Expat Observations: Lines, Speaking Spanish and Dar Papaya

19
507
Downtown Medellín
Downtown Medellín (photo: David Lee)
Downtown Medellín
Downtown Medellín (photo: David Lee)

The following is Part Two of a four-part series by John Knox Seagle, an English teacher and five-year Medellín resident from the United States. Read Part One here

The purpose of this article and series is to talk openly and honestly about the common things long-term residents of Medellín find frustrating about living here.

Not every paisa is guilty of committing one of these faux-pas, but in my experience each of the following things is fairly common. This article is in no way intended to paint Medellín and the paisas in a bad light.

In addition, like all foreigners here, I love Medellín, and I could easily write a many more words about the things that one can admire and love about this city. But that’s for a different article.

Lines

While one can expect to see people respect las filas in places like banks or government offices, good luck thinking that standing in line patiently is the best approach to be served at a bar, corner shop or bakery.

The common protocol is to circumvent the line, approach the counter to the side of the person who is being served, interrupt and order loudly. Some people do this just because they believe they can get away with it, knowing that nobody will call them out or cause a ruckus.

There is perhaps no better way to immediately frustrate a foreigner than jumping in front of them in line. I have personally seen various Northern Europeans flip out.

Which brings me to…

I Got Here First

For reasons that might seem understandable to anyone with knowledge of Medellín’s dark past, it’s very common for people here to want to avoid confrontations, as one never knows how some men will react when challenged.

You’ll experience this reticence to chastise when someone cuts in front of you in line.

The attending employee will certainly notice that you’ve been waiting longer than the person who has just circumvented the line and spoken out of turn, but nevertheless will not say a word or dare challenge this individual who urgently requires a Pilsen or buñelo.

The first person served is the one who has demanded something the loudest and ignored all other customers.

You’re better off learning to be patient than expecting this to change anytime soon, but if you’re feeling brave, these individuals are often so unused to being challenged that it sometimes works when a foreigner calls them out by saying: “señor, hay una fila, detrás de mi.”

We’re Not All Rich

Nobody comes to live and work in Colombia in order to (legally) earn a lot of money.

Ask any long-term foreign resident and they’ll report that becoming monetarily rich in Colombia was never the point. It is difficult to make good money in Medellín for anyone, much less for foreigners whose Spanish is not up to par.

Or to add insult to injury, quote us a price in dollars. Unlike Panama or Ecuador, Colombia does in fact have its own currency, and the peso is what every worker in Colombia earns. I haven’t earned dollars in years.

And while the average Colombian either lives with their family or has close familial relations and will likely be sharing their living expenses with various other employed family members, imagine living in Medellín as a solo foreigner who is only legally permitted to be employed by one company at a time, earning a living in pesos, paying into a retirement scheme that likely will never bring this person any benefit, and paying every expense alone.

At least up-charging here is not very common.

Individuals earning dollars or euros in Colombia can live quite well. If one earns a local salary then Medellín becomes quite expensive.

Criticize Our Spanish

I entered my friend’s apartment one Friday evening and greeted my friends, an international group of expats with members from Russia, Switzerland, the Netherlands… and Bogotá.

We often speak in English because it’s our most convenient common language… you know, that global language that all Colombians with an education have been required to study in school.

I saw that there was someone in attendance who I didn’t know, the new girlfriend of a friend, so I greeted her in Spanish in order to be friendly and accommodating.

She immediately began laughing and criticizing my Spanish, and pretended to not understand a word because of my accent.

The laughing stopped abruptly when I asked her if she prefers we all speak one of the other foreign languages that she knows, and gently reminded her that if she were not there, everyone would be communicating with one another in English.

Mocking the way a person is speaking is not a good way to make a good first impression, but it happens nonetheless.

Sex, Drugs… and Reggaeton?

