We came to Colombia on Valentine’s Day. We landed at the Bogota airport, where we could breathe the hot, thin air of this high located city. One of our first meetings in the country of coffee and salsa was a meeting with Polish Ambassador to Colombia, Mr. Maciej Zietara, who gave us a lot of valuable information about the Polish community in this remote South American country. It turned out that in Colombia live only a few Poles (only about 100 people who were born in Poland, and 1,500 people with Polish passports gained thanks to the origin of their ancestors) and because of that we were looking forward to finding out, what hot Latinos know about Poland even more.
The first meetings with the Couch surfers were not very promising: according to the information gained from them, there is not a lot of knowledge about our country in Colombia. Of course everyone knows the John Paul II (and quite often even call him Karol Wojtyla), and Lech Walesa (who seems to be incredibly popular here), however, these knowledge is quite limited. After that it was even more interesting to us to meet the brother of one of our Couch Surfing hosts, who turned out to be a treasure trove of knowledge about the prominent Poles. He knows not only many Polish writers (including Henryk Sienkiewicz, Wislawa Szymborska, and Ryszard Kapuscinski, whose books he was showing to us with pride), but also film directors (Roman Polanski and Krzysztof Kieslowski), composers (Fryderyk Chopin), scientists (Marie Sklodowska-Curie), politicians (Wojciech Jaruzelski), and as for a typical Colombian, Polish footballers (Lewandowski, Podolski and Klose). He surprised me completely by saying more and more names of prominent Poles. When we asked him where his interest in our country comes from, he said that the Polish culture fascinates him because of the geographical location at the crossroads of different cultures, between two powerful countries: Germany and Russia. This was an extremely interesting meeting.
According to our sources, the Colombian TV does not show much information about our country. The only news of that has reached Colombia recently were the death of Pope John Paul II and President Lech Kaczynski. As if to deny this assertion, during our stay in Cali, all Colombian news showed two women who heroically rescued a bus in accident in Poland (I suppose, however, that message has escaped the attention of viewers, being lost among other information about the currently ongoing coffee farmers strikes).
As you know Colombia is a Catholic country. During visits to the local churches, at any time of the day we could come across praying people. Interesting from our Polish point of view is the fact that painting “Jesus, I trust in You” is really very popular here. This picture was originally painted by a Polish painter based on the sketch of the sacred Faustina Kowalska. You can come across it, not only in the numerous churches, souvenir stalls, but also in cars and homes Colombians. On another Polish sign in Colombia we quite unexpectedly bumped into the salt cathedral in Zipaquira next to Bogota. In the local shrine of the Virgin Mary there was hanging a tiny image of Our Lady of Czestochowa. When I tried to find out how it got there, nobody could answer my question. Who knows, maybe in the past worked there some Polish miners?
Soon we will leave Columbia, after to slightly longer than we planned stay, but this country will always be in our memories as a country of incredibly warm and friendly people, who have a kind of affection for our country, despite its negligible knowledge about it.
Our blog: Poriomaniacy