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Columbus Latin American Association


Julie E. Bermudez

Country of Origin Columbia
Length of Time in Columbus 5 months, in U.S. 16 years
Reason for Move The Company I work for - Cummins Inc. - moved me from Nashville, TN to Columbus, IN.
Education & Profession B.S. in Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering from Tennessee Technological University and MBA from University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN.
Family Members I am single and my parents live in Neiva, Huila, Colombia, South America. My brother is married to a Colombian medical doctor and lives in Florida.
Hobbies I like to weave, walk, and travel.
Childhood Years & Schooling Actually I believe there is quite a difference. In Colombia we go to school for 11 years and here it is 12. However, the curriculum is more intense in Colombia. For instance, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, organic and inorganic chemistry and physics begin in the 8th grade and continue until one graduates. Philosophy and Religion and preparation for the state exams are part of the curriculum as well.

Primary and secondary education is predominantly privately run and considered better than the public education. School hours are lengthy; usually 8 to 10 hours daily. In the last two years of secondary school, it is not unusual to go to class on Saturday and sometimes during vacation periods (if the program has not been totally finished during the regular schedule). All graduates must do social service during the 10th and 11th grades. It could consist of anything from teaching literacy, planting gardens with mothers’ clubs, teaching health practices to the poor; in general doing community projects for others. I found this fulfilling.

Another difference, I would say all schools in Colombia must wear uniforms which I don’t find true in the United States. Also, parents play an integral role in the child’s education. They must attend school functions, religious rituals, etc. and roll is taken!

Even though I did not attend the university in Colombia; one goes directly into his area of study immediately upon entering the university. For instance, if a student wants to become a doctor he would enroll in medical school immediately after high school. Therefore, the basic two year general educational requirements that we have in the United States are not applicable in Colombia. Most professional university degrees are five years.
How do you preserve and celebrate your heritage and culture? Here in Columbus I have discovered a wonderful group of Colombians---not all from the company or even Columbus (but nearby towns). We try to get together at least once a month and eat delicious Colombian food and chatter in Spanish, of course. Celebrating Colombian holidays also keeps our Colombian cultural heritage alive.
Is there a celebration or festival that you particularly enjoy? Where I am from, Neiva, we celebrate San Juan (June 24th) and San Pedro (June 29th). No one is in school during these two holidays. There are literally thousands of horses that parade, a “bambuco” queen is elected (a pair that dances a typical dance from the region. The ‘queens’ come from all over Colombia and other countries to compete). It is quite an intricate dance that tells a story of love and attraction and the costumes are gorgeous. There is much drinking and dancing which goes on for a week. There are several parades with floats. All in all it is fun but yet exhausting!
What do you enjoy about living in Columbus? The job opportunities that the United States offers are much greater than in Colombia. The concept of orderliness is evident (i.e. traffic is organized and respect for the elderly, standing in line, etc.)
Was it difficult to adjust to life in Columbus? Perhaps yes, just a bit, since I have no family here. In Colombia we visit friends frequently; just drop in and have coffee. Life is at a much faster pace here than where I am from. If it doesn’t happen today it will happen ‘mañana’ – this is the philosophy.
What do you miss about your native country? The food! My very good friends whom I have had since primary school and of course my parents. I miss not being with my family and friends. I miss the festivities and traditions of certain holidays like San Pedro, Christmas season and New Years.
What would you like other Columbus residents to know about your native country? Despite the bad propaganda of Colombia, its drug traffickers, the guerilla groups like the FARC who kidnap, one must know the beauty of Colombia --- the flora and fauna (Colombia has the most species of birds in the world), the excitement of knowing that the climate changes from 95 degrees F to 70 or 65 degrees F by traveling only 20 minutes away, the hot springs and thermal baths in many parts of the country, the jungle with all its wild animals, the plains area where crops like rice, cotton, and flowers are raised and of course the mountainous area where café de Colombia is grown on its slopes.

Colombia has two coast lines---the clear blue water of the Caribbean Sea with its famous resorts of Cartagena, Santa Marta and San Andrés Isla and the Pacific coast which is practically all jungle. To the south, the Amazon River borders with Peru, Ecuador and Brazil. To the east is Venezuela. Flowers are abundant in Colombia, especially the many varieties of orchids. But most of all the gracious and hospitable people of Colombia are what make you want to keep coming back.

The distinct regions have different customs (some even have different languages), different clothing, typical dances, food and drinks. Bogotá, the capital of Colombia is only a three and a half hour plane ride from Miami. Did you know that Bogotá is almost a two mile high city? We have a vertical climate in Colombia which means that the higher up the mountain, the cooler it becomes. So one can expect Bogotá to be between 50 and 65 degrees F. all day, all year. Whereas Medellin is the ‘city of eternal spring’, ranging around 70 to 75 degrees F all year round. Colombia is Passion!