2018 Presidential Election. The time is up.

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The curtains of the 2018 presidential election theater in my home country Colombia opened officially last week. The possible break-up inside the right and left coalitions are proof that, at least for the moment, there are more players than coaches and they are willing to fight to be the head instead of the tail of their presidential ticket.

The lack of trust among the electorate, caused by the widespread reach of the most recent corruption scandals in every branch of the government, combined with the beating fear of a dictatorship contagion coming from neighboring Venezuela, keeps the future of the country in the shadows feeding the daily drama in the electoral stage.

Although the horizon is filled with fog, in my opinion, Colombian democracy is closer to Plato and Aristotle’s theory of putting the power in the hands of the people.

It is true. Politics in Colombia still function in a tribal manner and power is rotated among the so-called “dolphins” of the wealthy families. However, the right to associate contemplated in the Constitution guarantees that new parties are welcome to debut as long as they reach 2% of the legislative elections.

So, if there are not better candidates to choose from, it is our fault.

Compared with Mexico, a 120 million people country, the presidency was controlled by the same party, PRI (Partido de la Revolución Institucional) for 70 years, from 1930 until 2000.

In the case of the United States of America, a super power with more than 320 million people, its democracy is practically bi-partisan with no real opportunities for other parties to thrive.

Having said that and looking ahead with optimistic eyes, I believe my home country can still turn away from the abyss. Each generation, in the most decisive moments of our history, has produced a candidate that touched the soul of the people and hindered the demolition path of the traditional political machinery, such as Jorge Eliécer Gaitán y Luis Carlos Galán.

Nonetheless, our history has been cruel too, and their voices were silenced before the voting majority had the chance to hand them the reins of the country legitimately.

Then, what is the next step? The challenge for us, the voters, is to get informed with discipline and avoid the fake news before marking the ballot. The hate or love for candidates of the past must remain there, in the past. It is the only way to move Colombia to the future.

The challenge for the candidates, if they want the job, must interview, pass the tests, and understand that moving into the Casa de Nariño (our White House) is not a gift but a bill that must be paid in four years.

They must travel the country, from corner to corner, and visit with people not only in the states where their parties have won historically but all states. If there is anything the world learned from the 2016 U.S. presidential election was that the “forgotten” men and women rewarded who showed up and shook their hands.

I already started to check the websites of the current candidates and I have been reading their platforms. Time will tell who has enough gas to cross the finish line.

Thank you for reading and sharing.

Xiomara Spadafora

This column was sponsored by Zellner Insurance Agency. Many things in life don’t have insurance. For everything else call Zellner (888) 208-8119

 

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Lawless Paradise

Paraiso sin control Xiomara Spadafora

2018 began and so did work and my son’s school routine. However, I am still on a mental vacation somewhere in a paradise of the Colombian Caribbean Sea.

For the first time in almost 13 years of my self-exile in the U.S. and sponsored by my beloved Granny, I had the privilege to welcome the new year surrounded by my entire maternal family in the city known as The Heroic, Cartagena de Indias.

From December 30th until last Saturday, January 6th, I took deep breaths of warm air and ate fish until I developed fins. I danced, sang, and enjoyed the unique smell of the Colombian Atlantic Coast, which is a mix of fried food, salt, sweat, and rum.

I was amused by the visitors walking with selfie-sticks every where, and felt an immense pride looking at countless foreigners marvel at the six-hundred-year-old walls and architecture. To give you an idea, Cartagena’s Old City is at least 10 times bigger than the famed city Saint Augustine in Florida.

Now, although Cartagena has taken advantage of its explosive growth and international touristic appeal–reaching almost 500 thousand visitors a year–the local government is still in its adolescence due to the lack of control policies to ensure the sustainability of the city and nearby islands’ beaches.

I’ll give you my personal experience. My family rented a private boat to visit the archipelago of the Rosary Islands. The first stop was about 10:30 a.m. at the Aquarium, which we didn’t visit because the majority of the group chose to snorkel around the coral reef.

I stayed on board, but as I mentioned above I ate a lot, so my stomach went on a strike. I walked towards the reception and asked for directions to the restroom and the lady by the window surprised me saying: “It’s $5,000 pesos” ($1.6 dollars.)

The second stop was before noon at the island Playa Azul, which was promoted as paradise on earth. The only problem is that it looked like a busy market, full of locals sitting in plastic chairs, selling merchandise and beverages blocking the path for the tourists.

