Valentine’s Day in Colombia? Not feeling the love

On what is a largely meaningless holiday for most people anyway, you’ll be relieved to know that I have zero plans to regale you, mis queridos lectores, with Valentine’s Day Spanish. No cards, no chocolate, no terms of endearment, no lovey-dovey promises or declarations. You have to write about what you know, right? One’s material must come from their life or they just come off as a phony. I had a great love. If I’d been blogging back in September and written about the true Valentine’s Day in Colombia–el Día del Amor y la Amistad— I could have melted your heart with scenes from that time in my life and all the piquant love I was immersed in. But that was then and this is now. As easy as it is to let my nostalgia seep into my speech and writing, I have to remember one poignant line that Fermina Daza wrote in El amor en los tiempos del cólera

¿Por qué te empeñas en hablar de lo que no existe?

Why do you insist on talking about what no longer exists?

Yes, exactly. It was lovely, it was poetic, it will never be repeated, I’ll never forget it. It doesn’t exist any longer. Nor will it ever again. So, enough of all that. In an effort to not even allude to things that no longer exist, let’s talk about . . . hmm. Let’s see what other people are talking about on Twitter. As you already know, I don’t tweet, I have no plans to tweet, and I’m much too long-winded to derive any satisfaction from 140-character broadcasts. However, it’s a great place to learn more Spanish. Let’s see what Colombians think about Valentine’s Day. Love it? Hate it? Couldn’t care less? Let’s hear it from the horse’s mouth.

@Sebaska11 Que San Valentín ni que hptas!! Yo vivo es en COLOMBIA ♥ Donde celebramos el día del amor y la amistad en septiembre (Valentine’s Day, no f-ing way!! I live in Colombia, where we celebrate the Day of Love and Friendship in September) (This line was all over the Twittersphere. Hptas, btw, = hijueputas = hijos de putas)

@lopezandres En mi país, Colombia, celebramos el día del Amor y Amistad en septiembre. Veamos cómo #NiñaFresa celebra hoy el Día de San Valentín. (In my country, Colombia, we celebrate the Day of Love and Friendship in September. Let’s watch how preppy kids celebrate Valentine’s Day today.)

Hmm. So, in Colombia, it’s just for stuck-up little wannabe gringos. ¡No faltan!

@77Alejo77 Un colombiano celebrando San Valentín es como un gringo celebrando el día de la Virgen del Carmen.=)) Ustedes viven en Colombia, montañeros. (A Colombian celebrating Valentine’s Day is like an American celebrating the Day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. You country bumpkins live in Colombia.) (This simile was also all over Twitter)

Well . . . the man has a point. (Ooh, montañero is always a fun and snarky word!)

@stultaviro Celebrar San Valentín en Colombia no es esnobismo sino globalización. Los gringos también celebran el San Pedro y el Aguinaldo Boyacense (Celebrating Valentine’s Day in Colombia isn’t snobbery–it’s globalization. Americans also celebrate the Day of Saint Peter and Saint Paul and the Battle of Boyacá)

Oh, most definitely. You know it! It’s absolutely a two-way cultural exchange. In fact, we’ve been feeling a bit stifled by all the Colombian culture thrown in our faces lately. It’s been so enriching to shake off a little of our self-absorption and be reminded that there are other countries and cultures out there . . . somewhere. We’re not exactly sure where. But we’ve heard other places mentioned in movies. Also, when we call customer service.

@jorgepalomino Si le molesta que en Colombia celebren San Valentín, espere que llegue San Patricio, hay gente que se viste de verde y todo. (If you get annoyed by the fact that people celebrate Valentine’s Day in Colombia, just wait till St. Patrick’s Day gets here. People wear green and everything.)

That’ll be the day! Sad. There seems to be no end in sight.

@LinaMarEspinosa Esto que es Colombia, que San Valentín ni que hptas, qué sigue? celebrar nuestra independencia el 4 de julio? por favor (This is Colombia–Valentine’s Day? No f-ing way. What’s next? We celebrate our independence on July 4? Give me a break)

I know, right?

@Gingerina No celebro San Valentín porque no soy europea ni gringa, en Colombia tenemos nuestro propio día del amor y amistad, quitémonos el yugo colonial (I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day because I’m not European or American. In Colombia, we have our own Day of Love and Friendship. Let’s throw off the colonial yoke)

Yeah, sister! Stick it to the man!

Well, these guys below were smart enough to at least see the silver lining to this heart-shaped cloud. It’s all about the bottom line. Valentine’s Day for Americans = $$$ for Colombians.

@DiegoMorita Lo único por lo que deberíamos celebrar San Valentín en Colombia, es por las 450 millones de flores que se exportaron, el resto es absurdo. (The only reason we should we be celebrating on Valentine’s Day in Colombia is because of the 450 million flowers we exported. The rest is absurd)

He’s got it.

@ANNIEMENDEZ Hoy, día de San Valentín en USA; excelente para nuestros floricultores colombianos! Colombia exporta las flores mas lindas del mundo! ♥ (Today, Valentine’s Day in the U.S.–excellent for our Colombian flower growers! Colombia exports the most beautiful flowers in the world!)

@Dvestidoscortos Feliz Día de San Valentín a los floricultores de Colombia que se están haciendo la platica del año gracias a esos crédulos. (Happy Valentine’s Day to the Colombian flower growers who are raking in their dough for the year thanks to those suckers.)

Yes and yes.

