Colombia Calling - The English Voice in Colombia

In Episode 168, we close out the year with a remarkable interview with sociocultural anthropologist and documentary artist from the US Alex Fattal. To many, Fattal needs no introduction as he is a widely published author, academic and assistant professor at U Penn.

Fattal examines the central role that the media plays in Colombia's armed conflict. With a particular interest in the shifting techniques of warfare in the twenty-first century and the ways strategies, tactics, and practices of representation have come to occupy increasingly important roles in asymmetrical conflicts, he speaks to us about his relationship with Colombia, his two book and one film project in the pipeline for 2018.

If you want to hear about how, as a young Fullbright Scholar, Fattal ended up in the down-at-heal neighbourhood of Altos de Cazuca near to Bogotá to embark on a seven-year project involving photography with the sector's children, tune in. Tune in to hear of his book and movie projects and for a perfectly balanced understanding of the Colombian conflict.

Here's to 2016 and looking forward to a great 2017.

Direct download: RCC_168.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:16am EST

This week is yet another good news story and one which I am particularly pleased to bring you as we sit down with Diego Avila, a Colombian marine biologist who, with his brother, developed the App and social network in order to increase an understanding and appreciation of the marine world.

Seak (i.e. Sea and Seek) encourages users to locate, photograph and map marine species using Google Maps and to collect basic data about the sea (temperature, visibility, depth etc.) that will help to enable people anywhere to have access and learn about the sea.

Based on a community of users who are continually building a database that integrates common and scientific knowledge into a single communal view of the sea. Seak becomes the eyes under the sea for those who don’t know what exists below water.

And, the Avila brothers have not stopped there, they now have as well so that you land-based folk can participate too in photographing and mapping wildlife species.


Direct download: RCC_167.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:29am EST

In this week's show, I do an "informant" style piece and only subject you to a 16 minute dialogue about what "peace 2.0 with the FARC guerrillas" in Colombia really means.

I know that sometimes it can be too much to read the ins and outs of a peace agreement, to know a little of the intricacies of Colombian law and follow who approves and who is in opposition and so, as a student of this peace process, I try and keep it simple and clear and lay it all out for you, my listener.

What are the impacts of the new peace deal? Who will benefit? Why is the government of President Santos pushing for a "fast track" and more, all here revealed in Episode 166.

Direct download: RCC_166.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:20am EST

As the eternal city of Colombian tourism, Cartagena hardly needs any introduction, but how does one go about visiting this city and really understanding the culture, the vibes and its energy? Well, for starters you need to get in touch with the effervescent Australian Kristy Ellis and her team at Cartagena Connections to sort you out.

It's a rare thing for an expat to be fully integrated into a foreign society, but Kristy has managed just this in Cartagena and has set up Cartagena Connections to ensure that she can share her enthusiasm for this colourful city with as many people as possible.

Where to find Kristy? If at first you don't succeed via her website ( then you can probably find her being pulled up on stage to dance champeta at a local concert! Yes, Kristy is "tu llave" when you come to Cartagena.

Direct download: RCC_165.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:29pm EST

In episode 164 we explore something very close to my heart and the principal subject for my doctoral thesis, the Sabana Train station in central Bogotá.

We discuss the upcoming significance of the centeniary of the Sabana train station 1917-2017 and why an industrial and growth area of the city has slid into such decay? Has it been solely due to a political ill-will towards the area that the elites in the country are prepared to maintain this once vibrant and cosmopolitan sector of the city - including hotels, theatres and more - isolated and hindered from progress?

Tune in, listen to my intervention, compare it to that of what has taken place around London's Kings Cross and imagine the same for the Estacion de la Sabana and her environs.

Direct download: RCC_164.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:39am EST

Building of the popularity of recent shows dealing with the Colombian peace agreement and dialogues surrounding this, this week we teamed up with South African journalist Laura Brown (you'll remember for hosting Ep155) to talk about some of the comparisons between her native South Africa and Colombia.

In what is an open and informative conversation Laura tells us her about life in South Africa, similarities between there and Colombia and of course, clarifies some of the factors surrounding the peace agreement in South Africa and how studying this can help us in Colombia better understand the peace deal here.

Please tune in for what is a revealing study of South Africa but set against her knowledge of Colombia and the political and social realities found in both.


Direct download: RCC_163.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:02am EST

It's always a thrill to be contacted by a listener and in particular one with a great story to tell and this is how Episode 162 came about with Puerto Rico born/ NY-based photographer Miguel De Casenave.

De Casenave has a significant career as a photographer under his belt but we have him here on Colombia Calling to talk about his recent trip and previous trips to the Sierra Nevada on the Colombia Caribbean coast to photograph the people of the ancient Kogui culture.

