Is it possible to live in Colombia without seeing the war? Can you write about the country without mentioning its armed conflict? Superficially, the answer to this is “yes,” as “A Gringa in Bogota” by American journalist June Carolyn Erlick proves.
The internal conflict can easily go unseen, as suggested by the book’s subtitle “Living Colombia’s invisible war.” However, Erlick argues that to those who look harder the tragedy is clearly visible.
The “gringa” of the book’s title is the writer herself, who in 2005 spent a year in Bogota, 30 years after she worked and lived in Colombia’s capital as a correspondent in the 1970s.
It could seem as though the war only penetrates the metropolis through television news, but the capital is no island; the war is often no further away than the next street corner, in the form of a displaced family, fleeing from violence in the countryside.
The violence comes even closer when Erlick discovers that it has affected close friends; one friend confesses to her that his grandma was abducted, something he had previously never spoken to her about.
The book is an emotional and intellectual quest. “Am I able to live here?” Erlick asks herself. “How can a people that’s so sincerely friendly be capable of committing such horrors?” the writer wants to know.
The cover of the book may appear childish, but is refreshing after so many books about Colombia with soldiers or guerrillas on the cover.