Writer’s note: This is the second story in a series about expats in Colombia. Read the first one here.
Colombia and the United States share a connection that no one likes to acknowledge: drugs.
Even worse is that this link is rarely described correctly. Many people in the states blame Colombia but that’s not fair.
In the poignant documentary, “The Two Escobars,” Tom Cash, a former DEA agent, said, “It was the United States demand, for that perfect high, that drove Colombia’s white powder foreign aid.”
J.M. Porup, an expat who, like me, feels the United States should shoulder more of the blame, came up with an idea during his time in Colombia, leading the team that wrote the 5th edition of Lonely Planet’s guide for the South American country.
He used the U.S. war on drugs, which emerged during Pablo Escobar’s reign, as a template for a book. In “The United States of Air,” Porup uses satire to write a novel on the war on food.
That’s right, war on food. It’s no secret that the United States suffers from more obesity than any country in the world. More than one-third (35.7 percent) of adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The problem can be solved, of course, through better eating and exercising habits, something any individual can choose. The U.S. government does not need to get involved.
Porup feels the same about the war on drugs, that political leaders have made huge mistakes in its approach to this issue. What if they someday make similar mistakes in their effort to curb obesity?
That’s what “The United States of Air” is all about.
Air is the only legal entrée. The White House becomes the Thin House. Food terrorists are put in fat camp. But are political leaders ignoring the laws they created and sneaking a pizza here and there? Read the book and find out.
I interviewed Porup about the book a while ago, and from what I learned about his personality, it makes sense that he would write a book like this.
He’s an iconoclast. He likes to fight the establishment when the powerful exploit loopholes and cross the line, a common complaint about politics in the United States.
I decided to test him.
Why, I asked, did you say in Lonely Planet that people should take a taxi around Parque Lleras to travel only three blocks or so?
“That’s stupid,” I said.
The Lonely Planet editors, he insisted, forced him to write that.
“It was hard to get them to agree to let me write that you can drink the water in Medellín, even though it’s clean and everyone drinks it,” he said.
Needless to say, he won’t be writing for Lonely Planet again.
Although Porup was born in the States, he made his way to Australia, then Colombia — where he married a paisa — and now lives in Canada for most of the year. He tries to spend the rest of the time in Colombia, in Medellín.
When he asked what I thought about his book, I said, “Well, I’ve always liked South Park and it kind of reminds me of that.”
In a guest post last month, Porup used my South Park analogy to tell people if they like the animated series on Comedy Central, they’ll like his book.
I laughed. He’s such a rebel, he stole my line.
“The United States of Air” is available at Amazon.com.