You can’t miss them. They’re wearing shorts, plastic flip-flops, and possibly a tank top (the gringo uniform), aren’t making a much of an effort to communicate in Spanish, are walking around with a group of identically dressed plastic-bottle carrying individuals, and often emit an odor which one can only describe as a mixture of sweat, dirty socks and naivety.

While the majority of backpackers and foreigners are respectful, mindful of the local culture and customs, interested in understanding Medellín, and do not come here to go crazy, unfortunately there are is a large and increasing number of visitors to the City of Eternal Spring who have other, often more scandalous, things in mind.

Many of them seem to lurk around Parque Lleras and treat El Poblado as if it were an extension of their own countries, rarely venture into the rest of the city, and express little interest in getting to know the various faces of Medellín.

Others do not maintain the same standards of personal hygiene that they would have at home, do not care about their appearance, and smell in a way which is often very offensive for locals and other foreigners alike.

The worst of them treat Medellín as if it were Cancun and spend their days in a drunken, debaucherous, sex-and-drug fueled haze with little-to-no contact with the locals, or even worse, start their own sex-tourism businesses.

Why these often hairy individuals seem to be under the impression that they’re at the beach is beyond me, but their failure to realize that it’s uncommon to see locals wearing beach-going attire in their Andean city, or that locals are usually impeccably groomed and wear clean clothes and bathe frequently, or that their behavior and attitude is often very ugly, strikes me, many long-term foreign residents here, and many locals, as very disrespectful

These unfortunate exceptions to the rule have evidently forgotten that while abroad, an individual is effectively a representative of their own country and that their behavior can reflect negatively on their own country and other foreigners.

And to be honest, we worry that these individuals are tarnishing the image that locals have of all foreigners in general, not to mention defiling Medellín in numerous ways.

To the numerous backpackers who have walked up to me, asked me if I speak English, and then asked me where they can score some cocaine: shame on you.

To the numerous older single retirees or sex tourists one can see walking around Lleras with an 18-year-old silicone princess on their arm: you’re a joke.

To the numerous drunken buffoons who I’ve seen walk up to young women in bars and disrespect them by saying things like “hola chimba” or “me gustan tus tetas siliconas,” even in front of their boyfriends: you’re a disgrace.

To the drunken Australian who thought it would be funny to ask me in broken Spanish “oye gringo, quieres mi ___ en tu ____?” : go home.

To the two young travelers that my girlfriend and I recently stood next to in the metro at rush hour who chose to enter barefoot, filthy, and with tattered clothes, who oblivious to everyone around you decided to juggle and loudly converse with each other in English, and smelled worse than chinchurria: did you notice that in the crowded train everyone around you had given you a wide berth? What were you thinking? I, as a foreigner, was embarrassed.

Sure, it’s difficult to be a backpacker and carry your life and a few changes of clothes with you in your backpack.

But let’s try to show our paisa hosts some respect and learn a few words in their language, not walk around in their city which is one of Latin America’s fashion capitals dressed like a bum, make the decision to not indulge in the drugs that can easily be found here, not chase after the local women in a disrespectful way, not bring up Medellín’s dark past in casual conversation, and not get drunk and shout things at people in English, shall we?

That being said…

We’re Not All Like That

While there are unfortunately many older foreign retirees who treat Medellín as their personal playground and are slowing turning Colombia into a sex-tourism destination on par with Thailand and Brazil and lots of young travelers who come here to party decide to indulge in the many sins that the city has in abundance (forget about Las Vegas- in Medellín you can find anything), it would be a mistake to assume that every foreigner in Medellín is here to exploit this beautiful city.

Indeed, many of these “gringo backpackers” are genuinely interested in getting to know the paisa culture, learning some salsa, and seeing a city that everyone has been raving about for themselves.

I salute those who try to communicate in Spanish, dare to explore outside of El Poblado, are mindful about how they act and dress in public, and genuinely want to understand this complex and interesting city. Medellín needs and deserves more tourists like them.

Likewise, there is a growing community of Europeans, and increasingly, North Americans and Asians, who have decided to make Medellín their new home, start businesses, work, get married and have children.