Don't think for a moment that just any person can stride on up into the sacred lands of the Kogui people. De Casenave speaks of how he has grown attached to the Kogui and how the Sierra Nevada "has taken him". We learn of the Kogui's customs and his recent visit of no less than one month in their company.

Tune in to Episode 162 to hear of De Casenave' respectful approach to photography and gain an insight into one of the most fascinating and unknown regions of Colombia.

And in the meantime, check out De Casenave' excellent photography:

Direct download: RCC_162.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:25am EST

Meet Tommy Manuel Dutton, a driving force behind a creative and new way of showing visitors and nationals a good time in Bogotá. Find out why this native of Alice Springs, Australia ended up spending nine months of the year in Bogotá and the remaining three as a guide in the Kimberley.

With his agency Bogotá and Beyond ( Dutton not only offers tours of Bogotá, Zipaquira and the Chorrera waterfall amongst other things, but he has created an innovative way of showing off his adopted city, with the Septima Challenge.

Tune in to Episode 161 to hear about the Septima Challenge scavenger hunt and how it allows visitors to the city to enjoy better the culture and curiousities found in Bogotá...and then sign up!

Direct download: RCC_161.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:51am EST

The New Face of Colombia- La cara nueva de Colombia, is an exhibition whose theme is change. Today as never before Colombia, is going through an extraordinary period of change social, political and cultural. The aim of this exhibition is to highlight those changes, one might say to look at the new faces and visions of the country and its people through the variety of stories told by the participating artists using their own particular mediums of expression.

And for this reason, we get to talk to Colombian artist Omar Castañeda (known for hsi work with panela) and art curator Sandra Higgins (interviewed here on Ep117) on the line from London about this new collective.

The exhibition will be held over the three floors of the Art Bermondsey Project Space Gallery, a new not-for-profit creative platform promoting the fusion of art, photography and culture located in the vibrant area of Bermondsey in London.

Each artist in his or her own way provides a different take on that story of change and the New Face of Colombia will include works by Omar Castañeda, Piers Calvert, Gwen Burnyeat, Claudia Fischer, Maria Cárdenas, Lorena Cervera Ferrer and selected guest artists to be announced.

Tune in, or better yet if you are in London - be sure to go to the event!

Direct download: RCC_160-2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:02pm EST

In Episode 159 we take a short breather from the political upheavals taking place in Colombia and get South African journalist Jacqui de Klerk on the line from her adopted home in Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast.

Wiith Jacqui, we talk about the environmental issues affecting Colombia's Caribbean and focus in particular on the Cienaga Grande. The Ciénaga Grande is one of Colombia’s most surreal places as the inhabitants of this large inland wetland live in a town built on stilts – Nueva Venecia. But ‘New Venice’ is not palatial, rather a menagerie of palafitic wooden huts where the only way locals can reach the most essential of services is by canoe

But all is not well in this coastal setting. Two of the biggest environmental catastrophes of the Ciénaga Grande are the massive mortality of the mangrove forest and the significant decline in fishery resources. The major factor responsible for these is the disruption of the natural movements of water between the Magdalena River, Ciénaga Grande, and the Caribbean.

The disruption began more than a century ago when farmers needing water to irrigate their crops, began to re-direct and block the natural flow of small tributaries, and the Magdalena entering the Ciénaga Grande – unintentionally modifying the rivers’ original shape and reducing the flow of fresh water into the lagoons.

Tune in to hear about this issue firsthand.

Direct download: RCC_159.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:09pm EST

In an intensely personal and powerful interview, Marcia Engel shares with us the story of the discovery of her adoption, her long and heart-wrenching search for her biological family and her quest now to reunite adoptees with their families.

As a two-year-old girl Marcia was brought to the Netherlands where she grew up with her adoptive parents and this was not always easy, to say the least. And the story behind her adoption will shock you to the core.

"When I was a little girl I was often sad, I felt different, misunderstood. At that time I didn’t even know that I was adopted. Only at the age of 11 my adoptive mother told me. It was as if the ground beneath my feet disappeared. I began even more to struggle with my identity and questions like 'Who am I?’ and ‘What is my existence for?’ kept running in my head.

To get some answers about my roots, I started searching for my biological parents, so I could continue with my life. What followed was a difficult search for many years in which all doors remained closed until I went to pay. Then suddenly I found my parents within four months...

So much effort and so much money to find my own parents! The right to have contact with his parents is a right that every child should be given! At that moment I thought to myself: this should be different, I am going to help people. And this should go beyond searching for birth relatives. I want to make people aware of their rights and opportunities.

Now, Marcia runs Plan Angel which has helped more than 40 adoptees find their biological parents in Colombia. She is also trying to raise funds in order to register the DNA of as many as 300 Colombian couples whose children were taken for adoption.

