A-Z Deets for 2018's CONEXION LATINA

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 "CONEXION LATINX"

This spring, Travel Latina, an online forum featuring women, womxn and gender non-binary people of the Latin American and Caribbean diaspora traveling the world, is teaming up with Scarlet Macaw Trips to host the first ever CONEXION LATINX in the beautiful eje cafetero (coffee region) of Colombia. The week, slated for March 29-April 2, 2018, will be dedicated to personal and professional discovery, cultural growth and understanding via dynamic workshops, fun classes and immersion activities, dialogue, art making, and inclusive, professional roundtable seminars.

Participants will be encouraged to workshop their own personal or professional project. They will leave the week with a plan of action for moving said initiative forward. The fertile surroundings of Colombia's
eje cafetero will set the scene for interpersonal exchanges and local experiences to fortify and support one another via peer-to-peer workshops and more.

WHAT’S INCLUDED?

  • Dates: 4 nights, 5 days (March 29 - April 2, 2018) in a shared dorm for six at the Coffee Tree Boutique Hostel. (Private room available upon request for a higher price).

  • Cost per person: $280 USD early bird price until 2/15/18, $300 regular registration price through March 15, 2018 (or until last seat is filled) Full details of what’s included below.

  • Where? Salento, Quindio, Colombia, a verdant, picturesque pueblo surrounded by coffee fincas and the Cocora Valley.

MORE details:

 

Dorm rooms in modern hostel in central Salento (4 nights)

  • Welcome and farewell dinners in Salento

  • Breakfast (5 days)

  • Lunch (4 days)

  • 3-4 TRAVEL LATINA workshops + materials

    • These workshops will be dedicated to drawing up next steps for advancing a passion project, small business idea, or personal project into its next stage via peer-to-peer seminars and ongoing dialogue throughout the week.

  • Yoga session (2nd optional)

  • 1 workshop with local artist (includes leather making with take-home gift) in support of the Aldea de Artesania in Salento, a collective of local artists who will contextualize the economy and history of local artisans

  • Transportation to and from Cocora Valley, home to 200-ft-tall wax palms, miles of hiking trails, and hummingbird sanctuaries, and included experience (includes lunch and afternoon workshop with Travel Latina)

  • Transportation to and from Finca Ocasa (one of the region’s most lauded coffee farms) and included experience (private tour, lunch, tips and afternoon workshop with Travel Latina)

  • Workshop materials to be provided by Travel Latina

 

WHO SHOULD GO ON THIS TRIP?

YOU.

You’re at a crossroads or on the ascent professionally.

You’ve started a project and are seeking collaborative ideas or solutions.

You want to explore Colombia while connecting and supporting local entities.

You are seeking an amazing travel experience (day trips, nature, beauty, music, good company) You are collaborative, driven, adventurous, and craving a peer-to-peer travel experience.

This experience is open to everyone. 

 

WHAT’S WITH THE ‘X’ in CONEXION LATINX?

From the Huff Po: “Latinx is the gender-neutral alternative to Latino, Latina and even Latin@. Used by scholars, activists and an increasing number of journalists, Latinx is quickly gaining popularity among the general public. It’s part of a “linguistic revolution” that aims to move beyond gender binaries and is inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants. In addition to men and women from all racial backgrounds, Latinx also makes room for people who are trans, queer, agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming or gender fluid.”

 

 

A few FAQs for our CONEXION LATINX (2018) participants

For anyone traveling to Colombia for the first time, we know the thought of taking a bus alone to a little pueblo might be overwhelming. While we can't, unfortunately, offer pick-up in any of the big cities (Medellin, Cali, Bogota) we can offer a few pro-tips and in general, sites to check out when you are considering BUS or FLIGHT from one of the above international destinations.

We suggest you arrive to Medellin, Cali, or Bogota. From there the options are long bus rides (ranging from 5-8 hours) to Salento or a short plane ride into ARMENIA or PEREIRA. Assuming your arrival is before 8 pm, SMT can help you arrange transportation from Armenia/Pereira into Salento.

