Monday, February 06, 2006

Weather and Customs

It was suggested this week in the course I'm participating in that we discuss the climactic conditions where we live and the impact this has on local culture and customs. Beginning at the end of November here in Barranquilla, there's what they call a "breeze", but it's been more like a strong wind! It was certainly a nice change after the heat, but it doesn't last for long (typically through Carnavales, which is at the end of February). This past week there were a couple of days where the breeze went missing, but thankfully it's back again.

People here often tell me that the costeños, especially the barranquilleros, are "warm, happy, friendly, sociable" people, due in some part to the climate. On the other hand, they label the cachacos (people from the interior of the country, like Bogotá) as "cold, distant, unfriendly, less sociable." Personally, I've not found that to be true of the people that I know from the interior, but then again, my personality is in some ways much more like theirs! I don't mind the going out to dance and drink lifestyle once in a while, but I've no interest in doing that every weekend (a slight problem during Carnavales time that we're in now, since that's all anyone is doing!). Carnaval is all about spreading the happienss. This is a picture of the Garabato parade that I went to last weekend. Besides the dancing, the main event was throwing water, cornstarch, and shaving cream at your friends!

I've heard the same from my Ecuadorean friends--that coastal people from places like Guayaquil are happier and friendlier than people from the colder mountainous regions like Quito. Since I've not yet been to these places, I don't really have an opinion of my own on this subject. I wonder if anyone's ever done a study comparing the coastal cultures in Latin America (let me know if you've heard of one). I've certainly found similarities in the costeño cultres of Caribbean Colombia and those that live on the Pacific Costa Grande in México (where I previously lived and worked).

Going back to how climate affects life in Barranquilla, the Atlantic coast of Colombia is also one of the safest places in the country. I don't worry about walking around by myself in Barranquilla or travelling to other coastal cities like Santa Marta or Cartagena. There's no fighting here, and not near as much crime. That's certainly a plus. But, with the happiness of the people here and the realative safeness of life here also comes the disorder! I'll leave that discussion for later, though.

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