Check out her website and donate some money to help

Direct download: RCC_158.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:04am EST

Colombia is undergoing change and nothing is more polarizing than the peace agreements between the FARC guerrillas and the Colombian Government. While peace was formally signed between the sides on September 26 2016 in the Caribbean city of Cartagena before 2500 people after the successful outcome of negotiations dating back to November 2011 in Havana, Cuba it all comes down to a democratic vote on October 2.

So this is why on this Episode No.157 we get Kevin McCaffrey - originally from Northern Ireland - on the line from Cali to talk about the parallels between Ireland and Colombia with regards to peace processes and draw on his own personal experiences as a boy growing up in violence and seeing the Good Friday agreement signed in 2008.

We start the interview talking about Cali, Kevin's life in the city and his passion of being a singer songwriter ( before plunging into the more profound topics of peace, power sharing, pardon and forget which continue to be at the fore of all current debates in Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_157.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:34am EST

It's always a pleasure to have the Director of Colombia Reports, Adriaan Alsema on Colombia Calling and we know from experience that it's going to be an interesting, informative and colourful experience!

So, buckle up and settle down to Episode 156 where we discuss the city of Medellin, Netflix's series Narcos and the problems facing Alsema's adopted home city.

The reason for the topic of this show was that I just had the opportunity to visit Medellin and was a little affected by what I saw. I happened to be in the company of the owner of a top end luxury tour operator who is considering bringing tourists to the city and Colombia in general, and when we were in Medellin, his feeling was that, "the money generated from the drugs trade continues to permeate every level of Medellin's society."

We may of course be wrong, but this is why we sat down with Alsema for 156 to talk about the reality of Medellin. Is Narcos educating people about or glorifying Pablo Escobar, what is the problem in Medellin and beyond?

Be sure to check out for independent news about Colombia and if you have some spare cash lying around, donate to this good cause.

Direct download: RCC_156.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:53am EST

It is a great pleasure for me to introduce South African journalist Laura Brown as the guest host of Episode 155 "Birdwatching in Colombia with expert and joint founder of Andes EcoTours, Chantelle du Plessis".

Andes EcoTours believes that travelers are looking for a deeper understanding of the land and the people they encounter. The aim to bring their visitors to the homes, farms and landscapes of those that represent Colombia’s bio-cultural diversity.

Chantelle was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and was trained to locate wildlife from a young age (skills that come in handy when you want to see cool stuff on your tours). When she was older, she moved to the United States where she fell in love with photography, salsa dancing and Colombian culture. Check out the website at

Direct download: RCC_155.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:14am EST

Dutch national Nathalie Rietman, director of Foundation La Vecina, tells us why she founded La Vecina. Basically, this is another good news story out of purely altruistic desires of helping the most needy, in this case the children of Cartagena's La Boquilla area. It is heartwarming and inspiring.

Far from the sophisticated boutiques of the Walled City and further away from the luxury apartments being constructed on the road leaving Caratgena towards Barranquilla, is La Boquilla, one of the city's many impoverished areas.

In episode 154 we talk to Natalie and find out what motivated her to get involved in this area, how it affected her personally and how she now has the most popular school in the region. Tune in to find out how you can help the children of La Boquilla through Natalie's foundation

Direct download: RCC_154.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:35am EST

It's always a thrill to be contacted out of the blue by a listener of the show with something worthwhile to promote and imagine my suprise when I start receiving messages all the way from Sydney, Australia from Lorenzo Perafan, a native of Popayan, now living Down Under and who is exporting Kogi Coffee from the Sierra Nevada on Colombia's Caribbean Coast to specialty coffee enthusiasts.

The Kogi people consider themselves to be the guardians of the earth and harvest their wild coffee according to those ancestral beliefs, making it one of the most sustainable and unique in the world.

The Kogi Coffee co imports the beans directly from the Kogi themselves and roast them locally in Sydney to maximise their uniquely earth flavours and aromas.

In Episode 153 we talk to Lorenzo on the line from Sydney about the Kogi and how he came to fall into this business. But, given the important issues to have come into being in Colombia regarding the peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas, we also speak to him as a Colombian citizen a long way from home and how he feels about these landmark declarations.


Direct download: RCC_153.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:07am EST

We've had Briton Dave Procter on Colombia Calling twice before as the Legend of El Dorado cross Colombia mountain bike race was coming into being, this time, we welcome him back on this Ep152 to talk about the phenomenal success of the race. So, it's a real pleasure to get to speak with him in person in Bogotá about the future.

Can you imagine? 60 mountain bikers from all over the world came over and called it a "life-changing race". Others referred to it as the "Everest of Mountain Bike races" truly inspirational if you ask me!

So, this seven-day cross country mountain bike race has been a success beyond their wildest dreams and we are here discussing what was incredible, the peaks, the troughs and what will be in store for the race in 2017.

To find out more about the race you'll have to tune in or check out the website at

Direct download: RCC_152.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:06pm EST

Jorn Ludvigsen and his wife Nohra Peña are on a mission to bring luxury and top-notch service to the Colombia Coffee region, leading by example from their exclusive boutique hotel El Lugar ( just outside the city of Pereira.

