One of my fondest memories of my family in Colombia and growing up was the Sunday afternoons at my Grandma’s. I have only one sister, like most of you know, but I also grew up with 2 male cousins that were like my brothers. Every Sunday our whole family gathered for lunch and then spent the afternoon laughing at jokes, telling stories and just being a family. The kids would get money once in a while to run to the corner store to buy junk food. I also spent a lot of time listening to my Grandpa. While my other cousins got bored after his first story, I would stay there and listen to everything he had to say. A lot of what I believe in life everything from education to work ethic I learned from stories my Grand Father told me.

Family structure in the United States is completely different. While some of the human interaction is also centered on meal times, everyone’s busy schedules makes these times of getting together very short and lacking of real conversations. A dinner for example, does not involve sitting down afterwards and sipping coffee while you carry on a conversation. Something that I always saw as a bad thing in Spanish culture was people dropping in unexpectedly. Your family friends will show up in the afternoon and bring some kind of pastry to share over coffee. I used to think this practice was somewhat intrusive and inopportune at times, but now I miss it. I would not mind having some of my friends show up at my door and ring the bell to spend an afternoon sharing old stories.

I think therapy is a wonderful tool to help people with their mental health and overall wellbeing. I also think that our societies need for therapy should tell us that we are losing our sense of community. Our families do not communicate in an effective manner. I blame it on our schedules that leave little or no time for conversation beyond every day life monotony.

I watched an episode of CSI last night that showed how a cult had committed mass suicide. When we all heard about Heaven’s Gate it made many question how could people do something like that. I say it is actually very simple; our society is creating people vulnerable to addiction, brain washing and unhappiness. Our society has beat up the family structure to the point that the term broken family is part of everyone’s vocabulary. We all know someone that is from a broken family or currently part of one.

Do not get me wrong, I know that even from the worst background someone can overcome and be happy, emotionally stable and have a great life. I also understand that from the best family, or what would appear from the outside to be that (tere is really no perfection when it comes to humans), someone can be unhappy. What I want to discuss is how we as a society have forgotten how to communicate with one another especially at a family level.

Every day more and more kids get their values from peers, daycares, TV, and even the Internet instead of their parents.  Morals and values seem to be something you read in an old book. In a lot of cases it is due to the fact that many Mothers have had to join the workforce instead of raising a family. While I am all for woman being equal, I believe that there is no one better equipped to raise a family than a mother. I am sure a lot of stay at home Dads do a wonderful job, but I believe that we need the old family structure do make a make comeback.

While I don’t think having a strong family will solve all the problems we have right now, I do believe it will help. I think that therapy would be provided by your family structure instead of having to pay a professional to help you. Some people do need the therapy and someone neutral to help them out, but where did we take a wrong turn and created so many enemies inside of our own “family.” I have met so many people that cannot stand their blood relatives. I also have plenty of issues with the family that I have living here in the US. It is so sad that what used to be a word that comforted me so much has lost a lot of its core meaning. I know it is not as simple as the cliché, “can we all just get along,” but that families have to learn how to get back to being the cornerstone and basic foundation of our society.

Christmas Caroling with Neighbors

The street that I moved into does something special for Christmas every year. They get together and go house to house on our street and sign Christmas Carols. This tradition has been ongoing for 50 years, as one of the people that we sang to attested to. Charlie was the guy that organized it this year, and I believe he has been in charge for quite some time. It does not take much to put it together, but it really makes a difference. We were wondering who would carry on the torch after Charlie cannot do it anymore.

Every single house we went to greeted us with treats, cookies, banana bread, candy canes, chocolates… you name it. I want to learn more songs; I did not know half of the songs. Growing up in Colombia I learned the Colombian Christmas carols that we call “Villancicos.” While we have some of the same songs like Silent Night “Noche de Paz” and The little drummer boy “El Tamborilero” there are a lot of other songs that are completely different.

I think caroling is an awesome tradition. One of the things that I miss the most about Colombia is the sense of community that I felt back in the old neighborhood. While this tradition is only a once a year thing, it gives me that sense of community that I miss. Christmas is a very festive time in Colombia with a lot of traditions around December. “La Novena” is the tradition of getting together every night for nine days before the 25th to pray and sign around “El Pesebre” The nativity scene. Kids from the neighborhood go from house to house and pray and sign as the story of Joseph and Marry traveling to Bethlehem is told. The 24th, the last day of this tradition some people actually give the kids small gifts, some others prepare food on that day. Yesterday the caroling had some of that safe feel.

May you and your family have a Merry Christmas.

Is individualism to blame for bad manners?

I wrote about how our society is losing its good manners. I received some excellent comments, and the one from Sal made me think about family interactions.

