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As Someone Who Grew Up In Colombia This Is Why It’s Really Difficult To Watch ‘Narcos’

It’s Fall again, and while New York City might still feel like Labor Day hasn’t happened yet, a new Fall staple has definitely sunk in, People asking me if I’ve seen “Narcos” yet.

My reaction:

Credit: Harry Potter / Universal


Yes, Narcos is a very popular show. It is, however, a show that is difficult to watch as a person born in Colombia a few years before Pablo Escobar’s death. The problem is, that while it’s a good show – a show that’s important for Colombians (particularly millennials) to watch and understand – it is, at the same time, a show aimed at a global audience that will never understand it the way Colombians do.

Why is “Narcos” Important?

I was born in 1991. Two years before Pablo Escobar died (spoiler alert!) on a rooftop in Medellín. I lived in Colombia for most of my life, until I moved to the United States in 2013. In the 21 years I lived there, the way I was thought to talk about Pablo was simple: Just say he was a bad man who did many bad things, but those things don’t happen anymore. Oh, and make sure this is what you tell Americans, tourists and anyone that you meet abroad.

This is the mindset most people my age and social background were raised with. Colombian millennials speak of Pablo as wizards spoke of Voldemort in 1997. We heard the murmur of “the dark days”, the days of Pablo. When politicians were murdered, planes were blown up, and rebels took the Palacio de Justicia. These are things that adults speak of under their breath. Things that happened, but to us, seem to have happened in another place. In another country. In another world. This is because we are told to forget about our past. To ignore the painful truth and focus on how well things are going nowadays.

Credit: USAtoday.com

Why watching “Narcos” became a cathartic experience?

I was mad! I was mad at my parents and teachers for hiding the truth. History books don’t talk about it, and unless you take a college class in drug trade or recent Colombian history, you as a Colombian will not know what happened. It’s like we have taken a giant eraser and tried to sloppily fade everything that happened from 1977 to 1993. Yet, Narcos feels authentic. In the opening five minutes, we’re shown an aerial shot of my hometown and my second favorite city in the world (NYC edges this one): Bogotá.

Credit: Narcos. Netflix

Despite the early criticism of the show casting foreign Latinxs, the show features some of the most talented Colombian actors in a generation, such as Juan Pablo Raba, Manolo Cardona, Cristina Umaña and Martina García. Even lesser known Colombian actors, like radio host-turned-actor Mauricio Cujar. The Colombians are by far the standout performers on the show, but we can’t forget Brazilian actor, Wagner Moura whose performance as Pablo Escobar is electrifying! The scenes between Moura and Raba as Pablo Escobar and his cousin Gustavo Gaviria are, by far, the best scenes in the show.

Credit: Narcos / Netflix

So Why is “Narcos” Harmful?

As much good as the show does for Colombia’s film and TV industry, and as good as it is for my generation to understand our past, I understand why “Narcos” is harmful.

Picture this: You break up with your abusive ex and takes you 10 years to get over that person. Everyone disapproved of your decisions when you were together. Now, you’re finally getting yourself back together, you’ve found new hobbies, you’ve become more positive… overall your much better! Then all of a sudden, a friend starts showing you pictures of your ex and telling everyone how great he was, which makes everyone remember how big of a mess you were. They assume you’re still in that sloppy phase even though you’ve made a ton of personal growth. You could tell them how much better you’re doing now, but they’d rather just hear about it from that person who won’t shut up about your evil ex. In this scenario, you’re Colombia, Pablo Escobar is your evil ex, and Netflix and “Narcos” is that friend who can’t shut up about Pablo. Leaving you feeling basically like this:

Credit: The Hunchback of Notredame. Disney.


Colombia doing well is great for Colombia, but bad for Hollywood. It’s just not a great story. No one wants to hear about biodiversity or the Peace Process that will end the longest armed conflict in the Americas, because that doesn’t fit the narrative they are selling to the United States. A narrative of barbaric brown people and white saviors. A narrative where Latin America remains a barbaric and underdeveloped region. And more importantly, a narrative where drugs are our problem. Where the “demand” part of “supply and demand” doesn’t count.

“Narcos,” and most American TV dramas in general, can be summed up in this one Game of Thrones scene:

Credit: Game of Thrones / HBO

The White Savior Syndrome, in which a white person is being heralded as a god by thousands of brown people. Particularly in drug shows, white heroes tend to fend off the brown monsters that are the drug dealers. Breaking Bad, which has often been called the best show in the history of TV is the number one offender. Narcos attempts to appease Latinx viewers by giving us nuggets of “woke-ness.” There are scenes where they show the debauchery and hypocrisy of American drug consumers and scenes where they show the true stories of the CIA partnering up and funding murderers in Colombia in their fight against Pablo. A fight guided more by results than the desire of a peaceful Colombia. However, these scenes are treated as afterthoughts. 

This is where the show becomes a double-edged sword. It tells a story Colombians need to know to face the past and improve our future. But it also reinforces the Colombian stereotype in the minds of those outsiders. Suddenly, Americans are more likely to ask me when was the last time there was a car bomb in Colombia, rather than ask how many Colombian lives were lost for a gram of Colombian cocaine. Narcos tells the story of modern-day Colombia which American audiences are ignoring as they rather focus on just the Hollywood stuff. And who can blame them? The Hollywood stuff is fun. It’s such a compelling story.

Credit: Hollywood Sign.org


Despite all this, I stand by my belief that Narcos is an important show for Colombia, and I will continue to watch it and encourage as many Colombians to watch it, too. I will also try to tell my American friends to read between the lines when they watch it.

