There is a strange phenomena in Colombia that outsiders have a hard time wrapping their heads around. That the Colombian people as a whole are, drumroll please…..They’re mostly happy!
In a country that has seen over 50 years of conflict, and displaced more than 5 million of her citizens, there seems to be a happiness. Like a candid appreciation for the moment, everywhere.
5 Reasons Why Colombians are Happy
A Colombian is quick to laugh, slow to cry and eager to please, or to tell a joke. Granted, for all the naysayers, there are plenty of miserable, angry bitter people here and in the world, but studies have ranked Colombia as number one according to Huffington Post, and top 10 according to others. Let’s explore the possibilities. Here are a few reasons why I think Colombia is happy.
No Seasonal Depression
Seasonal Affective Disorder is the pits. Anyone who has spent a winter in North America, Europe or any country with seasons knows that the darker the days, the lower our enthusiasm. Part of this is a lack of sunlight, which gives us a vitamin D boost AND increases our sense of well-being. In Colombia we are almost right on top of the equator, our days are 12 hours year round. There are microclimates which stay foggy or overcast. Most of us receive some sunlight, almost every day, of the year.
Life Hasn’t Always Been Easy
Only a few years (or months?) ago it was as easy as $20 to get someone offed. Up until this year, Colombia has been considered one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. Even now after the peace accord, there are still areas of unrest, particularly up round Medellin between the ELN, the AUC and paramilitaries. And the people who live in these places have adapted. Like the old bible verse “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” You have to grasp the joy of life and live it. We could learn a lot from some of the people who have seen conflict. Many use humor to overcome it.
People here know how to grab life with both hands, and chase it down. They throw the biggest party ever, whenever possible, and make a big show for their friends. Violence has played such a central role in Colombia, that the happiness almost seems like magical surrealism from a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. It’s hard to believe it actually exists. So many people here have so little yet are so willing to share and help one another in spite of the vicious pain which has torn families apart. Colombians have big hearts.
Need I say more?
In fact, I am pretty sure that some people get out of bed in the morning just so they can put on the jersey of their favorite team and go catch the game later. A Colombian made movie even told the story about two men who literally lost everything they had as a result of football wagers, girls, money and even their home. In the end of the movie these two guys pulled themselves up by the bootstraps, placed a new bet and spent their last pesos on a ticket to the next game.
Can anyone name the aforementioned movie?
In essence, it’s that feeling of total abandon that people here tend to have. Big celebration or big loss. People honking the horns, throwing parties, stopping the Megabus and getting wild drunk. Later they might be crying in their beer. There’s more emotion too. In Colombia the people aren’t afraid to march for a cause either.
Gourmet Coffee de Origen
When you wake up to the smell of a coffee that has been hand selected, artisan roasted, ground and brewed,its a beautiful thing. The energy charge. That heady feeling you get after your first cup. The alertness it brings as you tackle your work-day.
And nobody can produce premium coffee like the Colombian coffee axis. We have some of the best coffee in the world, and its only going to get better.
As small locally-owned businesses have turned to gourmet coffee, a local awareness has arisen. Now, Colombians for the first time ever are learning the sophisticated forms of coffee culture. In Pereira today you can find slow-drip, V60, fast pour and chemex, in multiple coffee shops throughout the city. Because Colombians know good coffee!
Get ready for some high-octane thunder bean, fresh brewed! If that doesn’t put a smile on your face, you’re dead. Or maybe you prefer tea. 😉
Native Foods, Ecological Farming and Ancestral Health Practices
Colombians weren’t the first people’s to inhabit Colombia, but many of them ARE descendants of ancient people who had some amazing knowledge. Scientists have discovered ancient cures, healthy lifestyles and amazing artifacts by studying the Meso-Colombian period prior to the arrival of Europeans. From Ayahuasca ceremonies to permaculture beliefs, the old traditions of the ancestors are still practiced in the most isolated parts of Colombia to give them health and happiness.
These same arts and traditions are also seeing a comeback in other parts of the country in a cultural resurgence. A recent Oscar Nominated movie called “En el Abrazo del Serpiente” was made by a Colombian film company, and reveals secrets of the Amazon regions that many outsiders would find exotic. The truth is that many of the rituals and medicines the movie dramatizes are actually practiced in many parts of the country.
My Colombian husband was able to identify and had tried a few of the cultural remedies shown in the movie, such as Ayahuasca ceremonies, the coca powder preparation and even the herbs which are blown up the nose with this funny looking pipe. Many Colombians take for granted little secrets and “consejos“, or wisdom which are still passed down through families and practiced with positive results.
The happiest people I constantly encounter, are the humble farmers, artisan craftsman and food vendors of the Ecological Markets or Mercado Agroecologias who are taking the time to re-learn ancestral Colombian and Pre-Colombian knowledge. They take pride and contentment from sharing their health secrets and remedies with the shoppers who in turn delight in finding a “cure” for their ailments. This community extends into all levels of society too, where more and more kitchen entrepreneurs are creating healthy, happy, foods, in their homes and farms. And, the awareness for these foods is rising too!
That’s my take on Colombian happiness. Truthfully, it really can’t be pointed at and explained with any one reason. I think people are happy for many reasons, and more people are happy here, compared to other places. I know that I have found happiness in my own way here by meeting the love of my life, receiving baby Daniel into my life, and of course the amazing lifestyle which has become available to me through hard work, and my ability to take a few wild chances.
What kind of happiness are you seeking? What is holding you back? Why are you letting that thing hold you back?