As I searched for a place to sit on the beach, my gut sent me another S.O.S. warning. I walked towards a porta-potty next to a palm tree, but before I could grab the door handle, a young woman reached out to me with a piece of toilet paper in her hand and said: “It’s $3,000 pesos.” So, because I had to go twice, I had to pay $6,000 ($2 dollars.)

An hour later, we left Playa Azul for the third and last stop of the tour at the island of the resort Sport Baru where we had lunch. There, I assumed the cost of the bathroom was included in the bill because nobody jumped to charge me.

Colombians are known for their work ethic and being “innovative” in finding ways to make money. Nonetheless, the cleverness of the local citizens in these touristic places evidences the government’s negligence and incompetence in providing basic sanitation.

Our natural parks and reserves are at the mercy of illegal scavengers, who profit from tourists, and just a few conscious natives who care and protect their patrimony and the balance of these delicate ecosystems.

Politicians in the Atlantic Coast of Colombia are known to be as some of the most corrupt in the country. Therefore, instead of respecting the environment, they promote uncontrolled tourism practices as long as the treasure chests overflow.

Should things continue like this, the goose that laid golden eggs will end up in a cauldron.

If there is anything Colombia and other developing countries could learn from the United States is the efficient administration of their natural parks and beaches. Waste management, public bathrooms, showers, and law enforcement presence on land as well as maritime, guarantee the equilibrium between people and nature.

Colombia’s biodiversity is unique on planet Earth and it is home to millions of endemic species of the animal and plant kingdoms. It is an immense responsibility taking for granted. Let’s take care of our natural parks.

 

Xiomara Spadafora

This column was sponsored by Zellner Insurance Agency. Many things in life don’t have insurance. For everything else call Zellner (888) 208-8119

 

 

Under the Tree

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Last Thursday, December 14th, was the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Out of the long list of recent massacres in America, this one, in particular, hurts me to the core.

Perhaps it is, because the 20 little angels that were murdered that day, were in first grade just as my son is right now. The pictures of the smiling children, missing a few teeth, and the pictures of the six teachers that gave their lives protecting the innocents in their care, reminded me how fortunate I am. And I thank God daily. Continue reading “Under the Tree”

The Power of the Spanglish

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The English-speaking world takes for granted the immense influence it has over the rest of the world, Especially Latin-American countries like mine. I still remember one of my vacations in Colombia recently after I moved to the U.S.

I walked into a department store with my mother, and suddenly I saw “Sale” signs jumping out at me. For a second, I thought I was still in Orlando, the city where I lived at the time. Now,  the signs were not the news, but the fact that they were in English instead of Spanish, was something unusual for sure.

It’s been almost eight years, and since then, what started as a marketing strategy became a lifestyle in Colombia that will prevail indefinitely. It seems as if the independence that the founding fathers bled for against the Spanish army in the nineteenth century is completely forgotten, and now Colombia is an American slang and branding colony. Continue reading “The Power of the Spanglish”

Self-esteem must be the first love

El amor mas valioso es el propio

Last Saturday, November 25th, was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and many media outlets had horrific videos about crimes committed by men in broad daylight without any legal repercussions.

Even though the subject of abuse against women is a hot topic in the media right now, due to the sexual harassment cases in Hollywood and Washington D.C., the root of the violence problem, in my view, continues to be ignored. Continue reading “Self-esteem must be the first love”

Life under pressure

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Last Monday, November 13th, the authorities of cardiovascular health in the United States unveiled the 2017 American College of Cardiology (ACC)/American Heart Association (AHA) Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure at the American Heart Association meeting in Anaheim, CA.

The copy of the new guideline was only available to the media seven hours before the meeting, and with reason. Based on the new parameters, the number of Americans who have high blood pressure–130 systolic over 80 diastolic–surpasses 100 million and many of them don’t even know it.

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Continue reading “Life under pressure”

Mocking Prayers Now?

La oración es un pecado

Last Sunday several families’ lives changed forever in Sutherland Springs, TX. The “Psycho of the Month” opened fire indiscriminately inside the First Baptist Church of the town, sentencing to death to almost 50 service attendees. 26 people died and over 20 were injured.

The details that have surfaced since Monday about the murderer, have put the Air Force and Defense Department under the microscope due to the alleged negligence with the handing of his violent record while on service. Continue reading “Mocking Prayers Now?”