Showing posts from May, 2011

TUNES FOR TUESDAY - Salsa Con Estilo

We have been spending some time remembering the Salsa music stars of Fania Records. Since we are in no hurry to move on, I thought I'd spotlight another song by Rubén Blades , this one with a nostalgic connection to Colombia. Not too long ago, when I was growing up in Colombia, television there was limited to two government owned channels --three, if you lived in the capital. This technological wonder broadcast in all the hues of the color spectrum from white to dark grey and only within the hours of 5 to 10 pm. With literally nothing to see on the tube, most pre-internet Colombians became addicted to radio. On Saturday nights, all members of the Salsa cult, faithfully tuned in to a show named " Salsa con Estilo " (Salsa with Style) hosted by Jaime Ortiz Alvear . Jaime wasn't a DJ, he was one of the best sports commentators in the country, a possessor of encyclopedic knowledge about both sports and Salsa. At the beginning of the show, he would always recite:

Niños Buscan Hogar -- Children Seeking their Home

Every weeknight on Colombian Institutional Television, there is a program that lasts just about 1 minute called Niños Buscan Hogar . This is a program where ICBF can publish the photograph and identifying information of children who are in Protective Custody. ICBF publicizes these pictures in hopes of finding family members somewhere in the country that might be able to assume responsibility for and the care of the child. Many of the children adopted by ICBF have appeared on the program. Here is an example of what the program is like:

Voces de Secuestro -- Radio Program

Though much of Colombia has been more stable over the last 9 years, the reality that there is still much violence and many social problems. One of those problems is that there are still many hundreds of people being held hostage somewhere in Colombia. There is a radio program on Sunday nights that allows families to transmit messages to their loved ones being held against their will. The program, Voces de Secuestro , airs on Caracol radio. Here is a new You tube video highlighting the program:


Last week, I mentioned Rubén Blades once again, it must time to talk about him. This prolific artist has a remarkable story, which is closely tied to Fania records. Those who watched the PBS documentary ( might remember the story about Blades wanting to write and sing Salsa music so much that he begged Fania for a job. He eventually got the job-- as an orderly in the mail room. From there he rose to become one of Fania's main stars. It is difficult to choose just one of his songs to spotlight here, but let's start with a well known one: Pedro Navaja by Rubén Blades. This song is to Salsa what Louis Armstrong's Mack the Knife is to jazz. In fact Blades drew inspiration from Louis Armstrong for the song, just watch the video. But the song also draws from Bertolt Brecht's Threepenny Opera, and is a narrative about Pedro, a quintessential New York thug who is outwitted by a street smart woman. The song first appeared in

Myths for Monday -- Nukak Makú and Idn Kamni

Today's myth takes us to the department of Guaviare. There, between the Guaviare and Inírida rivers live a small group of Indigenous people called the Nukak Makú. This group of nomadic hunter-gatherers had been "uncontacted" by white man until 1988. However, since their discovery, their population has been decimated by disease and the armed conflict in Colombia, having lost approximately half of their population. In 1993, Colombia set apart land as a Nukak Makú reservation and expanded it in 1997. Approximately 1/2 of the now living Nukak Makú live on the reservation, where they have been victims of FARC violence. The other 1/2 wishing to flee that violence have moved to the department's capital -- San José de Guaviare -- where the government has established small settlements -- think refugee camps. (See a photo essay of those camps here: ) Here is the Nukak Makú origin myth: Idn Kamni According to the Nuk

The African Roots and Meaning of Bunde

When Colombians hear the word BUNDE, most will think of the music familiar to Tolima. There is also a musical tradition called Bunde, also called Chigualo, found on the Pacific Coast. It's origins are believed to be from the Wunde of Sierra Leone, in Africa. On the Pacific Coast, the term BUNDE has come to refer to a type of song used at the wake for dead Afrocolombian children, yet it is typically not sad, but festive. (The word Chigualo is used when the song is for a deceased adult.) The Bunde is a funerary right in which the pain over the loss of a loved one is transformed into joy. The happiness is caused by the belief that the the soul of the child has entered into the Spirit World. The Bunde is sung while accompanying the the decorated casket in a processional march. The march moves three steps forward and two back. The song is followed by a brief poem: Yo soy la primer madrina (I am the first godmother) que me vengo a presentar. (I am coming to introduce myse

