Colombians of Saskatoon: Andrés and Marta

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As some of you may know, during my time in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, I’m writing a mini-series on Colombian immigrants in the city.

I found a Colombian community that stretches and shrinks, sometimes involving a lot of the immigrants, sometimes just a few, but always welcoming.

From this community, I’ve been introduced to Colombians that come here for a variety of reasons and my idea is to show why they’re here, what they’re doing, and how they connect with their homeland and Saskatoon, among other things.

Marta and Andrés making arepas in Saskatoon.
Marta and Andrés making arepas in Saskatoon.

About Andrés and Marta

This married couple from Palmira, Valle, Colombia, moved to Saskatoon about four years ago (First him, then her). They had no family or friends in the city.

Why?

Andrés had applied for several scholarships to study evolutionary biology- one to study in Spain, one in Japan and one in Canada. However, he was given all three, which meant he had a difficult decision ahead of him.

Staying in Colombia wasn’t an option because he couldn’t find the support for his PhD research about a specific kind of frog in the Chocó region.

He placed all his eggs in the Japan basket, having already spent six months there on an exchange during his Bachelor’s in biology. However, after the tsunami a few years back, Japan postponed their offer six months, and Andrés decided he’d leave it to fate: whichever offer involved him leaving first, he’d take.

I think we all know where this is going…

He spent six months alone in Saskatoon and found work for Marta, his wife, in the University as well.

She studied agronomy and switched her PhD thesis to accommodate her work here and be able to work on a project that directly affects this region here: the biological minimization of crickets that destroy crops.

I have got to say, these two are meant for each other, and they’re positively charming!

Without further ado, here are their opinions on emigrating to Saskatoon.

Banff

On Moving to Saskatoon

Honestly, like any other Colombian, we’ve been impacted by the cold. Winter, apart from being physically cold, cools us mentally and emotionally.

Everything is gray-white, we don’t see that green that characterizes Colombia, and if you’re not strong, you can fall into depression.

When you spend more than three winters here, you realize that it’s hard. Apart from having water in a solid state for six months, nothing else has really impacted us.

We like the tranquility: walking in the center of the city at night without looking back all the time is priceless.

There is no money that can buy you that calmness. Here, we walk all over the city, on the river, on the outskirts, and we’ve never been in a situation that could compromise our integrity.

We don’t like the cold. Saskatoon would be my lost paradise in the prairies if there was no winter, or if it was less harsh.

The Difference between Canadians and Colombians

The cultures are simply different. We’ve learned to take a bit of the good in both. In Colombia, we’re very joyful, friendly and loyal. Here, they’re very respectful and generally very honest.

For example, I’ve lost my wallet and some electronics countless times, and I always get them back in a matter of days. Sure, I miss the barbecue from El Valle and buñuelos, but I also would miss the tranquility.

Their Most Memorable Moment in Saskatoon

Our arrival. Personally, I came to Saskatoon alone and without knowing anyone. That’s the spirit with which I grew up in Colombia: exploring. It’s changing your whole lifestyle in a matter of weeks and that, evolutionarily speaking, is hard for any individual of any species.

Arriving at a 3 x 3 meter university dorm when you come from green Colombia by the mountains is something that really marks you. There is no particular aspect that is memorable from moving, the whole moving process, in general, has been burned into my mind.

Representing Colombia Outside the Country

Of course [I think we represent Colombia] and many people notice. They notice that we’re warm people, sociable, smiley, our joy.

However, we avoid those bad habits that we still see in other Colombians and that are maybe still generating a bad image for us. For example, cutting in line, keeping objects we find on the street, not paying taxes, etc.

Again, we try to always bring together the best of both of our cultures. That is our objective: to be ‘better’ people.

Anything Else?

Well, I get really hungry in the morning, I drink Colombian coffee all day.

I’ve been offered a research job, and I may spend another couple of years in Saskatoon bearing the cold, but doing what I love and in a calm way. Though we miss our families dearly, our lives are simply easier here.

As a biologist, I learned that fighting hard is okay. However, one should take the simplest and humblest route. Ours, for now, is here in Saskatoon through the university, where we can develop our research freely.

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Born in Manizales, raised in the US, Ximena loves writing about the space in between her two cultures.

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