Andrés Arroyave lives in Colombia, South Carolina and is PhD student in the Spanish Program in the Dept. of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of South Carolina. His family is from Colombia and he was raised in a vibrant household filled with Colombian culture, food, and community. With a deep love for his roots and an academic focus on Colombian art production, he offers a unique lens into Colombia’s magic. As a country consistently named one of the happiest places in the world, it is a place of color, art, community, and creativity. The Colombians I know are truly some of the kindest, most welcoming people I have ever met. Colombia radiates beauty, making it the perfect culture to focus this week’s interview on. Today, Andrés is answering my questions about Colombian art, happiness, and beauty.
Colombian Art + Inner Beauty
Andrés: “Regarding the relationship between Colombian art and inner beauty, I feel like the different forms of art Colombians produce, no matter the genre, whether it is through music, film, dance, drawings, paintings, street art all reflect not only the inner beauty within each Colombian but also the population as a whole. For me, the manner in which Colombians express their inner is beautiful because this is who we are.”
Expression Through Events
Andrés: “The different forms of expression of inner beauty as mentioned earlier can vary from events like Feria de las Flores in Medellin held annually in August; Carnaval de Barranquilla, which takes place prior to the Catholic Lent season. Even though the latter festival takes place before Lent, Colombians from different backgrounds participate in this folkloric event.”
Andrés: “Expression of Colombia’s inner beauty is certainly not limited to the festivals mentioned previously. From including, but not limited to, musical artists like J Balvin, Shakira, Carlos, etc.; critically acclaimed director Ciro Guerra, etc.; to dances like salsa, champeta, porro, bambuco and others, to the artwork of Fernando Botero, Alejandro Obregón, these are only but a few of the exponents Colombian art but who represent Colombia in a positive beautiful light.”
Connection To Colombia
Andrés: “I say “We” even though I was born here in the United States to Colombian immigrants. Through my upbringing and social interactions, I feel that whether it is ethnically, culturally, spiritually, mentally, how I speak, express myself, etc., I identify as Colombian.”
Colombia: Past and Present
Andrés: “Generally, I feel like Colombia continues to distance itself from representations of violence like Netflix’s Narcos and works of this sort because of the negative stereotypes that series like these promote. Unfortunately, Colombia has long been plagued by conflict especially in the latter half of the twentieth century. “
In the last forty years, for example, narcoviolence, or violence due to narco-trafficking, came about as marginalized figures of society fought back against the state thereby resulting in a number of disappearances, kidnappings, killings, etc. These acts of violence originated from delinquent actions associated with drug violence as much as they did from the government fighting back. The entities that controlled the legitimate use of power justified their own acts of violence by characterizing their opponents as rogues and scoundrels thereby dismissing any of the political recognition or vindication their actions.
Andrés: “One of the most notorious figures in recent Colombian history is Pablo Escobar. Since his death in 1993, the memory of Pablo Escobar continues to live on via numerous fictional representations like Narcos or another popular series, El patron del mal, much to the detriment of Colombians who wish to disassociate with him because of the violent acts of terror for which he was responsible. What ends up happening with these portrayals, which have a tendency to paint Escobar in a positive light, is that, even though they are fictional, the average consumer (the viewer, in this case) accepts it as truth, thereby dismissing every single one of the crimes committed. Colombians at home and abroad want to show the world that they are NOT Pablo Escobar, violence, drug trafficking, and that they are instead a vibrant, loving people full of life, happiness, and beauty. “
Identity Far From Home
Andrés: “To your question about, ‘How do I try to be Colombian in Columbia, South Carolina?’, I don’t think I try to be anything; I just simply am. In my day to day, from the food that I eat, the music that I listen to, my Colombian accent when I speak Spanish, it is something that is within me, in my DNA. It is who I am. To my knowledge, in Columbia there is not a large Colombian community like the one in Greenville, South Carolina.
“With that said, however, when there is a gathering of Hispanics here in Columbia, whether it is during Hispanic Heritage Month or during the Latino Festival on Main Street, we all seem to find each other. Most of the time, as if by some unspoken universal Colombian rule, we will wear Colombian soccer jerseys and gravitate towards each other connecting almost instantly. I guess one can say that about other groups of people as well, but to me it is still a fascinating thing to share with people that share your cultural background.”
Andrés: “Regarding spirituality, I would say that I am spiritual to some degree. I feel that over time, especially within the last five or six years, I would not say that I have fully drifted away from my Catholic upbringing, but I do feel like I am on a search via my spirituality for life’s answers; or more specifically, answers to my questions in life.”
Beauty Defined By Andrés
Andrés: “Beauty for me means a number of things. I see the beauty of my Colombian background through my family’s love and connection to and for each other in addition to other members of their community. I believe that one of the reasons Colombia is often considered one of the happiest countries in the world is because of our friendliness in addition to our close-knit family dynamic, which I have always experienced.
Colombians, for example, are also well known for being excellent hosts as we are a warm, welcoming, and vibrant people. When visitors come into our homes, we are attentive in the utmost sense of the word, making sure that guests feel as if they are in their own home as well. In this sense, then, beauty for me can be a feeling of warmth and a welcoming nature towards others. To be Colombian is to be loving, attentive, welcoming, joyful, always moving forward and never backing down from challenges. We are a resilient group of people and that to me is beautiful.”
Andrés: “Feeling beautiful can mean a number of things for me, I have found. Apart from the usual taking care of yourself, eating right, exercising, etc. feeling beautiful is also hanging out with family and friends, sharing moments of joy and sadness, to drinking mom’s coffee, engaging in thoughtful conversations with my professors and peers. All of these are acts projecting beauty from within. “