Bullfighting in Colombia: For what purpose?

November, 2012

Bogotá’s Mayor, Gustavo Petro, does not see the same art that Hemingway saw in the running of the bulls – corridas de toro – that have cured the masses of the Santa Maria ring in the center of Bogotá with entertainment for much of the 20th century. Earlier this year Petro tried to propose a ban on the blood sport that has been a traditional spectacle in the capital since Alonso Luis de Lugo brought 60 beasts and Spanish tradition to Bogotá in 1543.

 

The ban Petro proposed would put a halt to the Colombian matador’s game in Bogotá and might inspire mayors of other cities where bullfighting is controversial to cancel the games as well.

 

The tradition of bull fighting in Colombia took a strong hold when two Spaniards arrived in Bogotá in 1917 to develop the industry. Bull rings popped up in the 1950s, first in Manizales, then Cali, Bucaramanga, Medellín, Cartagena, and later other smaller municipalities.

 

In 2004, a law called the “Bullfighting Code” was passed under Alvaro Uribe to ensure that bullfighting was protected as an ‘artistic expression of human beings,’ and protect the art from being abolished.

 

Despite the code, many in Colombia think there’s nothing more than blood and brutality behind the ancient “art.”

 

Several of Colombia’s municipalities and a growing row of activist sentiment express disgust toward bullfighting, calling it inhumane. Medellín has already decided to oust the matadors from their ring. Of course, animal rights activists have reason with their strong views of animal cruelty. It is a sad thing to watch a bull’s legs crunch underneath its own might after desperately trying to survive.

 

Surprisingly, however, there is still a strong, unflinching following behind Colombia’s bullfighting scene. And some of them see something more important than whether or not animal cruelty is right or wrong.

 

Ernest Hemingway, for one, would turn over in his grave if he knew what Petro was up to. But he would probably turn over again if he knew why so many wanted to keep the blood sport alive. Hemingway was passionate about bullfighting.

 

After Ernest Hemingway witnessed the meticulous events leading up to the death of a bull or the man who tried desperately to kill it as majestically as he could, he was captivated with the dance that matadors do with death. He said, “bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honor.”

 

So now a matador standing trial for cruelty toward animals is an artist? Hmm…

 

Hemingway went on to write a treatise on the Spanish art of goring great 1,000-lbs horned beasts. He titled it Death in the Afternoon. He even participated in amateur bullfights himself. Through bullfighting, Hemingway ascertained the realities of fear, death and how the human condition tries to cope with it. Exposing himself to it was an important step for his journalism, as he would go on to cover and live through some of the bloodiest battles of the first half of the 20th century. It thickened his skin and primed him for his own encounters with the uncertainty of life and death.

 

Whether right or wrong, bullfighting is a ritual. And for the most part, that is how Spain, Mexico, Colombia and other countries that recognize it as an art choose to approach it. Matadors train at specialized academies from an early age, almost like little ballerinas might train. Duels between man and bull follow a specific series of stages before the matador can take the bull’s life. Those who choose to be spectators view the ceremony as an artistic dance with death more than an uncivil slaughter.

 

But a deliberate ritual is not always the way the spectacle works in Colombia.

 

What might be the most controversial incarnation of bullfighting is something called a corraleja.

 

It only happens in one place, but it happens.

 

Each year, in a small town called Sincelejo near the coast of Colombia, people build a wooden stadium where ‘journeymen’ – amateur bull fighters – enter into a ring with an agitated horned beast and try not to be killed. Unlike the young boys – usually 12 or 13 when recruited – who enter bullfighting school with the hopes of rising out of poverty and into the bosom of torero fame, the journeymen who enter the corraleja ring are untrained, mostly drunk, and the exotic variety of fame they’re looking for is called the peso.

 

What usually comes out of their drunken stupor is a marvelous chance to gamble their lives for the possibility to win a pocket full of cash offered by another intoxicated (and usually more wealthy) spectator if they can manage to do a somersault over the horns of the bull as it charges head on.

 

For this reason it is normal to see a pile-up of dead bodies after a good day of fun at the corraleja in Sincelejo.

 

Usually it’s a 20-40 count.

 

The festivities at Sincelejo, indeed, make up quite another ritual next to the majestic dances performed by professional matadors.

 

But it is doubtful that Hemingway would be much happier with the corraleja from Sincelejo than with Mayor of Bogotá and his pledged ban.

