Interview with Leonardo: Insights into Colombian Culture, Politics, and Personal Life

Leonardo and I were both employees at Trek Global Backpackers, a hostel in Wellington, New Zealand. Leo and I quickly became close friends through our shared interests in classical music, anime movies, and beer. We were also interested in learning one another’s native language. Leo was in New Zealand at an English language school, so that he could become fluent. We later became roommates and took a road trip together throughout the North Island on our way to Auckland to fly home. Leo also began to date one of my really good German friends, Bianca. Hopefully I can visit you in Colombia soon, my friend!

1. Where are you from?

I am from one of the most marvelous places in the world, Colombia.

2. What was it like growing up in Ibagué? Do you have a favorite memory?

I would say it was utterly laid back. Despite the fact that Ibagué is a capital city, it is a small one compared to other capitals within the country. This allows it to be less chaotic and overcrowded, giving the feeling of quietness.

I have plenty of favorite memories to share, yet I will bring up an anecdote from my old high school days. It was the last year at school and I had sworn to myself not to skip any classes. Everything was running smoothly until two weeks before my graduation day. At that time, there was a local school event ongoing in the city and two friends and I met two girls from a women’s college with whom we arranged a future meeting. Unfortunately, in order to meet the girls, we had to omit not one but three of our afternoon lessons. I was thinking, “Well I had made a promise to myself, but on the other hand, once a year does not hurt.” Thus, we missed classes and went out with those girls on a school-day afternoon.

We were hanging out with them nearby our college and wearing our school uniforms, everything was going pleasantly until I saw both of my friends freeze up with fear in the shopping mall entrance. I had a bad feeling so I slowly turned around to see what they were looking at, and there he was, the principal of our school.

With there still being hours of class left in the day, and us still wearing our uniforms, we knew we were deeply in trouble. The principal started to cross the street towards us, but we kept completely still. When he reached us, however, he did not stop and kept going past us – smiling and giving us a wink as he walked into the shopping mall.

At the end of the day, we went back to school to face the consequences – we had a quality conversation with the principal and he agreed that instead of telling our parents, we had to take a test of each of the subjects we skipped over: chemistry, math, and philosophy.

3. Has the city changed since you were child?

Yes, especially in construction. Lately there has been a rapid increase of house and building construction, as well as massive shopping malls. Sadly, in terms of culture the rise has been scarce.

4. Are you happy with the way Ibagué has evolved?

I would say I am slightly happy about the way the city has developed. Undoubtedly, Ibagué is rapidly growing and expanding, but there is still a great quantity of undeveloped spaces – therefore, the city is unnecessarily extending its distances, reflected in the increase of commuting time which makes everyday life more expensive.

5. Where do you see Ibagué headed as a city? How about Colombia as a country?

I see Ibagué standing at the top of the best musical cities in the country. I believe Colombia will also become one of the most secure countries in the world. Clearly there is a long way to go, but I strongly believe that Colombia will succeed, somehow.

6. What are your thoughts on the Colombian government finally making peace with the FARC rebels?

It is the first big step to reach a better and more livable country. Even though we achieved such a great attainment, Colombians seem to be split into two sides, those who support the peace agreement and those who do not. Nevertheless, this is not about people’s inclinations, they are just pawns on this discord, and the ones responsible for this division are those who blatantly manipulate the minds of the Colombian people. The current agreement has not been perfect, but I think any small contribution towards a better place will encourage people to work together again. After all, we all aim for the same goal.

7. Can you enlighten us on the current political system in Colombia?

The actual Colombian political system in a nutshell is corrupted. The country has been ruled by empowered families for the last half-century, who also took part in the last civil war and have handled the country as they wish. Although, people nowadays have been getting tired of it and have started to protest against it.

8. Are you satisfied with the current ruling political party?

Absolutely not. This actual political party, which is not different from the others, is full of falsehood and hypocrisy, purloining and deceiving people’s trustworthiness.

9. What is your profession?

I am an architect.

10. Can you tell us what working at a Colombian university is like?

It bears a great responsibility and is not a simple duty to be taken lightly. Like any other teacher, it is your responsibility to provide appropriate educational training as well as ethical and professional insight.

At the same time, it requires you to have a high proficiency in a particular area of knowledge. This concept takes strength when you are a young lecturer, and at times you are teaching students of your own age or older – this is why you must show them that you are a capable and trustworthy educator.

11. Do you hope to continue this work or move into a different position?

I would like to get promoted, as long as I remain teaching and designing.

12. You mentioned wanting to pursue a master’s degree. What course would that degree be in? Where would you pursue that degree?

I am quite interested in a master’s course related to design, architectural design, or landscape architecture – and the place I would like to pursue this degree would be in Germany.crg

13. Can you explain to our readers your ties to Germany?

Beyond the interest of German culture, my ties to Germany lie in my current sentimental affair. My girlfriend is living there.

14. After receiving your degree, do you see yourself continuing to live in Ibagué, or do you hope to move to a different city in the future?

If I ended up in Colombia, Ibagué would be the city I would live in. It would also be a pleasure to contribute to Ibagué’s enhancement and development. If not Ibagué, maybe any city in Germany would be enriching.

15. What is one country or city that you feel you must see in your lifetime?

Japan and the city Kyoto. I have always been interested in Japanese culture.