We are here to help you with logistics and if you are arriving late, we're happy to find transportation for you at an added cost of around $45 USD. This price isn't built into the workshop price but we can work it in. We highly suggest letting us know your arrival times so that we can help ensure you get to Salento safe and sound. If you are traveling during the day, by two planes, you will most likely have a smooth arrival. Arriving at dark in a new place is sometimes jarring so we want to make sure you feel good about all travel plans!

Please write us at info@scarletmacawtrips.com so we can help you.

Below are some good fare checkers. Let us know what you find!

-SMT + TL

Bogota to Pereira

Bogota to Armenia

BUS: Bogota to Armenia, round trip

BUS: Bogota to Pereira, round trip

 MOMONDO Flight checker, Bogota to Armenia

MOMONDO Flight checker, Bogota to Pereira

 Once you arrive, all will be #RELAX

Once you arrive, all will be #RELAX

#TravelLatina - SpotLight on Founder Alexandra Tracy

 Ale in San Diego, Califas

Ale in San Diego, Califas

Surely you have stumbled across @Travel_Latina by now. The IG page, website, and FB community all function to empower and uplift womxn and gender non-binary people of the Latin American and Caribbean diaspora traveling the world. It's founder, Alexandra Tracy, wrote a blog post a couple of years ago that caught my eye. I reached out. She featured Scarlet Macaw Trips when it was born, and we immediately began hatching a plan to collaborate someday. That someday is this year. 

Both Ale and I found ourselves back in Colombia as adults after growing up in the States. Her mother is from Colombia, my father is, too. She is participating in the Peace Corps around the Santa Marta region, while I lived in Cartagena and did work in the surrounding areas for a year during a Fulbright Fellowship in 2014-15. Our paths were bound to cross and thanks to some mutual friends pointing me in her direction, they did. 

This spring, Ale and I are hosting our inaugural CONEXION LATINX workshop in the #ejecafetero region of Colombia. Of all the little coffee fincas and publos in the area, SALENTO seemed right for what we want to do: find ways to continue empowering and supporting womxn of color in their professional and personal pursuits. Colombia has everything it needs to push through into a brilliant future: deserts, the Amazon, rivers and waterfalls, cacao, café, granjas, tropical fruit and variety and biodiversity as far as the eye can see. We are using this metaphor of plenty, of having everything-we-need-we-have-within to ground us and set the scene for what we know will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for womxn who have never traveled to Colombia and are ready to engage in dialogue with other womxn who are at a crossroads in their lives with a personal or professional project. Ale fits this profile. So I thought I'd ask her directly to speak on a couple of themes that will inevitably come up as we continue to welcome new mujerxs into the fold. We can't wait to meet you!

Scarlet Macaw Trips (Sahara): Ale, what is TRAVEL LATINA?
Alexandra Tracy:
Travel Latina wants to empower Latinxs to travel, combat negative stereotypes and machismo, encourage them to connect with and embrace their roots, and ultimately, push for a more conscious traveler within.

SMT: What do you love about your community?
Ale:
I love how much our community helps and supports each other, how friendships have flourished, how travelers have met fellow travelers for local trips or international trips, and how it has even brought fruitful opportunities to some.

SMT: What was the impetus to collaborate with SMT on this #EJECAFETERO workshop?
Ale:
TL shares a similar vision to SMT where we want to create trip experiences tailored to the Latinx or Latina traveler.


SMT: What do you think your bloggers, readers, and ultimately, participants will get out of this workshop? i.e.,  why would YOU go to this workshop?
Ale:
We hope to bring Latinx together who want to expand TL, collaborate together, create trip experiences, and/or develop a platform that offers more than just trips or a network and online or physical community. I have several ideas myself of a type of online platform I want to create for Latinx explorers, but I'd rather not share publicly yet ;)
 

I would want to go to this workshop to meet ambitious, inspiring, firecracker Latinas/Latinxs who not only push me and others to be better, but who might also become my coworkers, collaborators, and/or influencers for life.

SMT: Fair enough :) What are you most looking forward to during this workshop in Salento?
Ale:
I'm looking forward to using the fertile ground as a metaphor for our ideas and dreams, combining our strengths and skills, and reaching out to our ancestors collectively for guidance.