Sal Said

I just had a big argument with my wife about this. For some reason, her 18 year old daughter doesnt say hello to people as she walks in the house…

…My wife has said in the past that to her daughter you dont need to do this because you are part of the family, and my response is that family is even more important than strangers.

I am making a statement that some might strongly disagree with, but I think that part of the problem with our society is individualism. Our society is addicted to winning, being the best and having the most is what capitalism is all about. Are we ready to pay the price?

Most teenagers in every culture go through a rebellion phase. They try to branch off and develop their personality and become an individual. In Colombia, most kids then get through this phase and rejoin the family unit. They come back respecting the values and core morals of the family. Respect for your elders is not just encouraged but expected, and age is looked upon as wisdom and not a handicap.

I have observed in America how teenagers after going through their rebellion phase do not come back to their families. Most of the time they develop their individualism and become a whole new person at times denouncing anything that would connect them to the past generation. I believe this is to blame in part to the loss of manners now a days. Our youth is striving so hard to separate themselves from the previous “un-cool” generation that even basic principles and common sense are ignored and forgotten.

Being in a household with a mixed culture, Cielo being born and raised in a smaller town and me coming in with the Colombian background as well as the big city life I experience have come up with our own little culture. The important thing is to not just drop one of the cultures but as a family unit come up with your own. I believe the Colombian culture has a lot to offer, and we adopt as much of it as it fits our lives. The small town living that Cielo grew up around also brings a lot of positives that have really made me slow down from the 24-hour big city life. We both still love Chicago and visit quite often, but can do without a lot of the congestion and stress that comes from a cosmopolitan city.

I think not just in our household but in all households it is important to compromise your beliefs and come up with what is best for the family. I don’t think is right to just ignore how one person lives or has lived before just for the sake of continuity. In Sal’s case I think that teaching his (step)Daughter respect and greeting people when she comes home is important. I believe that while a compromise can be reached in other terms, that keeping that sense of family involves greeting and personal contact. I think he should care, and believe in incorporating what I believe is a very positive thing into his overall family culture.

What do you guys think?

Que es Proyecto Colombia?

What is The Colombia Project? – English Version

Que es Proyecto Colombia? Esta es una pregunta que tratare de responder. En realidad lo que yo quiero es su apoyo en este nuevo camino que quiero empezar a caminar. Proyecto Colombia ha sido una de esas ideas que se le mete a uno en la mente y no lo deja tranquilo. Desde que nació ha tenido una voz muy tierna que me dice, bueno hermano cuando es que va a mostrarme al mundo. Lo mas interesante es que yo se que esa idea va a ser mucho mas grande que lo que yo he pensado, pero todo depende del apoyo que me den otros Colombianos, porque lo mas importante pare este proyecto es tener pan caliente.

Confundidos, espero que no mucho. En lo que he aprendido en la internet hasta el día de hoy, lo mas importante en un pagina es contenido. Sin contenido fresco y que la gente quiera consumir no hay buen sitio. Pero cual es el producto que vende Proyecto Colombia? Una imagen mas positiva de mi querida tierra por supuesto. Sigo bailando por el asunto y todavía no defino que es Proyecto Colombia.

Proyecto Colombia es una pagina de Web dedicada completamente a cambiarle la cara a Colombia en frente del Mundo. Proyecto Colombia tendrá noticias, artículos y fotos que intentaran mostrar el lado positivo de Colombia. También poco a poco será un recurso donde personas que necesitan información acerca de Colombia encontraran información franca acerca del país. Nunca negara lo malo pero si tratara de resaltar lo bueno mientras borra to incorrecto.

Como nació Proyecto Colombia. Primero fue el amor que tengo por mi patria, y poco a poco se mezcló con mí deseo interno de utilizar mis poderes de superhéroe cibernético para el bien. Hubo dos grandes catalizadores para que se formara la idea. Uno fue la ignorancia que los extranjeros le tienen al país, y de ahí se forma el miedo y el rechazo a lo que yo considero el país mas calido y con mas sabor en el mundo. El segundo catalizador fue conocer a personas que fueron nacidas en Colombia pero adoptadas por personas del exterior, y como la sangre los llama a la tierra pero muchos de ellos no tienen un lugar donde encontrar esa información.

Finalmente quiero decir que aunque esta idea que esta formándose en un sitio de Web no es solo mío, sino de todos los Colombianos que quieran cambiarle la cara a nuestro país.

For the English version Read more Que es Proyecto Colombia?

Understanding Violence

As an adult now I look back at many preconceptions I had about feeling safe. I felt safe when I was inside my house, or when my father was with me. I guess my family did a great job of sheltering me from ever feeling unsafe, or maybe I truly never had a reason not to feel less safe. My family decided to move to the US from Colombia for many reasons, but one of them was because it was safer than in our violence stricken country. Was that a huge misconception? Is the US truly a safer country?
Read more Understanding Violence