“I am American. I was born in America. My skin complexion might be slightly darker but I am American no matter what.” I had these words engraved in my thoughts and no one believed them more than I did. So when mother presented my family and I with the “magical opportunity of a lifetime” that was to visit the beautiful country of Colombia in South America, I immediately denied the offer. I took it as if my mother was trying to inject her Colombian heritage into my blood and completely get rid of any drop of “Americaness” that I could possibly have inside. And although I had no true intentions of actually being a part of this family trip, due to the fact that I am only a 16-year-old teenage girl, my mom was the one who had the final word on my decision and there was nothing I can do about it. So there I was. Looking through the little window of an airplane observing what my mother had called “Paradise”. Even though all I saw were mountains, old buildings and streets filled with busy traffic.
I would love to tell you that as soon as I stepped off the plane something unexplainable happened to me and I immediately transformed my perspective about the trip, but that is not what occurred. It was until a Friday morning, after meeting family members that I had never heard of, and trying new foods that I could not even pronounce, my mother decided to take the family to a special place that her dad took her to when she was 7 years old. That was the day when I met the beautiful, life changing Monserrate.
Monserrate is a mountain that is located in the center of Bogota, Colombia which is the capital of the country. But what made this mountain so unique, were the facts that once you get to the summit, you will find yourself standing in front of Basílica del Señor. A Catholic shrine built in the 1650s and is 3,152 meters above sea level. Once we reached this point, my mother pulled me off to a side and took me to a corner with a step stool and said to me, “once you step on this stool, you will see the beauty that my country has to offer. And I pray to God, that one day you’ll learn to appreciate my culture and hopefully accept the fact that you are a Colombian.”
She was right. You could see, hear and smell everything! The view brought a connection between this land and I that felt as if it were just meant to be. The wind blowing through my face filled me with an understanding that was truly captivating. In that moment, I understood why my family struggled so much to get us there. They knew something I did not, and they took it upon themselves to help me figure it out and I truly appreciate their efforts.
Just like mine, I know there are probably hundreds of other stories of people who have forgotten who they are and where they came from, but my suggestion to everyone is to never forget. Do not force yourself to be someone you are not and take advantage of every opportunity that life presents you with. Whether it is visiting another city nearby or a country far away. Enjoy every traveling opportunity you get and try to see things from a different perspective and you’ll see the beauty that the world has to offer. “I am Colombian.”
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