 

To the Mayor, Hemingway would probably say that fear is an integral part of Colombian history (not to mention human nature). Indeed most of Colombia’s 20th century was occupied by politically-induced terror for the Colombian people, and so why not allow them the choice to view how a young matador tries to face fear and cope with it in the ring? Let the spectators who choose to watch the dance formulate their own terms of how to cope with death.

 

To the ‘journeymen’ from Sincelejo, he would probably tell them not to get so damn drunk so that they can see the bull when it charges.

 

The point, after all, is not your prize in pesos, nor is it plainly to survive the bull. Everyone faces the uncertainty of death. It is more about how you choose to survive.

 

And everyone, no matter whether they face a bull or not, should get to choose how to survive.

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Hunger in Manhattan: Portrait of Stepanka Horalkva

We are used to thinking of it as a David and Goliath affair: the immigrant against the city. We are used to watching want-to-be supermen from around the world come, struggle, rise, and many times fall. And sometimes we are even the spectators, waiting in anticipation for the jaws of New York to swallow up the ones who don’t work hard enough. Some just simply fail. That’s just the way it is supposed to be, right?

To take great risks, to make it rich, to be great: that is the mantra so many New Yorkers live by. And if you’re not working hard toward that aim, you shouldn’t be here, you know what I mean? No doubt New York is a hungry place when it comes to letting others struggle for success. But sometimes even New York chokes.

To Stepanka Horalkva, a young artist in her early thirties who came to New York from Prague when she was 19, the choice of coming to New York on her own was a risk by itself. But for Stepanka, getting rich has never been the goal. Even though she is just as hungry as those who have an appetite for risks that stretch beyond surviving, so many who meet her still doubt the strength of her hunger.

They should. Stepanka’s hunger is a mysterious sort. For years her drive to be something greater than the ‘misfortunate sister,’ a role carefully carved out for her by her Mother, hid from the world, disguised and quiet, inside the frail, Cosette-like frame of this young Czech woman. But it kept a steady pulse as strong as her determination to leave Prague was certain, and as urgent as her dreams to come to America were vivid. And like so many starving artists in Manhattan, most who meet her still think she just another artist. Starving.

Fortunately for Stepanka Horalkva her hunger turned out a fruitful struggle – and like most immigrants who pass through the hungry jaws of New York City, there was a great deal of hard work in that struggle, but Stepanka insists that it has never felt that way.

No. Hard work isn’t always the right word for what happens in New York City.

Born in 1975 in a small farming village in the south of the Czech Socialist Republic, Stepanka Horalkva grew accustomed to hunger from an early age. She knew it from growing up under communism, where it took her father a long, frustrating 6 years to build their family’s house, using hand-made cement, brick-by-brick. She knew it by her mother’s fastidious saving of small bits of cash from what seemed like a place out-of-thin-air so that Stepanka could attend school in Prague. And she knew it because her Grandfather, Bohumil, was always talking about his dream – to go to America – and how sharply his obsession contrasted with the hunched-over haze of picking apples, potatoes and herbs in the fields to make ends meet.

My Grandfather always wanted to go to America,” she recalls. “And so for me to come to New York and to know that it’s something he wanted to do but he never got the chance to do is to affirm the connection we had.” Inspired by the unfulfilled dreams of her Grandfather, Stepanka says that her passion to go to New York “seemed impossible,” but she was still determined.

Her Grandfather is the one who showed her that there was more beyond her small farming village in the south of the Czech Socialist Republic. But it was her mother who dosed her with a stronger, more pragmatic medicine. So when Stepanka was still young, she was sent to Prague to study. But instead of finding fulfillment, Prague was where she learned to be hungry once again. This time, however, it was for something other than what she had grown to know of her country. It appeared more magical than the boredom of her farm back in the country and less painful than the mundane of her mathematics and schoolwork. Stepanka despised schoolwork.

Stepanka flung herself into Prague, trying to escape the boredom and beat the mundane. She met men and Americans who taught her little bits of English. She worked hot commercial fashion shops, where she lived vicariously through the worldly strangers who passed through. But it did little to excite her and all the while something like Grandfather Bohumil’s dream began to grow inside of her.

Even though her dream was tragically naive, it fortunately failed to be shy and modest. It was shameless too as it starved for attention, and sometimes, as Stepanka found out through countless episodes of trial and error, an honest shamelessness about what you are craving can be the simple, raw ingredient for making the perfect sorts of feasts in life.

