September 15 to October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month and that means having a whole 30 days to go even harder in our love, appreciation, and celebration of all things Latinx. While we will be covering a lot of things that encompass Latinidad across the board, we also wanted to give individual shout-outs to those Latin American countries and cultures that have hella representatives here in the U.S.
Being Colombian, of course, I have a pretty good idea of what’s essentially considered totally Colombian. I’m talking like, really Colombian. These are the identifiers that fill us with pride, make us laugh, and even annoy or upset us at times. But that’s all part of what makes Colombians — Colombians. Read on to learn a little more about our culture, or to get a good dose of orgullo Colombiano!
Correcting Everyone on How to Spell Colombia
Don’t even get me started on this one. If you want to instantly irritate a Colombian, spell Colombia like this: Columbia. It’s frustrating how so many people don’t understand the fact that Colombia is actually spelled with an “o.” It’s pretty simple, yet this spelling error happens ALL. THE. TIME.
A Healthy Obsession with Coffee (Colombian, Of Course)
A huge part of Colombian culture is our coffee. Colombia is the third-largest producer in the world (behind Vietnam and leader Brazil), and we love nothing more than sipping on some delicious coffee from our pais, be it a tiny cup of tinto, or an iced coffee from a fancy cafe.
Every Latin American country has its own official drink and ours is aguardiente. Translated literally to “burning water,” but known as “firewater,” it is a liquor made with sugar cane and anise (which tastes like black licorice). This is the fuel that gets our Colombian parties going, an integral part of any real celebration.
Talking Slow, Sing-Songy, Clear, and Kinda Whiny (But We’ll Say It’s the Best Spanish)
Colombians have a unique way of speaking Spanish. We hear that we speak the clearest and best Spanish, and we will often repeat the compliment. In general, it’s a slow way of speaking compared to other Latinxs, and is sing-songy. At its worst, we sound like we are constantly complaining or whining.
Being Proud That We Created Cumbia
Although Selena is the eternal Queen of Cumbia and Mexico has done great things with the genre (Colombia and Mexico are like musical cousins. We love us some ranchera music), Colombia originated on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. If cumbia isn’t playing at a Colombian party, is it even really a Colombian fiesta? No!
Having to Wear Yellow
One of the things that come with being Colombian is wearing a lot of blue, red, and highlighter yellow, the colors of our flag. We wear them with pride to every soccer game and Colombian cultural event or just because. But in all honesty, that shade of yellow is hard AF to pull off. Canary yellow is not the most flattering color, especially for cool-toned Colombians, but luckily, there are plenty of blue, red, white, and other options to choose from when you want to rep your country!
Fried Empanadas with Aji
To Colombians, empanadas are life. We fry these little sobres of cornmeal with potatoes and ground beef and serve them with aji (a salsa made with ingredients including cilantro, vinegar, lemon juice, jalapenos, and scallions). They are served as appetizers, but are practically a meal if you eat as many as you really want to.
Vallenato, Especially Carlos Vives
Thanks to vallenato music, which comes from Valledupar in the Caribbean region of Colombia, we Colombians have a deep love of accordions. The genre is folk music created from a blend of West African, Spanish, American Indian (Kogi), and German influences, and was a way to deliver news to communities. The most famous face of vallenato is another Colombian icon and source of pride, Carlos Vives.
While American jeans long were created with the goal to minimize the butt, strategic pocket placement, darker washes, and no other details on the backside, Colombian jeans are on the whole other end of the denim spectrum. These jeans are made to enhance or create a behind, with embroidery, whiskering, second-skin stretchy fabric, strategically placed seams, lighter washes, a high waist, and more.
Knowing and Loving All of Shakira’s Musical Phases
Colombians have been knowing about Shakira, and her musical talent for decades now. This means knowing about her various musical phases, which people usually break down by what her hair color was at the time (black, then red, then today’s blonde). Some of her iconic songs that most of us know are “Estoy Aqui,” “Cieja, Sordomuda,” and “Whenever Wherever”/”Suerte.”
Our Special Slang
Chevere. Listo. Berraca. These are just three of our best-loved, often-used slang words. This Instagram post shares many more of our words and sayings, so you can get a glimpse at how we Colombians talk on the regular.
Just like most countries have their own liquor and beer, they also have their own national soda. Our most recognizable one is Colombiana, a champagne soda which is super sweet, flavored with kola nut, and tastes like bubblegum. Another popular soda is Postobon, which comes in several flavors (the manzana one is fire!).
Betty La Fea
Colombia’s iconic telenovela, Yo soy Betty, la fea, speaks on the country’s notorious workplace discrimination against those who don’t fit conventional beauty standards. Its protagonist Beatriz Pinzon Solano, is smart, educated, and more than capable of holding down a job at fashion company Eco Moda. The problem is, she’s “fea” (“ugly”), and has to work harder than everyone else to be accepted by the snobby, looks-obsessed staff. Betty is considered to be the most successful telenovela of all time, having been reproduced in over 25 countries, including the U.S. (Ugly Betty and Betty en NY), and Mexico (La fea mas bella). It’s message proved to be one that resonated with people around the globe.
Another instantly identifiable Colombian icon is the chiva. Chiva translates to “goat,” but is used here to describe the colorful, decorated buses that transport people in rural Colombia. On a chiva, you will see a roof rack, the colors of the Colombian flag, painted words, a ton of decorative touches, and as many people and things you can possibly fit in and on top of one bus. These wonderful Colombian vehicles are often replicated in small, souvenir form.
