Every Colombian city and pueblo has a week of the year for La Feria – a giant festival that takes over the town. The past week was Bucaramanga’s feria. La Feria began with the Juan Luis Guerra concert I mentioned earlier and an event in San Pio Park similar to A Taste of Denver – there were food vendors selling all sorts of food. Since most of the vendors were offering meat that didn’t look particularly appetizing to me, I just got some old-fashioned American carrot cake. The first weekend of La Feria ended with jazz music in San Pio. Two bands played old fashioned dixie jazz, one of whom featured an incredibly charismatic singer who was like Betty Boop brought to life. Live jazz music is something of a rarity here so I thoroughly enjoyed the concert.
Throughout the week I managed to make it to various events that were part of La Feria. In our main park, Parque Santander, there was a street theater festival with performers from all over South and Central America.
Triciclos Negros from Piedecuesta in the Street Theater Festival. Photo from: IMCUT Bucaramanga
This week record collectors from all over the country came to Bucaramanga for a convention of sorts. On Friday night they gathered at La Casa del Libro Total – a cultural space/art museum downtown. Each collector took turns playing a few 78s for the audience and we listened together to old songs by Pedro Infante, Luis Arcaraz and more. It was the loveliest event.
I usually have a class every Saturday morning at Colombo. The Saturday before last was a break in between courses, so I decided to take advantage of my time with a little trip! A French friend of a friend named Charles wanted to travel also, so we headed to Curiti. It’s a small town that’s about 2 hours away, right before San Gil. Our trip didn’t quite get off to a great start when the both of us nearly got carsick as our bus driver flew over the curvy mountain roads. The last two times I had traveled that road were on holiday weekends with lots of slow-moving traffic, so I hadn’t anticipated the fact that a motion sickness pill may have served me well. We arrived to Curiti in one piece though.
We had an interesting discussion today in my English class about the situation in Colombia right now. My students who attend UIS explained that they have decided to continue postponing classes in order to support the farmers. I must say it baffles me that an entire college campus shuts down in order to support the farmers. Their belief is that a college campus serves as a place to exchange ideas and knowledge and in order for the students to fully commit themselves to the task of becoming informed about the farmer’s situation and educating others through acts of activism they must take a complete break from classes. You may view this as the students taking advantage of a situation in order to avoid work and you would be in agreement with some of the other members of my conversation class. We also discussed the extreme surveillance at UIS – because of the students’ history of protest there are dozens of cameras around campus monitoring the students. Students seen trying to gather others in any sort of protest or even public forum are immediately stopped. This brought about the question of privacy and whether or not these cameras are a good thing.
We also talked about the media’s role in shaping public opinions of the strike. It’s true that there have been acts of violence at the marches – stones thrown through windows, homemade explosives set off, giant bonfires started. Overall, however, the marches are peaceful and the majority of the group actively tries to stop such acts of violence. The media, however, chooses to focus on the acts of violence in order to give the impression that the marches are entirely violent and dissuade the community from protesting. Along these lines, when the public stops hearing about violent marches in the news they tend to think that the problem is over. This led to a discussion of the fact that large-scale protests are necessary to bring public and government attention to social problems. Until something big happens, like farmers completely blocking off all the main roads that lead to their town, people easily ignore social issues that need to be addressed.
Finally, we talked about the fact that actions speak louder than words. One student brought up the hypothetical situation that someone can march in the protests, but then go to Carrefour (our version of Wal-Mart) to buy their produce which comes from other countries. In this case they have done nothing to actually support the farmers. Today certainly brought to light the age-old idea that the teacher often learns more from their students than the students learn from the teacher.
In other news, I’ve put together another mixtape of some of my favorite songs. This time in the theme of garage/punk/surf/rock songs from Latin America.