From the balcony of a friend’s apartment in La Quinta neighborhood in Cartagena, Colombia we watch children below dash in-and-out of family households where powerful sound systems paint the streets with Afro-Caribbean rhythms and decorate daily life with an acoustic backdrop. On this typical Wednesday evening, the neighborhood children run from house to house, pausing only to laugh and dance, often in pairs as if adults, in a scene that is perfectly Colombian. Music and dance are a natural part of life in South America.
South America is a place that doesn’t allow you to quietly remain on the peripheral as a spectator – it reaches for your hand and leaves you with no other option but to jump in, get moving and become part of the family. From region to region and country to country, South Americans are eager to introduce you to their local culture and show you why there’s nowhere they’d rather be. The diversity of the people and landscapes in South America become increasingly evident with each exciting adventure and every new friendship.
In Colombia, life bounces to its own distinct rhythm – a rhythm of festive music, sweaty dance, warm embraces, loud smiles and an expressive happiness for life. An Afro-Caribbean word exists for this particular rhythm of life – tumbao. Tumbao can be most closely translated to ‘swag’ or ‘swing’ but it generally refers to a way of walking through life with a lively energy that invites passion and joy into daily routine. If tumbao were a scent, the streets would be fragrant with the odors of people living daily life with an edgy and emotional, minute-to-minute sense of enjoyment. This festive atmosphere creates an environment where simply the act of walking with friends can easily unravel into a burst of dance, laughter and passionate conversation.
South America is a continent buzzing with diverse rhythms. Don’t expect to casually stroll in – a roaring parade will celebrate your arrival.
Written by: Travel writer Joey Bilyk, passionate about urban planning and all things South America. To read more of Joey’s work check out his personal blog!