Daily Life Field Note

Title:  People in Colombia: A look at Rocio’s Life
City: Medellin 
Country: Colombia
Date: April 14, 2013, 7:00 PM

Abstract: There are people with interesting stories to tell all over the world! This week, I spoke to Rocio, a recent college graduate, about some of the most important and interesting aspects of her life. I learned that not everyone who lives in Medellin is from this big city!

Introduction:  If I were to ask you to describe yourself, what’s the first thing that you’d say? Would you talk about your neighborhood? Would you mention your age? Would you mention your family members? When I spoke to Rocio, a twenty-two year old who recently graduated from the university where I work, she made it clear that her identity is tightly connected to her family and the place where she was born.

Though Rocio studied in Medellin, she was born and raised in a coastal region of the country called La Guajira.  La Guajira is known for its beautiful beaches, desert climate and its indigenous tribe, the Wayuu. As Rocio explains, the culture in La Guajira has been tremendously influenced by the culture and traditions of the Wayuu, making the region distinct from the rest of the country. In fact, Rocio herself has some Wayuu ancestry! Though I translated her responses from Spanish to English, the following responses are direct quotes from Rocio.

What is your full name?

My name is Rocio Mileth Daza Ferreira. My first name means dew, like the dew left on the grass in the morning.

Where do you live? What is your house like?

Rocio’s neighborhood in her hometown

I currently live in Medellin in an apartment building. I live here at the moment because I work in Medellin. However, I’m originally from a part of Northern Colombia called La Guajira. La Guajira is home to an indigenous tribe, the Wayuu. It is also home to many Arab immigrants who came to the region in order to become involved in trade and commerce. Given its location on the Caribbean coast, La Guajira has historically been a center of trade in Colombia and is known as the “commercial showcase” of the country.

My house in La Guajira is just like other traditional houses in the region. These houses typically only have one floor and lots of outdoor space for relaxing! There is a porch at the front of my house. It also has a large yard that surrounds the house in an “L” shape. The roof of my house is made out of fibrocement, a material that is similar to terracotta.

On the porch, we entertain guests and sit outside in the sun.  In the yard, we hang hammocks called chinchorros. Chinchorros are traditional, woven hammocks used by the Wayuu. They’re perfect for taking a nap during a hot day. It gets really hot in La Guajira, but there’s also always a nice breeze!

In our yard, there’s a tree that grows a fruit called trupillo. It’s sort of like a bean. It’s very nutritional and both humans and animals can eat it. When the dogs eat it, it makes them go to the bathroom!

Rocio and her four siblings

What is your family like?

I have four siblings. One of them is a boy and the rest are girls. They live with my mother and father. My mother is a housewife and my father works in farming and cattle-raising.

Although my mother is a housewife, she’s a very skilled seamstress. Many of the women in La Guajira dedicate themselves to artisanal crafts. My mother knows how to make beautiful threaded bags and head accessories. Everything she makes, she gives as gifts to friends and family!

My father works on the family finca, or farm, that belongs to my grandmother. The finca is over thirty acres large. To give you an idea of how big that is, one acre is about the size of a football field! On the finca, we have cows, pigs, chickens, and goats. During certain seasons, we also grow corn. For example, this January, we harvested the corn. On the finca, there’s also a big watering hole. The animals use it to drink water. We also use it sometimes to swim!

One day on the finca, my grandmother put me in charge of making lunch. Little did I know that in order to prepare the chicken, first I would have to slaughter it! I had never slaughtered a chicken before and I didn’t know where to start! My grandmother explained that the first step is to cut the chicken’s throat with a blade. Because I was so nervous, I wasn’t able to cut the chicken’s throat deep enough to kill it. Instead, the chicken was still alive and walking around, but its neck was wobbling from side to side! Terrified, I yelled for my grandmother. When she arrived and saw the stumbling chicken, she burst into laughter and helped me finish the job. Although the chicken ended up making a tasty lunch, I promised myself I would never slaughter a chicken again!

How do you get around?

Watering Hole at the Finca

In Medellin and in La Guajira, I usually just walk or take the bus. I don’t have a car. I’ve really wanted to buy a bicycle recently.

What types of clothing do you like to wear?

In Medellin, I wear jeans and casual shirts. Sometimes, I wear dresses, but only for special occasions. When I’m in La Guajira, I wear shorts and clothing for hot weather. I also wear something called a manta. A manta is a traditional, threaded dress that was originally used by the Wayuu and is now used by many women who live in La Guajira. My mom knows how to make mantas! They’re very beautiful and colorful. They’re also very airy, making them ideal for the heat.

I also like to wear manillas, or artisanal bracelets sold on the street or in craft stores.  Usually, these bracelets are threaded or made out of leather or other natural materials. I like to wear manillas because I support artisanal crafts, and I really like the aesthetic. Do you know what the word aesthetic means? I’m a casual person and I think the manillas show that.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I used to play soccer when I was younger. I also used to love to play tic-tac-toe with my friends. Now, I like to read. I’ve been trying to make an effort to read as much as I can. I also like to spend time with my friends and with my boyfriend. I think it’s really important to make time for your friends. I try to see them as much as I can.

What language(s) do you speak? How do you say “Hello” in your language?

I speak Spanish. I also know a few words in Wayuunaiki. Wayuunaiki is the language spoken by the Wayuu. Whenever the Wayuu greet each other, they say “anashi”. “Anashi” translates into English as “good”. I think it’s a way to ask each other how we are doing! By saying anashi they are asking, “How are you today? Good?”

Do you have pets?

I have a dog named Milu. She’s a mutt. She’s a mix between a Chau Chau and other breeds and is pretty small. Boy, she’s a handful! She eats absolutely anything and everything. She’s only four months old and is turning out to be a very mischievous dog! Although my dad buys dogs in order to protect the house, they just end up becoming the familys’ toys! Do you have pets?

Have you traveled? Where have you traveled to?

I have travelled to various parts of Venezuela.  However, the best place I’ve ever traveled to is a town called Santa Marta. Santa Marta is a small coastal city in Colombia. I love it for its happy people, its beaches, and its relaxed environment. I’m the kind of person who becomes stressed easily. Living in a big city like Medellin makes me even more stressed! I don’t like the busy lifestyle and the large size of the city. I prefer smaller places like Santa Marta. I also have very good memories of the city. It reminds me of my childhood. Do you prefer big cities or small towns?

What do you do for work?

I work at the University of Medellin. I am an assistant researcher in the social sciences department. My job is to collect and organize information so that the professor I work with can conduct his research effectively.

Is there anything else you would like to say to students in the United States?

I know that there is a generally negative image of Colombia in other parts of the world. I want to urge students in the United States to look beyond this image and see Colombia in a positive light. I want them to make the effort to see that Colombia is a beautiful country. And even better, I want them to travel to Colombia and find out for themselves how wonderful Colombia really is!

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