Monday, July 28, 2008

Five Alive: “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” in Colombia

Video link.

Two weeks ago, the second episode of the current season of “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” visited Colombia. Naturally, the episode was a cannot-miss event at home and we huddled around the living room TV to watch the program. We all enjoyed it and were glad that he visited the country.

Admittedly, I should’ve written this up within 24 hours of the first airing of the program. Foolishly, I lost my notes and didn’t recover them until but a few minutes ago as I was organizing some papers in the pig pen that is my bedroom.

With twenty minutes to go before the next episode (Uruguay!) here’s a quick rundown of my impressions of No Reservations en mi madrepatria.

  1. The only section that disturbed me was at the beginning when he discusses that Colombia was not the cesspool of violence that it once was and that sadly continues to stereotype the country. Nevertheless, in his info he oversimplifies the decrease in violence of the cartels yet includes the paramilitaries as among those who have been “pushed back.” Understandably the show is not a political forum and some notes have to be presented in simple terms. Yet the “peace process” which led to the dissolution of the country’s main paramilitary organization was flawed and there are some who have retaken to the armed struggle. (See: Aguilas Negras). Compared to the rest of the program this was a minor gripe, however.
  2. With that said kudos to Bourdain and co. for heading off the beaten track and not focusing on the typical tourist traps. To see him wander the Cartagena market, travel to an impoverished island (Tierra Bomba) across from the affluent section of Cartagena, and visit the comunas in Medellin as a refreshing sight. Despite not trekking to Bogota or Cali, for instance, his enthusiasm to discover the distinct was rewarding.
  3. I was shocked that Bourdain didn’t mention President Alvaro Uribe during the entire program. I was convinced before the program that he would hop on the Uribe bandwagon and throw him at least a crumb or two of named praise. Instead, the only politico he mentioned was Medellin mayor Sergio Fajardo who was key in the city’s “unbelievable transformation” during the post-Escobar period. While Uribe’s accolades are deserved (for the most part) it detracts from the efforts of deserving local leaders like Fajardo.
  4. Good god the food was mouthwatering! Calentado, emapanadas, and chorizo were just a few of the divine dishes and tasty treats he encountered throughout the program. I couldn’t help but chuckle at his amazement over the massive portions given during each meal; a quality of Colombian cuisine that even caught me off guard during my first visit to Colombia as an adult in 2003.
  5. Finally, it was touching to notice Bourdain’s amazement at Colombia at the end of the program. “I hope I’ve gained a reason for optimism” he said; a sentiment that is shared by those who wish to see everlasting peace and prosperity reach Colombia after what seems like eons of lost potential and bloodshed. “It’s the people that make the place,” he mentioned in closing, and it is those people who break stereotypes and strive daily for a better future.

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