Monsieur Periné: Latin American Folk Meets Gypsy Swing



“I spent one whole year trying to convince the other band members we should dress up,” says Catalina García, lead singer for Monsieur Periné.

“But finally I got them to do it,” she told OZY, after Colombian designer Alejandra Rivas insisted that they all needed costumes.

Now, when the Bogotá. -based quartet performs, its outfits are eccentric and just as hard to define as its music. One minute it’s a poppy, bouncy, jazzy rhythm carrying lyrics in French, and the next, it’s slow, serene, passionate and all in Spanish. Continue reading on Ozy…


As Long As She Gets Her Tomb Back

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Just look at Maria Elena. It’s as if she’s not afraid of anything. Not afraid of anything in this crowded, crime-ridden Barranquilla market. She has five things on her shopping list and you can just tell she’s going to do anything to get them, no matter what.

It’s as if Maria Elena isn’t afraid of anything – not even death. I went to the Barranquilla central market with her to buy perfumes and lottery tickets, and get her shoes fixed. A personal essay about envying the determination of a Colombian woman, Barranquilla’s central market, and the things we fear. Continue reading on Beacon…

The Sweet Wet Heavens Come Falling Down



I wanted to go to the Tasajera fish market on Saturday, but we were forced to cancel our trip. Just before we were about to go, it started to rain hard, and it hadn’t rained the whole year on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. It started soft, and then the drops got bigger and came down faster, and soon it came down in monsoon-like proportions. Benedicto, my guide, told me, “we’re not going today, amigo – with the rain, it’ll be chaos… it’s too risky.”

No one in Tasajera knew it was going to rain that day. It hadn’t rained on Colombia’s Caribbean coast for the entire year, and a drought was plaguing the land. So when the rains came, the people celebrated. But the fishmongers still took the risk and went out for a night on Big Swamp. A personal essay about facing the rains, fishing in Tasajera, and the chaos of water. Continue reading on Beacon…

Death Happens With Flowers



Celia told me that yellow daisies are what people like the most. I found Celia outside the entrance to the cemetery. She was surrounded by flowers, and she watched and waited as one by one, mourners came to the iron gates, paid her 6 or 7 pesos for a bouquet of yellow, and walked down the dirt path to find their family tomb. The mourners seemed to walk slower than usual. Few people are in a rush to get to death, I suppose.

Ciénaga, a town on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, has two places for people to go when death happens to them: one is called Cemetery of the Rich, and one is called Cemetery of the Poor. A personal essay on visiting the tombs with a local Cienaguero named Benedicto, inequality in Colombia, and mourning. Continue reading on Beacon…

Latin America’s Newest Experiment in Tearing Down Trade Barriers

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Colombian industrial designer Carlos Maya grabs his luggage, steps off the plane and, like other passengers arriving in Mexico City, heads straight for the immigration line. But Maya’s Colombian passport only gets a quick review, a stamp, and that’s it — no visa required. He’s free to stay for half a year. Why’s he in Mexico? Maya’s selling machinery, and hopes to make a killing under a new trade deal uniting Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile. Continue reading on Ozy…

If The Dynamite Goes Off



It was already 11am and our bus had screeched to a halt around 2am that morning. When I woke up, I first thought we had broken down, but then I saw the long line of tractor trailers, engines off, packed like sardines, one after another. Traffic was frozen. It felt like the greatest traffic jam in the world.

Fighting between Colombia’s military and Farc rebels broke out on the road between Barranquilla and Medellín. The road was dynamited, and that meant my bus traveling the route from the coast to the interior was stuck. A personal essay on getting trapped in a mountain traffic jam, Colombia’s armed conflict, and hostility. Continue reading on Beacon…