If you are here for any of the reasons I just listed you know that not all foreigners are here for sex, drugs, and wild fiestas, and surely hope, as I do, that these bad eggs won’t tarnish the image of all foreigners here.

Milk Our Gullibility

A few weeks after arriving in Medellín, my roommate convinced me that a special gift normally given in this culture on El Día del Amor y La Amistad (The Day of Friendship and Love) is a pineapple, and so I bought a pineapple for the woman I was trying to woo.

Admittedly that was very foolish, but it certainly got her attention and got me the girl.

In my defense, that was something that could have conceivably been true, and to a newcomer to a different culture, perfectly believable. However, some things are universally understood across the world as being true or completely absurdos.

I had been dating a young woman for a few months and I was crazy about her. The relationship had become serious. We talked every day. I believed that everything was going great and had formalized a serious relationship.

One Wednesday we made plans to go out on Saturday night, and she immediately disappeared after making plans with me.  No contact, no response to my calls or messages, nothing, for various days.

Saturday arrived and still no word from her. By 11 p.m. I’d been waiting at home all evening for her to appear, when a friend convinced me to join him in Parque Lleras. Sitting on the terrace of a bar with him and his friends, I thought to myself that it would be ironic to see her walk by.

Then I saw her walk by, happily holding the hand of another guy.

She finally responded to a message that I immediately sent her in which I accused her of cheating, and she claimed that he was just a gay friend who needed her help, but that if I am going to be so “mistrusting” that it would be better to terminate the relationship. I never saw her again.

Months later she admitted she had lost interest because I don’t have a TV and I don’t eat meat. Then I took a break from dating for half a year.

Many foreigners in Colombia are more inclined to give someone the benefit of the doubt until they’re given a reason to mistrust an individual. We’re naturally more trusting, innocent and gullible than many locals because that’s in our culture.

Don’t be surprised if some locals will see this as a weakness and will use it to their advantage, either to get what they want or to paint themselves as the victim.

Giving Papaya

The expression “dar papaya” is a favorite among many in Medellín to cheekily tell people that they were asking for it when something bad befell them.

Robbed while in a taxi? You shouldn’t have had your phone out.

Your friend never repaid you and disappeared? You shouldn’t have lent him money.

Drugged and woke up three days later with your belongings missing? You shouldn’t have gotten drunk alone and been receptive to the advances of the three young women sitting alone across the bar.

Walked home alone at 2 a.m.? What did you expect to happen?

You essentially made it easy for people to take advantage of you, by acting like a complete fool. You gave papaya.

While there is no excuse for utter stupidity or a lack of common sense, many who have given papaya themselves — Did you know that you shouldn’t walk around El Centro on Sunday afternoons? Neither did I — have a problem on general principle with the expression, as it is often used to explain away the terrible thing that has happened with a shrug and a laugh, as if it had been OK for someone to steal from you, cheat you, lie to you or take advantage of you.

Nothing is ever anyone else’s fault, you see?

The mistake of the victim notwithstanding, in reality there is never any reasonable justification for taking advantage of someone or swindling or stealing from someone, and nobody is ever “asking for it.”

One day I was sitting in Parque Boston eating fruit bought from a street vendor when a disheveled older man approached me and asked me for some moneda because he was hungry. I didn’t have any coins but I gave him the rest of the pieces of papaya that I was eating.

He took the papaya, did not look happy nor did he thank me, but instead continued asking for money and wouldn’t leave me alone.

I’m still trying to process the irony.

Stay tuned for Part Three of this four-part series next week.

__________

About the Author:John Knox Seagle, an English teacher and five-year Medellín resident from the United States.

Like the story? Take a second to support Medellin Living on Patreon!

LEAVE A REPLY

19 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting observations. Some of the observations I realize as well since moving to Bogota. Especially the Dar Papaya comment. I get told that all the time. Granted, it is usually that person’s fault, but I think I am lucky that I look more local than a gringo and never had anything really bad happen to me. Or I am just lucky.

