A Lesson from South America

by Trevor Acy

When you think about the country of Colombia, one of the first thoughts many people have is of the drug cartel. Previously famous for it’s cocaine traffic and murder rate, Colombia was one of the most dangerous countries in the world. And also one of the poorest in terms of income and education. But things are changing down there, drastically and at a surprisingly fast rate.

About a week ago, we got a promotional newsletter about the investment opportunities in Bogota. I was floored. The international environment there is staggering and many companies are using Bogota as a hub for the Central and South American markets. Not only have they reduced crime in the major cities (Bogota, Medellin) but also greatly improved public transportation which is benefiting the impoverished community and reducing pollution. They have attained a steady growth across multiple markets and have fantastic tax benefits for investors.

So why, if I received this information weeks ago, am I writing about it now. Well one of my heroes Anthony Bourdain has updated his personal blog with a similar story and what I think is definitely worth sharing. In his latest travels he visited Colombia, in particular Medellin. Medellin up until recently was the murder capital of the entire world. Now, it is relatively safe considering the time frame from its dangerous past, as said the public transportation has been significantly improved, foreigners (Americans in particular) are welcomed with open arms (a rare deal indeed these days). But the most impressive thing about Colombia is the government is spending an unheard of 40% of the total budget into education. Can you imagine what that kind of mindset would do here in America.

Here’s a link to Tony’s blog. If you don’t want No Reservations, I strongly recommend you do. You learn so much about other places by his interactions with real people. I would give anything to be able to do that for a living.

Edit: What changes do you think we would see here in America if our government even came close to investing that much of the budget into our educational system?

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I am a senior at Miss. State Univ, majoring in International Business. I keep up with Sports, Music, and Technology like no one's business.

7 thoughts on “A Lesson from South America”

  1. Federico, that article and further investigation motivated me to do one of my semester long international investment projects on Colombia. The more I learn about the amazing strides that have been made there, the more impressed I am.

  2. thanks for this nice wordsI have been waiting for someone who really knew about our real condition here in medellin and in the principal cities in colombia. Its time to forget the hollywood based image and see the truth about today´s colombia. And as sergio said the only city that is doing this great 40 effort is Medellin.You are welcome to come whenever you want… 

  3. Thanks for the nice words about my country. Still, I don’t want you people to end up being misinformed. That 40% budget for education is not a nationwide effort, the city of Medellin is the only one doing this with the funds that the central goverment grants it.

  4. Tod,

    Let me echo Clif’s statements. Thanks for your comments and the unique perspective. I was completely taken with the improvements both social and political in Columbia. The country seems on pace to further investment, lower crime, and raise the standard of living.

    Thanks again,

  5. Tod,

    Thanks for commenting to Trevor’s blog post. You certainly provide a perspective that few others can. I’m glad to hear that things are improving and that your family is safe and well.

    All the best,

  6. Hi Trevor,

    Yes, despite the continued presence of narcos, guerrillas, and paramilitary groups life in Colombia is more peaceful these days. I lived in the beautiful and historically rich city of Cartagena from the late 80’s to 1999. In those days, it was too easy to know someone who had been killed in a bomb explosion, kidnapped by guerrillas, or orphaned when their parents were murdered by guerrillas, narcos, paras, or military troops. I was a guest teacher at one school populated by students who lost their village and parents due to fighting between all four of these groups.

    Today, it’s different. President Uribe’s dealings with the guerillas and narcos (hard to find a distinction between them now) has added more stability to the country. My wife’s family lives along the northern coast of Colombia, mostly in Cordoba. In fact, my wife and son are there right now. Unlike in past years, they tell me that people in their region can now work and travel without fear of extortion and abduction. But they are desperate for more educational opportunities and work. I hope this newfound stability attracts investments like the one you mentioned.

    Colombia, rich in culture with staggering natural beauty, needs new ways to generate and distribute money. They seem to be on their way. Even in the small, rural village where my wife is staying with her grandmother, they are connected to the Internet. It is a dial up connection, but it still allows us to keep in touch using Skype video.

    Keep your eye on Colombia. I won’t tell you how to invest, but if you get a chance to visit, go for it. I think Bourdain would tell you that Colombia is worth visiting for more reasons than its plates of Bandeja Paisa.



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