@MoodKiller Hey, en Colombia se celebra San Valentín, deal with it. Mejor cállense y compren cosas en mi floristería. (Hey, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Colombia–deal with it. Just shut up already and buy things at my flower shop.)

Yep. Like it or not, things are what they are. Deal with it. But, how?

So. That was an eye-opener, wasn’t it? People got all up in arms about the day, criticizing Colombians who would dare to act like a gringo and have anything to do with this holiday when Colombia has a perfectly good substitute in September: el Día del Amor y la Amistad. It’s a tricky subject. I have no end of criticisms of the way that American culture is pushed down the throats of people worldwide, and their complaints are valid. The issue is much larger, of course, than this one silly day, and hopefully they act on their concerns and feelings as a country, not just by blasting out individual tweets laced in grimaces and irony.

What position do I take? None. I sympathize with Colombians, celebrate their holidays when I’m down there, and try to actively combat my ignorance on a daily basis. I want to learn from them and about them, just as I wish to learn from all people from Latin America. What’s one of the greatest things I can do now? Learn their language so we can actually talk and start a dialogue. Help you learn more Spanish and encourage you to use it! Get out and ask people about their life and their ideas. Tell them about yours. Don’t believe anything that the media tells you, especially about Colombia. Educate yourself. Travel. Interact.

By the way, if you want to read an incredible love story in Spanish, read El amor en los tiempos del cólera. Me encantó. I’m now off to make some heart-shaped brownies and surround myself with the love of friends. Happy Valentine’s Day!

_________________________________________________ Non-natives, do you have any experience with Valentine’s Day in Latin America? If you’re a native Spanish speaker, anything to correct, clarify, comment on or concur with? What are your feelings about this holiday? Do you feel any resentment about it?


12 responses to “Valentine’s Day in Colombia? Not feeling the love

  1. Celebrating Valentines Day here would be “qué oso!” o “qué boleta!” (very rolo way of saying lame). If it wasn’t for your post I wouldn’t have remembered that today was Valentine’s Day… hehe I guess I’m pretty immersed in this culture. Anyways, Happy Valentine’s Day!


    • You are! Good for you!

      Yes, qué boleta! Qué oso! I remember those words very well. Qué ordinario! Qué lobo! Qué cursi! Qué guiso!
      (I know, some of these are more like trashy than tacky/lame.)



  2. Yet another great post!


  3. Acá sí se celebra el día de los enamorados. No sabía que en Colombia no era así. Creo que su reacción es entendible, aunque un poco infundada.
    La resistencia a la influencia de otras culturas está en todas partes, incluso en Argentina. Algo parecido pasa acá con “Halloween”. Lo que pasa es que hay que tener empatía y saber entender. La influencia de EEUU está en todos lados, y sí, es asfixiante algunas veces. Creo que es una cuestión de sentido de pertenencia, de decir “Acá estoy yo. No estoy pintado, y quiero que mi legado también se respete”.

    Personalmente, este tema me es muy ajeno, pero no tengo por qué juzgarlos o apoyarlos. Estimo que hay que buscar conciliación, un equilibrio. Solamente eso.

    Muy buena entrada. Saludos :)


    • Daniel, no entiendo qué querías decir con “No estoy pintado…”. Que no eres invisible? Que no te ignoren? Me echas una manito, porfis?

      Ustedes tienen otro día para celebrar el día de los enamorados? O solo el 14 de febrero? Ahí está la cosa. Es que ellos ya tienen un día en septiembre, así que desde su punto de vista es una bobada celebrarlo en febrero también solo para ser como los gringos (y bueno, ahora el resto del mundo) y ni hablar de insultante. Infundado, no sé. Sí, la empatía es muy importante. Créeme que sé que la influencia de EE UU es muy asfixiante. Yo odio muchas cosas de mi país, pero qué le vamos a hacer? :(


  4. Hi, “vocabat”,
    About foreign adopted celebrations everywhere… I think it’s all about making a party and selling and buying stuff. Cultural concerns are just maybe a matter of nationalist pride. As for Valentine’s Day, the point is having a couple, because if one doesn’t, it doesn’t matters if it’s February or September: it’s an automatic exclusion.
    PS. First time I comment in your blog :)


    • Hi, thanks for the visit! I love new faces. Yes, of course it’s about pride, which is often very valid. Well, if you don’t have a partner, you can celebrate the love of friends (that is, you should! but unfortunately the holiday exclusively focuses on romantic love), at least in Colombia!


  5. Hi hi, so.. acá en México el día del amor y la amistad es el 14. So, no problems of great concern to anyone. ¡Ah! Se me salió el Spanglish. Perdón es que ando medio dormido y comentando en una entrada viejita.. pues, no, muy mal de mi parte.. etto… pues creo que como todo, hay gente que odia el 14, hay gente que finge que lo odia, hay gente que siente disgusto, hay gente que lo sufre, hay gente que lo disfruta y gente que no se conforma con disfrutarlo y quiere embarrartelo en la cara. :/ No sé que decir… me gusta “un poco” hasta cierto punto.. no lo celebro mucho.. mejor pienso en esa otra perspectiva, recuerdo The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind, con tantas y tantas implicaciones y me digo a mi mismo, caray, uno puede borrar al otro, o regalarle una bolsa llena de diamantes XD ( y casi da lo mismo. Je. Pero sobre todo, lo que trato de hacer es ver la película, creo que esa es mi celebración. ¡Qué mejor forma de celebrar la vida que dialogando con ella! :D Bueno, quizá sólo en mi fuero interno, pero un díalogo, a final de cuentas. Buen día y feliz no-14 de febrero!!


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