    I think we also get a different kind of backpacker here in Bogota, we don’t get those who are asking for the seedy stuff (but also in Bogota you can get ANYTHING). Or perhaps since I look local and speak with very good spanish the travelers avoid me to get the secrets.

    Even though I grew up in a spanish speaking family, once someone finds out I am from the USA, I always get criticized for my spanish all the time.

    And OH GOSH THE LINES!!! I DONT GET IT!!!

    • Dar papaya applies just as much to Colombians who make themselves an easy target as it does to foreigners. It’s not a term specific to foreigners.

      I’m surprised you fall on the side of seeing it as the victim’s fault. I feel very much the same way the author does when he says:

      I have a problem on general principle with the expression, as it is often used to explain away the terrible thing that has happened with a shrug and a laugh, as if it had been OK for someone to steal from you, cheat you, lie to you or take advantage of you.

      And you’re being naive if you think Bogotá attracts a different kind of backpacker than Medellín, Cali or anywhere else in Colombia. If anything, you’re getting more of them because Bogotá (by a wide margin) receives the greatest number of foreigners per year, and arguably has the best nightlife in the country (or at least the most options).

      If you’d read anything Colin at http://expat-chronicles.com had written a few years ago, you’d know Bogotá gets its fair share of sex tourists and travelers looking for coke. He has since removed the most salacious stories.

  2. Sadly a lot of North Americans travel abroad insulated inside their own fantasy space complete with internal soundtrack. This reflects poorly on the rest of us who seek a genuine connection in local environment.

    • North Americans don’t have the monopoly on that. Visit any Mediterranean beach town in summer to see Europeans being the same way, or go to Bali or Thailand to see Aussies and Russians at their worst. Ditto with Koreans in the Philippines. Anywhere that is a cheap place to party close to a richer country gets its share of over-entitled vacationers from the nearby wealthy countries acting like they own the place. Medellin just happens to be 3.5 hours from Miami so there you go.

  3. Great article, enjoyed reading your insights.

    I live a very Colombian lifestyle here. I live well outside the Gringo enclave, in barrio Simon Bolívar, with my Paisa girlfriend and our infant daughter. We spend most of our free time with her family and friends from her barrio. I eat almost solely Colombian food and 99% of the words I speak are Spanish (the exception is mostly cooing over my little princess in English).

    That said, I don’t believe in judging others for what brought them here, as long as they aren’t bothering or hurting anyone else. The Gringos surely didn’t import cocaine or the oldest profession to Colombia – and it’s naive to think that foreigners are the majority of participants in those pursuits here. Maybe it’s my libertarian mind differing in judgement from yours (and if so that’s ok), but if it’s not hurting anyone else, I don’t have an issue with it.

    What does make me want to dig a hole and dive into it is when foreigners treat Medellin like an extension of their own country as you say, or disrespect the Paisas and their ideals. Rude behavior is ugly and inexcusable no matter who or where you are. But if they’re having harmless (to others) fun, even if it’s not “my kind of fun” – and not making of mess of it – ‘como quieren’ I say.

    All the points you make would serve any visitor very well here, no doubt. Learn some Spanish, dress appropriately, groom yourself, explore the real Medellin outside of Poblado. Get to know the Paisas, who are the friendliest people on Earth, and immerse yourself and the vibrant culture here. All of this magnifies anyone’s experience in Medallo. And though I wish everyone who landed at MDE was here for the perfect weather, the salsa and the mountain views, that’s not the case. As a pragmatist and I suppose a live-and-let-live type of dude, my preference is to educate newcomers to Colombia as to the best way to enjoy themselves while respecting the locals and their customs.