One day in Prague, the spontaneous generosity of the man who owned the gym where she worked abruptly transformed Stepanka’s circumstances. Knowing she had been dreaming to visit New York, he promised to loan her money for a plane ticket. The little girl was ecstatic. She would pay him back. It was a deal.

Stepanka flew to New York and promised her family that she would return, but her hunger was too strong, and deep inside she knew she would stay no matter what. So at the end of a month-long stay in an apartment with a pair of Czech strangers, whose fighting exhausted her and whose thinning hospitality estranged her, and with 4 days before her flight back to Prague, she set out on a quixotic search for a job, and after what felt like hopeless wandering, she landed a gig bussing tables at a small cafe in the Upper West side of Manhattan.

Of course, she couldn’t speak English, but she was cute. And being cute was enough to survive.

Stepanka’s hunger wasn’t satisfied though. Even though she was finally in New York, there was so much she did not have. Even though she had a job, she couldn’t afford her rent. Even though the manager of the cafe finally put her up with room and board, which he paid for from her tips, she could not afford more than a bagel or two per day. And about her English – she had to learn English.

Quiet Stepanka stayed in a crude hostel paid for by the owner of the café. But life was more like indentured servitude than the New York she had dreamed of.

“It was a place on 85th St. And it was $80 for a week. And it was the most disgusting place you’ve ever seen. There were roaches crawling everywhere. Roaches crawling in my pants, in my bed, in my… it was so disgusting, and the first time I took a shower I didn’t have a towel. I only had a few sheets of toilet paper.”

The starving circumstances of Stepanka Horalkva stung. But the stinging eased when a Frenchman named Mario, who had been dining with his friends at the cafe where Stepanka worked, slipped her a dollar tip with his business card tucked tightly inside. She called his number. They met.

“You’re bussing tables and you can’t speak English,” explains Stepanka, “And people are looking at you as though you’re secondary, you know? But for me that was always motivation to excel and learn more and get better. But Mario didn’t look at me at all like that. He saw me and wanted to help me and protect me and he was just… the nicest man ever.”

But Stepanka didn’t necessarily want Mario’s help. To struggle was how it was supposed to be in New York.

“I was homeless. And I never asked anything from him. He didn’t know I was homeless. I started staying at his place and sleeping at his place and at some point I had to tell him… because I was really homeless, and I had nowhere to go, and I finally told him because I was just… I was just… I was so afraid! I never wanted him to think that I wanted anything from him!”

“I never wanted someone to support me,” says Stepanka, remembering the dilemma of choosing between the generosity of a stranger or another semester of her impoverished ways.

But Mario’s generosity was ultimately irresistible for Stepanka. He invited her stay with him while she began to put her life together, and though a part of her felt reluctant, she chose to take his offer. Indeed she took more than just that. Mario and Stepanka lived together for 8 years, and finally married. Not necessarily for reasons of love, but rather, for a visa.

Mario was Stepanka’s cradle. “Why don’t you take classes,” he encouraged her. The Frenchman opened a doorway for the young Czech immigrant. Rather than snagging vulnerable little Stepanka and making her a victim, Mario wanted to see her grow.

“I just want you to excel,” Stepanka remembers him saying.

“And you know what was beautiful?” she recalls, glowing. “He saw me– he didn’t take advantage of me – he saw that I didn’t want to stay at home and cook for him. I wanted to do my own thing. The most amazing thing for me is to be independent.”

Through Mario’s doorway Stepanka’s hunger learned the kindness of a stranger in a new city, the power of money, how love hurts and heals and how ultimately, in spite of the pain, it helps one grow. The key turned, and Stepanka, 21 and still starving to be something greater than the daughter of a poor farmer, began to feel a passion flicker inside of her.

When Mario convinced her not to worry about money and start looking for her passion, she took up his offer to fund her education.

Stepanka was finally lucid about what came next.

Since her childhood Stepanka says that she had always possessed a private obsession for circles – the shapes that made up order on the farmhouse table back in Czech, the things that let her eat and drink, the cups and bowls, glasses and plates, spoons and saucers.

“When I was a child I always loved ceramics and it came to me…!” Stepanka exclaims, remembering how Mario lifted the pressure off of her and how he let her find her purpose.

