Hollywood: Stop Stereotyping Colombians and Latinos

When you arrive at any airport in the world and you show your Colombian passport, you're already prepared for a rough welcome. Something similar happens when a Colombian starts dating someone; suspicion and apprehension are usually followed by the obnoxious question: "¿Será que este tipo/mujer vende drogas?" (Is this guy/gal a drug dealer?) Similar stories are also shared by many fellow Latinos. Motivated by these negative stereotypes among more, a group of Colombian students living in the U.S. joined efforts and created PorColombia.

Six years going strong, PorColombia has grown in size and scope thanks to a handful of volunteers. As students and professionals with a full-time schedule, we donate our time, talents and money to improve Colombia's negative image abroad. This is our primary mission. We've worked countless hours organizing conferences, promoting fundraising campaigns and representing our entrepreneurial and cheerful spirit within our communities. Hard work indeed.

Enter, Sony Pictures' new movie "Colombiana," which hits the big screens on August 26th. This is Hollywood's latest attempt to use the Colombian armed conflict as cheap propaganda for their profit and its total lack of creativity. Furthermore, it destroys in one swift move all the grassroots efforts that organizations like PorColombia have been working so hard for; showing that Colombia and its people are much more than violence and drugs.

We acknowledge the existence of an internal war that started with Marxist guerrillas almost six decades ago and over time they intertwined with drug trafficking and state corruption. Furthermore, this senseless conflict feeds on America's voracious appetite for drugs and foreign interventionism. Despite our shortcomings, we encourage dialogue in any format about Colombia's struggles but within context and a balanced approach. But to use it as your poster line to fill your coffers while stereotyping an entire community is very reproachable.

At first glance, you may think this is a big-budget Hollywood movie with a first-class cast that takes place within Colombian society. However, it seems like our country only plays a minimal role in the movie; it is where the main character's parents are killed right in front of her at the beginning of the story. (Full disclosure: I've not seen the movie, only the trailer) From there, it is an action flick focused on the revenge of Zoe Saldaña's character that takes place somewhere else but in Colombia.

Also, I've read online comments playing the racism card asking if Colombians have a problem with Ms. Saldaña portraying a Colombian woman. These comments are usually spouted by other Latinos who know little about the Colombian psyche and inner culture. This does not mean that our society has not had issues protecting its black and indigenous populations, but Colombia is hardly alone in Latin America and the world when it comes to these issues. On the contrary, for over 20 years, Colombia has enshrined in its constitution perhaps one of the most progressive rights to ancestral lands and Congress representation for minorities.

For the record, Zoe can play the role of a Colombiana of any Latina anytime she wants. In this case, she is an excellent match to represent millions of beautiful afro-Colombians living mostly in our Pacific and Caribbean coasts.

We are making a call to Sony Pictures studios to apologize publicly to the Colombian community and look for ways to mend what has been tarnished. Why not donating a portion of the profits of the movie to organizations that work caring for children affected by the violence? Why not supporting a program to improve educational opportunities so young Colombians are not dragged into drug cartels and guerrilla? Meanwhile, PorColombia will continue working for a better Colombia from abroad while strengthening the communities we live in.

You can learn more about PorColombia at www.PorColombia.net or follow us on Twitter @PorColombia.