We really enjoyed our time in Colombia. The big cities are quite cosmopolitan especially Medellin, and the coast as well as the Sierra Nevadas are just beautiful. In our opinion, Colombia gets a bad rap which decades ago, was probably valid, but things have changed. The negative perception is due to its troubled past and problems with drug manufacturing and distribution as well its violent political history.
To understand more, I dove into a couple books on the former subject. The first was written by Juan Gabriel Vasquez, a young and upcoming writer from Colombia. The Sound of Things Falling is set in Bogota during the bloody drug war years (1980’s-1990’s) and follows the story of a young law professor. It is a well-written, historical novel that provides great context on how the violence changed people’s lives in Colombia. It is an award winning , fast read that you will devour quickly. Good airplane fodder.
The second is not quite as deep or well written. Killing Pablo was written by Mark Bowden who also wrote Black Hawk Down. It reads like a long magazine article which was good and bad. The writer’s research is impressive, and there are so many details and data on the notorious drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar- his life, the violence and killings to which he subjected Colombia for years. His upbringing, rise to power, ruthlessness, and strange habits are fascinating. The first half of the book is intriguing, but the latter half slows down. You can get trapped in the minute details, the endless introductions of new politicians and the grind of the search for Pablo. Also, Pablo’s demise is a bit of an anticlimax . However, if you are interested in the drug wars of Colombia or pet hippopotamuses (Pablo had three), you will find parts of the book interesting.