Saturday, December 8, 2007

The New Rich

It is hard to earn a lot of money in Colombia. Saving money is a big challenge too, even with the low cost of living. Although the economy is better than it has been in years, Colombia’s per capita income is $2,020 (U.S. dollars), according to the World Bank. An estimated 7% earn less than $1 (U.S. dollars) per day.

With that said, there is a significant minority of people living in Bogotá who are wealthy. I hung out with two of them today. One of my English students, Claudia, invited me to her apartment for lunch. She grew up in Medellin, and now is Colombia’s sales representative for McCain Foods, the world’s largest producer of french fries and other frozen foods. Her husband, Oscar, has lived in Bogotá his entire life and works for Proxor, a chemical company. They live in the most northeastern region of the city known as Usaquén. Their apartment complex is only two years old and is on the eastern mountainside that encompasses the city. As Oscar and I took a short walk outside of his apartment to the top of the hill that overlooks the city, he told me that the city’s most expensive real estate is being built primarily in the north. Below is a photo of his apartment complex. It includes tennis and squash courts, and a mini-golf course that you can see in the lower-left corner.

Claudia cooked me the traditional food from Medellin called bandeja paisa. We each had a large bowl of big beans and a plate full of white rice. In the center of the table was a tray of potato-chip-thin plátanos, small chorizos (sausages), and of course, arepas. There was also hogao to put on the plantanos and arepas. It was a good meal. The beans were a great treat. In Bogotá, soup and potatoes and meat are the norm. Beans are a rarity.

Later in the afternoon we went to Centro Comercial Santafé, the biggest mall in Bogotá. Claudia and Oscar have one-and-a-half-year-old twins, Sebastian and Daniela. I pushed them around the mall in their twin stroller as women smiled at them. The twins loved the lavish Christmas decorations and lights. I noticed a lot of children’s stores. Maybe that was because I was pushing around two toddlers. It felt as if everyone in Bogotá was there. The basement parking was like a maze, and nearly every space was taken. It just goes to show, Colombians may not have large bank accounts, but they still do a lot of Christmas shopping.


DianaCats said...

Hehehe, actually it's "plátanos" not "plantanos". If they were sweet it's plátano frito, if they were salty it's patacón!

A colombian "tradition" is going to the malls and look around, maybe have an ice cream or something, and go! So in this time of the year every mall is crowded, half the people buying, half just looking :D

Brett Garamella said...

Dianacats, thank you for expertise. I just added this change to my blog.

That is funny you mention ice cream because we stopped for cones of "ron con pasa," or rum-flavored ice-cream with raisins... I think I have this correct.

Anyhow, thanks for checking out my blog, and hopefully next year I'll make a trip to Medellin.

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