Colombia Calling - The English Voice in Colombia

On this week's Colombia Calling podcast, we sit down and chat with Gary Murray, a former hotelier in Colombia and compare notes on the business.

Murray's experiences, on the whole, have been incredibly negative, mine on the other hand have been positive and so we look at some of the socio cultural nuances to running a business in Colombia, hear some outrageous and horrendous stories which occurred in Murray's hotel in an exclusive part of Bogota and reflect on what may have been.

We cover stories and anecdotes on unfaithfulness in a relationship, petty theft in the business, dodgy dealings, money laundering and so much more.

The Colombia Briefing is reported by Mathew Di Salvo.

If you would like to support the podcast:

Direct download: RCC_514.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

"Get the most from your time in Colombia by adjusting your expectations with regard to what you probably take for granted: Punctuality [never], Predictability [rarely], Promiscuity [frequently], and Passion [always]."

And so it goes as we explore Colombia by way of Barry Max Wills' writing in his debut novel, a memoir entitled: "Better than Cocaine: Learning to Grow Coffee, and Live, in Colombia," published by Fuller Vigil.

Enjoy a far-reaching conversation with a master story-teller.

It's competition time too! Tune in and hear how you can win a copy of Barry's book.

The Colombia Briefing is reported by Emily Hart.

Buy the book here:

Direct download: RCC_513.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

Journalist Emily Hart sat with Frank Wynne, tracing his incredible career from the start of his linguistic journey (a breakup and a bookshop in Paris) to his award-winning translation of writers across Latin America and the francophone world – particularly his work on cult Colombian author and ‘Enemy Number 1 of Macondo’ - Andrés Caicedo and his novel “Liveforever!”.

Tune in for a literary episode exploring one of Colombia's least known and cult authors recounted in such an erudite fashion.

Support the Colombia Calling podcast:

Direct download: RCC_512.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

Imagine starting your first business venture from a huge wooden treehouse, nestled on a wild island off the coast of the Colombian Pacific.

Linsey Rankin left Australia to travel, arrived in Colombia in 2013. After working in tourism, education, and health, she set about creating a business model that would allow her to be creatively independent, establish a tribe and give back positively…Prana Pacifico was born.

In April 2017 Prana Pacifico offered its first yoga retreat, and since then, the operation has continued to grow and evolve. In this interview, Linsey shares with us her journey to becoming a yogipreneur and building a supportive community of like-minded people.

But, Rankin’s adventures are far from over.

Based on her time on Colombia’s pacific coast, she has published a recipe book entitled simply: “A Taste of Paradise.” And if this wasn’t enough, she’s moving to Chile, to the town of Pichilimeu, to open a restaurant.

Follow her blog:

Direct download: RCC_511.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

This week, Emily Hart is setting out into the Wild West of cryptocurrencies here in Colombia and beyond.

Is cryptocurrency the future of finance in Latin America? Is it safe? Is it just another way for rich people to hide their wealth from the tax man? Or for criminals to launder income? Or could it be a way for people to take banking into their own hands, a way for all of us to take control from a global system of banking we have so little say in?

To explain all of that, we have on the show today Mat Di Salvo, Colombia-based correspondent covering crypto since 2019 for Decrypt, and two experts from Global Financial Integrity, a Washington DC-based think tank focused on illicit financial flows, corruption, and money laundering. Claudia Helms is the Director of the Latin America and Caribbean Program at GFI, having worked at the Organization of American States; And formerly at the UN, Claudia Marcela Hernández works as Policy Analyst for Central America in Global Financial Integrity.

By early 2020, the region had 15.8% of the total volume of bitcoins worldwide, and it has grown exponentially since then. Last year, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina were in the top 20 for global adoption – Colombia was 32nd in the world. Venezuela was 40th.

Looking at crypto in any country requires a close look at the context, unique in every case: this region is turning to digital and virtual currencies for many different reasons, using it to send remittances, invest, and save – especially important in countries that have unstable governments, high inflation, or low levels of trust in institutions.

Here in Latin America, levels of poverty and informal employment might create barriers to usage, while technological and educational gaps create unique challenges for users, especially when a new digital revolution of cryptocurrencies and virtual assets arrives without adequate regulation, government oversight, or consumer awareness – particularly around scams and security. This is why GFI started - a set of resources around crypto in Latin America designed for users and policy-makers alike.