    As for ‘dar papaya’… yes to me that old chestnut gets misused to blame the victim, almost in a schadenfruede sort of way, when something bad but preventable happens. I tell newbies all the time not to “give papaya” but more as a caution to follow common sense precautions and not make yourself an easy target. Yeah there are Colombians who would say you gave papaya if someone robbed you in a police station, and I think that is part of the Colombian ingrained cynicism and difficulty dealing with loss of face, which could be a whole other article in itself.

    Again, nice article and a worthy topic to discuss.

    • Hi Vincent,

      Thanks for reading and for your respectful comments and insight. I agree with you, that if a person is doing something that doesn’t negatively affect anyone else, then they should be allowed to… I’m all for live and let live. My intention wasn’t to judge people based on the personal decisions they make.

      That being said, the thing is that I don’t believe that foreigners coming here to score drugs and have sex with often very young women and shower them with gifts is as harmless as some might think because it perpetuates a negative aspect of the local society and reflects badly upon the image that extranjeros have in general.

      Regarding the example that I gave of a retired much older man walking around with a skinny 18-year-old or possibly underage prepago with bolt-on senos in Parque Lleras because he’s on vacation and is just looking to have fun (we’ve all seen something like this numerous times)… I don’t question that individual’s decision to pay for a legal service that the young woman is willing to provide as long as she’s of age, but I do believe that such a sight sends the wrong message and has negative ramifications in a number of ways that I imagine individuals like these are oblivious to…

      For starters, locals seeing something like this will inevitably generate a negative impression of foreigners in Medellín as individuals who are here to exploit their city and perpetuate some of its negative fame, and I and many other foreigners who live here, do not want people to immediately believe that we’re here for drugs and sex.

      In addition, many impressionable young women who see this will arrive at the conclusion that if they invest in plastic surgery, dress prevocatively, and accompany lonely older foreigners who are willing to empty out their pockets for dinners, taxis, drinks, and pay them for their time in public and in private, that they and their families will be taken care of. Soon they’ll be telling their foreign client that their mother is sick and they desperately need a loan, or will come to see their client as a bank machine who they can exploit. I’ve seen and heard of numerous cases in which young women decide to forego an education and getting a normal job and working hard in order to become a sex worker which is undoubtedly more lucrative but ultimately unsustainable. Ultimately this is not good for anyone.

      While I don’t question a woman’s right to decide what to do with her own body and I don’t have a problem with the concept of prostitution in Colombia because it’s legal here, I think that in nearly all cases it perpetuates a negative aspect of the society in a city that has been trying hard to change its image, and that there are numerous societal problems related to this industry, namely drugs, violence, and a misguided belief by many young women that they will be taken care of forever if they become a prepago.

      In Envigado I once knew a 36-year-old single mother of 3 who had never worked a day in her life but rather had always depended on man after man for everything, had no education past 15, had no marketable skills, and she started out like the women I outline above. She’d become poor, abandoned, and an alcoholic, and was offering her services as an escort to old, obese, unattractive, monolingual foreigners the last time I saw her. I had tried to help her by trying to find her a decent job and even spent months trying to teach her English but she was a lost cause and a lost soul… she was a bitter individual and a pathological liar who takes advantage of men in order to get ahead and saw men as toys to be manipulated, had gotten herself gigantic fake breasts, used a huge quantity of make-up and jewelry in order to demonstrate her self worth, dressed like a prostitute at all times because it got her stares and she had become addicted to the attention, surrounded herself with a harem of unknown horny fans and false friends through social media who would write her amorous things and tell her that she’s “linda” or “una reina” every day, associated with drug dealers and dangerous pimps because they would give her money for her family and buy her booze and dinners… and she was converting her 15-year-old daughter into a mirror image of herself. I see her as the result of the kind of lifestyle that many young women are drawn into, lured by the promise of riches and a better life in which they don’t have to work or study.