First Afrocolombian President

Long before the United States elected their first black President, Colombia had one. His name was Juan José Nieto Gil. But, if you ask most Colombians, they will have no idea who this guy is. The truth is that for reasons that historians can only attribute to racism, Colombia's only black president has been almost erased from history -- in fact, when his portrait was restored in the 1970's they changed his skin tone to white. Nieto Gil was born in what is now the department of Atlántico, on June 24, 1805. He was the son of a 1/2 black 1/2 Indian mother (a Zamba) and a Spanish father. Early on, he taught himself to read, and he became fascinated by political philosophy. In 1839, he was elected to the Provincial Chamber in Cartagena. In 1840, he participated in the War of Los Supremos (a topic for another blog), and was taken prisoner. In 1849, he started a newspaper called, La Democracia. He became governor of what was then called the Province of Cartagena in 1851. One y

TUNES FOR TUESDAY -- Si Dios Fuera Negro

It is Afro-Colombian week, and when it comes to music (especially Afro-Caribbean music), not being able to claim a little bit of African ancestry could be a real let down. My geneticist friends will advise me not to fret: deep inside and way in the past, we are all Africans. And they are right. I am short a few pieces of evidence, (besides the thick, black, everywhere body hair), to be able to prove that my ancestors are North Africans. Yep, the Moors who invaded Southern Spain centuries ago. But, claiming Sub-Saharan roots would be close to impossible. As I have said here before, Colombian music owes a great deal to African immigrants. The most popular rhythms that unite Colombians are sprinkled with African music -- Black African music. Some of Colombia's greatest musical artists are also black - from Joe Arroyo, Wilson Manyoma, and Piper Pimienta, to Choc Quib Town and Profetas. Their accomplishments in Colombia are remarkable especially considering that even in the hi

That time Again -- Myths for Monday -ANANCY

Over the last two years, I have dedicated this week in May to the celebration of Afrocolombian heritage. WHY? Because May 21st is the Día de la Afrocolombianidad. The day Colombia celebrates the end of slavery there in 1851. If you are interested in seeing my collection of previous posts, click here: Otherwise, enjoy this week's focus on AFROCOLOMBIANOS. Starting with an AFROCOLOMBIAN myth, from San Andrés and Santa Catalina. ANANCY the SPIDER The Myth of ANANSI the spider originated in Ghana, Ivory Coast and Togo among the Ashante people, and it was people of this area that brought the story to the Americas. It is actually many different stories and there are many similarities between the Africa stories and their Colombian counterparts. Here is a Colombian version of "Tiger Stories" Once upon a time, all the the animals of the jungle gathered together to tell each other their stories of adventu

Newest ICBF Wait List May 10, 2011

This most recent Wait List was published by ICBF on May 10, 2011. Once again, there has been a lot of movement. Great news for adoptive parents and for Colombian Children!! Remember, the ICBF Wait List applies to adoptions through ICBF only -- not through CASAS PRIVADAS. It also ONLY APPLIES TO NON-COLOMBIAN FAMILIES. It DOES NOT reflect special needs children. The definition of special needs are children with disabilities, children over 8 years of age, and sibling groups of 3 or more. Several dates have advanced again this time!!! YEAH!!! The dates that have moved are in BLUE. Also, this list only reflects that there are no more dossiers at the national office prior to the date shown. Dossiers from before July 2007 in the 0-23 months category, for example, may still need a referral, but they have already been sent to a region and are no longer waiting at the national office. Age of Child ------- Date of Application Approval by ICBF Child 0-12 months ------ Aug - 2007 Child 13 - 23 mon

How Many Families are Waiting

Yesterday, ICBF published its latest Adoption Statistics Report. Today, I want to focus on the number of families on the waiting list. Unfortunately, the report does not divide those waiting into the age group they are waiting for, but it does show how many families are left in each year. According to the report, there are 151 COLOMBIAN families waiting for referrals. While there are 2,984 foreign families who are also waiting. Below is the graph that shows how many foreign families are left on the waiting list for each of the last 5 years.


