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A Gringa in Bogotá: Living Colombia's Invisible War [Kindle Edition]

June Carolyn Erlick
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

To many foreigners, Colombia is a nightmare of drugs and violence. Yet normal life goes on there, and, in Bogotá, it's even possible to forget that war still ravages the countryside. This paradox of perceptions—outsiders' fears versus insiders' realities—drew June Carolyn Erlick back to Bogotá for a year's stay in 2005. She wanted to understand how the city she first came to love in 1975 has made such strides toward building a peaceful civil society in the midst of ongoing violence. The complex reality she found comes to life in this compelling memoir.

Erlick creates her portrait of Bogotá through a series of vivid vignettes that cover many aspects of city life. As an experienced journalist, she lets the things she observes lead her to larger conclusions. The courtesy of people on buses, the absence of packs of stray dogs and street trash, and the willingness of strangers to help her cross an overpass when vertigo overwhelms her all become signs of convivencia—the desire of Bogotanos to live together in harmony despite decades of war. But as Erlick settles further into city life, she finds that "war in the city is invisible, but constantly present in subtle ways, almost like the constant mist that used to drip down from the Bogotá skies so many years ago."

Shattering stereotypes with its lively reporting, A Gringa in Bogotá is must-reading for going beyond the headlines about the drug war and bloody conflict.

Editorial Reviews


Review by Steven Bieber
 'A Gringa in Bogotá' is a
must read for any new visitor to
Bogotá as well as any long term
expatriate resident.
--The City Paper, Bogotá, Colombia

From the Back Cover

"June Erlick's deep understanding of Colombia has allowed her to write this engaging and enlightening personal narrative about the country's long-lasting, on-going, but often forgotten civil war."-- John Womack Jr., R. W. Bliss Professor of Latin-American History and Economics, Harvard
The vignettes June Carolyn Erlick presents are a mirror image of everyday life from all corners of Bogotano society. Her achievement is possible due to her discipline in bringing back her deeply embedded memories of Bogotá and weaving them with her new experiences in 2005-2006.  The city changes, the city remains. Thin, flea infested dogs have gone for good but only apparently. Pit bull terriers and the like are nowadays a central piece of democratic security. Desplazados no longer find a place to squat like fifty years ago. Bogotanos are now proud of belonging. Super-bus Transmilenio is the ensign of civic culture and modernity.--Marco Palacios, Research Professor at El Colegio de Mexico and former rector, National University, Bogotá
June Carolyn Erlick is a gringa in Bogotá who returns after 30 years to live in a city that never let her leave. In her book, she achieves what few manage: to write about Colombia without mentioning presidents, beauty queens or druglords. She also never talks about the war. However, the war permeates every page of the book, just as it permeates the lives of all of us Colombians.--Juanita León, author, Country of Bullets (University of New Mexico, 2009), 2006 Harvard Nieman Fellow
This is not a book about customs and manners, nor is it a tourist guide, nor a  denunciation, nor a resounding investigation; it is a book that mixes all of these elements in the memories and impressions of a brilliant gringa who loves Colombia.--Daniel Samper Pizano, author and columnist, El Tiempo, Bogotá, Colombia;  1981 Harvard Nieman Fellow, 1982 recipient of Maria Moors Cabot Prize
This testimony about the changes in Bogotá and about the relationship of one person--the author--with the city is fascinating and precise. The text asks time and again: How has the flowering of Bogotá incorporated  in a subtle and nuanced manner the  imprinted violence that has besieged so many parts of the country? How in the historical context of so much pain are so many moments of forgetting and happiness possible?--Antanas Mockus, former Bogotá mayor. 

Product Details

  • File Size: 1776 KB
  • Print Length: 174 pages
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press; 1 edition (March 1, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0042JU6MC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #893,843 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bogota With Feeling and Flavor July 20, 2011
I should have read this book a long time ago. Had I read it, I would have had a much better understanding of life in Bogota and many more insights about the people, the lifestyles and all the city has to offer. The book was full of delightful vignettes that give you a sense of what it is really like to live in Bogota and how to partake of its richness in a meaningful way.

I am getting ready to travel to Bogota for a year-long assignment. Reading June's book gave me a much better sense of what to expect and has made me anxious to rush in. It's not as if June has painted an idyllic picture of Bogota; far from it. Her vignette about the disappeared and the students at Santa Marta remind you of harsh realities of what we hope is past not present. But she also paints a picture of hope and people engaged in living life in the present. I can't wait to get out on a Sunday and ride (or walk) the Ciclovia. Or go to the Book Fair or feria de libros or visit the libaries. And although I have heard much about the TransMilenio, only June brought it to life for me. As a journalist, I also really enjoyed her tale of her encounter with Gabo (Gabriel Garcia Marquez).

But I believe it is a real picture and when I get to Bogota I won't be disappointed, but anxious to know and explore the Bogota that June loves so much and that I anticipate loving as well. I don't think ANYONE should travel to Bogota without reading this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Una gringa en Bogotá! April 30, 2010
Cómo estás. Leí tu libro Una gringa en Bogotá y disfruté el fluir de las viñetas contigo y Colombia como enlace (leitmotiv) entre cada una de ellas. Tú sabes muy bien que los colombianos y venezolanos compartimos mucho más que la frontera, y hay eventos como: el festival de teatro en ambos países, o el Transmilenio y el Metro de Caracas, o la ciclo vía y la Cota Mil los domingos en Caracas que son tan parecidas y han creado el mismo impacto en los habitantes de estas ciudades. Sin embargo, Venezuela y Colombia comparten lamentablemente para ambas: la violencia. En Venezuela; por ejemplo, hay una guerra civil "No Declarada" con un hampa completamente desbordada. Además, estamos viviendo el problema del sicariato en nuestras calles. En estas semanas, estoy tratando de seguir lo más que puedo las elecciones de Colombia y me gustaría que Antanas Mockus fuera elegido presidente, porque el representa la forma pacífica, inteligente e incluyente de resolver los problemas. Yo seguí, cuando vivía en Caracas, su gestión por la prensa y pienso que ante la violencia, sus políticas lo que hicieron fue romper con la espiral de la polarización que la violencia puede generar en los habitantes. Lo que mucha gente no se ha percatado es que el bienestar de ambos países está conectado directamente. Sí a Colombia le va bien a Venezuela le irá bien y viceversa. Este libro crea un balance con Desaparecida: La historia de Irma Flaquer una periodista silenciada, el cual no es sólo para mí una historia como lamentablemente otras miles sobre periodistas asesinados por gobernantes o grupos mediocres que han usado la violencia para mantener podrido Status Quo, sino un libro que refleja un período histórico muy duro y triste de América Central y América Latina en general.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delight November 23, 2010
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
We have lived in multi-dimensional Bogota for over a year now and have thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Erlick's perceptive, sensitive and adroit observations and vignettes about this fascinating and endlessly contradictory city. I highly recommend "Gringa" for anyone with an interest in Colombia and Bogota on ground-level.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Ready To Leave Colombia? Extend Your Trip February 18, 2012
Length: 2:32 Mins
I took a two-week trip to Colombia in November and then wanted to extend my trip by picking up "Gringa in Bogota." Here's my review.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Is she actually here? November 3, 2014
By Mapache
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a rather meandering and casual look at this huge metropolis. It’s somewhat repetitive with too many “unofficial polls” on topics. Despite her strange fixation on the “pride” of Bogotá, it’s mass transit endeavor, she never explores possible political reasons for a system overwhelmed by Bogotá’s population or questions why a city of such size and importance didn’t build a sturdier rail system. This is a book of personal feelings with limited scope.
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