We'll chat about the hotel and restaurant business in Colombia, what the Coffee Region has to offer and why Dane Jorn decided to move with his Colombian wife Nohra to this area and set up El Lugar.

Amidst an interview of anecdotes and frank tales of Colombian and international tourists, Jorn provides us with insightful opinions into the business, his 10 year plan and how he sees Colombia developing touristically in the future.

Direct download: RCC_151.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:07am EST

Sometimes it all just falls into place for an individual and this is what we can say for US citizen Christina Kuntz. Having applied successfully for a Peace Corps posting several years ago she was sent to Cartagena, Colombia. And the story does not end here!

In my mind Cartagena is the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site with incredible colonial and republican buildings of bright colours and with bouganvilea spilling from wooden balconies! Of course, where the Peace Corps go is very different! It's hard graft.

So, we hear about Christina's experiences as a peace corps volunteer and how she ended up marrying a Colombian from Cartagena and indeed returning to live in the city as well as setting up the Domino Volunteers program (

So if you or someone you know is interested in perhaps volunteering in Colombia, this is the show for you. Tune in and find out what you could be doing to help other less fortunate people in Caratgena.

Direct download: RCC_150.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:39am EST

As an architect, Juan Rincon sees a fair share of interesting buildings and this is how the Feria del Millon came about. Asked to design loft-style flats in an abandoned factory in southwestern Bogotá, he advised his client on something different, a space for artists and their work...and hence the Feria del Millon was born.

Once a year (29-31 Oct 2016) the Feria del Millon is a space for some 50 artists to showcase their work and sell each item for around about the One Million Peso mark, roughly US$350. Each artist must submit an application which is scrutinized by art experts around the world before being accepted.

This Feria has been groundbreaking in that it has started a process of inclusion for this working class barrio of Puente Aranda into the psyche and imagination of the rest of the city and has made quality art accessible to everyone not just collectors and art critics.

Tune in to listen to Juan Rincon talking with a passion for what he is doing by taking the Bogotá art world by the scruff of its neck and shaking things up. Check out the website:

Direct download: RCC_149-1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:53am EST

At first you'd be forgiven for thinking that this week's interviewee Ashley Bening lives a charmed life...but it becomes clear that she has worked tooth and nail to reach this place. We caught up with Ashley at the Gitana del Mar ( ecolodge on the Colombian Caribbean coast at Buritaca to find out how this San Franciscan ended up teaching yoga with unrivalled views over the turquoise Caribbean, palms shifting in balmy winds and basically living the dream.

In episode 148 we learn about health and wellness and how Ashley became an expert in the field and what she does back in East Palo Alto with the long-suffering children of that area. Applying what she learnt on the job she has brought her positivity to Colombia and will be spending time in Buritaca, Cali and even Bogota.

So, if you are interested in yoga and it's healing qualities, something Colombia needs in gallons right now, then tune in to hear a heart-warming story of altruism and positivity.

Direct download: RCC_148.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:54am EST

Having lived in Pereira for three years, being married to a Pereirano and mother to a Pereirano baby, US writer Erin Donaldson ( has identified a gap in the market a need for a real product/ publication about the city which is her home.

So, this week in Episode 147 we get on the line with Donaldson in the city of Pereira, the heart of the coffee axis, and discuss the merits of publishing the first ever city guide to Pereira in English. We discuss the challenges, the trials and her future plans to publish in Spanish and soon to produce a second edition in English.

Of course, you want to know all about Pereira's "Nake Statue Tour" don't you? And if not, why not?

Get your hands on a copy now, available on for only $2.99 until the second edition is released!

Direct download: RCC_147.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:48pm EST

What does the peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas mean for the tourism industry in Colombia? Who and where will benefit from this agreement and cessation of the conflict? This week, Colombia sits down with one of the authors of the Lonely Planet guide book for Colombia, Alex Egerton and discusses the potential ramifications of peace with the world's oldest guerrilla insurgency.

On the line from Managua, Nicaragua, Egerton discusses various regions which will directly benefit in the short term from the peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas, why this is so and where needs to improve. Of course there are issues to discuss and opinions and advice to share.

But, as Egerton so succinctly puts it, the issue of a "long-running conflict" in Colombia has been hindering and hanging over the country for decades now and that the country's largest guerrilla group looks set to sign a final agreement in late July is a propaganda coup for the government and the tourism industry.

Tune in to hear the opinions of a true expert in the field of tourism and how you too can enjoy a trip to Colombia in the future now that more regions are set to open up and be "conflict-free".