 

SMT: Yes!  Finally, what is your favorite thing about Colombia...thus far?
Ale:
I have witnessed Colombia's major change in security since I took a long road-trip with my family in 2010 from Bogota to the coast, a trip that would have never happened between the years of 1980-2010. My favorite part about Colombia is the very visible and exciting increase in tourism in the past 8 years, which is not surprising from "the land of magical realism and enchantment," now that the violence has decreased. I want to contribute to sustainable tourism, development, and poverty-alleviation here.

 Finca Ocaso en SALENTO, COLOMBIA

Finca Ocaso en SALENTO, COLOMBIA


DROP US A LINE AT INFO@SCARLETMACAWTRIPS.COM for more info!


Early bird registration open through Feb. 1 and for pals registering together, early bird registration never ends...

CONEXION LATINX: Travel Latina x Scarlet Macaw Trip, Spring 2018

*Shared post from Travel Latina: Our workshop announcement! Please scroll down and leave your name and email to receive registration info.

This spring, we are teaming up with Travel Latina to host the first ever CONEXION LATINX in the beautiful eje cafetero region of Colombia. The week (slated for late March, early April, 2018) will be dedicated to personal and professional discovery, cultural growth and understanding via dynamic workshops, fun classes and immersion activities, dialogue, art making, and professional roundtable seminars.

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As entrepreneurs, we at Travel Latina and Scarlet Macaw are in the process of molding our passion projects into something sustainable and for the greater good. We suspect we are not alone in trying to get a passion project off the ground ...and so we are reaching out to our community.

We are inviting artists of all kinds, movers and shakers, entrepreneurs and adventurers to join us for a week in the eje cafetero region of Colombia to explore themes that we believe will help us galvanize growth in our personal, professional, spiritual, and emotional lives.  

As Latinxs, we believe we are stronger, smarter, and more powerful together.  We want to hear your stories, what you’re doing and dreaming, where you’re stuck, and how we can lend helping hands or facilitate a meeting of minds. Sharing insights from our respective experiences might inform the choices we make next.

Why Colombia?

  • Both Ale and Sahara (the founders of TL and SMT, respectively) have chosen to move there and are currently working on projects specifically linked to the country. With travel to Colombia booming, the time is right to host the first workshop for Latinx here in the rich soil of the coffee region. The fertile lands that produce world-class coffee, guanabana, banano, papaya, orchids - and more - can serve as a metaphor for what we hope to nurture with you throughout this week. What can we plant? What can we cultivate within our communities for the greater good?
  • We know the region and feel comfortable hosting you here.
  • A number of Ale’s travelers have passed through or want to return to Colombia. We think this is the right spot for our workshop not only because of the country´s breathtaking beauty but because the environment is inspiring and lends itself to community interaction and collaboration. Colombia will open our minds and serve as ground 0 for creating meaningful work.

This trip is right for you if:

  • You’re at a crossroads or on the ascent professionally
  • You’ve started a project and are seeking ideas or collaboration
  • You want to explore Colombia while collaborating with local women and supporting local entities
  • You are seeking an amazing travel experience (day trips, nature, beauty, music, good company) while seeking answers or feeling curious and want to explore your inklings with us
  • You are collaborative, driven, adventurous, and are craving a peer-to-peer experience
     

Goals for this trip experience & workshop:

  • To nurture this first cohort of Latinx Firecrackers from here on out; this group is for life - a growing network of Latinxs working in every sector from education to tech, art to medicine.
  • Support and strengthen you through this travel experience.
  • Provide a safe space in which to address everyone’s project, offering genuine support and honest feedback. Constructive criticism makes us stronger and equipped to take on big challenges.
  • Show our travelers other facets of Colombian society not often shown by western media.
  • Connect with: the earth, ancestral roots, each other, ourselves, local communities.
  • Bring back to our communities at home more reason to listen, watch, and learn from this generation of Latinx.

Stay tuned on social for further details about pricing, itinerary, and registration process - tentatively opening on February 1.

 We will be here together! Valle Cocora, salento. 