      I can imagine that many of the sex tourists here, who in general I can also imagine are probably perfectly decent men by most standards, have no idea that by paying for a young woman’s services here, they’re effectively communicating to them that they do not need to study or obtain a decent job in order to get ahead in life, that they can make more money by selling their body and depending on rich foreign men for everything. But then what will happen to that young woman when she is not so young and attractive anymore? And just imagine what kind of lifestyle this young woman will have by undoubtedly becoming exposed to drugs and violent, dangerous men through this profession…

      While these sex tourists surely see no harm in visiting Medellín for a week, indulging their fantasies in order to have fun, and then leaving, unfortunately what they do here has a negative impact on the city, the society, and the impression that locals have of foreigners in general, especially those who live here and ultimately have to live with the “mala fama” that the antics of the sex and drug tourists create. And unfortunately the majority of the sex and drug tourists are completely oblivious and ignorant to the associated societal problems that result from, and are fuelled by, their hedonistic pursuits.

  4. I am a sex tourist. I love the girls in Medellin. I dress nice and am respectful of the culture. If I had more time, I would have a girlfriend, but in a one week trip I want to just have fun. Most of the guys I know are not public drunks and dress decently in public.

    The sex industry exists for the Colombian men. Travelers are only a small fraction of the number that utilize this service. Your comments are arrogant, smug and typical liberal nonsense.

    Just keep in mind that one day when you are 50, 60 or 70 years old, you may want a little excitement away from your fat, old wrinkly esposa.

    • Thank you for your thoughts. I see that your concept of happiness and decency is different from mine. I invite you to write your own article in which you argue the merits of being a sex tourist in Medellín, explain the benefits that this industry has on this city and its women and their daughters, and how the sex industry that individuals such as yourself perpetuate doesn’t contribute to the degradation of the local society, the breakdown of families, and the objectification of women.

      I disagree with your assertion that travelers are only a small fraction of the number that utilize this service… my opinion is that foreigners are big players in the sex industry here, and that the shenanigans of these individuals paint other foreigners who come here to live, work, and have a family in a bad light.

      What Colombian men do have little impact on the impression that locals have of foreigners, and your assertion that if Colombian men can do it that it’s ok for foreigners to do it too is pure grade school mentality. Many Colombian men cheat on their girlfriends or wives with prostitutes… can I do that too? When in Rome…

      • John,
        Thanks for the invitation to write an article on the subject, but I am afraid it would be terribly short. There is no intellectual component to it. Its just fun. You allude to my decency being different than yours. I feel I am a very decent person. I treat everyone I meet with decency and fairness. The ladies I meet freely seek me out. I don’t judge them. I actually enjoy their company above other women, especially American women. You, apparently, are very judgmental, with virtually no knowledge of the individuals involved. This is not unusual given that you were educated in the USA, which at it’s roots is a very puritanical society.

        I have a good working knowledge of the sex scene in the city. The vast majority of brothels, “or casas”, are frequented by Colombians. There are a small handful that are frequented by gringos. The sex trade would still flourish if there wasn’t a single gringo in Medellin. It’s part of the culture.

        Your last thoughts were interesting. You seem to be highly sensitive to the actions of small groups of American men who visit and do the same thing that most Colombian men do. This obviously is your parochial American sensibilities regarding the propriety of sexual relations. Why not express your disapproval with the Colombian men? Its their country, we are just following their lead.

        • Medellin is quickly becoming one of the worst offenders for underage prostitution and human trafficking in Latin America. While the majority of the offenders are local men, the increased participation of foreigners has raised the profitability of the business.

          Here is a U.N. report on the growing problem of the exploitation of women in Medellin. It is written in Spanish but it is very informative. http://www.unodc.org/documents/colombia/2013/Noviembre/UNODC_Medellin.pdf

          When you consume or buy cocaine and marijuana in Medellin, the profits go to supporting gangs, paramilitaries or left wing groups. People who are not positively contributing to Medellin and Colombia.

          When you sleep with underage or trafficked women (knowingly or unknowingly) you support an international crime industry that exploits from 20 to 30 million people and makes over $32 billion USD every year.