She chose ceramics classes, and though Stepanka’s hunger had never been stronger, the hope of becoming a successful artist in Manhattan – especially as a potter – was one of those fragile topics that brought about a hard, stubborn doubt in the people around her.

Even Mario flatly disbelieved her when one day, after several classes, she declared, “I’ll make one hundred cups and sell them at the fair this weekend. I’m sure I can sell one hundred cups. Or I can at least sell some.”

But Stepanka was determined, and after 3 days and $4,000, Stepanka’s appetite began to fill. But the hunger didn’t stop. That was in 2001. Soon afterward she began taking classes at a ceramics studio at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College where she could have access to more space and produce more work. After a little more than a year, Columbia University offered her to teach classes and later to manage their studio.

For Stepanka, this went beyond all expectation.

“I just couldn’t even dream of it,” she says. “I mean – having a studio in Manhattan is something that I thought would never ever happen.”

Now, 16 years later, sitting on a stool in the quiet of her studio, Stepanka still reminds you of a weary little Cosette. Indeed the frail young woman from the Czech Republic might lead you to think that she is just another starving artist, chained to the work bench, with change in her pockets for barely two bagels to last her through the day, but you would be deceived.

Stepanka starves less than she used to.

Surrounding a dusty work bench in the center of her basement studio there is a massive wall divided into shy, modest shelves where hundreds of circles:  half-finished clay pots, upside-down bowls, colorful plates, urns, and glasses wait patiently for their turn, starving to get some attention from the meticulous hands of Stepanka Horalkva.

Stepanka is the manager of the studio at Columbia’s Teacher’s College. She works for the use of the space and sells her work online. She says that there’s more demand than she can handle.

Working away in the center of a large white room, Stepanka Horalkva wears a short girlish skirt. When she moves her head, her ponytail bounces playfully. There is a brilliant smile on her face that says something courageous and hopeful about her. Two prints of ink are stained into her skin. They show through her sleeveless top. One is a Japanese letter that means “love” and the other one is a gigantic circle tattoo-ed into the center of her back. Only a narrow crescent shows.

“I think a circle for me is a metaphor for life,” she explains. “Everything is a circle, you know?”

 

People around Manhattan still doubt the young Czech woman. Stepanka remembers going to a cocktail party and introducing herself as a Manhattan Artist. The man she was talking to looked at her as though she were a liar. He didn’t believe her. Being a potter in Manhattan defies the odds of almost-inevitable failure that so many assume to be the status quo in a city that is more notorious for swallowing starving artists than it is for letting them live.

Some New Yorkers might never know what it really means to feel filled up after being hungry just to be part of this American place – a place known for its chaotic, unfair, and tragic ways – to survive it all despite the starving. But Stepanka Horalkva knows that there is beauty in starving. She has lived it. Hard. Finally, she is full.

It is easy to grow up in America with the notion that the American Dream is about hard work and making heaps of money, not about hard work and finding your passion. It seems that the passion story often runs along the lines of this: to be a starving artist isn’t about hard work, it’s about starving. That narrative is a great misfortune to anyone with energy and passion to do their work for the sake of doing it.

Fortunately, Stepanka never cared to listen to it.

When I ask her what hard work means, she can’t answer. The question doesn’t make sense to the successful Manhattan artist.

“It’s not work,” she says. “It’s passion… I never do anything that doesn’t feel right. And I know that I will never ever fail.”

 

May, 2012

Bogota entrepreneurs stress need to improve startup ecosystem

November 13th, 2012 BOGOTA (Colombia Reports) – As Bogota‘s business climate warms up, a feisty cohort of entrepreneurs is struggling to develop a thriving startup ecosystem in the Colombian capital even though challenges still loom.

“I would say we are at the beginning of a wave. I’m sure it is a great wave coming for entrepreneurship here and I’m ready to surf it,” Camilo Jimenez, an entrepreneur who rents a co-working space designed to connect entrepreneurs, told Colombia Reports.

But the surf is rough for Bogota. Getting entrepreneurs to trade insight, experience and resources is one of the greatest challenges that the emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem faces.

“It’s hard for Colombians to share their ideas,” observes Juan Tejada, an aspiring entrepreneur and organizer behind Startup Criollo, an event that incubates university students’ startup ideas.

Young entrepreneurs like Tejada are trying to change that mentality by building a culture of networking events modeled after the sort of mentorship culture that characterizes more developed startup scenes.