Direct download: RCC_146.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:35am EST

Sitting down with us across the pond in Berlin is Colombian architect Roberto Uribe who gives us an insight into his artistic intervention along Bogotá's infamous Calle 22. To give you a further idea about the importance of the Calle 22, the street extends around 2.5km from the foothills of the Andes Mountains known as the Cerros Orientales, down through Colonial Bogotá, crossing through bohemia, 1950's era expansion, through some down at heal barrios and out into the Sabana de Bogotá. In short, the Calle 22 offers what could actually represent a microcosm of Colombia along one street in the capital.

All the while you can follow Calle 22 and the architecture, but it's not just about this, it is also about the people who have come from different areas of the country by choice or forcibly displaced to be here. You'll find traditional Bogotanos or Rolos, people from the Pacific Coast with their restaurants and hair salons, others from the southern plains with restaurants and beyond. Everyone is represented.

So, we get the chance to sit down with Roberto and talk about his project, the reasons behind the art interventions, how he went about doing it, what the experience was and the outcomes. For more info please see his website and see what the team is up to and thinking of doing next.

On a personal note, I have been studying this area of Bogotá for some time and it is of great interest to me. Hopefully some of my enthusiasm for this kind of interview comes across in our open and fun conversation.

Direct download: RCC_145.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:15am EST

In an exclusive first interview with the press as the new Director of the Colombian National Land Agency (Agencia Nacional de Tierras) Miguel Samper Strouss sits down with Colombia Calling to give us the inside track on land issues and transitional justice in Colombia and the peace dialogues with the FARC.

Son of former Colombia President Ernesto Samper (1994-1998), Miguel Samper has followed his father into the world of politics having worked in various roles including that of the Vice Minister for Justice amongst others.

To have been able to gain access to a politician of such calibre, rank and note has been nothing short of a coup for Colombia Calling and you'll enjoy the open dialogue which we enjoyed with Miguel Samper on this occasion.

Why is this interview of interest? Well, to understand the nature of the long-running Colombian conflict, to understand the on-going peace dialogues with the FARC guerrillas in Havana, Cuba and the very real expression of a spiritual connection which Colombians have with the land, are all tantamount to understanding the Colombian psyche. That's why we feel so privileged to have been able to record an interview with someone as notable as Miguel Samper Strouss.

Direct download: RCC_144.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Given that our television channels are inundated with food-inspired shows of every shape and size it is for this reason that we have decided to explore the world of food tours in Colombia with Nicole and Jeremy of La Mesa Food Tours ( with their offerings in both Medellin and Bogota.

La Mesa Food Tours are gastronomy-inspired adventures to discover the history, culture and cuisine of a country! Our local food experts act as your culinary guide to authentic flavors and hidden food gems while uncovering the unique character and sights of incredible Colombia.

So in this fun Episode 143 we sit down and discuss Colombian cuisine, the opportunities to explore street food and high end offerings in Bogota and Medellin and why Colombia is perhaps experiencing something of a culinary renaissance.

But, La Mesa's tours don't end there, (additionally they run a tour in Antigua, Guatemala) but there's also the option to enjoy a tour of a coffee hacienda and see all of the processes from the picking and harvesting to roasting and tasting, just down the road from Medellin.

Tune in to Episode 143 with Nicole and Jeremy of La Mesa Food Tours and explore another side to Colombia's tabletop culture.

Direct download: RCC_143.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:13am EST

Simon was born in Bogota, Colombia and was raised in Detroit, Michigan. He's been working in the International Education/Meaningful Travel field for over 10 years. After graduating from the University of Montana with a degree in Rural and Environmental Sociology, he found himself volunteering internationally in Trujillo, Peru. He credits this experience as the springboard into the world of International Education and Meaningful Travel.

And now he's back in Colombia tracing his heritage (more about that during the show) and setting up a program so as to bring US students down to this country. Tune in to hear about Simon's life, his plans and support him in this quest to bring meaningful travel to Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_142.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:43am EST

Having spent several years in direct contact with the Comunidad de Paz in San Jose de Apartado (a very isolated yet violence-afflicted community) in northern Colombia, academic Gwen Burnyeat teamed up with Pablo Mejia Trujillo to make a documentary about the people, their suffering and now a feeling of hope for the future due to their organic fair trade cacao production. (see the trailer at

The documentary spans 55 mins during which, the viewer is transported to what should be a pastoral life of farming and family in fertile and promising lands, yet, it is here and not unique in Colombia, that the communities have faced massacres, threats and displacement due to the strategic location of their land and becoming sandwiched between the Armed Forces, left-wing Guerrilla groups and the right-wing paramilitaries.

But, while the tales are harrowing and unthinkable, there is hope. Burnyeat and Mejia have produced a documentary that is accessible to all, not just experts on Colombia and we are presented with positive outcomes from the community's struggles.

