The Voice of Colombia

By Sabrina S.

“When I think of Colombia I think of.. happy people.” says Ana Maria Diaz, from Bogota, Colombia.

Ana Maria grew up in a middle class society, with her family and friends all around her. Instead of having a specific object to remind her of her home, Ana Maria always thinks about her memories. To her, it was the Saturday lunches and the family reunions that reminded her most about Colombia, not merely an object or memento. Of course, Ana Maria has many objects that she keeps in her home, like quilts and pictures, but her memories are the most prized of all her possessions.

As we chatted, she provided a view of Colombia as a Colombian, and compared it to views given by people at DA. Her educational experience in Colombia was very strict, and she was surprised at the independence demonstrated by the students at DA. For example, she went to an all girls school that didn’t allow you to chew gum, eat in class, or talk back to the teacher. DA was an even bigger challenge for Ana Maria then it would have been for other new students because she couldn’t speak English when she came to this school. Eventually she made many friends, and graduated in -06, moving on to a great college.

Ana Maria would sometimes get frustrated when people would automatically assume that all Spanish speaking countries were the same, and that her mom “made the best salsa.” To other people, it didn’t even occur to them that it was Mexico who made great salsa, not Colombia. Eventually she taught her friends about the cultures of her home country, the true Colombia like the Honda, known as the city of the bridges.

Ana Maria moved to the US because of her stepfather, who had a job here in Durham, and she moved before both her mom and sister. She remembered coming here, and seeing how nice people were. However, she still had troubles with cliques and stereotypes, mostly because she could barely speak the language. These troubles weren’t with the teachers, but mostly the students. Since she didn’t speak the language or understand the culture, she was just an alien to most people in her grade. At first, she spent most of her time with the Spanish teachers, speaking in Spanish instead of English. However, over time, Ana Maria grew accustomed to the language, and how people acted and thought, and now she has many, many friends at DA.

In a nutshell, Ana Maria wasn’t just one of the many Colombians coming to America to experience a difference. She was Ana Maria, and she made a huge difference in the Durham Academy community. She really gave the people at DA a look at other cultures, and opened their eyes to the world around them. I think that she is really an amazing person, because she couldn’t even speak English when she first came, and she still made great grades and got into an amazing college. Ana Maria is a kind, funny, happy, and generous person who really lightens up the community here at Durham Academy.