“This city offers tons of opportunities for women,” Joanna says to me. We are sitting outside of Karma, a club in Barrio Colombia, one of Medellin’s nightlife districts. Her perfectly straight black hair extends to her tiny waist. She leans back, her flat stomach peeking out underneath her skin-tight shirt. She reaches inside of her cleavage and emerges with a green lighter. She puffs on her cigarette and continues.
“I started at the bottom of the company I’m at now, painting doors. On my first day, I went to a client’s house and ended up selling him $1500 worth of supplies.” She laughs. “Now I’m thinking about moving to Turkey and working in a higher up position within the company.”
She pulls out her cell phone and shows me her desktop background, a photo of a 4-year-old girl with tan skin and bouncy curls in a pink checkered dress. The model pose she strikes reveals the princess status she has been awarded.
“I want the best for my daughter,” she tells me. “Look at me. I’m 28, I have a good job. I come from one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in this city. I have enough money to leave it, but I love it. People respect me there. And I don’t need a man to take care of us.”
I rolled into the club an hour earlier with four men – two French, one Irish, and one Colombian. After a bit of forceful coaxing, I managed to lure them away from the foreigner and upper class-saturated Parque Lleras to go somewhere less pretentious and more interesting – Barrio Colombia.
We gathered at the bar and scoped out our surroundings. Joanna was at a table nearby us, confidently dancing alone, long hair and hips swaying to the beat. The Irish member of our group took a liking to her and the two began to dance together. His limited Spanish prevented them from getting much farther than a few reggaeton songs.
We migrate outside, where she begins to tell me about herself. She asks me a few questions, and I tell her about my desire to make Colombia a permanent residence and my options for obtaining a visa (one of them being via marriage).
“Marriage?! Don’t ever marry a Colombian! I was engaged to my daughter’s father but I couldn’t walk down the aisle. I would never marry a Colombian!!! Don’t be stupid!”
We laugh hysterically, an impromptu bonding moment between two women who have little in common except for a fierce independence.
I admire Joanna instantly. She’s gorgeous, ambitious, and despite her humble beginnings has done quite well for herself. A single mom in her late 20s, the last thing she’s worried about is snagging a man.
She’s an all-around bad ass.