Basically, regulation of cryptocurrencies in the region does not adequately match its current usage and adoption. Colombia has yet to adopt legal framework, despite a growing number of users, but there is movement around this issue and various institutions have released commentary on it, and President Gustavo Petro has expressed interest in encouraging crypto usage - and mining - in the country.

Thanks to the anonymous nature of this universe, it’s difficult to get accurate data on exactly who is using crypto and what for, and though it’s certainly not only criminals using these currencies and assets, they have high potential for money laundering and channelling illicit flows of money, from stolen funds and fraud to payments for illegal goods and funding of terrorist groups.

We’ll be talking about the opportunities and risks associated with cryptocurrencies, how their form and use are evolving, plus how (and why) cryptocurrencies can and should be regulated.

The Colombia Briefing is also reported by Emily Hart – to get it direct to your inbox or email, you can subscribe to the Colombia Briefing via her Substack or subscribe to the podcast’s Patreon.

Direct download: RCC_510.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

On this week's Colombia Calling podcast we speak to Sara Tufano, the author of "Colombia: unaherida que no cierra," (Planeta, 2023) and a former member of the Clandestine Colombian Communist Party. After surviving some periods in conflict in Colombia as a member of the FARC guerrillas, she now dedicates her life to academia.

Sara Tufano is a sociologist specializing in the Colombian conflict and the history of peace processes. She holds a B.A. in Human and Social Sciences from the University of Paris VII and a M.Sc. in Sociology from the University of São Paulo. She is currently an opinion columnist for the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.

The Colombia Briefing is reported by Emily Hart.

Direct download: RCC_509.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

This week, Emily Hart speaks to Andrea González Duarte about Mi Barrio, Mi Sueño - the women’s empowerment project she founded in La Honda, a neighbourhood in the hills of Medellín.

Andrea was born here in Colombia, then was adopted and grew up in the Netherlands, moving back here with a degree in social work many years later. The project began with barrio boxing – boxing classes for girls and women in the neighbourhood. With a background in sports education, Andrea knows well how sports - and particularly boxing - can serve as a means of teaching self-defence, of connecting with one’s own body after trauma.

Through social and emotional skills training, the group nurtures a safe space for girls and women to freely express their thoughts and emotions – with participants of all ages, from small children up to grandmothers. Over the last four years, the project has expanded to educational and economic empowerment, with their own community centre, regular extracurricular lessons and an artisanal social enterprise run by single mothers, along with workshops about adolescence, gender, rights, and other skills like entrepreneurship.

The safe space of the community centre is just a physical manifestation of that idea – the afternoon classes provide somewhere for young people to spend the afternoon after school, and the social links and the skills they gain and share build resilience and self-esteem.

Emily and Andrea discuss the project, its evolution, and its philosophy, following Emily's visit to La Honda this week - she was really struck by the brilliant simplicity of what has been created, as well as the intricate social fabrics which these projects work to weave and strengthen within the community – we're really excited to share Andrea's ideas and experiences - especially with International Women's Day being this week.

To find out more about Mi Barrio, Mi Sueño, check out and on instagram

Your headlines reported this week by Grace Brennan.

Support the podcast

Direct download: RCC_508.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

On this week's Colombia Calling podcast, Ohio native and now resident of Medellin, Zach Meese, joins us to discuss Nearshoring in his adopted homeland.

Now, I am pretty unfamiliar with Nearshoring, so Meese walks me through it and why the city of Medellin, Colombia is the ideal place for a business of this type.

Nearshoring is defined as a close relocation and refers to the practice of relocating business operations to a nearby country. And so, we ask why this happens and is it sustainable?

Certainly, for businesses in the USA, there's no significant time-zone difference, not too great a culture clash and in Colombia, there's a highly educated the practice solely for economic purposes?

Tune in for this and the Colombia Briefing reported by Emily Hart.

Direct download: RCC_507.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

Adventurer Daniel Eggington is back! After completing the crossing of the Darien jungle along the Pacific side from Colombia to Panama in 2022, Eggington has decided to return to Colombia to embark on a three-month expedition along the Rio Negro all the way to Manaus in Brazil.

