DNA Magazine - - TRAVEL -

Colom­bia sits at the top of South Amer­ica. It’s a vi­va­cious na­tion of 50 mil­lion with a di­verse cul­tural her­itage and phe­nom­e­nal nat­u­ral beauty stretch­ing from the Caribbean coast­line through the Ama­zon rain­for­est and over to the Pa­cific Ocean.

In 2017, it was nom­i­nated in the Best Emerg­ing LGBT Tourist Des­ti­na­tion cat­e­gory by Fería In­ter­na­cional de Turismo (or FITUR), a huge an­nual tourism trade fair in Madrid that’s devoted to coun­tries in the Americas where Span­ish and Por­tuguese are spo­ken.

While Colom­bia isn’t quite chas­ing the “pink peso” from tourists, it’s cer­tainly open to re­ceiv­ing them. In­deed, the coun­try now em­braces its own LGBT peo­ple who, in pre­vi­ous decades, may have mi­grated to other more homo-hos­pitable coun­tries if they could.

In 2018, peo­ple can be free, gay and happy, not to men­tion safe, even in Colom­bia’s smaller cities and towns.

“Safe” is a key point here be­cause Colom­bia is widely known for its drug lords (think no­to­ri­ous vil­lain Pablo Es­co­bar, fea­tured in the gritty Net­flix series Nar­cos) and guer­rilla war­fare (mostly at the hands of deadly guer­rilla group FARC). In­nu­mer­able as­so­ci­ated crimes, in­clud­ing those com­mit­ted against tourists, pre­vailed for decades un­til 2016, when FARC laid down its arms in a truce with the govern­ment.

Since then, Colom­bia has been putting its trou­bled past be­hind it and its rep­u­ta­tion is all but re­paired, save for a re­cent rise in petty crime tar­get­ing for­eign tourists. This has been blamed on the flood of hun­gry, des­per­ate peo­ple ar­riv­ing across the border from trou­bled neigh­bour, Venezuela.

Out­side the cities it’s best to carry money in cash (not cards) in the lo­cal cur­rency (not dol­lars), as Colom­bia is still very much a cash econ­omy and of­ten a black one.

Keep a copy of your pass­port (or pho­to­graph on your phone) be­cause you’ll con­stantly be asked for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, even some­times in su­per­mar­kets. With such a vi­o­lent his­tory, it’s hard for the pop­u­lace to be com­pletely at ease.

Re­mem­ber, too, that Colom­bia is still a de­vel­op­ing coun­try and out­side ma­jor cities, hot show­ers and the flush­ing of toi­let pa­per might be a lit­tle too lux­u­ri­ous in some places. Think of it as sus­tain­able tourism!

Colom­bia is pre­dom­i­nantly Catholic (abor­tion is still il­le­gal) and at the same time it’s one of Latin Amer­ica’s most ad­vanced coun­tries when it comes to LGBT rights. Ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity was de­crim­i­nalised in 1981, same-sex cou­ples were given the same pen­sion, so­cial se­cu­rity and prop­erty rights as reg­is­tered het­ero­sex­ual cou­ples be­tween 2007 and 2008. Dis­crim­i­na­tion on the grounds of sex­u­al­ity was banned in 2011 and same-sex mar­riage was le­galised in 2016.

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