For Colombians like myself, arepas are life. They are small, round corn cakes that come from the pre-Columbian indigenous cultures of Colombia and Venezuela. In fact, the word arepa comes from erepa, the indigenous word for corn. Think of them as the Colombian version of a Mexican gordita, or a Salvadorian pupusa. There are several Colombian varieties of arepa, from simple ones, topped with butter and salt, to meat, cheese, or bean stuffed ones. Each region has their own take on the tasty handheld staple.
Pointing Things Out With Your Lips
Colombians will point towards things with pursed lips, which really saves time if you think about it since we just speak and point with the same part of the body.
Our Obsession With Potatoes
Papas criollas, papa rellena, Papa chorreadas. Although we aren’t the only ones in Latin America who feel this way, we love potatoes. We use it in the soup known as ajiaco and it is a constant on the dinner plate, alongside rice and meat. My mom is a “papas, arroz, y carne” kind of girl, and so are most Colombians.
Talking in Diminutives
It’s not cafe. It’s un cafecito. Not un beso, rather un besito. We like to use diminutives, which is adding an affix of ito or ita to the end of a word, which makes it the small version of that word (and thus makes it sound cute), or adds more emphasis to the word, i.e. ahorita (right now). We’ll even go an extra step and make the word ahoritica (right, right now).
The Colombian drink Refajo is half beer, half soda. It’s a refreshing beverage that gives you beer with something sweet. You can also add in some aguardiente for a stronger kick.
Being Searched More by TSA
Thanks to the Colombian drug epidemic, the negative stereotypes that come with that, and pop culture misinformation, we Colombians have to live with people constantly joking or seriously thinking that we are somehow involved in the drug trade. This means unnecessary searches at the airport by TSA. Great.
Being Passionate About Soccer
As you can see in this video, Colombians love soccer. We cheer, we yell, we celebrate, cry, and don those highlighter yellow jerseys. While we will always say we are among the best soccer players in the world, this fervor for Colombian soccer is a part of our greater pride about being from Colombia.
Hearing Played Out Drug Jokes
It seems to be a widely accepted thing to tell Colombians drug jokes, even when meeting them for the first time. No, I am not a drug dealer. No, I don’t have a cocaine hookup – I haven’t even used cocaine – ever. While we are tackling stereotypes, all Colombian women aren’t overly sexualized, easy women either, toppling over from fake boob and butt jobs, and we aren’t all crazy, drunk partiers.
Ajiaco is a delicious soup that we eat when we want a traditional, cozy, Colombian meal. Since we think that everyone should get in on this yumminess, here is a great recipe by Hispanic Kitchen.
1 CHICKEN BREAST
4 CUPS WATER
1 LARGE WHITE POTATOES CUBED
1 LARGE YELLOW POTATOS CUBED
22 TO 24 BABY POTATOES HALVED
2 CORN COBS
1/2 CUP CILANTRO CHOPPED
1 LARGE ONION JULIENNED
SALT TO TASTE
PEPPER TO TASTE
1 CUP CAPERS
1 CUP SOUR CREAM
2 AVOCADOS CUT INTO LONG, THICK STRIPS
Cook the chicken breast and onion in 4 cups of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, and simmer for approximately 20 to 25 minutes.
Once cooked, remove the chicken breast from the water. Shred the chicken and set aside.
Add the corn cobs and potatoes to the water, and cook until thickened, for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Chop the corn ears.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add the chicken to the pot, and heat through for approximately 5 to 10 minutes.
Garnish with cilantro, and serve with capers, avocado, and sour cream separately for everyone to add to their personal taste.
Cilantro on Everything
To say we put cilantro on practically everything we eat would be an understatement. We use it so much, cilantro literally tastes and smells like home. It’s an intricate part of our national cuisine and culture.
Being Known for Being Happy, Party-Ready People
We don’t party every single day, but a lot of Colombians love to find an excuse to. There are hundreds of festivals in Colombia every year, celebrating everything from jazz in the park (in Bogotá) to the Festival of the Wayuu Culture (in La Guajira) to the Exposición Internacional de Orquídeas (International Exposition of Orchids) in Medellín. Maybe this is why Colombia has appeared more than once on lists of the happiest countries in the world.
Feliz #VeinteDeJulio, amigos. In celebration of #Colombian #IndependenceDay, a #homecooked, loaded #plate of #BandejaPaisa with all the works. #Expat #dinner in #Wannsee, #Berlin, #Germany. pic.twitter.com/qKcoBV71sm
— Konstantin Madeheim (@stanmade) July 20, 2020
Bandeja Paisa is probably the one dish that symbolizes Colombia and our cuisine. This mega meal is made up of an egg, avocado, sweet plantain, red beans, an arepa, chicharron, sausage, and ground beef.
Putting Cheese in Our Hot Chocolate
It’s so delicious, we swear. Maybe it’s because the chocolate is bitter instead of super sweet, and gooey cheese (which balances the sweet with salty) is usually a good idea in anything, but Colombian hot chocolate is the ish. Every Colombian kid remembers the hard blocks of chocolate, the aluminum chocolatera, and the rapid whisking of the chocolate and milk (or water) with a molinillo between the hands. Throw a buñuelo, arepa, and/or pan de yuca on that saucer and call it a day!
If you have a sweet tooth and are Colombian, you most likely are going to end up eating your weight’s worth in arequipe. The dessert is our version of dulce de leche/cajeta, and I know I’m biased, but it’s soooo good! We also spread it between two large circular wafers in a dessert/sweet snack we can obleas.