 400 years.
Diversity is not a term used or praised in Brazil. The term is Miscegenation. There is prejudice, for sure, but mainly determined on how much you earn.
"Hispanic" I would think only as a region or as a place where people speak latin derived languages. Anything other than thar is nonsense. Really.
Anyway, there is even a contry in South America - English Guyana - where the majority of the population are Hindus. If they are from Latin America - watch out - you might be a "hispanic" too....
Edited by: FabioRodrigues
Jun 28, 2012 6:03 AM
"Hispanic/s", or Latino/s, is a term that is used mainly in the USA and refers to people who speak Spanish as a first (or second) language and originate from Latin America.
English Guyana? There's no such country. You mean Guyana, a former British colony that used to be called British Guiana. They can't be Hispanics, as they speak mainly English and Creole.
Jun 28, 2012 8:07 AM
You know much better than myself that the term Hispanics is very often used to describe a persons ethnic origin, including when you fill a government form in the US.
So please dont ignore that fact. I have seen many TV shows when they talk about "whites, blacks and hispanics" as if the latter was some sort of ethnic group.
There are 2 Guyanas: the French Guyana and the British (English) Guyana. Hence the distinction we in Brazil make in order to facilitate the comprehension about which of the two we are referring.
The French also call their Guyana as "Guyana".
Jun 28, 2012 8:27 AM
15Fabio, people in India come in all shades of darkness (or paleness if you like) and not many of them have the European feature that you speak of. The shades varies from completely pale to carbon (yes carbon like drakness).
Jun 28, 2012 8:52 AM
Jun 28, 2012 11:03 AM
Jun 28, 2012 11:26 AM
18-17- As of today there are only 2 Guyanas.
The Dutch Guyana does not exist anymore.
Jun 28, 2012 11:31 AM
Here is the data:
Guyana is a diverse nation, 43.5% of the population is of East Indian origin (Biharis, Tamils, Telugus) 31.2% Black African (see Afro-Guyanese), 16.7% multiracial, 9.2% Amerindian and 0.46% other
Jun 28, 2012 12:18 PM
Dutch Guiana does exist, but the name isn't used anymore. Today it's Suriname since it's become a sovereign state. It's still got Dutch influences and the official language.
The changes came quite recently. Also Netherland Antilles aren't called that anymore. They've separated into three states: Aruba, Curaçao and San Maarten.
btw - note the English spelling: Guiana for French Guiana and former British Guiana, now Guyana.
I'm not a native speaker of English, but let's follow the rules of English on an English language forum.
Jun 28, 2012 1:21 PM
Jun 28, 2012 2:26 PM
22Dutch Guyana does not exist AS OF TODAY.
It is not nice to say it exists when it does not.
It is the same as willing to go to IRAN asking for where PERSIA is.
You don't need to educate me on Latin America History. The Netherlands have a major role in the history of Brazil. I already know that but "congratulations" or "good job"... whatever you want me to say.
Edited by: FabioRodrigues
Edited by: FabioRodrigues
Jun 28, 2012 2:48 PM
Jun 28, 2012 4:35 PM
Jun 28, 2012 4:58 PM
26This is simply political, "nothing" changed besides military junta taking over. This is rather good example, despite the fact that it get other way around in Suriname.
Jun 28, 2012 5:37 PM
It wasn't. Suriname was only part of Dutch Guiana, and the only one that remained Dutch, after the western part had been taken over by the British.
Jun 28, 2012 5:54 PM
Jun 28, 2012 7:45 PM
Great you see our conversation as I nice chat.
Basically this all started because I said the term "english" Guyana.
I agree we all know that this is not the official name of the country.
But it is rather easy to know why South Americans call it that way: so there is no chance for confusion.
As I said, the French call their Guyana as Guyane and that's all. The brazilians living in the state of Amapa have intense relations with the French Guyana.
So in order to make clear that we are talking about the "other" Guyana, we say "english" Guyana.
This is an wikipedia excerpt clarifying that indeed in portuguese we often call it "english" Guyana:
Jun 28, 2012 7:48 PM
Jun 28, 2012 8:31 PM
31Fabio - we Poles have big mouths, but clear intentions, it's hard to get out mentality without direct contact. I'm sure Fieldgate didn't want to lecture you, I sometimes face some misunderstandings
Anyway it's nice to see that it's becoming a civilized discussion instead of turning into flame war as it use to be with some members here
English and British are commonly used as parallel worlds by non-English speakers, only to make Scottish and Welsh furious ;-)
Jun 29, 2012 4:42 AM
Thanks for the link. I can see why you're using the term 'English Guyana'. It looks like both Britânica and Inglesa are accepted in Portuguese. However the Portuguese spelling seems to be 'Guiana', while you keep spelling it 'Guyana'. These are minor details, but still...
Also, mixing up British and English, or using them as synonyms, is common in other languages. And that 's as b_j said, what upsets Scottish and Welsh a lot, especially when tey are involved.
Jun 29, 2012 6:04 AM
Jun 29, 2012 6:52 AM
34#34, let me chime in, and agree...
Dominant ethnic group doesn't mean majority. It'd be called the main minority group instead, and that's what I suppose b_j meant to say.
And in the geometric figure there are angles. Angels are in the sky. :-)
Jun 30, 2012 9:13 AM
Jul 25, 2012 11:00 AM
Aug 3, 2012 8:59 PM
37Thank you: Nellygiddy, Kmingnath, colombiaecotravel and Fieldgate (for post # 8).
Thanks for nothing: plata_o_plomo.
I am having a great time in Colombia.
Oct 9, 2012 11:17 PM
38I just got back from Medellin Oct. 7, and I am a black man from the States. I stayed for 9 days but was ready to leave on the 2nd day. When I went to Santa Fe mall the stares I got from people could kill. When I went to the clubs as I walked in everyone would stare at me and I would notice I was the only one of color in the club. I went to a club called blue placed my drink on the bar next to a girl and she looked at me with disgust.
I noticed the white guys (gringos) had no problem the ladies would walk over to them and begin dancing, no matter what they looked like old, fat, as long as they were white.
I later met a group of 3 black guys in disco Babylon they had also encountered the same reaction from the locals when they would begin to dance near a girl she would stop dancing or walk away with a facial expression to kill. The whole 9 days I was by myself couldnt get any attention and I travel 2 to 3 times a year and never experienced anything like this.
In conclusion I dress well, well spoken, make excellent money but still black in Medellin is a negative. Never again
Oct 10, 2012 7:02 AM
Sorry to hear that. It sounds like your trip was partly spoilt due to that experience.
I'd like to see comments from some locals, preferably of dark skin.
Colombia is an ethnic mix. There're famous black Colombians among sportsmen, writers, artists and scientists.
In some areas, mainly along the coast, black people are in majority and upto 70-80% of local population. I'm afraid Medellin is not the case, but still what you experienced sounds odd.
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