          To everyone who wants to go whore hunting or on a drug binge…think before you engage in these activities. They have consequences.

      • Well said Brent.

        I think a lot of people laugh off the idea of trafficked women here, as they go about sleeping with prepagos (because it’s cool or so cheap), but they will probably know nothing of how those women arrived to be in that position.

        The younger (underage) women may have been forcibly removed from their homes, and essentially forced into a life of prostitution. Just because it’s legal for women over 18 doesn’t mean there aren’t serious problems associated with it.

        • Years ago, I worked with the Philippine Embassy in Seoul to help rescue a group of Filipina women from sexual slavery in South Korea. I’ve seen human trafficking up close and personal and it’s always been an important issue to me.

          Thankfully I’ve not seen anything faintly reminiscent of that in my time here in Medellin, not to say that it’s not a concern or that it doesn’t happen here.

          It’s true that there are many forcefully displaced people here. Thousands of families have been forced to choose between leaving their homes or being killed by the FARC, guerrillas and narcos. If some of the dispossessed turn to prostitution to survive, I’d be careful to judge that situation too superficially – a woman selling her body out of desperation is an unimaginable sacrifice, but one could argue starvation or watching her family suffer is far worse. In that case, are the men who pay a legal-age woman for sex helping these women, or exploiting them? Tough for me to say from a logical point of view.

          I believe what is legally done between consenting adults is no one’s business but their own, but I agree with David that guys who look for underage girls are disgusting pieces of shit. If an 18 year old woman is too old for you, get professional help and please stay the hell out of Colombia.

    • I suspect as well that travelers are a smaller percent compared to Colombians, but what I fear is that as Colombia’s reputation for beautiful women continues to be perpetuated by Colombians and foreigners alike, some facets of living here as a foreigner will be ruined.

      If you’re visiting on a one week vacation, you won’t have to deal with the repercussions.

      I had prostitutes literally jump out of their seats and stand in front of me as I’m walking down a street on the Thai island of Phuket, and get in my face propositioning me.

      That’s never happened to me in Medellin, but it did happen when I was walking down La Sexta (Zona Rosa) in Cali the first time I visited. That kind of aggressiveness in search of business is ugly, and I hope it does not come to that in Medellín.

      Prostitution is legal in Colombia if the woman is over 18, so while my feelings on it are mixed, as long as the women are of age, I don’t really care if a foreigner is here sleeping with them. That’s their business. I’m no one to judge it.

      It’s the foreigners coming here seeking specifically for underage girls that disgusts me.

      • Nobody has the right to patronize a man/woman’s way of thinking, but if one insist, then be prepared you’ll be told what do from getting up in the morning until bed time. Prostitution is universal,with different sorts of players from a highly educated to the most illiterate and living as an expat doesn’t give you the right to tell visitors on how they should behave nor you expect changes on your own terms but if again you insist, then might as well have your mind explode to its bits and pieces.

        As for the woman who laughed and criticized a greetings in Spanish, pretended to not understand a word, maybe she was trying to be cute but she’s a fucking retarded who doesn’t have enough nerves to rub between her brains. I always remind myself to be kind with words to everyone as they’re fighting a different battle, but there’s always an exception.

  5. Since you asked, I’ll explain merits of the Colombian sex industry. (Gasp!)

    First of all, I believe every woman has dominion over her own body, period. Her choices, her morals and her judgement supercede yours or mine.

    In Colombia, prostitution has been legal and well-established since long before foreigners began to trickle into Medellin ten years ago. At this moment, there are over 50 legally-operated and licensed brothels in Medellin. I can tell you from personal observation that aside from just a few that are known to tourists, the clientele is 100% local. Then you have to account for the hundreds of “grillas” working the streets of Centro at night, the girls working at pick-up spots such as the Mayorista, and the many girls who go home with local men from bars and discos in exchange for plata.

    The Colombian sex trade goes both ways, in case you didn’t know. There are quite a few wealthy older Colombian sugar mommas who have a “pollo”, a younger man she pays for sex.

