The Changing Face of the Modern Colombian Woman

“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.”

Medellin Colombia skyline

Medellin - the city where women prosper?

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.

  • William Michael Collings
    March 27, 2012

    Well Written Thanks for sharing the story! 

  • Matthew B
    March 28, 2012

    “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!”
    People who make statements like this are usually referencing their own negative life experiences.  It’ like the american men who go to colombia as “wife hunters” proclaiming how materialistic and unattractive american women are.  It doesn’t matter where you live in the world, where you travel, or how many foreigners you chase after, if you’re all screwed up you’re not going to find a good person who wants to marry you.  

    I make it a point to avoid people with negative attitudes like the woman in this article.  I’m not impressed by her in the least.  In fact I kind of feel sorry for her.

  • Jasmine Stephenson
    March 28, 2012

    I was impressed by her because she has been able to drastically change the circumstances she was given at birth and better herself due to her hard work and dedication, and the fact that she was so brutally honest about so many things with me, a complete stranger. Of course, biases are not something to be applauded, however we all have a good side and a bad side. It’s also possible she wasn’t being very serious – it was 4 in the morning after all. Part of the context is missed in the written word, as I can’t recreate the experience perfectly. I wrote the story highlighting the most interesting parts of the evening. Perhaps I should have worked harder to paint the scene.

  • Ryan
    March 30, 2012

    y donde esta la foto de esta chica?? :)

  • Jasmine Stephenson
    March 30, 2012

    Haha Ryan I didn’t take any photos of her :(

  • DT33445
    March 31, 2012

    I understand her perfectly. Colombian guys are always bragging about how many girlfriends and children they have although they are not helping to support any. When they are married, their wife will never be able to find them.

    I spent by far the best year of my life in Colombia living in 12 cities for a month each as part of 4 separate trips (maximum 90 day stay & 180 day limit in a calendar year) and am fluent in Spanish. A month is good because one bedroom apartments are available for a month. I always met incredibly beautiful girls (they hate being referred to as women which implies over-the-hill) in the first few days in each place because Colombian girls are quite aggressive and approached me everywhere I went. Other than Bogotá, I never saw other Gringos during my time in Colombia which probably made me interesting. Blue eyes helped a lot, too. Girls were always exclaiming, “Ojos azules! (blue eyes)”. You need to understand that every single girl had very long straight black hair and dark eyes. Also, they always wore blue jeans that looked like they were painted on. Until that time I had thought that it was not possible to love 2 women equally at the same time, but I now am in love with 10. I spend every day now thinking about how soon I can return to Colombia and write the girls regularly in Spanish as none speak English. Unlike American girls who seem to think they have some ownership rights to their boyfriends, I found the Colombian girls very unpossessive. Nor would they want me to be possessive. I never asked about how they spent their time away from me or why they had not answered their phone. If they failed to answer, I would not call again, and they would eventually show up. They always went through all the photos in my camera and were aware of each other, which seemed to add to their sense of competitiveness to show how truly pleasing they could be. Their attitude is “aqui y ahora” which means “here and now” in the sense that other things are unimportant. When we are not together, we are just friends.

    Part of the arrangement was that I was a part of each girl’s family much like being married to her. I have the good fortune to be well off. What you find in Colombian families is that everything owned by each member is owned by the entire extended family including cousins. It is actually an example of communism that works, but seems to not be up-scalable beyond a group where each person cares strongly about the other members. It is clearly from each according to their ability and to each according to their need. It was a regular occurrence that I paid for peoples medical care (very affordable there), often took families to dinner and a popular vacation at a finca which means a farm or ranch, but is similar to a dude ranch for vacation purposes. There would be a pool, hiking trails, camping and horseback riding.

    It turned out to be very important that I always had a definite date of departure because that meant I was forced to leave and was not simply choosing to depart which might imply something negative to the girl.

    So, Matthew B, I think I would be less judgmental until you have actually gained some experience beyond the very limited ideas that exist in the US regarding what works and does not. A country with a 50% divorce rate is not the best example to follow.

  • DT33445
    March 31, 2012

    Thank you, Jasmine, for your beautifully written account of your travel experiences. I found your blog when I was Googling a good way to get from Trinidad to Medellin. I spent 2 years traveling in South America alone by motorcycle from 2007 until 2009, and your account brings back a flood of memories. It is incredible you are able to produce this blog because I know from my experience there simply is no time. I decided early on to simply store everything in my mind which works because I am blessed with a superb memory. You may wish to visit one website I found incredibly helpful to discover the things I definitely wished to experience. If you ever find time, It is THETIMELESSRIDE.COM where Hubert Kriegel tells his story with pictures the way you tell yours with words. Drill down by clicking the language you prefer, “Timeline”, and then the country of interest. For example, I enjoyed his story of Colombia, of course (each picture is a summary of a story – just click the picture and each successive picture). He set out to spend 10 years on the road and is now in year 8. Siberia at minus 40 on a motorcycle sounds like a challenge. I plan to live in Medellin, the City of Eternal Spring, before long and hope to find a way to become a resident.

  • Jasmine Stephenson
    April 1, 2012

    Thank you for stopping by! Hope to see you around these parts often :)

  • Luis Betancourt
    April 18, 2012

    I just found your blog!
    I’m glad you enjoy Colombia that much! I alse read you’re going to Barcelona :)Did you already leave? If you stop by Bogota one of these days it would be great to have a coffee… from travel blogger to travel blogger!
    Un abrazo ;)

  • Sonia Waszkowiak
    April 24, 2012

    The world is sooo small! I just found your blog Jasmine, (just emailed you so you might know it by now :D) and I see you (Luis) commenting. We met in London ages ago, you used to couch surf at Susy’s! And you’re mates with Juan Ortiz! World is so so small :) Sorry for the off-topic :)

  • Roxy
    October 14, 2012

    Hello Jasmin! Joanna is correct. Colombian men only think of themselves, very possessive and utmost conceited (especially if they are from the elite).

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