I grew up in a home where the passion of my heritage was prevalent, and I lived in a town where such a cultural vivacity was sparse. My parents played their Colombian songs and talked about our extended family way down south. However, as a first-generation Colombian, I had never comprehended the beauty of my true origin as they did. It was not until we visited our family in Bucaramanga, Colombia that I learned to love the essence of my international home.
There is a song that is very popular in Colombia, called Esta Vida, and it tells the story about a man who loves every part of his life—from the sip of coffee in the morning to the shot of tequila at death. Jorge Celedón, the writer of the song, explains how hardships are manageable with family, and how life is relentlessly beautiful even at the end of it. The sound of the jubilant accordion and the affectionate voice of the warm guitar resonated within me as I witnessed my poverty-stricken cousins laugh and play with an uncontrived joy that gnawed at my Western notion of happiness. My extended family had always been afflicted with financial deprivation; my uncle lived in a house made of adobe, and my teenage cousins were the providers for my grandma. And yet, they displayed a joy so exuberant and filled with vigor—I could not turn away from the radiance they impacted me with. The lyrics of this iconic song articulated the spirt of Colombia, and the beautiful orchestration of unadulterated happiness reverberated harmoniously with the liveliness of my beloved family. Everywhere I went—from the world’s best coffee shops to the country’s poorest villages—the joy in the wonderful people of Colombia remained the same. When I interacted with my cousins and the children of the villages, the sounds of their scampering feet and childish giggles oscillated with the acoustic expression of the life of the country’s people, and I was rendered vulnerable to the nuances of the unified bliss.