We will be here together! Valle Cocora, salento. 

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Spotlight: Tour Guide Extraordinaire

As I discovered a couple of years ago, you cannot walk down any street in El Centro in Cartagena with native Cartagenero and stellar tour guide Brayan Muñoz Crizon without running into someone he knows - an old teacher, a vendor, an emerald salesman, an old classmate, his mother's friend, another tour guide - every few steps.

"Vale mia!" he greets everyone. A hug, a high five, or an inside joke will follow. It's baffling to think this is the network he's grown within the city walls in just two years; what happens in 20?! He's one of Cartagena's youngest - and most energetic, knowledgeable, and passionate - tour guides. He is Cartagena's proudest native son; its forever champion! He knows everything from local baseball stats to the military terminology behind an otherwise romantic 'selfie spot' along the city walls!

Brayan is the founder of Cartagena Explore and has been working with both big and boutique travel agencies for several years. He likes baseball, the English language, bagels with cream cheese and lox, and goes hard all day everyday.

We wanted you to hear from a real Cartagenero before you join us en vivo. Follow along online with him here and here, and if you're already traveling, book him all for yourself here.

 

Scarlet Macaw Trips: Before you studied tourism, what did you know about the world, about travel and tourism in Cartagena?

Brayan: I didn’t know anything! I just thought anybody speaking another language was a gringo! When I was younger, I didn’t know many people from other cultures. Not a lot of people in my family have traveled, so what I knew I knew from soap operas.

SMT: Do you remember your first tour? How have you improved?

Brayan: My first tour was in 2014 here in Cartagena. I was very excited. I misspoke about a lot of facts and dates...but kept the energy. Since then I’ve improved my English a lot in conversation with different tourists every week. I’ve learned more about my own culture and city’s history, and I’m more confident. Every single tour you do you’re able to share and show more about yourself. I sprinkle each tour with a little bit of “Brayan…” I’m proud to be one of the youngest tour guides in Cartagena and I bring my own style to each tour I give.

SMT: You give a lot of energy to every tour (just ask The Black Tomato!). What characteristics do you think make a tour guide successful?

Brayan: My suggestion to all new tour guides is to only do one big tour a day so that you can give your all, your best, to the experience. I realize how lucky I am when companies come to me and trust me with their travelers, or if travelers (couples, families) come to me directly because of word-of-mouth referrals - I have to give it my all! When we’re together in Cartagena - I’m all yours. I’m very present and energetic. And, of course, you have to be humble, confident, and charming!

SMT: Would you say you possess those traits?
Brayan: Well…

 Brayan in Santa Marta, on a tour, of course...

Brayan in Santa Marta, on a tour, of course...

SMT: Do you have a crazy story from your early days as a guide you’d like to share?

Brayan: In late 2015 I was responsible for taking a family to Playa Blanca and Islas Rosarios (where SMT is taking you!). We went by boat. The ocean was very rough that day. And I didn’t know the boat captain or folks on the island too well. Because of the weather I thought it would be good to head back to El Centro but they were hungry and wanted to eat ahead of schedule. They wanted to go to a certain restaurant but I couldn’t get them a reservation! The boat captain said ‘no problem’ and that he would 'help me out' and that he knew a good restaurant nearby that didn’t charge too much and that was available for the family. Before getting all the details the family agreed. The food came, lunch was fine, and then, at the end when we were trying to leave, they tried to charge us an insane amount of money because we hadn’t settled on a price before we ate! I had to spend some minutes negotiating the price way down without alarming the tourists! I was so nervous.

Sometimes, I swear, I have nightmares about being the middleman!

SMT: Oh no! But to your point - travelers should know to always settle on the price before any exchange of services or purchases of goods have gone down, right?! You bring up an important issue, though, about traveling around Cartagena and knowing how important it is to work with someone you trust in new environments, especially when an exchange of goods and services are involved.

SMT: So, what about you? Where do you want to go?

Brayan: Everywhere! Obviously the West Indies because, well...I’m a Caribeño Guy! I would love to go anywhere. Everywhere, explore around. San Andres and Salento in Colombia. New York and Miami.

