Locals and business owners alike from the north Colombia village of Taganga blame out of control tourists for the corruption, drug use and prostitution in their once peaceful home, a local wrote on news and opinion website Las 2 Orillas.
Taganga, located on the tip of Colombia’s north coast, had long been a simple fishing town. However, after a highway was constructed connecting it to the much more populous city of Santa Marta, changes began to take place.
Most concerning has been the recent influx of irresponsible tourists, many of whom have brought an outlandish drug consumption, a culture of sex tourism resulting in the prostitution of underage girls, and a consequently staggering rate of AIDS spreading through the village.
The outbreak of AIDS has become a serious issue for the inhabitants of Taganga, with 108 cases in 2015, as reported by Radio Magdalena.
The hedonistic lifestyle of some groups of tourists has recently manifested itself in “out of control parties” according to locals, such as the one which took place on Saturday 14th January on Taganga’s Playaca beach, billed as a “cultural event” by its organiser, who comes from Israel.
This was no cultural event. Instead, there was an orgy of alcohol and drug consumption, people were selling marihuana and cocaine, everybody saw it.
Taganga hotel owner
Local press were quick to identify those responsible for the party as: “a group of Israeli foreigners who take part in the town’s drug trafficking network and prostitution business.”
Locals affected by the party have been especially critical of the local police force, who they believe to have been compliant in the event.
If it had been a cultural event, there would have been assistance teams on site. That’s to say that they celebrated an event with a large amount of people and there was no contingency plan, no ambulance- nothing. And the metropolitan police allowed this event to take place.
Taganga business owners
However, in a statement given to local newspaper Hoy Diario del Magdalena, the District Government Secretary said that this was an event which may have occurred without the permission of the police.
The information about the event taking place surprises me, I don’t understand how the police allowed it. The police aren’t legally authorized to give this kind of permission, the only thing they can give is a seal of approval… where the event organiser compromises in not selling alcohol, in not allowing in people with fire arms, amongst other things”
District Government Secretary
Colombia has rapidly emerged as one of the top travel destinations in the world, offering a plethora of vibrant cities, diverse nature and wildlife and a rich culture for tourists to immerse themselves in.
It is also an undoubtedly popular destination for drug tourists who seek the kind of thrills that come at a much higher price in their own countries.
Colombian authorities must therefore decide whether they wish to tackle the growing business that drug trafficking organizations are receiving every year in the form of mildly burnt foreigners, or if they plan on turning a blind eye while admiring the yearly increase in tourism figures.