Colombia Calling - The English Voice in Colombia (general)

It's a great pleasure to invite anthropologist and expert in gender studies, Nicol Lesmes on Ep354 of the Colombia Calling this week to discuss the state of play regarding the implementation of the peace accords in Colombia.

Lesmes works investigating how the peace accords and the key issues of the accords are being implemented across the country. This is a timely episode as the signing of the accords - to great international fanfare - occurred a little over four years ago.

We discuss the structural problems in Colombia which hinder the implementation of the accords in the regions, the issues of land reform, political participation and state presence in more isolated parts of Colombia.

Tune in to hear a first hand account of what is going on in rural Colombia and with reintegrated members of the FARC guerrillas.

Direct download: RCC_354.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

If you want to know the real stories about what is happening on the frontlines of demonstrations in Colombia and Ecuador and on the border with Venezuela, you have to seek out the reporters on the ground, the freelancers that beg, borrow and cajole their way into certain danger to get the story. This is what US journalist Joshua Collins does. Why are the people protesting, why is there almost unversal unrest? Ask Collins.

Since Collins has been reporting for the mainstream media and publishing on his own website (, those of us searching for boots-on-the-ground information don't have to look elsewhere as he's got it covered, from the violence on the Colombian border with Venezuela when the aid trucks were set alight after the "Branson Concert," when he reported from within the billowing clouds of tear gas in Quito, Ecuador and of course, during Colombia's N21 protests, now in their one year anniversary.

In this episode 353 of the Colombia Calling podcast, we hear about the challenges of being a freelancer, the journalist's desire to tell the stories and include the voices of those affected and the reasons behind their malaise.

Direct download: RCC_353.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

In this heartwarming episode, we hear from Colombian musician in Paris, Diego Franco about the foundation he created with others called Piano Movil (

PianoMóvil is intrepid and each tour of the country starts by loading a grand piano into a truck and heading out to lesser known parts of Colombia to bring musical activities to people ordinarily ignored by social and cultural events.

The aim is to promote the value of musical practice and to inspire societal change in smaller towns. We talk to Franco about some of the towns he has visited, some of the people he has played for and his hope for the future with the Piano Movil Foundation.

Tune in for a positive story from Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_352.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

It's July 4 2014 and national team defender Mario Yepes has just scored a goal against Brazil in the stadium in Fortaleza. Had the goal stood, Brazil, the hosts would have gone out, alas no, the goal was wrongly disallowed and Colombia were sent home in the Quarter Finals, their best ever showing.

With historian Miguel Cuadros, we reflect on this momentous occasion in Colombia's footballing history, an event which brought - despite the undesirable loss - the joy back into the beautiful game for Colombia. The murder of Andres Escobar was pushed back as a distant memory and James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao showed what the cafeteros were capable of.

On a political level, would a victory against Brazil have led to national euphoria and a change in the Colombian mentality and psyche. Anything could have been possible? Would people have taken to the peace accords differently, would they have had a positivity about the country? It's worth considering.

Tune in for a fascinating discussion on what could have been...

Direct download: RCC_351.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

In a startlingly frank and open discussion Cali-resident for 11 years, Kevin McCaffrey joins us to share his experiences of being drugged with scopolamine in Cartagena, Colombia

If you're not sure what scopolamine/ devil's breath/ burundanga can do, read on: You fall into a “zombie-like” state that leaves you with no ability to control your actions, leaving you at risk of having your bank accounts emptied, homes robbed, organs stolen, or raped by a street criminal. The US State Department notes on their website that scopolamine can render a victim unconscious for 24 hours or more. In Colombia, where its use seems to be most widespread, “unofficial estimates” of scopolamine events are at roughly 50,000 per year.

McCaffrey relates his robbery with such candour that it's hard not to admire his resilience and positivity, but he's firm that he's sharing the story to help others.

Tune in to hear a quite terrifying story that occurred only a few weeks ago in October 2020.

Direct download: RCC_350.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST

ArteSumapaz was founded by California-born Ric Dragon, a former digital marketing entrepreneur, and Bogotano Pedro Crump as a creative centre and retreat for artists of all types. And where better to get the artistic juices flowing than in Colombia's rolling hills and coffee landscape in southern Cundinamarca.

ArteSumapaz is located on Hacienda Australia, on 181 fanegadas (116 hectares, or 288 acres). The property is located in the municipality of San Bernardo, Cundinamarca, about three hours outside of Bogotá. In recent years, the property had been used as a cattle farm, although historically the farm was part of a larger coffee plantation.

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, Dragon opened his doors to previous visitors and then once everyone had arrived, the doors were closed to the public and quarantine was observed. Dragon has been always taken a keen interest in trauma and how the arts can serve as a healing process.

In this week's fascinating conversation, we discuss how Dragon came to relocate to San Bernardo, what he hopes to achieve with ArteSumapaz and the trauma in Colombia.

Check out

Direct download: RCC_349.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Having designed and created the immensely successful La Leyenda multi-stage mountain bike race - a first of its kind in Colombia - Cali-resident Brian Murphy knows a thing or two about what it takes to entice travellers to Colombia. Murphy is also the co-founder of the Colombian Project, a tour operator offering bespoke and organized trips to Colombia.

And so, on this episode of the Colombia Calling podcast, Murphy and I enjoy a back and forth about the future of tourism in the country, how we see the industry developing and our hopes for this period of rebuilding during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We know and you all know that Colombia has it all, but, do we have the know-how to be able to move tourism forwards to be able to aid and address some of the most pressing issues inherent in Colombia?

Tune in for a interesting conversation between two implants to Colombia.

La Leyenda MtB race -
the Colombian Project -

Direct download: RCC_348.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

After I got out of jail, I was determined to find out more about how the issue of drugs not only landed me there, but has shaped the entire world: wars, scandals, coups, revolutions. I read every book, watched every documentary. I saved up to buy plane tickets. I went to Colombia, Mexico, Russia, Italy, Japan and the Afghan border—all in all, fifteen countries across five continents.

Call me Narco Polo.

Niko Vorobyov was jailed for dealing drugs in the UK, now he's out and tracing the history and data surrounding illicit drugs around the world. He talks to the Colombia Calling about his book Dopeworld, and gives an insight to his conversationally written compendium on the drugs trade which he witnesses firsthand.

Direct download: RCC_347.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Magdalena: River of Dreams, A Story of Colombia is a captivating new book from Wade Davis--renowned, award-winning, bestselling author and photographer, and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence for more than a decade-- that brings vividly to life the story of the great Río Magdalena, illuminating Colombia's complex past, present, and future in the process.

Thia week, Wade Davis, author of the inimitable book on the Amazon river, One River, joins us on the Colombia Calling podcast. It's humbling to have someone of this stature on the show, please enjoy.

Direct download: RCC_346.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Hailing originally from Brighton in the UK, Vincent Pollard's journey has brought him to Colombia. After more than a decade as a mixologist in Toronto in some of the city's most exclusive haunts, Pollard finds himself now in Bogotá, but moving on to Cartagena, we catch up with him on Ep345 of the Colombia Calling podcast to hear a little more about his life here.

First and foremost, Pollard has been busy and has put together a very slick book of tantalizingly interesting cocktails entitled: Behind Bars: High Class Cocktails Inspired by Low Life Gangsters. You can find this in UK bookstores and on Amazon. Each cocktail is inspired by a character in a gangster flick. And if the cockail doesn't take your fancy, you can enjoy an education in gangster movies as there are some obscure examples cited.

Then, we talk to Pollard about his forthcoming project of creating a gin here in Colombia. It's called Selva Gin and will be on the market very soon, take a look at for more information.

Tune in to an enjoyable conversation with someone doing interesting things here in Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_345.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

On this week's Colombia Calling podcast we have the opportunity to converse with Alvaro Torres, CEO and co founder of Khiron Life Sciences, one of the pioneers in the medical marijuana market from Colombia. Torres tells us about his background, how he got into this business and what the business is all about.

Khiron is a vertically integrated medical and CPG cannabis company with core
operations in Latin America, and operational activity in Europe and North
America. Khiron is the leading cannabis company in Colombia and the first
company licensed in Colombia for the cultivation, production, domestic
distribution and sales, and international export of both low and high THC
medical cannabis products. The Company has filled medical cannabis
prescriptions in Peru and has a presence in Mexico, Uruguay, UK, Spain and
also in Germany, where it is positioned to begin sales of medical cannabis.

Tune in for a fascinating episode and check out

Direct download: RCC_344.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Catalina Gil Pinzón is an international consultant in peacebuilding and drug policy with over 10 years of experience managing projects and advising programs related to the reintegration of ex-combatants, youth violence, historical memory, peaceful resolution of conflicts, and drug policy. And so, given the tunnel vision attitude of the government of President Duque regarding their drugs policy, we thought it was time to have an expert who has worked specifically in this field for many years to explain the situation a little better.

We discuss art-based approaches to peace-building, the issues of youth violence, prohibition, the current narrative and stigma surrounding drugs in Colombia, the limitations and dangers of aerial fumigations of coca crops and much more.

Tune in to hear an expert in the field and read her articles in the Silla Vacia and in El Espectador newspaper on how we need to start addressing a change in the narrative on drugs in Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_343.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Adriaan Alsema, Director of Colombia Reports is back with another viper tongued diatribe at the government of President Ivan Duque. Times are complex and complicated in Colombia with the spontaneous protests in Bogotá after the killing of Javier Ordonez by the police. But this case of police brutality is not a lone event, the outrage comes from a situation of months of accumulated resentment at a government which is unwilling or unaware of the need to make changes.

Hundreds of thousands of Colombians took to the streets in November 2019 and their protests were muted and suffocated by the pandemic. Now, months of simmering outrage have been iginited by this inicident.

Hear Alsema discussing his fears for press freedom in Colombia, the responsibility of the cadre of foreign journalists in the country reporting the news and much more.


Direct download: RCC_342.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

It's a great pleasure to welcome CEO and Founder of iFinca, Alexander Barrett on the Colombia Calling podcast this week to talk about his venture that is going to revolutionize the coffee market.

iFinca has been designed to place an emphasis on better pay for farmers. Where profit margins for farmers have dwindled over the last few decades to the point where coffee farming is no longer a sustainable endeavour for many farming families, iFinca's approach is to maximize the accuracy, efficiency, and profitability at every point in the supply chain. Allowing for greater social and economic impact.

The iFinca App connects you to the farmers behind your cup of coffee. This empowers consumers to make more informed and ethical choices about their coffee purchases. It's very interesting.

And so for those of you out there thinking of making the plunge and move overseas, listen to Alexander Barrett's good news story to inspire you further.

Check our

Direct download: RCC_341.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

At least 39 people have been killed in the recent spate of unrest in Colombia and the country has seen 46 massacres so far this year. So, this week we speak to Colombia analyst Kyle Johnson to help us understand a little about why these are occurring now, who are the perpetrators and why?

Observers say that president Iván Duque – a skeptic of the peace deal he inherited when he took office two years ago – has not done enough to guarantee its implementation and has left much of the rural population exposed to the violence.

Duque has blamed the recent bloodshed on drug-trafficking groups, and ordered the armed forces to be “implacable” in their response. He drew sharp criticism on Saturday, when he appeared to downplay the massacres by describing them as “collective homicides”.

While the current wave of massacres has prompted comparisons with the peak of the conflict in the late 1990s – when both massacres and murders were commonplace – analysts say that the current dynamics of the armed groups are more complicated. Johnson provides us with a coherent and clear explanation.

Direct download: RCC_340.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

One of the most popular guests on the Colombia Calling podcast, Emma Louise Jay, returns to the airwaves from rural Antioquia to interview me in rural Bolívar. Think of this episode as a conversation of catharsis for us both as we weigh up living under the world's longest Covid-19 quarantine in the world in Colombia.

The truth is that we are both feeling the mental strains and pressure - as most are in Colombia - under this interminable lockdown and the worrying increase in cases and deaths from the virus in our adopted home country.

I use the term, "the veil is slipping," to describe what is happening in Colombia and hopefully, we go some way towards verbalizing our concerns at the moment.

Read Emma's blog:

Direct download: RCC_339.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Based at the Instituto de Biología, University of Antioquia. Blanco Libreros studies mangroves and coasts from landscape ecology and ecosystem ecology perspectives and it is an honour to have him on the podcast to speak about one of the lesser known regions of Colombia, Uraba.

His trips to the area of Atrato River Delta are frequent. In 2009, he started mapping these mangroves using high-resolution aerial photographs as part of a multi-disciplinary biogeographic expedition along the Urabá Gulf. Afterwards, he collaborated with the environmental authority for zoning mangroves according to their conservation status.

These mangroves in Urabá Gulf, and particularly those settled on the Atrato River Delta, are unique, fragile and vital and they are disappearing at a fast rate in some areas, the coastal climate is warming as they are converted to pastures and urban settlements. Coastal erosion, deforestation, forest-agriculture transition, mangroves, sedimentation are all challenges facing the area.

Tune in to hear an expert in the region speak to us about his passion.

Direct download: RCC_338.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

August 7, 2020 marked the second anniversary of the inauguration of Iván Duque as President of Colombia and the midpoint of his administration so on this Episode 337 of the Colombia Calling, we welcome back the director of Colombia Risk Analysis, Sergio Guzman and Cameron Wilson, author of the new report: Defining his Legacy, Challenges and Opportunities for Duque in his Final Two Years.

Of course, since the report came out, there have been serious new developments regarding the house arrest of former president Alvaro Uribe for alleged witness tampering. President Duque has come out in vocal support of Uribe and we discuss the impacts of this and the decision made by the Supreme Court regarding the case.

Tune in for an in-depth look at Colombia's political landscape in 2020 and with an eye on the 2022 presidential elections.

Direct download: RCC_337.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Born in Toronto, Canada, Brian Johnston decided to retire from corporate work at the age of 25 and to dedicate his life to the exploration of his passion...and this, over the course of many years on the road working for NGOs and volunteering, has brought him to Medellin, Colombia.

The Via Cocina – Food Train is a social transformation project in Medellin aimed at impacting communities by educating them in healthy food training and teaching them recipes from around the world. Johnston and his team train low income Colombians and Venezuelans how to convert local produce into distinct yet affordable dishes for their home and new businesses. The culinary techniques and recipes were researched personally by Johnston in more than 25 countries.

But, the work doesn't end here, Johnston also provides exercises in where to source the foods, how to manage a budget and finances so that the participants' money is able to go further.

Should you find yourself in Medellin, check out Johnston's project and perhaps contribute some money towards ensuring its sustainability. The website can be found - Also, go with a group and have the Via Cocina - Food Train students prepare you a meal.

Tags and Keywords: charity medellin, via cocina medellin, via cocina - food train, 

Direct download: RCC_336.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

An established singer, songwriter, accordionist and big band leader, Gregorio Uribe was born in Bogotá, Colombia and is currently based in New York City. Uribe has made a name for himself in the Latin music scene of both New York City and Boston. Well known for leading the Gregorio Uribe Big Band, a 16-piece orchestra that blends cumbia and other Colombian rhythms with powerful big band arranging, Uribe released "Cumbia Universal" (Zoho Music) featuring 8-time GRAMMY-winner and Latin music icon Rubén Blades in October 2015.

Upon its release the debut album for the big band hit the Billboard charts and received widespread critical acclaim with performances selling out at Jazz at Lincoln Center in NY, Villa Victoria Center for the Arts in Boston and two concerts at the celebrated Teatro Colón in his native Bogotá, Colombia.

He was also named by the government of Colombia as one of the "100 Most Successful Colombians Abroad".

Tune in for an excellent and upbeat episode of the Colombia Calling podcast

Direct download: RCC_335.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Every now and again, it's important to revisit some of the pressing issues in Colombia and on Ep334 of the Colombia Calling podcast, US academic, Shaun Gillooly gives us a blow by blow account of the tragedies taking place on Colombia's pacific coast, most importantly, in the cities of Buenaventura and Tumaco.

Whilst researching for her PhD dissertation, Gillooly takes us though her findings which lead us down a path revealing a century or more of isolation, indifference and despair for the communities of these two cities. Both Buenaventura and Tumaco are port cities, yet the benefits of the international trade are not seen by the population, the cities are both strategic deep water areas and close to coca growing regions. Therefore the illegal armed groups are in a constrant struggle for dominance and given the paucity of work available, many people fall into some rung of these illicit trades.

Gillooly does not, at any moment, glaze over the problems, we hear them all. Tune in for an informative and shocking account of life in the urban areas of Colombia's pacific coast.

Follow Gillooly @shaunagillooly

Direct download: RCC_334.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

On Episode 333 it's a great pleasure to have Alex Rocha of the barrio San Francisco in Cartagena with us to talk about the challenges faced by the youth of his neighbourhood and what he has been doing via the Alex Rocha Youth Center.

The Alex Rocha Youth Center's main purpose is to provide a safe place for kids and keep them off the streets by teaching them Art, music, languages, crafts and hopefully skills towards getting jobs.

In San Francisco, a largely afro-colombian and working class neighbourhood, the children don't see the benefits from Cartagena's tourism boom, the colonial city is so far removed from their reality but so close to where they live that it's a contradiction.

Rocha himself has experienced the hard times of addiction and gang membership and from these memories and the desire to help others in similar situations to those he lived through, he has set up the Youth Center.

Tune in to hear an inspiring if at times worrying episode of the Colombia Calling podcast and how you can help.

Direct download: RCC_333.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

You don't have to be Scottish or be a history enthusiast to love the tales of adventure and bravery behind the ill-fated attempt by the Scots to colonize the Darien region of Panama. And so it's a great pleasure to welcome John McKendrick QC on the Colombia Calling podcast to speak on this subject and his book about the episode: Darien: A Journey in Search of Empire.

Background: The Company of Scotland and its attempts to establish the colony of Caledonia on the inhospitable isthmus of Panama in the late seventeenth century is one of the most tragic moments of Scottish history. Devised by William Paterson, the stratagem was to create a major trading station between Europe and the East. It could have been a triumph, but inadequate preparation and organization ensured it was a catastrophe - of the 3000 settlers who set sail in 1688 and 1699, only a handful returned, the rest having succumbed to disease, and the enormous financial loss was a key factor in ensuring union with England in 1707. Based on archive research in the UK and Panama, as well as extensive travelling in Darien itself, John McKendrick explores this fascinating and seminal moment in Scottish history and uncovers fascinating new information from New World archives about the role of the English and Spanish, and about the identities of the settlers themselves.

Direct download: RCC_332.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST

It has been a while since we took a step back and looked at the news in Colombia and so, journalist Manuel Rueda joins us this week to provide a timely overview of what is going on and what may have been missed by the international press.

Rueda is a journalist held in high regard and reports for the international media on issues in Colombia and around the region. You can find his updates and reports in AP News, DW news, the Christian Science Monitor, TRT World and many other outlets. Chances are that if you follow the news in Colombia, you will have read pieces by or seen Rueda at some point.

This week we discuss the tragic increase in Covid-19 cases in Colombia, the government response, the extended quarantine, security in Bogotá and the plight of the long-suffering Venezuelan migrants trying to make their way back to their home country.

Tune in for an excellent overviews from Colombia

Direct download: RCC_331.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Jennie Erin Smith is a freelance science writer from upstate New York based in Medellín, Colombia, where she is working on a book about families with Alzheimer’s disease. She is the author of “Stolen World” (2011) and we are very lucky to have her on this episode of the Colombia Calling podcast to share with us a little about her investigations and the book she is currently writing.

So we delve into the information on offer and Smith debunks some of the myths about the "Paisa mutation," and what this means for local considerations on place, people, race and society. Why rural Antioquia, if here where else and on.

Tune in to a fascinating episode about new discoveries in this field here in Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_330.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

It's a great pleasure to have Julianne Pachico back on the Colombia Calling podcast and discussing her latests novel, the Anthill. She last graced the show way back in August 2017 on Ep199 and was speaking about her first book, the Lucky Ones. The Anthill is a fresh and fascinating insight into the Medellin of today and how it contrasts with the city in which the protagonist Carolina grew up in.

I don't want to give too much away, and I enjoyed the book immensely for its warts and all take on some realities in Colombia, class, society, violence and beyond, but you'll have to read it. Below is some of the high praise which Pachico has been receiving.

A visceral, hallucinatory ride by an author who has been called "blunt, fresh, and unsentimental" (The New York Times Book Review) and "remarkably inventive" (The Atlantic), The Anthill is a ghost story unlike any other, a meditation on healing--for both a person and a country--in the wake of horror.

Check out:

Direct download: RCC_329.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

The pandemic struck and some people panic shopped for toilet paper, our guest on the @ColombiaCalling podcast, Emma Louise Jay of bucked this trend and went and bought dozens of blood sausages. Tune in to hear her anecdotes and reflections on 80 days of almost total isolation during this extended quarantine in the countryside with precious few neighbours.

Our guest has been on the Colombia Calling podcast on several previous occasions and is always immensely popular with the listeners due to her articulate and self-deprecating look at life in Colombia's sticks. Hear her tales of the stone deaf neighbour, taking out her machete in anger and how she's dealing with the aloneness...not loneliness.


Direct download: RCC_328.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

We’re trapped. We have been confined along with our dreams, goals and illusions. With the global emergency caused by COVID-19, we have hit rock bottom and the travel and tourism industry is never going to be the same.

This is why we are talking to Rainbow Nelson of "This is Cartagena," ( for his insights on the situation as seen from Colombia's capital of tourism.

The good thing about hitting rock bottom is that there’s only one place to go from here. The only thing we have left now is to make a great staircase in which one by one, we can get back to somewhere considered safe ground. Many people have already understood it that way. There are good people out there who have begun to replace fear and resignation with hope. Where others feel only fear, these people are being driven by their imagination, finding creativity where others see only crisis.

Tune in!

Direct download: RCC_327.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

In our final episode of this three-part series with journalist Nadja Drost on crossing the Darien Gap, we bring the conversation back to the article Drost wrote for California Sunday magazine in April 2020. We discuss her experiences on the trail, the physical toll the journey took on her and delve into the extreme nature of thrill seekers in search of their next off-limits adventures such as in the Darien.

NADJA DROST is a Canadian journalist and documentary filmmaker. Currently based in New York, she lived in Bogotá, Colombia, for a decade and continues to report on Latin America for the PBS NewsHour and other outlets.

Direct download: RCC_326.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Picking up where we left off in Part 1, Canadian journalist Nadja Drost continues her tale of travel alongside desperate migrants from all over the world in their hopeful quest of reaching the United States. At times, this does not make for easy listening.

We discuss the realities of the crossing through the Darien jungle, the most physically demanding section of their oddessey and Drost provides us with not only vital insights and information but also some of the stories she collects along the way.

NADJA DROST is a Canadian journalist and documentary filmmaker. Currently based in New York, she lived in Bogotá, Colombia, for a decade and continues to report on Latin America for the PBS NewsHour and other outlets.

Direct download: RCC_325.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

In what is a three-part series on the Colombia Calling podcast, we'll be exploring the realities - warts and all - of crossing the Darien Gap from Colombia to Panama. Canadian journalist Nadja Drost made the crossing in 2019 and her excellent piece came out in the California Sunday Magazine in April 2020. It makes for a terrifying and harrowing read, but is arguably one of the best articles I have read so far this year.

Drost brings us down to earth with stories of migrants from Sri Lanka to Cameroun and the difficulties they face on this physically and mentally demanding passage. Do all of their migrants make it to the US, what happens when they are in Mexico, did the journalists end up sharing their food, what were the dangers?

We address all of these issues and more over the coming three weeks.

NADJA DROST is a Canadian journalist and documentary filmmaker. Currently based in New York, she lived in Bogotá, Colombia, for a decade and continues to report on Latin America for the PBS NewsHour and other outlets.

Tags and Keywords: darien gap, journalist nadja drost, colombia to panama, migrants in darien, migrants reaching US, hike darien gap, adventure colombia, carlos villalon, richard mccoll journalist, colombia calling podcast, podcast english colombia

Direct download: RCC_324.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Both a successful Judge and a Barrister in the UK, Sarah Lucy Cooper's life could have taken an extremely different course were foreigners permitted to practice law in Colombia. However, as we learn in Episode 323 of the Colombia Calling podcast, her 1990 introduction to Colombia defined the course she took in her life back home.

We hear from Cooper regarding her time in Colombia and her frequent visits to the country, her reflections on Colombian law and definitely understand why she has been described as: "a robust and tenacious lawyer equally adept at handling witnesses as arguing the finer points of law."

Tune in for an upbeat yet honest understanding of contemporary Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_323.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

We are all suffering due to the Corona virus pandemic which has swept the world and some more than others, and here at the Colombia Calling podcast, we have the opportunity to talk to a small business owner in San Gil, Santander to see how he is faring.

Shaun Clohesy is a long-time australian transplant to Colombia and is responsible for opening up one of the original hostels in this country, the Macondo in San Gil.

Clohesy effectively put Colombia's adventure sports capital on the map for the international travel community. And how the Macondo hostel has grown and how Clohesy has changed from a dreadlocked backpacker to a respectable family man in San Gil! We discuss it all.

Needeless to say, the Corona Virus swept in and decimated the travel and tourism business and Clohesy shares insights about what is happening in both San Gil and Colombia and how he is hoping to survive.

Check out the Macondo Hostel, recommend it to friends and perhaps buy a voucher for a future stay.

Direct download: RCC_322.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

With upwards of 900,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, "Un Colombiano Mas," and with entries routinely drawing more than a million views, Zach Morris is undisputedly a one man positive public relations campaign for all things to do with Colombia!

Hailing from South Carolina, Morris is a psychology major and speaks to the Colombia Calling podcast about how he fell into becoming an influencer and youtuber and how, over time, this led him to receiving his Colombian citizenship. it's an incredible tale of upbeat experiences and unbridled love for his new homeland.

With uploads in both English and Spanish - and one Maluma style foray into the music industry with his reggaeton song, "Mi Latina, - Zach Morris has found his niche in Colombia and is widely recognized as the gringo who truly loves this country.

Tune in to hear the story of Zach Morris in Colombia, how a guy from South Carolina became a household name in Colombia.

Check out his youtube:

Direct download: RCC_321.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

In fifteen years covering Colombia, this is the best book I’ve ever read about the cocaine trade. If you want to understand why the drugs are produced here, then how they get to the U.S., there’s no better guide." (Matthew Bristow, former Colombia bureau chief, Bloomberg News)

Toby Muse, author of "Kilo: Inside the Deadliest Cocaine Cartels―from the Jungles to the Streets" has been receiving high praise from all quarters for his recently released book. And rightly so, this is the culmination of Muse's decades of knowledge of Colombia and the cocaine trade.

Reading more like a work of non-fiction, Muse invites us into the otherworldly experience of meeting the actors in the chain from coca leaf picker to narco sub driver and the result makes for an incredible read but at the same time the author never permits you to forget the violence, aggression and desperation involved in the drugs trade.

So, it's an incredible honour to have Muse back on the Colombia Calling podcast and sharing his anecdotes with us. Buy the book and tune in to the podcast.

Direct download: RCC_320.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

How is your relationship faring under the Covid19/ Corona Virus lockdown, how are you keeping sane, have you stuck to a routine, are you all alone and now talking to your pet(s)? It's a time of tragedy for sure, but in order to share a different perspective of life in a quarantine in Bogotá, Peter Dale, a founding member of the Bogotá Writers, shares with us some extracts from his "Covidiary," now entitled: "The Quarantine Chroncles."

We hear and discuss four different entries from Dale's diary. We begin with Day 1 and the innocence towards the pandemic which we may still have possessed her in Colombia and finish on Day 10 and things get darker in Dale's prose as this innocence is now certainly behind us.

Peter Dale's diary has been picked up by Miguel Vila, a Colombia TV producer and can now, a version of the diary can be enjoyed on Instagram TV. Check the link on the Colombia Calling facebook and twitter pages.

Direct download: RCC_319.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Before the Corona virus reached Colombia, President Duque and his political patron, former president Alvaro Uribe, were in danger of drowning in the scandal engulfing them.

To keep it brief, and Adriaan Alsema of Colombia Reports will explain this further in the podcast, there is the very real possibility that Duque won the presidential contest in 2018 with a campaign of vote-buying in various parts of the Colombia.

Wiretaps have revealed that the late Jose Guillermo Hernandez (Nene Hernandez), the alleged money launderer of drug trafficker Marquitos Figueroa, was the go-between for narco-trafficking bosses and the political elite. Both Duque and Uribe have denied the links but the photographic evidence tells no tales and neither do the contents of the telephone wire-taps.

So, in the first part of the show we discuss "Nenegate," and then move on to the very troubling onset of Covid 19 in Colombia. Alsema gives us a run-down of what the government has done so far, an idea of whether it may effective and what we should expect as we launch into a 24 day-long quarantine.

Direct download: RCC_317.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Elizabeth Dickinson has been Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia since 2019. Her work centers around armed conflict dynamics in the country and the implementation of the 2016 peace accord between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas. Previously a journalist, Elizabeth first reported from Colombia in 2011, covering topics including criminal and armed group violence, illegal mining, migration, and national politics.

With this resume, I can think of no better person to have on the Colombia Calling podcast to explain one of the most complex regions of the country. Tune in to hear an in-depth, digestible and informed overview of Colombia, the sociopolitical problems and so much more.

Follow her @dickinsonbeth

Direct download: RCC_316.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST

"You write the books that you want to read," Matt Rendell tells me in our conversation on Episode 315 of the Colombia Calling podcast. Well, I wish I could have written his latest book entitled: "Colombia es Pasión! The Generation of Racing cyclists who Changed their Nation and the Tour de France," out in all good bookstores in the UK in I most certainly want to read it.

In a fascinating interview, Rendell gives as an insight into the beginnings of his love affair with Colombia (from a basement at Channel 4) and the reasons behind the current surge in cycling heroes emerging from the highlands of Cundinamarca and Boyaca. We discuss economics and how this has affected cycling in Colombia and the spirituality surrounding the likes of Nairo Quintana, Egan Bernal and other household names in Colombia and on the international cycling circuit.

What results is a sneak peak into his 300 pages plus book which sounds like a book that everyone with any interest in Colombia should read. Humbly, Rendell declares that this, "book is written for Colombia."

Be sure to tune in and also, buy the book!

Direct download: RCC_315.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Colombia finds herself at a crossroads at the moment as to where directives in the country should focus their efforts in order to best evolve industries here and become a main player on the world stage. The production of medicinal cannabis could well represent a major boom for growers in Colombia and the people at the company BreedCo ( have positioned themselves to become leaders in the market.

This week on Ep314 of the Colombia Calling podcast we discuss the work of BreedCo and their hopes for the future with the company's COO Sebastian Gamez in Cali and board member, Don Bellamy in London.

It's important to note that BreedCo does not produce marijuana for smoking purposes.The medicinal cannabis which they produce is quite different and is based on the strength of CBD (Cannabidiol). CBD works very differently from THC. Compared to THC, it takes about 100 times more CBD to have any impact on cannabinoid receptors, the sites in the body that interact with cannabinoids. Unlike THC, CBD does not cause either intoxication or euphoria. In some ways, CBD seems to have the opposite effect of THC. For instance, while THC tends to increase anxiety, CBD appears to reduce anxiety.

Since CBD is not psychoactive, this makes it an appealing option for those who are looking for relief from pain and other symptoms without the mind-altering effects of marijuana or certain pharmaceutical drugs. CBD oil is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant, then diluting it with a carrier oil like coconut or hemp seed oil.

It’s gaining momentum in the health and wellness world, with some scientific studies confirming it may ease symptoms of ailments like chronic pain and anxiety.

So tune in to hear about how this business set up, why Colombia and what the future holds...

Direct download: RCC_314.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

In this week's show, we welcome back Eric Tabone who first joined us back in the early days of the Colombia Calling podcast speaking about his business: Beyond Business English (

This week, on Ep313 we share a number of anecdotes from his wedding in Ocana, Norte de Santander and mine in the coastal city of Cartagena. I think that the best advice we can both give you as to how to best survive and enjoy a wedding in Colombia is to expect the unexpected and totally throw yourself into the spirit of the event.

We'd love to hear back from all of you out there about your wedding experiences here in Colombia. I am sure we could collate a great number of hilarious stories.

In the meantime, tune in to this podcast for a humourous look at the wedding extravaganza here.

Direct download: RCC_313.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

In Ep312 of the Colombia Calling podcast, location independent professional Jeff Brown revisits us to reflect on his extended travel in the country. In an open discussion, we hear about some advice on where to go, where to avoid and personal insights about poorly managed and favourably managed tourist destination.

Brown discusses his love for Colombia's coffee region and Colombian people and the diversity on places to visit in the country.

As tourism is only going to increase in Colombia, it seems only appropriate to consider thinking about how Colombia could potentially better organize herself in terms of looking within, at some of the unique offerings found at home rather than seeking out western or northern european influences.

Tune in to a fascinating travel-related episode as we approach the annual ANATO travel and tourism fair on Bogotá at the end of February.

Direct download: RCC_312.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

In our first political episode for 2020, Colombia Calling is joined by the unnamed creator of a website designed to highlight the stories left uncovered in the mainstream international press. Neither leftwing nor rightwing, Mikolombia is nothing if not controversial, but the idea is, at the very least, to open a debate.

MiKolombia (MiKo) is a loose connection of Colombian and foreign journalists, analysts, misfits and provocateurs who are unhappy with the country’s current course. They feel there is a vast undercurrent of important perspectives that are under-valued or ignored by conventional news media. Their website is a space to heap scorn on, and rail against, the ignorance, greed and corruption that are the sources of Colombia’s problems. Most of these problems are not exclusive to this country and its people, nor are they inevitable. Another country is possible – a Colombia that could and even should be better, even if many Colombians don’t believe it themselves.

Check out the website and write for them if you feel inspired.

Direct download: RCC_311.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Fresh from their December trip to Colombia's Caribbean coast and the Sierra Nevada mountains, women birders, Eliana Ardila (Colombia) and Bryony Angell (USA) join the Colombia Calling podcast to share some of their experiences and feedback and anecdotes about this country's embarrassment of riches when it comes to birdwatching.

Bringing years of experience and enthusiasm, we learn about Ardila's vehicular adventures (see: Birding by Bus) and Angell's reporting for various outlets (see:

Why go birding in Colombia? Colombia is home to more than 1,900 bird species with new birds being identified all the time. That’s almost 20 per cent of the world’s bird species. Bird watchers often make several trips to Colombia, seeking endemic, resident and migratory birds including more than 150 hummingbird species, 200 flycatchers and 140 tanagers in bird sites as diverse as vast tropical rainforests and the high-altitude Andes mountains.

Women Birders: I'll admit that I'm a complete novice to birding and so, this is where I let Angell and Ardila take over and explain the difference between women birders and their preferences and the camaraderie that takes place in what is believed to be a male-dominated field.

Tune in for a fascinating episode

Direct download: RCC_310.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Episode 309 is an entertaining look at the Colombia Calling podcast as Richard McColl moves from being the host to the interviewee and Joseph Czikk takes over.

Long-time listener of the Colombia Calling podcast and self-declared "Colombia Evangelist,"Joseph Czikk made a suggestion over email to me that he be permitted to record a podcast episode with him as the host talking to me and having me reflect on some of the more memorable shows over the years dating back to 2016.

Now, to date I have recorded 308 episodes and some are notably better than others, some are awful and some are average. But, there's a market for all types. And so, we went for it and the result is Ep309.

In order to prepare for this show, Joey requested that I might put together a list of episodes about which we could speak and here's the resulting list - the task was overwhelming and the list became very extended. So, we plunge into the task to reflect and reminisce over past episodes and I think you'll enjoy the end result.

Direct download: RCC_309.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Jim Davies may have the midas touch for storytelling, that or he has an innate ability to find himself in the most peculiar of situations. Revisiting the Colombia Calling podcast - the first time being Ep79 in 204 when he spoke of his friendship with Danya (of secret service fame) and the legendary footballer Tino Asprilla - this time he manages to fit some of the most amusing anecdates, all true, about his life in Cali.

So, rest assured, you'll be laughing out loud at Jim "James el Peligroso's" Davies' tales including falling through a roof, nudity, interpol and yes, my personal favourite a link to the French Foreign Legion. It just goes to show, one good, you'll have to listen in!

And visit the Cali Curry House for authentic indian cuisine in the barrio San Antonio.

Direct download: RCC_308.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Our guest on Ep307 of the Colombia Calling podcast is Dr Julia Zulver (PhD Oxford), who is a political sociologist whose work focuses on women’s mobilisation in high risk contexts, mainly in Latin America, and of course, including Colombia.

We'll be discussing the "precarious peace" in Colombia which the country is now experiencing and indeed some of the different gender-based issues which she has had the opportunity to study whilst here.

Zulver is currently undertaking fieldwork at the Colombian-Venezuelan border to investigate the gendered impacts of the reconfiguration of armed conflict and Venezuelan migration on women living the borderlands.

Direct download: RCC_307.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

On the first episode of 2020, the Colombia Calling podcast speaks to hiker and guide Gabriel Torres who is based in the breathtaking colonial setting of Barichar, Santander. The reason for having Gabriel on the show is not only to promote Colombia's oft-voted most beautiful colonial town, but also to hear about his project to map large parts of the country's Camino Reales.

The Camino Reales are what the spanish called a network of connecting pathways crisscrossing the country. Originally, the "Royal Roads," were pathways which were constructed by the original indigenous tribes and spanned the whole country from the Caribbean coast inwards.

Most people have heard of or will have hiked the stretch from Barichara to Guane which is roughly 10km, but Gabriel informs us that there are possibly some 18,000km of paths to map out. So, with the desire to create Colombia's very own Santiago de Compostela route, Gabriel is moving ahead with his dream to connect paths which run through Santander, Boyaca and Cundinamarca to Bogotá.

Tune in for an interesting look at a potential tourism and travel asset for Colombia as told by a Colombian.

Direct download: RCC_306.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

In the final episode of the Colombia Calling podcast for 2019, we welcome Bogotana Juliana Cuccaro on the show to speak to us about some of the environmental challenges facing Colombia.

Juliana Cuccaro is fresh from completing her MA in Science Communication at the University of the West of England in Bristol - no she hasn't developed a west-country accent - and she is keen to start working on reporting on environmental and science issues affecting Colombia.

So, we get her on the line in Bogotá to discuss the environmental reality here in Colombia, it's not pretty, but there are good news stories out there too, from the Caribbean coast to the high altitude paramos and the pacific jungles, there's something going on everywhere in this megadiverse country.

Tune in to an episode dedicated to the environment and one which you the listeners, called out for. Thank you all so much for tuning in this 2019.

Direct download: RCC_305.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Michael Sichenzia is looking out for the underdog and as an investor in a small furniture business in Yumbo, southwest Colombia, close to the city of Cali, he has a vested interest in the stability and economy of the country. We get him on the line from Florida and speak to him about various topics, most importantly and timely are of course the way in which the current protests in Colombia could affect business and foreign direct investment.

Our conversation bounces along taking in some fascinating threads, of interest to anyone who has been observing the turbulence in the region of late and we discuss the misconceptions surrounding Colombia from overseas, the fears of a socialist revival, the reality of a potential dictatorship in Colombia and how Colombians need to shed the subservient colonial mindset which still persists to this day.

Tune in to hear Sichenzia speaking of Colombia's impisonment by her past and how a self-sustaining economy can allow us the base with which to do good.

Direct download: RCC_304.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

You'll all remember Daniel Eggington from Ep277 where, from his home in Birmingham, England, he told us of his plans to cross the Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama in December 2019. Well, Eggington is back and in Medellin and speaks to us on the line to keep us updated about his plans.

Teeming with snakes, insects and poisonous plants, the Darien Gap crossing, in particular where Eggington plans to go, is considered one of the most brutal and dangerous adventures in the Americas. Then, if you can master the natural elements, you have the bandit side of things to consider. The Darien Gap is notoriously lawless, left wing guerrillas, right wing paramilitaries, regular bandits and nefarious opportunists use this area for the transhipment of people, drugs and weapons. In short, they don't want you here.

So, as I did in Ep277, I tried to impress upon Eggington the risks involved in this extreme hike, but, he is going ahead with it and so, what is there left for me to do but to wish him all the best and to promise to check back in for a final podcast once he's out on the other side, possibly around 2 January 2020.

Tune in to hear about the fearless or foolhardy expedition which Eggington is about to embark upon.

Direct download: RCC_303.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

It is a great pleasure to welcome seasoned conflict correspondent Toby Muse on to the Colombia Calling podcast this week to talk about his new book, "Kilo: Inside the Deadliest Cocaine Cartels―from the Jungles to the Streets."

Muse takes us on a literary journey through each level of the cocaine underworld which is fueled by the appetite for the drug in America and Europe. In his book, he shows the reader inside Colombia’s notorious drug cartels to offer a never before look at the drug trade.

Following a kilo of cocaine from its production in a clandestine laboratory to the smugglers who ship it abroad, he reveals the human lives behind the drug’s complicated legacy.

Reporting on Colombia for the world’s most prestigious networks and publications, Muse gained unprecedented access to the extraordinary people who survive on the drug trade—farmers, smugglers, assassins—and the drug lords and their lovers controlling these multi-billion dollar enterprises. Uncovering stories of violence, sex, and money, he shows the allure and the madness of cocaine.

We discuss journalism, Colombia and the cocaine trade on this fascinating episode. And, most importantly, you can pre order Muse's book on Amazon. (

Direct download: RCC_302.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Nationwide strikes began in Colombia on November 21, originally called by unions protesting against proposed pension and labour reforms, then the discontent grew to include protests against the killing of 18 minors in Caqueta - bombed by the airforce attacking a dissident FARC camp -, the killings of members of an indigenous community in Cauca and the possibility of legalizing fracking in Colombia, the legalization of hunting sharks for their fins.

It doesn't end there, people are protesting corruption, teachers and students are protesting the lack of funds for education, police brutality and on the list goes...

So, it appears that the unrest sweeping through Latin America has reached Colombia, where the simmering of discontent, present for decades, has been brought to the surface by 15 months of the inoperative government of President Ivan Duque.

So, with Adriaan Alsema, the director of Colombia Reports, we discuss some of the reasons behind the protests and some of the events and scandals which have taken place and why.

Tune in to this episode to understand the current unrest in Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_301.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

In a critique of the pornographic webcam industry, Maud Madlyn and Andres Montes Zuluaga go where many have never even considered going, they sign up to become webcam models in order to better understand the dynamics behind this business to open a debate around sexual violence and gender violence in Colombia.

The figures which accompany the rape, abuse and murder of women and girls in Colombia is startling if not horrific and so these two actors from the Defiant Reality - Theatre for Change entity, decided to explore this side of things in order that we may discuss it further and hopefully together try and re sensitize ourselves once again to this issue.

By taking on the world of webcams, a huge business in Medellin and Cali, Maud Madyly provides us with an insight into the violence simmering beneath the surface in these chatrooms and how the whole process works.

What Madlyn and Montes Zuluaga have put together is a documentary, which is performed live on stage, with live interactions streaming from their own webscams and the chatrooms of their viewers. If it seems unreal, it's because the idea is incredibly progressive and creative.

Tune in to hear about the darker side of the webcam world in Colombia, from a man and a woman, who decided to explore it for themselves, as the observed.

Direct download: RCC_300.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Charles Massey from Ottawa joins us once again (hear his Bollywood in Barranquilla Ep215) to entertain the colombia calling podcast listeners with a Kishore Kumar bollywood song, sung live for us here in Bogota.

But, while we discuss Massey's life since he moved back to Canada after his time as a teacher in Barranquilla, we get to know our interviewee a little more and are even privy to an exclusive reading of one of his poems.

Reflecting on his experiences in Colombia and Barranquilla, Massey is able to share a little more about how his time here, one year ago, has changed his outlook on life and perhaps in what he is seeking from life.

Tune in for a personal but fun look at one man's desire to share and understand cultures.

Direct download: RCC_299.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Hailing from Texas, Dylan Baddour cut his teeth in journalism before heading down south to Colombia. Here, he reports on issues talking place in Colombia and the fall out from the humanitarian tragedy currently on-going in Venezuela.

Perhaps my favourite piece written by Baddour is about former FARC guerrillas, who are trying to make a life of it beyond the reintegration camps run by the government.

"Another battle, key to the chance of maintaining peace after more than 50 years of civil war, is being waged deep in the Colombian countryside, where former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas are struggling to build new lives after decades of conflict." (

So, we explore this story and others by Baddour, hear of the journalistic process and amount of patience required to earn respect and gain confidence of former guerrillas and how there's plenty of waiting around.

Tune in for a master class in editorial judgment, journalism and candour with a rising star in the reporting world. Check out Baddour's website at:

Direct download: RCC_298.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Adam Isacson of WOLA (The Washington Office on Latin America) needs no introduction to the latin americanists amongst us, but, suffice it to say that it was an honour to invite him on the Colombia Calling podcast and hear his thoughts about recent events here in Colombia.

As the Director of Defence Oversight for WOLA, Isacson's remit takes in all of latin america and now includes border issues such as those occurring right now on the Mexico/ US frontier and so, we manage to catch him for a few short minutes in Bogota to discuss: President Duque's speech to the UN, the future for former president Alvaro Uribe, the reality on the ground in Colombia's far-off regions such as Choco and Arauca and so much more. Frankly, 35 minutes is nowhere near long enough with one of the most knowledgeable voices for human rights in the region.

Tune in and enjoy and be sure to check out his website at:

Direct download: RCC_297.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

We are incredibly fortunate to welcome freelance foreign correspondent Steven Grattan on the Colombia Calling podcast this week as we managed to snare him before he was off into the wilds reporting on the latest story from Colombia
Grattan has been based in Bogotá since 2013 and he's been incredibly busy.

He is the co-founder of English language newspaper and website The Bogota Post, a project he worked on until 2015. He reports on a regular basis for Reuters news agency and has also published in The Guardian, VICE, Al Jazeera, IRIN News, among others. And so, we welcome him on the podcast to discuss some of his recent adventures and stories and his love for the border city of Maicao!

Check out his writing here:

Direct download: RCC_296.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Ervin Liz has appeared on the Colombia Calling podcast on two previous occiasions, firstly discussing the Colombian Coffee Connection (Ep201) and then the protests in southwestern Colombia in April (Ep267) and now he's back, as the President of the Colombian National Committee for the United World College (UWC), and sharing with us a little about how his experience of international travel and education broadened his mind and made him the person he is today.

When Ervin left for Norway in 2010 aged 16, he had never even been to Bogota, never been on an aeroplane and indeed, spoke no English. So, imagine the challenges which he confronted and bested to establish himself in the UWC school in Norway.

Now, Ervin employs the lessons he learned in Norway of tolerance, environmental sustainability, education for peace and international understanding to Colombia and in his everyday life as director of the Colombian Coffee Connection ( where money from sales returns to Ervin's community region of Tierradentro in Cauca.

And, as the President of the National UWC committee in Colombia, he is in part responsible for choosing the 14 applicants from his home nation to study at UWC. To fin out more, check out and tune in to hear how one young man from Tierradentro is making a change in Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_295.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

The last time Irish singer songwriter Kevin McCaffrey joined us on the Colombia Calling podcast, it was September 2016, the peace accords in Colombia hadn't been signed and we were discussing parallels between these and the accords in Ireland. Fast forward from Ep157 to Ep294 and McCaffrey has now lived in Cali for 10 years, performed before an immense crowd at a huge music festival and will be releasing his new EP "Confressions" on November 20.

So, it was time for us to get back together and talk music and the evolution of the live music scene in Cali. McCaffrey shares with us the growth, the internationalisation and how the scene there continues to develop. Before signing off with McCaffrey, we give you a sneak peek at his single and hope that you will all share the good vibes, tune in to his account and leave feedback.

Direct download: RCC_294.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

After a chance meeting in a restaurant in Cusco, Peru, Susana Bueno Lindo and Tony Aiello married a few years later and life has brought this native of Colorado to live in his wife's home city of Bogotá, Colombia. But, this serendipitous tale does not end here, now, the husband and wife team are working hard to ensure that they can learn from and also teach new practices to rural midwives in some of the most impoverished, conflict affected and isolated regions of Colombia.

To put this into context, a high percentage of midwives in rural Choco have never received any formal medical training, yet, they are masters of their trade. With no desire to question their knowledge, Susana, who is an OBGYN and Tony's only wish is to help save lives and provide things like blood pressure meters and training in how to prevent haemorrhaging.

Hear how this remarkable couple are ensuring that each birth is a humanized event and takes into account the traditional practices and beliefs of the community in question. Midwives will hike mountains, ford streams and travel through the most inhospitable regions to deliver children, Tony and Susana just want to help this. During this process, they have met some of the most incredible individuals such as Pasha, a midwife since she was 13 years of age, and who has delivered some 7000 children.

Tune in to hear about their initiative and if you can spare a few dollars, contribute to their crowdfunding page.

Direct download: RCC_293.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:06pm EST

October is almost upon us and with it comes Colombia's local and regional elections which should be a litmus test for President Ivan Duque's popularity and mandate. So, we at Colombia Calling reached out to Sergio Guzman of Colombia Risk Analysis ( to provide us with a breakdown of what to expect and what machinations are in the works.

Hear us discuss the political landscapes in the Pacific and southwest of Colombia in particular in the ports of Buenaventura and Tumaco, the strategic corridors and troubled areas of Cauca, the Caribbean coast and finally the all-consuming battle for the position of mayor of Bogotá.

Guzman breaks down Bogotá's elections and reviews each of the candidates including Carlos Galan, Claudia Lopez, Hollman Morris and Miguel Uribe Turbay plan on taking the coveted seat.

All in all, we do some justice in 40 short minutes to put together a summary of what is taking place politically in Colombia and what are the main issues at stake. Tune in to bring yourself up to speed and check out the new report Guzman has published as an overview to the whole process.

Direct download: RCC_292.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

When we think of traditional medicines from the Amazon, our thoughts immediately turn to vines of Yage or Ayahuasca, and so, while we do discuss this vine with Colombian Anthropologist Hernando Echeverri, we also explore more of the varities which grow in the region of the Putumayo.

Speaking with the authority of Michael Taussig, Echeverri shares with us experiences about his period of investigating and studying traditional medicines, following ancient medicinal routes through the Putumayo and learning from shamans in the region.

Echeverri tells us about how the people of the city of Mocoa have been turning to traditional and ancient medicines to cope with the trauma of the aftermath of the disaster which befell the community in 2017 when a landslide killed more than three hundred people.

Tune in to a fascinating episode on amazonian medicines and practices.

Direct download: RCC_291.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

On Ep290 of the Colombia Calling podcast it's a great honour to welcome Calgarian, Kaleigh Kuchinski on to the show to talk about her work with Agriteam Canada Consulting, an agency which enables communities in zones designated for extractive industries to reach a greater transparency and best practices.

To keep this simple, an explanation would be to reach an overarching goal of comprehensive transparency and accountability in the governance of natural resources, from the decision to extract to the granting of concessions, the collection of revenues and the management of resource revenues. And so, Kaleigh is working on this in the departments of Antioquia, Meta and Putumayo.

Hear about her passion for her work and for Colombia and indeed her desire to keep road cycling and training for triathlons which keep her here in her adopted homeland, far from home of Calgary, Canada.

Direct download: RCC_290.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Election fever is upon us in Colombia as all local positions are up for grabs across the country and the contest will come to a head in October. 

For those of you familiar with my work, you will know that I am fascinated by local elections here and the machinations taking place in the barrios, not just in Bogotá but all over the country. This week on the Colombia Calling podcast we have a great opportunity to hear all about local elections with a hopeful candidate running for the Alianza Verde party, Diego Laserna, giving us the inside track. 

Laserna is an activist for Bogotá and he clearly loves his city, his phrase, “Lo que es con Bogotá es Conmigo” is literally a challenge to anyone who wants to speak ill of the city or disrespect her. Educated at Columbia University in New York and MIT in Boston, Laserna is bringing his knowledge to his hometown. 

Tune in for an excellent episode about local politics in Bogota and the level-headed proposals from a young urbanist about water protection, criminality in the city and of course, transport. 

As Laserna (No26 on the votin card) likes to say, "Bogota Necesita Mas Nerdos," Or, "Bogotá Needs More Nerds."

Direct download: RCC_289.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:50am EST

Many of us have dreamt of making the move overseas and opening a small business, there are those of us who have done and those amongst who sit idly by, but Australian expat in Bogota, Darren Crockett is far from the latter. 

Moving to Colombia from Germany with his Colombian wife, Crockett launched an ambitious plan to open up the "Gourmet Burger Bar," serving, as you would expect, hamburgers, vegetarian and vegan options, drinks and finger foods. And it's been a success as he and his wife have opened a second site in Chapinero (Calle 45 and Caracas) to compliment the first location in the district of Englativa. 

Crockett and his team have plenty of ambition, hoping to open further locations soon and seeking investors. Tune in to this episode No 288 of the Colombia Calling podcast to hear about a success story and the trials and challenges that he has bested along the way. 

You can find and follow the Gourmet Burger Bar on Instagram and Facebook

Direct download: RCC_288.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

This week on the Colombia Calling podcast, we talk to Sam Castañeda Holdren, a transplant from the US to Medellin where he has launched the successful, "Out in Colombia," travel agency. 

Out in Colombia ( is a socially responsible LGBT travel and tourism agency specializing in tailor made and concierge-style travel to Colombia. We discuss how people have responded to a LGBT travel agency in this part of the world and some of the challenges faced. 

Sam relocated to Medellin, Colombia in early 2015 after making his first trip in 2013 to study Spanish at a local language school. Originally from California, he's spent time in Phoenix, Tucson and Boston, where he advocated for equality, working for various LGBT foundations, advocacy groups and community centers.

So be sure to tune in to the episode to hear about the success story of another expat in Colombia who saw a niche in the market and an opportunity and is making something of it.

Direct download: RCC_287.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

On the Colombia Calling episode this week we get to speak to Colombian science journalist Tania Valbuena in Bogotá. After spending time in the Colombian military, she moved into public health policy and epidemiology before decided that journalism was her true passion. Now, she works in ensuring that the projects and discoveries made by scientists in the global south can be shared and communicated to the people. We talk about resiliant communities, vulnerable communities, her work in the district of Usme with sdisplaced people from the Pacific coast and how the city of Medellin came to win the right to host the 2021 congress for the World Federation of Science Journalists. Tune in to a fascinating show which gives an insight into science for peace here in Colombia

Direct download: RCC_286.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

On Ep285 we welcome back Wally Broderick (Ep135 Prisons in Colombia) who is now involved in a fascinating project of brewing craft beers with ex FARC guerrillas now reincorporated into Colombian society. 

In the area La Fila of the municipality of Icononzo in the department of Tolima, location of the "Territorial Space for Training and Reincorporation" ETCR Antonio Nariño, inhabited by ex-guerrillas of the FARC EP, a group of men and women prepare 150 liters of beer weekly. 

This beer is known as "La Roja", and can be easily recognized by the telltale revolutionary star on the label. 

This venture began in mid-September 2018, and by all accounts is now a success with various bars, pubs and restaurants around the country stocking the irsh-style brew.

Direct download: RCC_285.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Sometimes we lose sight of where we are and why and this can very much be the case here in Colombia. On occasions, the politics permeates life all too deeply and perhaps the expat experience in this south american nation can be something quite different than what one expected. 

So, it is a great pleasure on this Ep284 of the Colombia Calling podcast to take a step back and remind ourselves why we come to Colombia. To this end, we speak to an avid listener of the podcast in Idaho, Jeff Brown, who will be coming to the country for the first time later in 2019. 

Allow this episode to remind you about your excitement of coming to Colombia for the first time and what your apprehensions and expectations may have been

Direct download: RCC_284.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Mosquito-borne diseases, such as Zika, malaria or Chikungunya, continue to be a huge health problem in Latin America, including in Colombia. Every year over one million people die worldwide from mosquito-related diseases.
On Ep238 we have a great opportunity to learn about how silicon valley is collecting data in the city of Cali and employing it to help map out breeding grounds for mosquitos carrying the Zika or Dengue virus. Premise ( is the company in question and Daniela Rubio, the Program Manager joins us on the line from Mexico City. 

To provide you with a little information and background: The primary way of controlling mosquitos is by removing their breeding grounds which are generally found in containers with standing water. Vector surveillance and vector control require government workers to cover vast terrain performing time and labor intensive activities. Often the local governments lack a large number of resources needed to perform these tasks.

Premise’s solution works to fill information gaps for cities by empowering local citizens to collect data on positive breeding sites in their communities. Through the Premise App, local citizens are able to complete different Zika monitoring tasks. These include walking mapped routes, inspecting public spaces and homes, asking questions, taking photos and even destroying breeding sites. The tasks are co-designed with local health authorities to train an average citizen to identify and destroy mosquito breeding sites that can be found on a regular street, public park or in a house.

So, tune in to hear a fascinating episode about how technology is implementing change in Cali and improving lives.

Direct download: RCC_283.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:01am EST

I love this yearly episode where we get to kick back and chat to Brian Murphy and Dave Proctor about La Leyenda mountain bike race in Colombia. For those who have not heard any of our previous interviews with the race founder Murphy and the Comms director Proctor, La Leyenda del Dorado is a UCI accredited event and is Colombia's most prestigious multi-stage mountain bike race, where adventurous professional and amateur cyclists from around the world race side by side. 

As formidable as it is breathtaking, the Leyenda route tackles an extraordinary variety of terrains and climatic conditions – tropical river valleys, sweeping singletracks through stunning coffee plantations, jungle and snow topped volcanoes. 

While it sounds that we are enjoying a few pints together as we put this conversation down, I can assure you that the guys are in Cali and I am in Bogotá, but all the same, it's great to hear about the new developments in the race, the evolution of the style and the new additions being presented for 2020. Perhaps closest to my heart and interests is the fact that La Leyenda is designed to give back to Colombia, not only as a phenomenal and positive window on the country but also on the ground where their social responsibility has led to funds being put forward to help with the construction of part of a school in one of the towns visited along the race route. 

Tune in for an upbeat good news story about Colombia

Direct download: RCC_282.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Enfant terrible, journalist and director of the most read news website in English about Colombia, Colombia Reports, Adriaan Alsema can be an interesting character to track down and engage in conversation. Of course, you'll all be familiar with his voice and his news style given that he's been contributing the news segment for the "all new" Colombia Calling podcast style in 2019, and the results have been astonishing. Increased downloads and listeners, broader reach and indeed, more emails to me from happy fans. 

So, we felt that it is time once again to have Alsema back on the show and to talk about the current goings on in Colombia. We discuss corruption, the new political movements taking place, President Duque, the issues surrounding the flight of ex FARC guerrilla Jesus Santrich and delve into a deeper theme of a potential 21st century revolution. At least, that's how Alsema sees it and he's definitely worth listening to on this front. 

So tune in for an interesting look at Colombia this week with me your Colombia Calling host, Richard McColl and the Director of Colombia Reports, Adriaan Alsema.

Direct download: RCC_281.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST

Owner of mi casa petite- tiny house hotel - (on its way to being the first of its kind in Colombia). A resilient young woman born and raised in London to muslim-Nigerian parents. Spent 7 years living and working in Australia in the government and the not for profit sectors. She's restless and likes to get things done, but she's patient and is very much on a journey to setting up her business in Colombia. Navigating Colombia's business world has been a work in progress for her and she is learning a lot along the way as well as empowering others.

A must-listen to anyone considering starting a company in Colombia

Direct download: RCC_280.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

What is your dream? To make a change in this world? It sounds unrealistic, but we all possess an ability to open minds, learn from one another and to help. This is what Maud Madlyn and her partner Andres Montes Zuluaga have been doing with their Casa Nomada and Defiant Reality - Theatre for Change foundation. 

In choosing to locate themselves in the coastal town of Tolu in the department of Sucre on the Caribbean coast, Maud and Andres found a place where the culture existed but needed a little help in coaxing it out. So, in broadcasting movies in the street just like Cinema Paradiso, organizing musical workshops and theatre groups, Maud and Andres created an open space for dialogue, humour, reflection and joie de vivre. 

So, we reflect with Maud on the project in Tolu and now, they plan to move on to the Pacific coast to the port city of Buenaventura. In going against the grain, there will undoubtedly be challenges ahead, but Maud and Andres are set in their way and we hope to be able to discuss their Buenaventura experience here once it comes to an end.

Tags and Keywords: Maud Madlyn, Andres Montes Zuluaga, Tolu, Buenaventura, foundation in Tolu, foundation in Buenaventura, colombia podcast, colombia calling podcast, podcast about colombia, richard mccoll colombia calling, richard mccoll journalist, richard mccoll colombia

Direct download: RCC_279.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Malcolm Linton is a British-American photographer known for his images of conflict and humanitarian crises. Since 1989 his photographs have appeared in magazines including Time, Newsweek, Der Stern, Paris Match and National Geographic. In 2015 he published a book about the HIV/AIDS emergency in Tijuana, Mexico, Tomorrow is a Long Time. 

Since 2016 he has been working on a photo project about the last days of the FARC rebel movement in Colombia entitled Metamorphosis. I am happy to say that in 2019, the book is now available and you can find it in all good bookstores in Colombia: METAMORPHOSIS: GUERRILLAS IN SEARCH FOR PEACE. 

So, we discuss the photography process when embedding yourself with an outfit like the FARC, how Maolcolm secured permission to be in their camps, what kind of photos he took and how the book has been received. So, tune in!

Direct download: RCC_278.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Hailing from Birmingham in the UK, Daniel Eggington is a keen adventurer and his latest challenge is to cross the infamous Darien Gap from Colombia to Panama. 

For those unaware of this stretch of land which connects South to Central America, the Darien Gap is a remote, roadless swath of jungle on the border of Panama & Colombia. It is known as a drug smuggling, people trafficking and lawless corridor between the two countries, it’s rarely seen by outsiders, and for good reason. 

The Darien has an almost mythical quality to it — a mysterious land full of exotic plants, rare wildlife, indigenous people and dangerous paramilitary groups. And Daniel Eggington plans to do this solo in December 2019. 

We chat to Daniel ( to find out why he wants to do this dangerous trek of roughly 60 miles over 15 days. Here at Colombia Calling, we felt it was our responsibility to explain a number of the risks and also tell Daniel about the fate of a swedish traveller who was tragically murdered by a guerrilla group operating in the area. 

But, Daniel Eggington has his mind made up, tune in to hear about his preparations for this intrepid hike through off-limits Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_277.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

We have had plenty of authors on the Colombia Calling podcast of late and this week, we turn the tables a little and bring Emily Tamayo Maher on the show to give us insights into her fascinating life in Bogotá as an "author coach."

Emily, hailing originally from Iowa via New York and now making her home with her husband and son in Bogotá, Colombia is a writer's mentor who helps entrepreneurs find their voice, publish their books and make the difference they were meant to make.

so, in Ep276 we chat to Emily about her work, how it all gets done from an office in Bogotá and hear of the success stories she has had with authors around the world. 

With the Meaning Method Intuitive Program (, Emily designed a one-on-one experience that turns coaches, artists, intuitives and healers into thriving authors. 

So, what are you waiting for? Tune in and find out how you can get that book within you written and out there in to the world!

Direct download: RCC_276.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST

This week represents a special show and a change for the Colombia Calling podcast where the interviewer Richard McColl - host of the podcast - is put to task and interviewed by Emma Louise Jay of Conquered by Colombia ( We'll discuss Mompos, Bogotá, life in Colombia and indeed writing. 

So, in the week that was absolutely terrible for Colombia, terrible news reports about our country in the New York Times, the Washington Post, AP and a german newspaper, we take a breather, and discuss something a little lighter!

Direct download: RCC_275.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST

You asked, we listened and delivered! Ep274 of the Colombia Calling podcast deals with cycling in Bogotá with none other than one of the original city cyclists, El Mono Nuñez. So, in an enjoyable and flowing conversation, we sit down with el Mono and discuss his book, ‘Mi cicla y yo’, and reflect with a certain nostalgia, a time past in Bogotá. 

The images in El Mono's book hark back to a time past in Colombia, a time of more innocence and space, when Bogotanos felt a sense of belonging in their city and when it may well have been, "The Athens of South America."

So, tune in to hear about cycling in Bogotá through the eyes of a keep cyclist and Bogotano, a man who hitchiked in the 1980's from the capital to Cartagena, who worked as a cycle courier in London and now plies his trade as a voice over artist.

Direct download: RCC_274.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST

Oliver Kaplan is an Assistant Professor at the Josef Korbel School of
International Studies at the University of Denver. He is the author of the book, “Resisting War: How Communities Protect Themselves” (Cambridge University Press), which examines how civilian communities organize to protect themselves from wartime violence. He was a Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and was previously a postdoctoral Research Associate at Princeton University in the Woodrow Wilson School and at Stanford University. As part of his research Kaplan has conducted
fieldwork in Colombia and the Philippines.

So, it is with great pleasure that we invite this expert Colombianist onto Colombia Calling to share much of his research and findings about the peace communities in this country, the conflict and more ahead of the Spanish edition of his book being released in August 2019.

Direct download: RCC_273.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:54pm EST

Mark Litwicki has lived a colourful and varied life and has been a journalist, an academic, an actor and indeed, an author. One constant in his life appears to be his love for Colombia. So, it is a great pleasure to have this Chicago-native on the Colombia Calling podcast this week. 

Litwicki tells us about his arrival in Bogotá all those years ago and how he fell into an old school reporting job for the Colombian Post newspaper. The book, Bogotano Por Accidente, is a loose autobiography of his time in Bogotá during this period, the scrapes, misadventures and of course, cultural observations. 

Interestingly, Litwicki felt that his book would not work in his native English language and opted to write it in Spanish. Get the book at all good stores in Bogotá and of course, tune in to this podcast.

Direct download: RCC_272.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

The HALO Trust was founded in 1988 in response to the global humanitarian catastrophe caused by landmines. The problem was particularly acute in Afghanistan where thousands of civilians were being killed or injured by landmines and their presence was preventing the return of tens of thousands of refugees. So, it is a great honour to have the Director of the Halo Trust in Colombia, Ash Boddy, on Colombia Calling to speak about their work here. 

For more than five decades, illegal armed groups in Colombia have engaged in conflict with the government. Improvised explosive devices or IEDs, (classified as landmines in Colombia) have been laid throughout rural areas, devastating local communities. For years, according to Landmine Monitor, Colombia was ranked as the country with the second number of landmine victims in the world. According to the National Authority, there have been over 11,600 mine and UXO victims in Colombia since 1990, were 39% correspond to civilians. 

Boddy walks us through the projects currently underway in Colombia and how the Halo Trust works. By January 2019, HALO Colombia had cleared a total of 178 minefields (815.399m2), safely destroying more than 600 mines in the process. Additionally, through non-technical survey (NTS) HALO team have reported 876 veredas as landmine free. Together these activities have benefited more than 18,000 people.

The most affected regions in Colombia due to landmines are Antioquia, Meta, Valle, Cauca, Narino and Putumayo.

Tune in to find out more about the Halo Trust and their work in Colombia

Direct download: RCC_271.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Daniela Galan is a Colombian artist and art historian from Goldsmiths University. She is also a former lawyer and philosopher of Los Andes University, with a five-year background in education and corporate training. 

Her research as a philosopher and art historian has concentrated on exploring the concept of nature and understanding how this concept has been constructed through historical and political influences. She has concentrated her art history research in Latin American art history with an emphasis on female artists.

And so, that brings us to AMALGAMA. Amalgama is an exhibition devoted only to female Latin American artists. This exhibition will take place in London in May 2019 as a part of FLAWA the first Festival of Latin American Women in Arts in the UK, promoting women working in film, music, poetry and visual arts. And we get the opportunity to discuss latin american art with Daniela here on the Colombia Calling podcast. Tune in to hear about the need for greater equality in the art world.

Direct download: RCC_270.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Hailing from Villavicencio and then growing up in California, Alma Quiroga has plenty of stories to tell about both the Llanos and the transition her life took when her family decided to transplant itself to the US. The question of identity ran deep and Alma found herself in a tug of war between her Colombian roots and her American home. These existential crises have led her to becoming a Business Storytelling Consultant, and after working for years in this role in the US, she has brought her progressive methods to Colombia. 

On Ep269 of the Colombia Calling podcast, we have the great pleasure of sitting down with Alma to discuss how her business has prospered in Colombia - traditionally a conservative country in this respect - what it is she actually does and plenty of anecdotes along the way. 

Tune in to hear how Alma Quiroga is revolutionizing the workplace for Colombian companies. Check out her website at

Direct download: RCC_269.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Between 1810 and 1825, 7,000 English, Scottish and Irish mercenaries sailed to Gran Colombia to fight against Spanish colonial rule under the rebel forces of Simon Bolivar. Their motives were mixed. Some travelled for money, others travelled for honour. With author and academic Matthew Brown, we explore the lives of these men - their encounters with other soldiers, indigenous people, local women and slaves - as recounted in documents that fall outside the usual remit of military, political and economic historians. 

Dr Matthew Brown - our guest on Ep 268 of the Colombia Calling podcast - considers the social and cultural aspects of the presence of these `foreigners', and shows how they were an essential part of the revolution which eventually gave South America its freedom. Using archival research from England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia, Adventuring Through Spanish Colonies clearly shows the active role that these mercenaries, informal outriders of the British Empire, played in the creation of Latin America as we know it today.

Tune in to Ep 268 for an unrivalled account by one of the foremost historians on this subject, as he discusses these topics and more.

Direct download: RCC_268.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Many of you based in Colombia will have seen the impacting images of the strikes and blockades in southwestern Colombia, principally in the departments of Cauca and Huila. Who is protesting and why? Well, we find out who and included are farmers, afro colombian communities, coffee growers and indigenous people, who are up in arms at the government of President Ivan Duque and his failure to deliver on promises and agreements. 

So we talk on this Ep267 of the Colombia Calling podcast to Ervin Liz, a member of the indigenous Nasa people and who hails from Cauca and who can provide us with a far more complete picture of what is going on. You'll remember Ervin Liz from Ep201 in 2017 when we discussed his fair trade, organic coffee company, "The Colombian Coffee Connection." 

The idea on this Ep 267 is to uncover some of the myths and half truths about the protests and blockades and inform people out there about what is happening in southwestern Colombia. Will the weak mandate of President Duque come through? 

And, lest we forget, there is also a news update segment from the Director of Colombia Reports, Adriaan Alsema as well.

Direct download: RCC_267.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:47pm EST

Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt was the world’s most famous hostage and in a massive surge of good luck, the Director of, "2320 Days in the Jungle," a documentary about Ingrid Betancourt made by award-winning director Angus Macqueen is in Mompós at the same time as Colombia Calling and tells us a little bit about the making of the film. 

We learn about Betancourt and also speak of Macqueen's other films such as, "Cocaine," and "El Chapo", as well as about his latest project with Diego Maradona. Tune in to learn about these characters.

Direct download: RCC_266.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Yana Shevkirova came to my attention a few months ago after having written a compelling article about Bogotá on her website,, entitled: "A City that Vacillates." So, it is with great pleasure that this Londoner with roots in Bulgaria and beyond and with a background in, Peace and Conflict Studies and Intelligence and International Security should join us on the Colombia Calling podcast to discuss themes of great interest and importance affecting all of us here today. 

The key items for conversation were, the grievances between individuals and groups in Colombia, the dehumanization of the "other" and the stigma surrounding an enemy. We discuss this and the current political climate in Colombia in addition to some fascinating insights into what is going on in Venezuela from an intelligence perspective. 

Tune in for a timely and profoundly analytical converation based on academia and personal experience.

Direct download: RCC_265.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST

This is a very special episode since we have the opportunity to speak once again with our "anonymous" interviewee from Ep 251 (What is happening to the FARC guerrillas in Colombia right now?), who revisits us and shares the most recent findings from the next part of her research. The demobilization, reincorporation and reintegration of the AUC paramilitaries in Colombia. 

We find that there is much ground to compare and contrast between the processes of the FARC and the AUC, but also, a lot to be concerned about too. Most significantly, one common theme is a significant lack of psychosocial help being afforded to people who have committed such atrocities and relive them in their dreams each night. 

Of course, this episode is once again, segmented and a snippet of Colombian news is brought to you by the director of Colombia Reports, Adriaan Alsema. 

Tune in!

Direct download: RCC_264.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST

For those, like myself, unfamiliar with José María Córdova, he was also known as the "Hero of Ayacucho", and was a General of the Colombian army during the Latin American War of independence from Spain. Our guest on Episode 263 of the Colombia Calling podcast, Emma Louise Jay, joins us from the town of El Retiro, not far from Córdova's place of birth and his untimely demise. 

Emma is investigating, not only the life and times of Jose María Córdova, but also his relationship with the British Consul at the time, James Henderson. Córdova fell for and was engaged to Henderson's daughter, something which may have caused some friction. 

So, we discuss a little of the politics, history and what is known about José María Córdova and his relationship with James Henderson, a journey which has taken Emma to the depths of the British Archives in London. 

Tune in to an elightening episode surrounding the history of one of Colombia's lesser known military heroes, and enjoy our new format news update from Adriaan Alsema of Colombia Reports.

Direct download: RCC_263.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

For those of you who have been listening to the Colombia Calling podcast for a while, Reno transplant to Colombia's coffee region, Erin Donaldson will be well-known to you already since she has graced this show and shared with us incredible stories from Pereira and the Choco. Now, she is located in Manizales and has launched a fantastic new resource for anyone thinking to travelling, investing or who is just interested in the area's delights. So, check out 

As we learn through Erin's infectious enthusiasm, the cultural offerings in this region are as yet untapped and there is much for the visitor to enjoy. Erin herself has immersed herself in Manizales' world of tango. 

This is a timely episode with the ANATO tourism fair in Bogotá this week and we discuss how Colombia and the Coffee region in general can branch out and appeal to a wider audience. 

Of course, in addition to our informed and entertaining conversation with Erin, as is now the format, the Colombia Calling podcast will be introduced with a news segment provided by Adriaan Alsema, director of Colombia Reports.

Direct download: RCC_262.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST

On Ep261 we discuss Alex Fattal's (Penn State) new book, "Guerrilla Marketing: Counterinsurgency and Capitalism in Colombia.'"Reading less like an academic book and more like an in-depth ethnographic study of an advertising company and its role in branding and marketing a conflict. In this circumstance the conflict is in Colombia and this activity, led by the company from its lofty offices in Bogotá, has been labelled as "Militainment," and I cannot think of a better word to describe their work. 

In Fattal's extensively researched book, he analyzes the role of marketing in the individual demobilizing program and the way in which the Colombian government changed their course to wage an anti-guerrilla war. Here we see the belief that successful branding has the ability to reconcile the irreconcilable. 

Aside from the telling accounts of how and why individuals joined up with the FARC guerrillas, one of the key elements for me in this book was the difficulty that Fattal encountered as an "objective" observer. Information was shared with Fattal and people in the government wanted to hear his thoughts and he, correctly, denied them his feedback, leading to friction within the group. 

Listen to the podcst and read this book!

Direct download: RCC_261.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Andrew Wright is one of the long-term transplants from the UK to Colombia. Brought here originally by the banking world and after time spent there, he know oversees - in addition to his day job - the Fundación Buen Punto. 

The Fundación Buen Punto was born in 2014 with the objective of incentivizing sports (initially surf), reaching children and young adults that find themselves in unfavourable situations with limited resources, or some form of physical or psychological disability, and who are at risk of exclusion from society. Now, they also focus on rugby and also Australian Rules. 

With projects in Mosquera, close to Bogotá, Nuqui in Choco on the Pacific coast and beyond, hear about the inspiring work being done to bring sports and values to children in need of options and how to channel it all through sports. 

Check out the website:

Direct download: RCC_260.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST

The potential for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin in Latin America is huge according to Ep259's guest, Matt Aaron. I for one am a complete newbie to this new form of finance and so, we go through the basics with Aaron and talk about the challenges facing Bitcoin and other coins in South America, but also their very real benefits. 

Additional to the upsides of working with cryptocurrencies in Colombia - providing users with, "censorship resistant money," (more about this term on the podcast), there is an added opportunity for people in Venezuela where the traditional economy has completely collapsed under President Nicolas Maduro to use a currency which will remain practically unaffected by their government's interference. 

Did you know that there will be a cryptocurrency “airdrop” fundraiser to help Venezuelans dropping on May 27 2019? People have been donating funds via a number of different coins to the citizens of the crisis-stricken South American nation — many of whom are refugees. Our advice though, is to not invest all your money in Venezuela's cryptocurrency, the Petro, just yet!

So tune in to find out more on this profoundly interesting episode about the aim to change the market economy as we know it, to something more social and less restrictive. For more information, check out

Direct download: RCC_259.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST

We'll all readily remember the images of Bogotá and Medellin being brought to a standstill by student protests in late 2018, marches had been planned for 2019, but after the tragic and nefarious events of Thursday January 17, when 21 people were killed in a bomb attack, all protests were suspended. 

So, in Episode 258 of the Colombia Calling podcast, we sit down with scot Sarah Jack, currently working in the Universidad Pedagogica, to talk about the university, the protests and what the students want from the Duque government.

Hear Sarah's accounts of the university she loves and the students there. Recounting what she knows about tear gas and what to do when you hear the sound of the first "potato bomb," Sarah gives us a balanced and compelling look into the Pedagogica.

Direct download: RCC_258.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:56pm EST

On Ep257 we have the opportunity to talk with Adriaan Alsema the director of Colombia Reports ( the largest English news website in Colombia and discuss the reality of the political landscape here for 2019. 

Unfortunately, the realistic interpretation of events so far in Colombia in 2019, doesn't make for upbeat listening. Continued cases of corruption, the seemingly endless assassinations of social and community leaders, issues in Venezuela and local elections in October make for a tricky year in 2019 for President Ivan Duque's government. 

However, there may be some positive news on the horizon, there may be hope for Colombia, so we ask you, the listener, is Colombia returning to her status of a banana republic or on the threshold of a bright new future?

Direct download: RCC_257.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:36am EST

Colombia's Truth Commission was formerly inaugurated in 2018 and has a great deal of issues to deal with, the remit includes most of the following topics: To shed light on the conflict and offer a wide-ranging explanation of its complexity. To promote and contribute to recognition of victims of conflict; voluntary recognition of individual and collective responsibility by those involved both directly and indirectly in the conflict; and recognition by society as a whole that conflict should be both rejected and never repeated. To promote coexistence in the affected areas as a guarantee of non-repetition.

So, it is a great honour and pleasure to host Colombia-expert Michael Evans, Director of the Colombia Project at the National Security Archives in Washington DC ( and to listen him talk about the importance of a robust and focused Truth Commission in Colombia. 

Evans brings a wealth of knowledge to this episode of the Colombia Calling podcast and talks about experiences in Guatemala and his publication, "The Chiquita Papers," about the Chiquita company's involvement in paying off armed groups in Colombia. 

Tune in for an informed and informative discussion about some of the challenges facing Colombia.

Direct download: RCC_256.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

In his book, Makers of Democracy A. Ricardo López-Pedreros traces the ways in which a thriving middle class was understood to be a foundational marker of democracy in Colombia during the second half of the twentieth century. Drawing on a wide array of sources ranging from training manuals and oral histories to school and business archives, López-Pedreros shows how the Colombian middle class created a model of democracy based on free market ideologies, private property rights, material inequality, and an emphasis on a masculine work culture. This model, which naturalized class and gender hierarchies, provided the groundwork for Colombia's later adoption of neoliberalism and inspired the emergence of alternate models of democracy and social hierarchies in the 1960s and 1970s which helped foment political radicalization. By highlighting the contested relationships between class, gender, economics, and politics, López-Pedreros theorizes democracy as a historically unstable practice that exacerbated multiple forms of domination, thereby prompting a rethinking of the formation of democracies throughout the Americas.

And in an interesting turn we talk about the possibilities of these policies from the past and how they have shaped the unrest and protests of 2018 in Colombia. Tune in!

Direct download: RCC_255.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST

As a student of ethnonationalism and cultural identity originally from Arizona, Shenandoah Cornish has moved her life to Minca in Colombia's Sierra Nevada and is working to create a Centro de Memoria de la Sierra so that people from Minca can recognize and value their past. Offering guided tours of a museum she has set up with her boyfriend in the Casa Balaguera in Minca, Shenandoah and her team can provide you with a background to the indigenous importance of the region, the roles that the paramilitary groups and guerrillas have played and even has a tale about a Nazi settler to the region post WWII. 

Creating what is believed to be a "family photo album," for the people of Minca, Shenandoah has immersed herself in the local culture and stresses the importance of non geopolitical identities when discussing a country like Colombia. 

Tune in for a fascinating conversation from the highlands of Minca above the city of Santa Marta connected to us here in the capital of Colombia, Bogotá.

Direct download: RCC_254.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am EST