*Adjusts Brooklyn Nets hat over Skype*

SMT: Well, that makes sense! So, what can you share with people who might not know anything about Cartagena?

Brayan: Cartagena is hundreds of square miles. The touristy spots take up about 25-30% of the city and when they visit they mostly only see that much during their whole trip. I’d like to invite people to the ‘real’ side of Cartagena to see what people do for a living, what people do for fun, how they bring the bacon home, what music we listen to! What sports we play…Have you heard of Bate de Tapita?

SMT: No…

Brayan: Bate de Tapita is like casual baseball played with a bat and a bottle cap. I would love to show people how we play that!

SMT: How do you work on your tour guide practice everyday? How are you improving?

Brayan: When I’m not on the job I’m researching, learning about other tours I could give (currently: birds!), learning more about the history of Cartagena and Colombia. I’m always trying to find new or unique things I can bring to my tours. Even though I’m from here I have to keep learning about my culture and how I can share things about it.

SMT: Anything else you want to share?

Brayan: I want to thank all the tourists who believed in me from the beginning. And the teachers too (you know who you are…). I’m also excited about a new trip I’m working on which has to do with the African Diaspora here in the culture on the coast. Colombia is really diverse, really rich in culture.

Cartagena is the most important city to visit as a traveler to Colombia, I’d say! Here there is a mix of everything from people to food to culture - whatever it is you’re looking for, you can find it here…

Spotlight: Gavelys from Atanque

In my mind I can hear the way Gavelys calls me - on the phone, down the street, from the other side of the house she yells "Sah-haaaa-ya!" mimicking the way her three grandsons, aged 2-6, call me. I can see the way she stands: her legs hyper-extend a bit backwards just like those of her youngest grandson, Sebas. When she recounted details about the past her fingers and hands acted in staccato dissonance over her words. She only cried one time, in October, telling me about how the guerillas moved into her pueblito and killed all the chickens on her finca, and how she ended up on the outskirts of Cartagena two years later after being falsely imprisoned for being a 'guerrilla sympathizer.'

 Gavelys in a hammock outside her home in Membrillal, Cartagena. Originally from Atanque, about 7 hours by bus from Cartagena, she arrived in 2006 and settled in Membrillal 9 months post displacement. © Sahara Borja, 2014

Gavelys in a hammock outside her home in Membrillal, Cartagena. Originally from Atanque, about 7 hours by bus from Cartagena, she arrived in 2006 and settled in Membrillal 9 months post displacement. © Sahara Borja, 2014

 

I met Gavelys at Funsarep in September of the year I spent in Cartagena on the Fulbright. Funsarep is a nonprofit organization just outside of the historic downtown area that provides a safe and creative space for women and children to begin rebuilding their lives. Many of the women who participate in activities offered at Funsarep have been displaced, like Gavelys, from other parts of the country because of the ongoing armed conflict. The destruction and disruption of life is frequent all over the country, and many families are uprooted more than once. Many in Gavelys' community arrived in Cartagena with small children, just a few belongings, with maybe the phone number of a cousin or family friend in their pocket. Funsarep employs a social worker and resident therapist who works with members individually and in groups on various forms of creative expression that address the trauma of being a victim of war and displacement.

 Two of Gavelys' grandsons bathe while waiting for lunch behind the house in Membrillal. © Sahara Borja, 2015

Two of Gavelys' grandsons bathe while waiting for lunch behind the house in Membrillal. © Sahara Borja, 2015

 

The event to which I was invited that September was a play co-written by Gavelys and some members of Funsarep. The play offered glimpses of daily life in each of these womens' homes and the destruction and violence that came when one of the armed groups - the FARC, the paramilitaries, or the Colombian state army - entered their pueblitos. The majority of these women grew up in rural areas, where everything they needed more or less grew around them - bananas, ñame, yucca, avocado, cacao, papaya, chickens, coffee, and sugar.