Credit: Narcos / Netflix

READ: Pablo Escobar’s Brother Sent Netflix A ‘Friendly’ Letter Re: ‘Narcos’

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At Least 17 Dead And Hundreds Injured Following Massive Protests Across Colombia

Things That Matter

At Least 17 Dead And Hundreds Injured Following Massive Protests Across Colombia

A massive protest movement that swept across Colombia seems to have paid off – at least in the short term – as President Ivan Duque says that he will withdrawal the controversial tax plan that sent angry protesters into the streets. However, the protests claimed at least 17 victims who died during the unrest and hundreds more were injured.

Now that the president has withdrawn the controverial bill, many are wondering what’s next and will they have to take to the streets once again.

Massive protests claimed the lives of at least 17 people and hundreds more were injured across Colombia.

Unions and other groups kicked off marches on Wednesday to demand the government of President Ivan Duque withdraw a controversial tax plan that they say unfairly targets the most vulnerable Colombians.

Isolated vandalism, clashes between police and protesters and road blockades occurred in several cities on Saturday, and riot police were deployed in the capital.

Rights organization Human Rights Watch said it had received reports of possible police abuse in Cali, and local human rights groups alleged up to 17 deaths occurred.

After a week of protests, the government has shelved the controversial plan.

Faced with the unrest, the government of President Ivan Duque on Sunday ordered the proposal be withdrawn from Congress where it was being debated. In a televised statement, he said his government would work to produce new proposals and seek consensus with other parties and organizations.

President Duque, in his statement, acknowledged “it is a moment for the protection of the most vulnerable, an invitation to build and not to hate and destroy”.

“It is a moment for all of us to work together without paltriness,” he added. “A path of consensus, of clear perceptions. And it gives us the opportunity to say clearly that there will be no increase in VAT for goods and services.”

The tax reform had been heavily criticized for punishing the middle classes at a time of economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The government introduced the bill on April 15 as a means of financing public spending. The aim was to generate $6.3 billion between 2022 and 2031 to reignite the fourth largest economy in Latin America.

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Interview: Colombian Duo Cali y El Dandee Talk New Single “Despiértate”, Winning Grammy For Producer of the Year and More

Latidomusic

Interview: Colombian Duo Cali y El Dandee Talk New Single “Despiértate”, Winning Grammy For Producer of the Year and More

Fresh off their performance at the Latin American Music Awards, Colombian sibling pop duo Cali y El Dandee are back for more with their new single “Despiérate.”

In our exclusive interview with Latido Music by mitú, Cali, born Alejandro Rengifo, and Dandee, born Mauricio Rengifo, shared their excitement over their new collaboration, how they started working in music. Dandee aka Mauricio winning the Producer of the Year award at the Latin GRAMMYs, and more.

“Despiértate” is their new collab with Venezuelan sibling duo Mau y Ricky and Puerto Rican singer Guaynaa.

The collaboration had been something the brothers wanted to do for a very long time. The creative process for the song started with Cali y El Dandee and Mau y Ricky in the studio working on half of “Despiértate” and loving the sound so far. But they realized they were missing something.

“We loved the fresh sound of the song and how the synergy we achieved with them (Mau y Ricky) and then we invited Guaynaa, who gave it an Urban spin and the Puerto Rican touch the song needed,” added Dandee.

They started writing and producing music while they were in school.

Their very first “studio” was just a desktop computer and a microphone they had back home. Dandee was always interested in production, and as their music evolved they started showing their friends what they were working on. Both of their stage names come from their childhood nicknames: Cali, for Alejandro and Dandee for Mauricio.

Going viral and building fanbases in places like Spain and Argentina.

While Cali y El Dandee had a solid fanbase in their native Colombia, they were not aware that their music was making waves in places like Spain in the early days of streaming around 2009-2010, when their music videos were first being shared online.

“Actually, it took us a while to realize that we were popular in Spain because our team would let us know about our music sales rising, but we had never been there before or knew anyone there from their local radio stations. When we finally went to Spain, it was a big shock, we realized that our music had an audience not only there, but also in places like Mexico, Argentina and it was truly exciting to see that,” Dandee said.

Cali y El Dandee credit Reggaeton for embracing this new wave of collaborations among artists.

Cali y El Dandee aren’t strangers to collaborations. The pair have worked with Danna Paola, Greeicy, Sebastián Yatra, and Reik to name a few.

When it comes to creating these collaborations, Cali shared that either they already have someone in mind that they think could be a good fit as they create the first drafts of the song in the studio, or they meet up with artists and create the collaborations from scratch.

“The collaborations have played a very important role for us and have allowed us to refine and change our sound, and I think that for Urban music, collaborations are what have made this genre last so long, and why it’s heard in so many languages and how the streams nowadays come from different countries,” Cali added.

Dandee (Mauricio) talked about winning Producer of The Year at this year’s Latin GRAMMYs.

“It was a moment I had been waiting for since I was a child, a dream come true”, Dandee shared. While Mauricio is aware that there are other producers who are doing an equal or better job than him, he takes this as an opportunity to keep working hard.

“I remember so many times watching the Grammys thinking to myself ‘one day I’ll win one,’ and using that as a fuel to know that one day you’ll be on that stage as well,” Dandee added.

Their latest album Colegio is a nostalgic homage to school days.

I asked the brothers if there’s something from their school days that they would bring back.

“Renting movies at Blockbuster,” Dandee shared. “That moment when you’d go on a Friday night to rent a movie and you had the weekend to watch it. Next thing you know, you’d rewatch the movie like 2-3 times because you had to return it. It’s unheard of now to rewatch a movie within a matter of days,” Cali added.

However, there’s one thing both brothers would definitely bring back:

“More than anything, we would want to bring back concerts, and seeing people interact with the music live,” Cali said.

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