Colombia Calling - The English Voice in Colombia

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