    Foreign sex tourists are not the “big players” here. They are a drop in the bucket. There are fewer than 100 local women who cater to nearly all of the foreign men, mostly connecting through referrals via Facebook or by visiting the Hotel Medellin Plaza, aka “The Mansion”, not through seedy sex tour guides or anything like that.

    Now that I’ve established what little impact foreign sex tourism has on the LEGAL Colombian sex trade, let me discuss the merits.

    For one, though prostitution is legal, pimping is illegal. This allows providers to work openly and with protection of the law, not in an underground black market environment where they are much more at risk of danger and exploitation. That pimping is illegal adds to the safety and further mitigates the risk of abuse and exploitation. Licensed brothels provide a legal, controlled, safe environment for both providers and clients.

    Furthermore, prostitution is the way many Colombian women provide for their families and their children. Needless to say, prostitution for many is a last resort option to provide for their families, but that doesn’t mean it is harmful. Cleaning toilets for a living is no one’s dream job either, but it is also a legal way to earn a living, if it is not a glorious one. I don’t see a whole lot of difference between paying a woman for sex and paying a woman for a deep tissue massage. Both are intimate and provide physical and psychological benefits for the client. Between consenting adults it seems like an fair exchange, and a hell of a lot more honest that many a dating ritual.

    For you and for many others, your issue with prostitution as it is legally practiced in Colombia is that it is morally repugnant to you. That is your opinion and your morality. Others may believe drinking alcohol is immoral. Or having sex before marriage. But those are legal behaviors for consenting adults, and depend upon decisions made by consenting adults. Grown folks have the prerogative to make their own choices as long as those choices and behaviors don’t harm anyone else. I believe that is an essential facet of living in a free society.

    I’ll close with this: If I had a daughter of age, I would rather she live in a society where women who choose prostitution as a means to make a living can do so legally and safely. I’d rather my daughter not work as a prostitute, of course. But then again I’d also rather she not work in a slaughterhouse or as a conservative anchor for Fox News.

    Mr. Seagle, with all due respect, your articles are better reads when you explain cultural topics than when you moralize over them. This blog and its bloggers are at their best when they inform, at their worst when they preach.

    With Respect,
    Average Joe

  6. Very nice article and I think very familiar a lot of the foreigners (including myself) living in Medellin for a while. I find it sad to see how Medellin has been turning into a sex tourist destination in the last 6 years. I feel that this has heavily reflected in a negative way on other foreigners that have been here for other reasons than scoring cheap cocaine and prepagos.

    To me this article is a must-read for travellers coming here for the first time. Especially because of their lack of respect to the local customs.

  7. I really enjoyed reading this thank you. Especially the part about disrespectful foreigners. I’m glad that I’m not the only only thinking it, i felt awful when i see some tourist and mutter ‘gringo’ with distaste, felt like some stuck up hypocrite. I met a group of tourists games During The Colombian They Were talking happily with my husband in English until the joking took a different level When They said to my husband – ‘your friends are difficult man, how much would it take to tap that’ – Needless to say the conversation took a different turn my protective Colombian husband was not happy! Sometimes i feel embarrassed to be a foreigner when i see These types of tourists.

  8. As the author, you are somewhat over obsessed with the idea of “decency”, and I have to say, smug. I have a gay partner here who is in the process of adopting his infant niece, purely to save her from being chewed up by social services, since her mother had enormous problems, and could not provide for her. The little girl receives a level of care and love she never had before. When I visit we like to go for a few days break in a hotel or hosteria resort, but every time we do that we are snubbed by “decent” Colombian families, who treat us like lepers. (Hardly the attitude you expect from people who consider themselves to be largely christian!) Our only friends in those situations have been foreign families, who accept us with open arms, no questions asked. So shame on those “decent” Colombians who are just narrow minded and bigoted, despite all the public discussions which have appeared recently. I have grown to distrust them all!