Roses, Eucalyptus And Little Ballerinas: The Religion Of Milena Arango



It was a sleepy afternoon at the end of Holy Week when Colombia was contemplating the passion, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The city felt as if it were asleep in that meditation. Some Colombians left the city altogether, escaping to small towns or the Caribbean coast on vacation from the monotony of Bogotá.

In a nearby church called Santa Teresita, a group of believers lined up in the pews. Some stood. Some sat. They all gazed out into the cavernous space of the cathedral. Some whispered prayers to themselves.

Not far away, the artist Milena Arango was hard at work in her studio. Continue reading on Beacon…

This is Heaven. This is Hell.



Colombian journalist and novelist Gabriel García Márquez was 87 years old when he died on April 17th, on the Thursday of Holy Week in 2014. Gabriel García Márquez wrote in One Hundred Years of Solitude, “What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.”

Continue reading on Beacon…


Rum And Poetry: In The Company Of Two Colombian Maestros



A mask of gray stubble covered his face. Slicked-back hair. Glasses. He sat in a chair next to a bench filled with books and scraps of leather. The man wore a green sweater and a worn navy coat. It was hard to tell if he was a particularly dignified man or not. The thing is, he was coarse around the edges. If there was dignity, it was hidden, quiet. He propped himself up with a cane in one hand while he poured the bottle of Scotch whisky with the other. It went into my glass.

Someone introduced him to me as Maestro.

Colombia has a strong tradition of honorific titles. Profesor. Doctor. Don. Señor. They are titles that grant respect. Awhile back, I had a surprise encounter and met two men who invited me to celebrate with them and drink their rum. They went by a different title: Maestro. Continue reading on Beacon…

Brazil’s Bet on Foreign Entrepreneurs



Believe it or not, the Silicon Valley isn’t the only force of gravity in the tech startup world that’s sucking up talent. A ways south of the Rio Grande, some of Latin America’s biggest cities are starting to buzz with the same entrepreneurial fervor that the Bay Area is famous for. According to LAVCA — a group that tracks private investment across Latin America — private equity groups and venture capital firms invested $8.9 billion in Latin America in 2013, marking a $1 billion increase since 2012.

Since the early 2000s, Brazil’s economy had been riding a growing economic wave, thanks largely to reforms led by its former Socialist president, Luiz Inácio ”Lula” da Silva. When Lula left office, Brazil’s economy was growing at a rate of 7.5 percent. Continue reading on Ozy…


A Painter’s Progress: The Graffiti of Marcel Marentes

Marcel Marentes


Marcel Marentes told me he was painting beneath a bridge one day. The police arrived. One officer jumped off his bike and ran down beneath the bridge to see what Marcel was doing. He was sure they were putting up pro-rebel symbols – something that qualifies as a serious crime in Colombia.

“Who is it? ELN? FARC?” asked the first policeman up top, referring to the country’s two largest rebel groups.

The second policeman came down and looked at what Marcel was painting under the bridge. Continue reading at Beacon…

Taking On A Beer Monopoly Never Tasted So Good




If beer really is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, then, at least to Colombian Berny Silberwasser, God must have forgotten Colombia.

Back in the 1990s, Silberwasser’s Colombia was awash in tired, Bud-Light-like swill. So Silberwasser set off on a pilgrimage in 1997 to taste his way through the craft beers of Europe and the U.S. And there was enlightenment. When the beer enthusiast and culinary arts graduate came back, he decided to come to the rescue for Colombia’s next generation of drinkers. In 2002, Bogotá Beer Company came alive. Continue reading on Ozy…


A Hole In The Drum: The Musicians From Buenaventura



The place smelled like rotten fish when I walked into my house that day, and a fat woman wearing a bandana was screaming – or maybe singing – at the top of her lungs. There were children and kids of every age. The younger ones played a rambunctious game of hide-and-go-seek that ran late into the evening. Every once in awhile you could hear the soft dance of mallets on the marimba or a palm strike a drum. But it sounded for only a moment, and then it faded it away.

Colombia’s Pacific port city Buenaventura is sinking in a human rights crisis. Awhile before the news started to break last week, a group of musicians from Buenaventura came to Bogotá and stayed at my boarding house – where I keep a room. I got to hear them play. It was a surprising encounter, and let me enter a world of Colombian life that rarely reaches the capital. Continue reading on Beacon…