The Rio Negro is over 1400 miles long with its widest point in Brazil at around 18 miles wide that is based around the Anavilhanas National Park. Eggington will face dangers from gold miners, illegal logging groups and perhaps come across unknown communities. Much of this expedition is uncharted territory.

Hear us discuss his planned trip, his fears and hopes and why he wants to do this. Foolhardy, very possibly...adventurous, almost certainly. Watch this space as we will be detailing Eggington's progress via GPS reports.

The Colombia Briefing is reported by Emily Hart.

Support us at

Direct download: RCC_506.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

On this week's Colombia Calling podcast we hear about British photographer Natasha Johl's work in photographing the Arahuacas in Colombia's Sierra Nevada.

Descendents of the Tairona, an ancient South American civilization, indigenous group, the Arhuacos, reside in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The Arhuaco have developed an understanding of the earth which gives equal measure to the human mind and spirit and the forces of nature. The Sierra Nevada is a microcosm of earth: A seamless gradient of life that changes with each upward step.

Because of this unique feature, it is known as the ‘Heart of the World’ to the indigenous communities who inhabit the mountains and valleys. The Arhuaco say that when the world was created, they emerged from this very spot. They call it the Mother.

Johl uses the quiet and quotidian nuances in life to present an intimate picture. Looking at the smaller, seemingly insignificant or unnoticed things, makes us appreciate the complex and delicate moments of everyday life.

Tune in for a wonderful narrative from the foothills of Minca where Johl now lives and hear how she has succeeded in earning the confidence of the Arahuacas, to be able to spend significant time with them.

Check out her website:

Direct download: RCC_505.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

Paula Delgado-Kling takes us to her homeland, Colombia, where she finds answers to the country’s drug wars by examining the life of Leonor, a former child soldier in the FARC, a rural guerrilla group.

But, this story doesn't begin with Leonor, it commences during Delgado-Kling's childhood, when Colombia’s violence also touched her family and her brother was kidnapped and held in captivity for six months. It becomes intensely personal.

Our conversation spans decades of the author's life as she follows the life and hardships of Leonor, but also, becomes aware of her upbringing in the context of Colombia's conflict, what is means for her identity, her family and how she sees her home nation today.

Buy the book: Leonor: The Story of a Lost Childhood

The Colombia News Brief is reported by Emily Hart.

Direct download: RCC_504.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

This week on the Colombia Calling podcast, we discuss Colombian food and observe it through the philosophically tilted lens of expert Juliana Duque.

Halfway between the abstract and the tangible, Colombian cuisine is the taste and the colour of abundance. The fertile soils of the American continent shaped pre-Colombian food cultures. Changes over the centuries have shown the influence of the Andes, running the length of South America, the Pacific coast extending for thousands of kilometres, and the glorious Caribbean, universally loved for its sunshine and warmth.

We discuss elements of place and time in addition to the importance of food in its context as well as some of the consequences of colonialism on a culinary landscape.

Juliana Duque is a writer, editor, and critic of contents about food and culture. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociocultural Anthropology from Cornell University with emphasis on Latin America. Duque has collaborated with platforms such as Netflix, Condé Nast, Eater, KCET, Life & Thyme, New Worlder and Fine Dining Lovers and is the author of the book "Sabor de Casa (Intermedio Editores, 2017)," which tells the stories and visions of fourteen Colombian chefs who have led the revitalization of Colombian cuisine in the last thirty years, and former editor of Cocina Semana Magazine.

Check her out at:

And support us at:

Direct download: RCC_503.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

This week, we are exploring the underground and invisible networks of Colombia – along with some of its strangest and least-understood creatures: fungi.

We’ll be talking about zombie fungi, shamanic fungi and magic mushrooms, the Wood Wide Web, sunscreen spores, makeup fungi, and eco-warrior fungi – plus why this fascinating mega-science has been so neglected, and why it’s more urgent than ever that mycology gets the awareness, resources, and respect that it deserves.

Emily Hart interviews two of Colombia’s top scientists and leaders in their fields: mycologist Aida Vasco is Assistant professor at the School of Microbiology at the University of Antioquia and Co-Chair of the Colombian Association of Mycology; botanist Mauricio Diazgranados is Chief Science Officer and Dean of the International Plant Science Center at the New York Botanical Garden. Mauricio led the Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia project, including the development of the Colfungi portal and the Catalogue of Fungi of Colombia, on which Aida also worked.

