Old Post from an Old Blog: Charles Stuart Cochrane’s Travels in Colombia

Another post I found, comparing Colombia in 1823 and 2008.
I am reading this book by an Englishman named Charles Stuart Cochrane, written between 1823 and 1824. My uncle recommended it to me and it’s pretty entertaining, especially as I’m moving to Colombia soon.
Some of Cochrane’s observations:

“The greater part of the civilized Indians of Colombia has been, and still is, a class totally degraded.” This is still true, I’d say.

“Every political point is discussed with much animation and gesture; but nothing unpleasant arises from this freedom of debate, where every man expresses his sentiments without offence, for they have a mild temper naturally and too much good sense to quarrel for difference of opinion.” This observation seems to have been premature. Have not met many people who would describe Colombians as mild-tempered. Also, there have been civil wars, guerillas and paramilitaries born of these much animated but “pleasant” debates.

“They have no idea of giving a quiet dinner party in our English style; if they consider themselves obliged to give a dinner to a stranger, they invite a great number to meet him; load their tables with dishes, and spend in one day what would support their own family a month at least. ” I think this still rings somewhat true.

“Kindness of heart is a characteristic of a Colombian, who will put himself to great inconvenience to assist his friend…” Also think this is a pretty accurate observation.

“The majority of women are by no means handsome; they certainly have fine eyes and dark hair, — but neither features , complexion, nor figure are good when compared to those of Europe. Some have, when young, little bloom on their cheeks, but in general, a sallow or Moorish cast of face meets the eye.” I’m insulted! I wonder if the bloom in my cheek is gone and has been replaced by a sallow or Moorish cast of face?  He doesn’t find Colombian women attractive, but luckily for me:

“The men, taken as a body, are far handsomer than the women, and their dark complexions more agreeable to the eye.”

So that is what I’ve learned from Cochrane so far. I will see how much has changed in Bogotá and Colombia in the last 200 years…

Categories: Bogota, Colombia, Colombian culture, Colombian men

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