The shock of arriving in a metropolitan area (albeit in a coastal region like Cartagena) is often a triple or quadruple blow, depending on the situation. Women like Gavelys who arrived with their children face/d frequent discrimination for 'being' displaced, for being of indigenous or Afro descent, for being women, and for lacking the resources or 'connections,' background and professional experience to slip right into work for which they have not been trained in a big city.

Gavelys grew up on a finca with 23 brothers and sisters and would tell me she never wanted for anything living off the land. She said being poor was "the best thing that ever happened" to them and that proximity to extended family offered a security that does not exist post-displacement in the barrio of Membrillal, about an hour plus south of Cartagena.

Below left: Gavelys sells her Kankuamo bags at the Office of Victims in downtown Cartagena, where the staff knows her and her craft well. Gavelys works alone without a storefront or online methods of making sales. Below right: Gavelys' husband Nestor tries to rest during lunch while his grandsons play around him.

 

At Funsarep that day, I sat transfixed. I hadn't quite gotten the hang of the Costeño accent and I was struggling to understand the dialog of the play - each woman recounting her days back home, the moment of disruption by armed actors, the ensuing violence, and the subsequent displacement. It didn't matter, ultimately, because a woman's cry is a woman's cry - they didn't have to act, or rather, they didn't have to be professional actors for the weight of their stories to translate.

Afterwards, I approached Gavelys and gave an explanation as best I could of what I was doing at the University of Cartagena with my camera and my questions. We agreed to meet up soon. I called her in the weeks following but was sent to voicemail - 'no se encuentra' the person you are trying to reach, time and again. I gave up calling. A month later I was walking in barrio Getsemaní and saw Gavelys about a block away, walking slowly along the slim sidewalks, in slacks and sandals, strapped with 40-50 of the mochilas she makes in the kankuamo style of her culture. She had been robbed of her phone getting off the bus late one night in Membrillal and hadn't yet been able to replace it.

Gavelys walks around town visiting local businesses and government offices with her bags, which are often overlooked by tourists because they are made with natural fibers and are not the bright, synthetic colorful bags that line the cobblestone streets of downtown Cartagena.

 Gavelys rests with Neymar, one of her grandsons, in their home in Membrillal, outside of Cartagena © Sahara Borja, 2015

Gavelys rests with Neymar, one of her grandsons, in their home in Membrillal, outside of Cartagena © Sahara Borja, 2015

 

During one visit to Membrillal in October, while her daughter prepped lunch inside, she recalled the last details of her displacement.

After she was released from prison - an ordeal that separated her from her family based on false accusations and false charges - she fled to Cartagena with two of her children and found a place to stay in another barrio. About 9 months in, she overheard a conversation between two women that there was a 'man in Membrillal with two young boys in tal y tal barrio...' and other details that raised the hair on the back of her neck. She knew it had to be her husband. She borrowed 10 mil pesos from a friend and took off in taxi to find her husband and sons. It had been 2 1/2 years since she had last seen them.

Below left: Gavelys' granddaughter rests in an empty room in the afternoon. Below right: Gavelys' only daughter at the beach in Cartagena with her youngest son.

 

She has always made the woven bags of the Kankuamo as a method of therapy, she told me. Her craft has "saved her life" and allowed her to provide the necessities for her children and family throughout several periods of instability and uncertainty.

She has never returned to her family's abandoned finca.

“Ni pa’ tras pa’ recoger dinero,” she told me. O sea: "Always keep moving forward - never look back, not even to pick up money left on the ground.”

 Gavelys' daughter Dayli prepares the house for Neymar's 3rd birthday party in Membrillal, surrounded by her brothers' girlfriends and nieces and nephews. © Sahara Borja, 2014

Gavelys' daughter Dayli prepares the house for Neymar's 3rd birthday party in Membrillal, surrounded by her brothers' girlfriends and nieces and nephews.
© Sahara Borja, 2014

 

Below left: One of Gavelys' sons carries her into the ocean in Cartagena, over an hour from their home. When he was 16, he went to the jail where his mother was being held and confronted the armed group who had falsely accused Gavelys of guerrilla sympathizing. He said, "Kill me if you want, but tell me why you are holding my Mother and let me see her." Below right: Gavelys' grandson Neymar with his father resting during lunch hour.