Please watch this documentary, spread the word and share this film as these are real events which have taken place and in some circumstances continue to take place in Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_141.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:18am EST

Mixing things up a little, this week we sit down with Anthony Patrick LaRose, associate professor of criminology at the University of Tampa, and talk about his work of fiction, Cathedral of Salt (available on Amazon:

"Fighting depression and alcoholism, the FBI agent must evoke all of his former training and expertise to help solve the crime. While working the case, his story intersects with Santos, the local police captain assigned to the case, who is indignant having been assigned to babysit a drunken gringo; Guasá, a notorious activist for indigenous rights who claims the cathedral’s land as her people’s; Cárdenas, the arrogant salt mine executive obsessed with keeping the mine operational; and Chamí, a shadowy anthropology professor with a secret double life. Mixing ancient history, contemporary political reality, and modern forensics, Cathedral of Salt weaves a gripping, fast-paced tale of murder and intrigue over the course of several days. What starts as a simple offer of collaboration with a crime scene investigation, becomes a quest for redemption for Grant who soon realizes that the salt wants to keep its secrets."

Direct download: RCC_140.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:53am EST

As the Director of, Federico Pardo holds a BS in Biology and a MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking from Montana State University. He has documented scientific expeditions in Ecuador, Perú, Mozambique and throughout Colombia. Federico’s work has been showcased by National Geographic, Fusion, The Field Museum and the Humboldt Institute in Colombia.

We managed to squeeze in an hour with Pardo in Bogota before he jetted off to another exotic location having just arrived from the Magdalena Medio region where he combated clouds of mosquitos to track and film some endemic and endangered brown howler monkeys.

With Pardo we talk about the filmmaking trade, future projects and indeed some of the environmental issues facing Colombia as the country moves towards a potential peace agreement with the largest guerrilla group. What impacts might this have on the environment and on society and more.

Tune in to a fantastic and frank interview with someone who clearly knows their trade and clearly understand the issues facing contemporary Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_139.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:12am EST

Spoontano is an online platform that enables you to meet other open-minded young professionals with different backgrounds and the Bogota chapter is hosted by the friendly local Danny Barragan who joins us here on Colombia Calling.

In Episode 138 we sit down with Danny in one of Bogota's new cafes and mull over what it means for the Colombian capital to have an event like where foreigners and locals can dine out together and experience new and hip places.

How does a graduate of microbiology get into the dining game? You'll have to tune in yourselves to hear all about Danny's story and her love for Bogota and bringing people together.

If sounds like something you'd like to get involved in, they now have a presence in 10 cities worldwide and are always looking for willing and able potential hosts.

Direct download: RCC_138.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:33pm EST

This week in Episode 137 we strike out with Colombia Calling and take a serious turn and talk to Roxanne Krystalli in Boston. Krystalli is a researcher and humanitarian practitioner with an interest in questions arriving at the intersection of gender, violence, armed conflict, and victimhood based at Feinstein International Center.

Krystalli has served as a researcher, advisor and consultant on issues related to gender and conflict for various UN agencies, international organizations, and community-based groups. This has involved working with ex-combatants, victims and survivors of violence, and fellow researchers and humanitarian practitioners in Egypt, Pakistan, Colombia, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Uganda, Sudan, Guatemala, Mexico, and other areas.

Her understanding of and love for Colombia is unquestioned and here we talk to her about the peace dialogues and what Colombia is experiencing. As you guessed, with Krystalli's knowledge, I am well out of my depth!

For more about Roxanne Krystalli, read her blog at

Direct download: RCC_137.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:37am EST

In Episode 136 we talk to Nick Kershaw, the brains behind the Colombia International Marathon due to take place on the 11th of February 2017. With a route mapped out from Minca in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada coastal mountains and culminating on the beach in Santa Marta, this marathon is set to make waves.

Kershaw has worked on some interesting marathons before this one, think Uganda! Since quitting his job in finance he has also worked on or planned future marathons in Guatemala, Malawi and Nepal.

So, what's this all about? Well, the Impact Marathon Series is in line with the UN Global Goals and all participants get to choose which local charity will receive their contribution. This, my friends, is meaningful travel.

The Impact Marathon Series is a social business designed to harness the simple power of running to sustainably build communities, bring people together around huge causes and leave a lasting impact on the world.

What are you waiting for? Sign up for February's 42km race (although there are 5km and 23km options too), I'll be there!

Direct download: RCC_136a.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Having had the opportunity to visit a couple of prisons in South America including two in Quito, Ecuador and one in La Paz, Bolivia, I can vouch for the misery encountered within. So, in the light of recent articles regarding the poor state of Colombian prisons it was time to have someone on the show who can speak firsthand about this terrible situation here.

Wally Broderick is Colombian but with Irish and Australian roots and who, in the twists and turns of life, ended up visiting a school friend who was held in two Colombian prisons over the course of 11 years for rebellion.

We speak of the realities in Colombian prisons, the issues regarding the peace talks with the FARC guerrillas and the need to reform the penitenciary system and the atrocious human rights record found within these institutions.


