In my last blog post, I tried to make sense of Colombia’s ethnic diversity. In today’s blog post, I will pursue that theme further, and pose the question as to whether Colombia’s ethnic diversity is a blessing or a curse. This is not a question that I have made up in my mind: rather, it is a question I encountered last week at the University pub – where some two gentlemen (who appeared to be scholars) were arguing over this very same issue. One was of the view that Colombia’s ethnic diversity is a blessing. The other was of the contrary view: that Colombia’s ethnic diversity is a curse.
So where do I stand on the question of whether Colombia’s ethnic diversity is a blessing or a curse? My views on this are mixed. I see Colombia’s ethnic diversity as a blessing to the extent that it makes for a much more vibrant culture. You just have to visit countries where people are of a single ethnicity to understand just how culturally monotonous (and frankly boring) such places can be. As they say, ‘it takes all sorts’ – and when it comes to ethnicity, we Colombians indeed come in all sorts.
On the other hand, I see Colombia’s ethnic diversity as a curse to the extent that it is the basis for social and political strife. You have to understand that there are some deep-seated grievances based on ethnicity in Colombia. Firstly, we have the native people’s of Colombia, who still have some vestiges of the belief that the other groups of people who came later are, in actual fact, ‘occupiers’ of what they see as their land. Then there are the people of African stock, who were brought to Colombia as slaves, and who still hold on to the understandable resentment that comes with a history of slavery. And while still looking around, you discover the descendants of the Spanish colonists: who have come to belief that they ‘discovered’ Colombia, and who view Colombia as ‘theirs’… It gets very complicated.
All said and done, I am of the view that all we can do is celebrate the ethnic diversity of Colombia: because it is something that is already there, and it is not something we can change.