“Building community is a must for Bogota,” adds Fernando Hurtado, another Colombian entrepreneur with an early-stage startup who was inspired to contribute to building up Bogota fledgling scene after he attended an Entrepreneurship Immersion Training Camp hosted by YouNoodle’s CEO, Rebeca Hwang, in the Silicon Valley earlier this year.

Another rough patch for entrepreneurs around the city is a scarcity of funding. Only a few angel investors and venture capital firms have chosen to turn their attention toward the Colombian capital’s nascent startup scene, and therefore young entrepreneurs find trouble accessing later stage funding.

But in spite of the challenges, the World Bank’s Doing Business 2013 report on regulations for small and medium-sized enterprises casts optimism on Colombia, reporting a more efficient and friendlier business environment for startups since 2003.

Doing Business reports that reforms cut out lengthy registration procedures, reduced the cost of starting up from 28% of income per capita to 8% and shortened the time needed for starting a business to 14 days from 60 in 2003.

And Colombian entrepreneurs are not the only ones who are growing attracted to starting up in Bogota.

Gustavo Maggi, an engineer-turned-entrepreneur from Venezuela, says he is impressed by the support and opportunities that he discovered when he came to Bogota, such as entrepreneurial development programs with Bogota Emprende, Innova, and Unidades de Emprendimiento.

“Bogota is an emerging market with many opportunities,” says Maggi, drawing the comparison to his native Caracas. But he acknowledges the trickiness of the Colombian market’s uncertainty too. “Colombia isn’t a market that adjusts itself easily to your initiatives. You have to adjust your initiatives to her.”

Bogota’s emerging startup climate has even grown friendly enough to the extent that Startup Weekend, a Seattle-based incubator supported by the Kauffman Foundation, chose Bogota as one of its November destinations.

Ana Carolina Pereira, an organizer behind the event, is determined about Bogota’s entrepreneurial flicker when she says, “we think we can turn our self into as much of a success story as the tech entrepreneurship communities in Singapore or Israel.”

Agustín’s Salsa

October, 2012

A French political analyst named Daniel Pecaut once said that Colombia’s problem is that it lacks a founding national myth – something to really tie together the fray of Colombia’s history.

In his analyses, Mr. Pecaut must have failed to touch his wooden foot to a Colombian dance floor then. What a shame! He doesn’t know what he’s missing.

In spite of the deep cleavages that ravish Colombia’s past, nowhere is its egalitarianism more alive than when Salsa starts to play. With its origins seeping out of the melting-pot immigrant enclaves of New York in the 1970s and spreading throughout the Caribbean and the world, Salsa touched the Colombian coast during the 80s, where musicians like Cali’s Grupo Niche nourished it into a corner stone of the nation’s health.

Salsa might as well be accessible to anyone with the passion to listen and dare.

Old, formal men in Bogotá nightclubs practice it. Young cosmopolitan, independent women in New York worship it. It is the thing that families do when there is a birthday or a wedding.  And best of all it triumphantly disobeys the sad racial walls familiar to American culture, where rap and hip hop is only for when you’re black, and white people don’t know how to dance.

The words sung and the bodies moved might as well be the myth Pecaut is looking for, even if only for its beauty, because almost everyone in Colombia believes that Salsa is beautiful.

Nowhere else is this myth more lucid than the fiesta of a man named Agustín Villamarín – a quirky designer in his late 30s who wears a blue stone-colored jacket, a black scarf, and an Ascot cap that reminds one more of the city’s mayor, Gustavo Petro, than of a designer for one of Colombia’s top clothing brands. However, the man whose day will be celebrated by family, friends, loved-ones, and even a handful of strangers, does not smile. His face wears an eternal frown from a stroke that tortures the happiness in a man who can’t help but exude enough of it.

It is Agustín’s birthday. And he makes himself clearly in charge. But his power is not an authoritative sort. Rather, it is charismatic and charming. One by one his guests enter. As they do, it is Agustín who runs up to them in a brilliant burst of child-like excitement.

“Welcome to the house,” he says, gesturing around himself at a clean, cozy design. “In Colombia, we are all friends,” he says, greeting myself and a young Chinese student at the door.

Friends, he says.

I have always been skeptical of someone who welcomes me into friendship before his palm has barely broke away from mine. Colombia is a friendly place, but trust is delicate here. So I force a smile and carry on.