Direct download: RCC_135.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:39am EST

Natalia Quintero speaks with an authority and passion about what she does and exudes the calm assured confidence of someone who knows what she's doing and where she's going!

In Episode 134 we learn how Quintero left Colombia aged 9 nine and settled in Los Angeles and how the twists and turns of her life took her to New York before now heading up a team at the Socialatom Group, an entity set up to invest, build and support tech entrepreneurs around the world and with an office here in Bogota.

So, we get the opportunity to sit down with Quintero and learn not only how she has brought her effervescent spirit back to Colombia to help economic development through technology and entrepreneurship but also about her reflections on how Bogota and Colombia have changed in her eyes.

Direct download: RCC_134.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:12pm EST

I am particularly pleased to be able to introduce my listeners to Harold Stephenson of Crook Town, County Durham in the UK in Episode 133 as we are discussing the little known successes of English journeyman futbol coach Jack Greenwell.

The mind boggles when you think of the distances travelled by Jack Greenwell, a miner with a genius footballing brain from a small market town in the north of England, and how his life must have been when you think that he was born in 1884 and over time became one of the most successful coaches of Barcelona, then with Universitario of Lima, Peru, later the Peruvian national team in Hitler's Olympics in 1936 and then in Colombia with Barranquilla and then finally before his untimely death with Santa Fe in Bogota in 1942.

With Stephenson we are able to learn more about Greenwell's life and his movements and indeed with my own investigations we come to some conclusions about the incredible life he led at this time.

Episode 133 is very special to me as Jack Greenwell is someone whose life is almost an enigma and who should really be heralded and lauded in the halls of fame in the footballing world, but, to most he is an unknown.

Buried in an unmarked or pauper's grave in Bogota, Greenwell's story needs to be told.

Direct download: RCC_133.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:04am EST

Jared Wade is a hard man to pin down, Colombia Calling has been trying to get the Associate Editor of Bogota's City Paper (, the expert on the Indiana Pacers on and all round freelance journalist here on the show for about eight months!

Finally, on show 132, we get to chat about how this native of Maine came to be here in Colombia, his life in the big city and his role at the City Paper. We discuss his recent press junket to the back and beyond of the Amazonian region of the department of Vaupes and its capital city Mitu to an indigenous festival.

And finally, after a brief digression regarding the Indiana Pacers, we talk about Colombia today and the significance of the ongoing peace dialogues with the FARC in Havana and what may happen on March 23.


Direct download: RCC_132.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:12pm EST

Two estranged brothers adventure through Colombia to fulfill their dead father's will and connect with their family, their father's homeland, and - ultimately - each other. This is Bastards y Diablos (see trailer here:

Penned by screenwriter Andrew Perez and based loosely on real circumstances & events from his life, Bastards y Diablos takes the audience on a spontaneous, passionate adventure through Colombia

In Episode 131 we get the opportunity to enjoy a frank conversation with Andrew Perez and his connections to Colombia and the inspiration behind this flick which is pulling in the plaudits.

Tune in to hear about Bastards y Diablos, a movie which the Hollywood Reporter calls: "A vibrantly unpredictable, emotionally charged road trip."

And if you want to get involved in the movie and help the cast, crew and producers, here's the crowdfunding page (

Direct download: RCC_131.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:31pm EST

This week we invite Colombian writer Paula Delgado-Kling back on the show after a long absence to talk to us exclusively about her book which is tentatively entitled: "Stolen Lives, a Memoir of Colombia."

We discuss the need to understand Colombia's history to understand what is going on now with the peace talks in Havana with the FARC, how her family has - throughout the years - occupied a ringside seat during many of the significant events in the nation's history.

Speaking openly about her non-fiction novel and the female protagonist Leonor, we talk about this girl's life as she entered the FARC at age 11 and now as a mother of two struggles to get by. We talk about the significance of April 9 and the Bogotazo and fiery rhetoric of Gaitain and indeed the upsurge in communist sympathies in the area of her family's coffee farm in Viota.

The underlying theme is that of identity and where one fits into the complex narrative that is Colombia. Finally, we share a few words about the potential peace agreement to be signed on march 23 with the FARC in Havana.

Direct download: RCC_130.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:08am EST

Are you an expat, a short term visitor or an expat? Well, here in Colombia Seattle-born photographer and traveller Gregg Bleakney has been all three! Listen to Gregg's story and hear about he became a travel ambassador from Colombia to the world, set up his successful business and find out why he avoided Colombia as he cycled from Alaska to Ushuaia.

A chance meeting in Peru challenged his initial and justified concerns about Colombia and now he's a resident making a difference as his visual agency produces film and still photography campaigns for those who wish to participate in the wanderlusting bug.