Colombian Daddy has been a bit busy this week, he suggested that I post the following message on his behalf: "There is another classic, more alternative kind of salsa, from Willie Colón -- Gitana."

Myths for Monday -- El Burrito y La Tuna -- The Donkey and the Prickly Pear

Last week, I posted about los Wayuú (or Guajiros), the Indigenous people of La Guajira (today's Department of Focus). Today, I want to share one of their myths. But first, it would be important to explain that in the native religion, the Wayuú believe in many Gods. Maleiwa is the beneficient God. While Wanulu is the the evil God, the enemy of mankind. And now, without further ado..... El Burrito y La Tuna One day, a Wayuú man was travelling the countryside of La Guajira atop his donkey. After many long hours of walking in the hot sun, the two stopped to rest for the evening. The man hung his hammock in the trees, and quickly fell asleep. However, in the middle of the night, he awoke to the hair-raising sound of the whistle of Wanulu. Terrified, he jumped from his hammock and ran behind the trees. His donkey, however, did not move. It was as if he had not heard the Wanulu. Then, the Wanulu appeared before him. "Where is your rider?" he demanded. "I do

Los Wayuú of La Guajira

The Department of La Guajira, with its capital Rioahcha, is located on the Northern most peninsula of Colombia. It is an arid, desert region. It is hot and dry! The area is home to several indigenous groups among them are the Wayuú (also sometimes referred to as the Guajiro). The approximately 144,000 Wayuú are divided into matriarchal clans -- each clan consisting of several families, all with a common ancestor. These clans often fight with each other. They live in small groupings of huts -- called Caseríos -- which are located far from each other to avoid the mixing of animal herds. The Wayuú believe that there is life after death. This life is somehow related to the bones of the deceased. Therefore, great care and ceremony accompany the burial. After 2 years, the bones of the deceased are exhumed and placed in a pot which is then reburied. In Manaure, the Wayuú mine salt, which they have done since before the coming of the Spanish. Here is an interesting look into the G

2011 Webby Nominee = Colombia: Deadly Threats

The following clip from Human Rights Watch is nominated for a 2011 Webby Award. It exposes the continuing threat to those who expose and prosecute the violence and its makers in Colombia.


Let's talk about Willie Colón. Why? Because as it says on his website (, "He has created more than 40 productions that have sold more than 30 million records worldwide." He is an accomplished musician, producer, actor, politician, and activist. Not bad for a New Yorker who became famous for being " El Malo " (the Bad Guy). El Malo is also the name of one of Colón 's production businesses, and in 2008 he released the album El Malo Volume 2. But, the original El Malo album was released in 1967, when Colón was only 17 years old. His work from 1969 to 1975 included: The Hustler, La Gran Fuga (The Big Break), Asalto Navideño (Christmas Assault), La Cosa Nuestra (akin to Cosa Nostra), El Juicio (The Trial), Lo Mato Si no Compra este LP (I'll Kill you if you don't buy this LP), and The Good, The Bad, The Ugly. Yes, there is a pattern here. He cultivated this image of a bad guy mostly as a parody and as a critique of current e

Myths for Monday -- How Death Came to Earth

Curripaco (aslo called Kuripaco, Kurripaco, Koripako, Waquenia, Karrupaku) is an Arawakan language spoken by 7,830 people (in 2001) in the departments of GUAINIA (today's department), Vaupes, & Vichada, Colombia. The are approximately 5,000 other Curripaco Indians in Brazil and Venezuela. Their culture has been largely lost as they have been taught by Evangelical Christains. However, one of their myths has been recorded and preserved. It tells of how DEATH was brought to the world. Ñapiríkuli was walking over the hills of Guainía, when he ran into a woman with her child. The child's name was Kuwai. Unfortunately, soon after, the child died. But Ñapiríkuli did not want to let death enter the world. So, he placed Kuwai in a room and told the mother to be at peace. "Nothing will happen to your son, in 3 days he will walk out of this room alive." Ñapiríkuli then told the woman that the door to the room needed to remain closed for the duration of the three d