As I watch, the faces that meet Agustín appear optimistic on the surface, but like most parties, a quiet skepticism channels them into neat, comfortable corridors and circles that kiss cheeks and chatter according to family and age.

But these neat little categories disintegrate at remarkable speeds and fall away like shingles in a storm when the Salsa begins to sing out from a set of speakers.

Agustín lives through the middle of the gale of sound that entrances the house. He is the captain. At one moment he is roped up with a young girl who laughs as he whispers into her ears. Then he is the champion of a small team of young men and women who form a chaotic sort of ring that spins and turns and glides. Then it is his mother. And then his Grandmother. Somehow he maintains an energy that is pure and undiscriminating. In a way Agustín is like a Cesar of this small house. He showers his people with love. And the masses follow. Agustín is a generous Cesar with his sound.

He is a clever fellow. Somehow the masses mix in a way that would startle old Analyst Pecaut. Somewhere in the fray an old woman struts up to me and grabs me. We dance. Then later there is her husband, and a ring of us move, letting the sound soak down our senses.

Suddenly the secret slaps me across the face. Agustín’s myth is the music that makes you forget the things that have succeeded to conquer and splinter Colombia – the age and time a person owns, the money jangling around in our pockets, the color of our skin, the language one speaks, the peculiar formations of nose, eyes, lips and cheek bones that make up the face, a person’s histories and however tragic or beautiful they might be – Agustín and his Salsa make us forget it all and for a moment, live without suffering the pain of divisions.

That, I think, is the most refreshing part of this world of sound and dance. It does not represent the stuffy elite, and it is not a product of impoverished miserables. It doesn’t believe in race and difference. And it would well up in tears if it couldn’t let an old man and his young daughter hold each other and dance on her birthday. Or his.

The next morning I spy Agustín leaning against a wall in an empty room where just hours before the bodies pulsed. It is early. Approximately six o’clock. Agustín appears just as alive as he was last night, teeming with energy. I ask him how he feels.

“I am happy,” he tells me. He says it through his eternal frown. I quickly try to forget his frown and smile back in return. I believe him.  But even though I smile I also know that there are certain sadnesses that you just can’t forget, like the sharp, omniscient realities told by the French analyst – a set of observations that might infiltrate, trickle down, and occupy the unguarded conscience of people like Agustín Villamarin when the Salsa stops and the Colombian’s day finally begins again.

No need to fear though. There is always another night. Maybe even Mr. Pecaut will come.

Colombia regulators seize Interbolsa brokerage after cash flow clogs up

Colombian regulators seized control of Interbolsa’s brokerage arm, Colombia’s largest brokerage firm, after severe cash flow problems prevented the firm from following through on payment.

Allaying fear, President Juan Manuel Santos assured investors that their monies would not be lost, but rather transferred from Interbolsa to another brokerage firm.

The liquidity problems of the 22-year-old brokerage firm that started in Antioquia resulted from an aggressive, high-risk strategy.

“We have taken advantage of the moments the market has given us. And the greatest merit has been the capacity to let us assume risks,” Rodrigo Jaramillo, Interbolsa’s president, told El Tiempo earlier this year.

Gerardo Hernandez told Bloomberg that regulators were debating whether or not to liquidate the firm and facilitate a merger where the assets and liabilities will be assumed by another firm.

Even though investor worry is justified, Jaramillo says that the strength and solvency of Interbolsa is not in question and that clients’ assets are not at risk.

Tanja Nimeijer set to join Peace Talks in Havana

Tanja Nimeijer, a Dutch citizen, is set to join the Peace Talks between the FARC and the Colombian government in Havana as a representative for the Marxist guerrillas, according to the Colombian news magazine Semana.

Nimeijer joined the FARC after working as an English teacher in the city of Pereira. The teacher-turned-guerrilla says that she chose Colombia purely by coincidence because it offered an opportunity to fulfill a university internship requirement.

Nimeijer’s university instructors observed strong left-leaning political inclinations during her studies as a student of Romance literature in the Netherlands.

The message about the Dutch woman’s participation was reportedly not received well by the Colombian government because Nimeijer is not a Colombian citizen.

After concluding a round of press conferences in Oslo, Norway, the Peace Talks will move to Havana, Cuba. The talks between the FARC and the Colombian government began in secrecy in February of this year, and the intention to engage was made public by Juan Manuel Santos in August.

The armed conflict between the FARC and the Colombian state began in 1964.