Direct download: RCC_129.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:14pm EST

Interviewing native Arizonan Jennie Levitt is a distinct pleasure, why? Well, she's a go getter and a believer and her positive nature shines through as she explains to us all about her projects in Bogota.

With a cookbook coming out in 2017 - including some Colombia-inspired recipes and artwork that Jennie herself did - a new line of sparkling drinks due for sale any time soon, and giving cooking would think that Jennie needs to take a step back and enjoy some breathing space!

But no, that wouldn't be her style.

Tune in to an upbeat and enjoyable episode 128.

Direct download: RCC_128.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:29am EST

Sometimes in life you are humbled by the selfless actions of others and Dan Eley falls firmly within this category.

On New Year´s Day 2010 Dan´s life changed irreversibly when he suffered a tragic accident near to the Colombian amazon town of Leticia which left him paralysed from the shoulders down.

Directly after his accident Dan was taken to an ill-equipped hospital where he spent three days until finally being transferred to an intensive care unit in Bogotá by air ambulance.

Dan’s condition remained critical however, and in the days that followed he suffered five cardiac arrests as well as a collapsed lung and pneumonia.

How he survived might just be described as a miracle.

Now, six years on, his drive to improve the lives of others sees him returning to Colombia on occasion and leading up the Dan Eley Foundation. (

The Foundation aims to create a supportive environment where disadvantaged young children are given the opportunity to try a range of technical and vocational skills and to provide them with the professional training they need to obtain legitimate employment.

This is a story of spirit and triumph and Dan shares his tale with us, warts and all.

Direct download: RCC_127.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:42am EST

It's always a pleasure to have repeat visitors on Colombia Calling and this week we welcome back Sam Miller the Managing Director of Colombia Internationa ( to talk about his predictions for Colombia in 2016.

We asked Sam back on the show on the basis of his newsletter at the beginning of 2016 which was so positive regarding the outlook for travel and business in Colombia that we felt that it was time to share these good vibes with everyone out there interested in Colombia.

So, if you are interested in the real estate market in Bogota and indeed in Colombia, you want to hear about a real go-getter and his projects for the year in addition to his thoughts on travel in the country, there may be no better episode in which to immerse yourself.


Direct download: RCC_126.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:26am EST

Sometimes academics we meet are guarded with their knowledge but this is not the case when we take to the airwaves with the Director for the Global Heritage Fund for Latin America Santiago Giraldo and talk about everything from anthropology and archeology in Colombia but mainly focus on the wonder that is the Teyuna Ciudad Perdida or Lost City.

From the elegant offices of the GHF ( we discuss the overall work and mission of the entity, their projects around the world and indeed the issues surrounding the Lost City.

This really is a not-to-be-missed episode that will draw some light on the challenges bested and indeed yet to be confronted when it comes to protecting and managing a project of this type in Colombia and Giraldo is responsible for creating the Master Management Plan for Teyuna-Ciudad Perdida Archaeological Park in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains of Colombia.

So, have you hiked to the Lost City or is it something you wish to do in the future? If so, you will definitely enjoy this interview.


Direct download: RCC_125.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:08am EST

This week we get to talk to Erin Donaldson of the widely read website and learn about her quite extraordinary life in Colombia.

Have you ever traveled off-grid, but really off-grid where the journey takes five hours over rutted and potholed roads in a chiva bus before then having to continue on a motorcycle before alighting and then finding a horse to take you the rest of the way? I thought not. And if you have, did you do it with a baby on your lap? Erin wins hands down and I have to say that I am quite envious of her lifestyle!

We talk about the region of the Choco, her life in Colombia, childbirth, in fact, almost nothing is off-limits and Erin responds in kind in a careful and relaxed manner that you would associate with a cowboy character as if plucked from a novel by Louis L'Amour.

It's no exaggeration to say that Erin may well be one of the most independent and adventurous people we have had on Colombia Calling and I am thrilled that she shared her insights with us.

Be sure to tun in to Episode 124 and find out why Erin travels down a notorious cocaine transshipment highway with some regularity.

Direct download: RCC_124.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:40am EST

In this first episode of 2016 (no.123) we take a look at the key events of 2015 with regards to Colombia and how thes might pan out and affect this country in the coming 12 months.

What of the peace dialogues with the FARC guerrillas, will a final agreement be reached with the rebels to be signed in March? What are the probabilities of this and hear me explain that a final agreement does not mean peace in Colombia....yet.

Will tourism take up the slack on a faltering economy? Can it? With the Dollar at roughly 3200 pesos and the Pound at almost 5000 pesos there may never have been a better time to be a traveller or visitor to Colombia. Will oil prices continue to affect the country?

And finally, an update from Mompos and what is going on in my corner of paradise where I am running my little hotel ( over the high season before returning to Bogota to pick up my pen and pad and write more articles and indeed start on a new adventure of pursuing a PhD.

Direct download: RCC_123.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:47pm EST