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Needless to say, watching La Niña has made me curious about Colombia. My knowledge of it until now could be described by catchphrases from TV shows ("Colombian drug lords" "Cali cartel") and NPR headlines ("Colombia's FARC rebels [verb]" "Referendum on peace with FARC rebels"), plus an article on "biblioburros"--the project of a guy who acts as a bookmobile--only by donkey--bringing books to isolated communities--and the travels of someone I follow on Twitter, who visited there with her young daughter.

So first off, I wanted a better sense of where everything in Colombia is.

Here's a map, courtesy of the Rough Guide travel series:


Source

As you can see, pretty much ALL the large cities are in the northwest. What you can't see in the map is that a high mountain range extends along that easternmost diagonal of towns. Bogotá is up in those mountains, and in the show, you get a sense of its high mountainousness.

Here's a photo--not from the show--that gives a sense of that.


Source

Now here's a map, courtesy of Al-Zajeera, showing areas of guerrilla influence

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The peace that was signed in November 2016 was with the FARC forces. Negotiations are still ongoing with the ELN.
ETA: Wow, and breaking news today: "Colombian Government and ELA Agree Ceasefire"

I'm not very experienced with Latin American television, but one thing I noticed about this show, as opposed to 3%, the Brazilian sci-fi Netflix offering I watched some time ago, was that this show was relatively whitewashed. Here are some actual FARC guerrillas (credits below the photos).


Photographer: Stephen Ferry, for the Guardian


Girls on the eve of demobilization
Photographer: Raul Arboleda, for the Atlantic



Guerrillas and civilians
Photographer: Federico Rios, for the British Journal of Photography


Compare those photos with the actors' pics from the previous post, and you'll see what I mean.

On the other hand, it's interesting to see telenovelas' role as a vehicle of public education in action. For instance, the older of Belky's two younger sisters wants to go riding on motorbikes with boys, and Belky's mom is sure she'd going to end up pregnant. The show has them go and talk to one of the doctors at Belky's university, who explains about contraception, confidentiality, etc.

Nana, the older of Belky's two younger sisters.


And, Wakanomori noticed, *no one*--not a single person--is shown smoking. No one in the army, no one in the guerrillas, no one on the streets.

The theme song for the show is also very appealing. It's Herencia de Timbiquí's "Te invito"--take a listen.


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I was searching for something good to watch in Spanish on Netflix and had the amazing good fortune to discover LA NIÑA, a 86-episode Colombian telenovela from 2016.


Source


It's about a girl who was kidnapped by guerrillas as a child (more accurately, as a tiny child of like eight, she nobly asked the guerrillas to take her rather than her epileptic brother--so they do) but who gets demobilized and is now trying to reintegrate into society. Opportunistic former comrades are out to get her because they believe she knows where their commander hid a huge stash of cash, and a corrupt army colonel is out to get her because she was a victim of his and might expose him.* But from the very first, she has the support of brave Dr. Tatiana, a psychologist working for the Reintegration Program, and Father Rivas,** a priest who also helps reintegrate former guerrillas and paramilitaries. It's Father Rivas who suggests, after she demonstrates some impressive quick thinking and skills in that direction, that she consider becoming a doctor, and from about episode 3 onward, that's what she's embarked on: training to become a doctor.

Belky--the main character, whom we first meet as "Alias Sara"


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And here's a former guerrilla who may have been one of the inspirations for La Niña )

Dr. Tatiana and Fr. Rivas


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And here's Manuel: he was sold by his father to the paramilitaries--"to make a man of him," when really what he likes to do is cook. He's been demobilized too. I suspect these two are destined for each other--they become good friends in the reformatory in the first couple of episodes-- but this is a telenovela, and currently there's some distance between them.


Source

Here's a group shot:


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In the upper lefthand corner, you can see two of Belky's classmates in the medical program, one on each side of her. That's Victor on the left, a super sweet guy who helped her and her father get set up selling vegetables when they first arrived in Bogotá. And that's Santiago on the right. He's the wealthy son of a doctor and is quite smitten by Belky. The reason they're both side-eying her in that picture is because she's in tears as she describes the cause of death of a woman. The threatening-looking man in the center is Col. Barragán.

One of the reasons I love this show is that all the major characters, bar none, have things about them that make you take an interest in them. Col. Barragán, for instance, is an awful man--but he really cares about his daughter and sticks up for her when his wife tries to pressure the girl about her weight. The daughter is a really interesting character, though so far she hasn't received much screen time. She lends Belky a pencil before an exam, and she's friendly and somewhat lonely. She loves her dad--doesn't realize that he's done monstrous things. Then there's Natalia--she seems to be all sharp edges and nasty words, but at one point you see her interacting with a child in a clinic sensitively and empathetically, and while she plays the part of a rich, privileged woman, in fact she, her mother, and her daughter can barely make ends meet.

Maria Luisa, Col. Barragán's daughter

Source

Natalia

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Oh, and here's Julie, the pampered, spoiled daughter of the dean of the medical program. Victor announces to Belky on first seeing Julie that she's the woman he's going to marry--never mind that Victor's the son of a farmer. His confidence is charming rather than offputting--he's so good natured, kind, and perceptive about people; he consistently manages to bring out the best in others.


Source is Netflix

Especially in the early episodes, you get a lot of flashbacks to Belky's life with the guerrillas. There are two kids who portray her when she's young--and it turns out these two are sisters. Helps with continuity of looks!


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We're on episode 27 of 86, so we still have a lot of ground to cover, but so far I really recommend this show.

*TW for flashback to scenes of rape (not graphic; suggested) and torture (also not graphic)
**Such a treat to see a priest who's portrayed as a good man, hardworking and ordinary--in a good way: another person working for human rights and a better future.
asakiyume: (Em)
I just learned from Little Springtime about the existence of bibioburros--like bookmobiles, only with burros instead of vans to carry books to isolated households on Colombia's Caribbean shore.

The program's founder, Luis Soriano, is a primary school teacher. His portable library started with just 70 books, but grew to several thousand volumes, thanks to donations. Soriano has two burros, Alfa and Beto, who carry the books. This Wikipedia article on bibiloburros tells of much excitement (for example, bandits tied up Soriano and stole the novel Brida, by Paulo Coelho, when they discovered Soriano had no money on him) and many ups and downs (Soriano had to have a leg amputated after an accident), but the program continues.


Luis Soriano and his biblioburros (Photo: Scott Dalton; Source: New York Times, article here)


(Also from the New York Times)


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