There are an estimated 300,000 species of fungi in Colombia, the huge majority of which are unstudied. In fact, fungi in general remains one of science’s great mysteries: it is known as a ‘neglected mega-science’. They change animal behaviour, connect the forests, feed humans and animals, and may even be a key weapon in the fight against climate change.

Battling this vast gap in knowledge is the Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia project - an initiative led by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in collaboration with the Humboldt Institute. The projects aim to increase, consolidate, and make accessible the knowledge of the country’s useful plants and fungi for the benefit of local communities.

Fungi have played a vital role in shaping the Earth’s biosphere, and have directly impacted human society and its cultural evolution for the past 300,000 years - used as food, for ritualistic purposes, or as medicinal products.

In Colombia, fungi - in the form of wild edible mushrooms - are primarily used as a nutritional source, having long played a role in the food security of indigenous people and local communities: representations are found in the iconography of several pre-Hispanic cultures throughout the country, showing knowledge and a close cultural relationship with fungi. Shamanic and spiritual uses are also common in the country.

Habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, overuse of pesticides and fungicides, and of course climate change affect fungi as well as fauna and flora, but fungi are not explicitly included in biodiversity legislation, biodiversity action plans, and conservation policies in Colombia. The Colombian government only recognises three components of biological diversity: Fauna, Flora, and microorganisms.

But there is cause for hope – we are only just starting to understand fungi but the field is gaining momentum, and experiments show their potential is even grander than we have imagined – they are not only a sustainable food source to fight hunger and the industrial food which accelerates climate change: mushrooms can also decompose waste – including nappies and cigarette butts, and can be used in ‘myco-fabrication’ - manufacture of e.g. architecture and furniture. They are incredibly adaptive, and provide ways for plants and animals to survive even in extreme and degraded environments.

Direct download: RCC_502.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

This week, Emily Hart speaks to Cristina Fuentes La Roche, International Director of the Hay Festival, about arts curation and festival-making in the era of Artificial Intelligence and social media - and bringing one of the world's most successful literary festivals to Colombia for the last two decades.

The Hay Festival is known as 'the Woodstock of the Mind': Nobel Prizewinners and novelists, scientists and politicians, historians, environmentalists and musicians take part in the Festival’s global conversation, sharing the latest thinking in the arts and sciences with curious audiences. The festival kicks off in Colombia this month, with chapters this and next week in Medellín and Jericó, Antioquia, then in Cartagena at the end of the month. At this year's festival are Juan Manuel Santos, Wade Davis, Brigitte Baptiste, Rebecca Solnit, André Aciman, Héctor Abad Faciolince, Amalia Andrade, Margarita Rosa de Francisco, Humberto de la Calle, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Los Danieles and more!

Emily and Cristina chat all things Hay, Colombia, and the arts - delving into the importance of spontaneity, connection, and conversation - and how the upcoming global challenges we face will prove to be, above all, challenges of the imagination...

Tune in and support the podcast:

Direct download: RCC_501.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

It's Episode 500 of the Colombia Calling podcast!

Celebrate with us as we chat to Colombia's most famous dancer, Fernando Montaño.

Fernando Montaño was born in Buenaventura on the Pacific coast of Colombia and at the age of 14 won a scholarship to the National Ballet School of Cuba where he won several prizes at the International Ballet Contest in Havana, Cuba, and then joined the Cuban National Ballet. He also trained at La Scala and Teatro Nuovo di Torino, Italy where he was spotted by the Director of the English Ballet School and invited to the UK to audition, following which he joined the Royal Ballet in 2006 where he was mentored by Carlos Acosta.

We discuss his life as an artist - dancing, painting, designing - and his work supporting the charity, Children Change Colombia, the question of identity and being from Colombia's pacific coast.

Join us to hear and experience Fernando's unique energy, his reflections on life and opportunities and how he wishes to be remembered.

The Colombia News Brief is reported by journalist Emily Hart.

Support the Colombia Calling podcast:

Direct download: RCC_500.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT