Colombia: More Than a Rising Star — The North Star Project Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Ana María Camelo Vega



Colombia: More Than a Rising Star — The North Star Project Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Ana María Camelo Vega

After traveling by plane for more than 14 hours, including layovers, I ended up in Duluth, Minnesota. From the tropical weather to an eight-month winter, I changed my sneakers to snow boots. Coming from a very diverse big city, I landed in a not-so-diverse small city up in the north of the world. Being miles away from the place I call home has opened my eyes and heart to Colombia’s reality on a national and international level. Sure, it is easy for everyone to call his or her home country the best place in the world, but it is not easy to show the entire world why. If it is true that, as any other country, Colombia has lots of flaws, then it is also true that it is synonym of charm. There is so much more about this country than what people all around the world think about it. Mass media has played a role in sharing an inaccurate picture of Colombia’s panorama. Whenever I type “Colombia” in a search of international news, I am faced with drugs, guerrillas, jungles, and politics. Yet what makes Colombia a unique country goes way further than these terms. Colombia is a country made up of passionate people that try to work towards the improvement and happiness of their country.


More than once, we have been ranked as the “happiest country of the world” and as the “nicest people in the world.” Many people question why. From my point of view, this should not be a surprise for anyone. Being the second most diverse country in the world, having around 70 percent of all emeralds around the world, having the best coffee in the world, dancing to all kind of music and rhythms but uniting in support when the country’s soccer team plays, and having Colombian representatives all around the world are just some of the reasons why Colombian people tend to be passionate about life. At the same time, it is important to denote all the hazards that Colombia, as a country, has had to face. Its journey has not been easy by any means.


Colombia’s political and historical background has created instability all around the country, which has been reflected in the country’s international image. This has delayed Colombian progress in multiple areas. However, during the last decades, statistics have shown a clear improvement in Colombian reality. This is why, despite all its faults, Colombian people will always have hope and feel proud of their country. By having the opportunity to live in a different culture and environment, I was able to realize how lucky I am to have been born in Colombia. In the same way, having to face popular ignorance and unawareness has made me even prouder of sharing my home country’s reality. It is Colombia, not Columbia. Yes, I can affirm that in our country we live well and happy. No, it is not a jungle. Yes, there are cars and electricity. And yes, you will be welcomed in Colombia!

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to contribute to The North Star Project Reports — HLIANG@CSS.EDU

For all of the North Star Project Reports, see

The North Star Project Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also welcome Duluth East High School, Duluth Denfeld High School, Dodge Middle School and other schools around the world to the North Star Project. The North Star Project has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Student interns have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star Project students and teachers.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2013-present The Middle Ground Journal. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.


Filed under Ana Maria Camelo Vega, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

30 responses to “Colombia: More Than a Rising Star — The North Star Project Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Ana María Camelo Vega

  1. Neil Vierzba

    Very great read. I learned a lot more about Colombia including they are ranked as the happiest country in the world as well as the nicest people in the world. Colombia does get a bad rap and people just assume that they are bad people because of it. This article shows why they are more than just that.

  2. Amy North

    I really enjoyed this! I have met a small handful of people from Colombia, and they all share your enthusiasm for their home-country. However, I was not aware of how diverse the country is. It’s interesting what information ends up in the media and what doesn’t.

  3. Chelsea Bastyr

    I really enjoyed this article! I think that most of us that haven’t traveled much are pretty judgmental of the places we haven’t been. We see and hear what we do on TV, in movies and on the news and unless we research further, that’s all most of us know! I like that you stated the myths about your country and then gave the best description possible of why they are untrue. I have been to a few beautiful places that others think of as dirty or full of drug/gang violence and you’re right, it’s truly impossible to explain why it’s so perfect and beautiful without the person actually being there! Great article and photos! I’d love to travel to Columbia someday!

  4. Mindy Aubin

    This was a really great article. I can understand the things you are saying because I had a Colombian student stay at my house for a couple weeks a few years ago. She said the same exact things you did. Sometimes I wonder why people choose to come to Duluth Minnesota out of anywhere else in the world. Yes It’s a great city to visit, but with living here my whole life, I’m ready for something different and maybe a little more warm. I would love to be able to visit your country some day and from everything you said I know I wouldn’t feel out of place.

  5. Jonia G

    I enjoyed reading this article, very much. It’s provided such an uplifting feeling as you list what makes you proud of Colombia; rather than focusing on the rather negative image. I didn’t have too much background about Colombia aside from it being voted the ‘happiest place to live’ a few times, so getting a very brief look into your perspective was lovely – thank you for sharing.

  6. Miranda King

    It is interesting that stereotype of other countries are easily adopted by many based on purely what other people say. It shows how easily people are manipulated. Do you think other try to create these stereotypes about other places in the world to make others believe their country is truly the best?

  7. Mickie Keuning

    Being from Duluth, myself, I was one of those people to think of Colombia as a jungle. This is a great article and an amazing read. It gave me a different perspective on how media and reality contrast with culture.

  8. Austin Kindt

    Its always nice to read about an area or country when the author has an insider perspective. Your writing about Colombia and comparison to Duluth was very interesting and I wish that I could have kept reading more! I also agree with you on the lack of diversity in some respects in Duluth but at the same time there are people from many different walks of life. I do wish our city was more of a melting pot when talking about ethnic diversity because it still is somewhat shocking to me when I travel elsewhere and see many different ethnicities all together.

  9. Zach Dahlman

    A very nice article here and Im sorry about the long flight you went through. To be honest before reading this when I hear Columbia I flash pictures of drugs, violence, cocaine and coffee. It is an unfair bias but after reading this I will always think twice before assuming

  10. Robert Ochs

    It’s always interesting to hear about a country from a person who has actually lived there. I haven’y traveled the world much at all, so all I personally “know” about countries is what the media says or shows. It’s strange and sad how different a country actually is compared to how its media image is. Thank you for sharing this insight!

  11. Kyle Hellmann

    Very insightful about how Columbia isn’t what the news makes it to be. It makes me shameful of how our media portrays other countries, even though some of them may be the happiest places on earth!

  12. I enjoyed your article on life in Colombia very much. Your description of Colombia was refreshing in that it was full of love and pride for your home country. Thank you for opening a door to a new understanding for those of us who may have wrongly based our opinions on the negative reports we see in the media. Thank you also for pointing out the correct spelling of Colombia.

  13. Jenna M

    I really enjoyed reading your article and you are very brave for coming such a far way from home. I can’t even imagine being so far away from home. Your article has opened my eyes to the stereotypes I have associated with not only your home Colombia, but to other countries as well. So many of us let the media tell us what to believe without questioning them and I think it’s important for people like you to stand up for your country and not let it be defined by its ignorant stereotypes.

  14. Alayna McCawley

    This was such a joy to read! It was extremely eye opening and informative of Colombia and the negative stereotypes people tend to place on that area. Colombia seems beautiful and I am so happy to have had the opportunity to read your description of it. Maybe one day society will be able to push their judgement aside and appreciate what a great area Colombia can be without jumping to negative or misinformed conclusions. Thank you so much for sharing your experience!

  15. Ada

    I really enjoyed it. It’s always a learning experience when you get to hear about other people’s journeys. I truly find it fascinating to witness how much love and passion can develop when individuals leave their home countries for long periods of time. The farther away you are, the more important it is to hold unto your national identity.

  16. Rachel Rees

    I enjoyed reading this and learning more about Colombia. I believe this happens to people from different cultures because our society has a need to stereotype other cultures. Our society needs to change their ways when looking at other cultures and realize media portrays the negative aspects of cultures more than the positive ones.

  17. Nick Kaplan

    This article does a good job of showing how stereotypes are unfair to make and how many of them are untrue. Its unfortunate that movies and news articles only show the negative side of a country. Columbia sounds like a fun place to travel to!

  18. Katie Hass

    I really liked this article for a multitude of reasons. Foremost being the fact that the stereotype and media hype of the drugs and jungles and all the bad things that happen isn’t true across the whole face of the country. I do find it interesting how terrible the media is at capturing the essence of any country in any fashion most times. They tend to exaggerate and overuse any negative information they find, like they’re into scare tactics.
    After reading this article I wouldn’t mind a visit to Colombia, it sounds like a wonderful place!

  19. Mickie Keuning

    It’s unfortunate that because of mass media a country can have a negative outlook. I liked how Columbia was ranked as the happiest people in the world and nicest people in the world. That makes Columbia sound like an incredible place and I think that happiness is something that’s overlooked in some places in the world.

  20. Alex Cole

    When ever we hear about Columbia it is much like you said, Drugs, Violence and Guerilla Warfare. But one time we had Columbian exchange students come to my high school and they told us so many different stories and customs of their country. It’s a very negative picture that has been placed in our heads but we need to change that.

  21. Well, I never knew that Colombia is that diverse! This article is well written and I like that it is coming from a person who is from Colombia. Totally unrelated, I noticed that a few people in the comments spelled it “Columbia”.

  22. Camila Garcia

    I really enjoyed reading this article! Being a colombian as well I face questions about the colombia of the mass media. Being here has opened my mind in so many ways, and has also taught me to value more what my parents and my family have given me.

  23. Kaitlyn Young

    I loved reading about your passion about your country. Stereotypes really cloud people’s views about anything and everything. I love that you shared the truth about the beauty of Colombia! I would like to travel there some time to experience all the amazing things that you talked about.

  24. Donovan Chock

    Well now I want to go to Columbia….. Wonderful post! I love how you take pride in your home country. It’s too bad how everything can be going well and then if one bad thing happens, people hone in on that one bad aspect and forget all of the good things. I’m happy for you and thanks for sharing!

  25. Mike Lehmann

    It seems like everything thinks that their country is the greatest. We do it hear in the United States as well, and it can get on people’s nerves. I think that we can be proud of where we come from but we cant let it envelope us. Columbia seems like a cool place to go and I would love to visit some time.

  26. Kyle Stepka

    I really like how you talk about Columbia I bet it is a beautiful place and it is a place were I would love to go visit one day. I think it is crazy how after one bad thing everything can go wrong. I really enjoyed this article and thank you for sharing.

  27. Mackenzie Sherrill

    I like how you said that it is often difficult to describe your country to someone else and illustrate why it is such a wonderful place. It is sad that these stereotypes are often the one portrayed to the people who have never experienced the place for themselves. Colombia sounds wonderful though!

  28. Daniela Rojas

    Really well written article! I liked how you said that there is more behind all the stereotypes people have from Colombia. I hope I get to go to Colombia soon so I could experience the beauty of your country.

  29. Cassidy Jayne

    Hi Ana
    I appreciate the insight into your life and your “you-ness.” That is, what makes you who you are. While working together this semester, I hope to learn even more about you. Your courage is so admirable, Ana. A new country, new experiences, and an openness to the unknown. I’m not sure that is something many Americans can relate to. Thank you for sharing your story,

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