In today’s newsletter: Latino Travel Fest, my Colombian heritage, the newest travel host, and Ted Lasso. This month, a portion of the profits from paid newsletter subscriptions will be donated to Girls Write Now. Previous organizations we’ve supported include Women for Women, Heart of Dinner & Black Mamas Matter. If you’ve found your way here but are not yet subscribed, let me help you with that:
I’m a Colombian immigrant who was born in Bogotá back in 1987. Much to my chagrin, I do not possess the rolling accent, sun-kissed skin, or lustrous hair that one expects of a Colombian woman (i.e. Sophia Vergara). I immigrated here from Bogotá as a baby and then proceeded to grow up in the Midwest, doubling down when I attended college at Indiana University. In other words, I’m about as Colombian as Olive Garden is authentic Italian. And yet, my Colombian heritage has played a major part in my life and career.
The first time I booked an international trip abroad on my own dime was to Colombia. The first major byline I had was a story about Colombian food for Food & Wine. The first major reporting I did was interviewing ex-FARC fighters in Colombia. The one place I always recommend when asked about a favorite destination is, you guessed it, Colombia.
Growing up, my Colombian heritage always existed in the details of my childhood. I tasted it in the bocadillos my dad and I would eat in the kitchen. I felt it in the Cumbia I’d dance with relatives during family gatherings. I watched it in the telenovelas my grandma would enjoy during lazy afternoons. I heard it in the rolling Spanish spoken over dinners and cheers during fútbol matches. I knew I came from Colombia but didn’t quite grasp what that meant. I enjoyed aspects of Colombian culture but never enough to truly understand my heritage.
As I waded into the waters of adulthood, I found myself gravitating more towards Colombia. Driven by curiosity and self-discovery, I wanted to forge a real connection with the place I was born. A connection that ran deeper than the treats and music I had grown up with. And so, I began traveling to Colombia as often as timing and money would allow. I spent time on the sun-kissed cobblestone streets of Cartagena. I retraced my family history in the capital city of Bogotá. I upgraded my “Spanglish” to full-blow Spanish. Each time I put away my Colombian passport, I knew one more piece of the puzzle to my identity had fallen into place.
Truth be told, it isn’t until I’m physically standing on Colombian soil do I truly feel like a Colombian woman. Perhaps it’s because my Spanish sits idly by while I’m in New York, relegated to the times I order tacos at the back of our local bodega or buy fresh pandebono from the nearby Colombian bakery. It could be I don’t particularly look Latina as one might imagine, and therefore tend to occupy the sidelines of the various Latinx communities in the travel industry. Whatever the case, I am trying to find a way to bridge the gap between the woman I am in Colombia and the woman I am in New York.
Recently, I was asked to moderate a panel for the first-ever Latino Travel Fest, which will be taking place virtually this weekend. As the world reckons with racial disparities, I’ve seen a rise of these travel-focused events that celebrate marginalized voices. For me, being a part of this event is perhaps the first time in my career that I’ve managed to connect the two sides of myself—the Colombian and the New Yorker—in a tangible way. I hope it’s the start of a new chapter for me and I hope you’ll join me tomorrow for this event!
A new kind of travel show
It took Kim Haas 10 years to realize her dream of becoming a travel host. After years of clinging to her life’s calling, Kim Haas is now the host of Afro-Latino Travels with Kim Haas, which airs on PBS. Her show celebrates the widespread impact Afro-Latinos have had on Latin America’s culture, cuisine, music, economy, and history.
Kim—who has now filmed in both Limón and San José, Costa Rica—aims to spotlight Afro-Latinos and celebrate their stories in mainstream media. In this interview with Kim, she speaks to me about the journey to becoming a travel host, how COVID-19 affected production, and her best advice to those hoping to follow in her footsteps.
The Ted Lasso bandwagon, Taylor Swift, and zebra skirts
Decide to begrudgingly jump on the Ted Lasso bandwagon. Watch the first episode, roll your eyes at the cliché coach pep talks, and wonder why everyone you know says this show is the best. Keep watching and realize you are now so invested in these characters, that you’re crying tears of joy for their triumphs. Even go so far as to save quotes, like this scene. In short, watch Ted Lasso.
Celebrate the birth of your friend’s new baby and then read this article from The New Yorker. Never have I felt more seen/called out. Watch Taylor Swift’s magical Grammy performance and then impulse purchase this equally magical skirt. Don’t ask me where I am planning to wear a nearly floor-length, zebra print wrap skirt. Just know that it will be worn. Often.
Watch all the panels from The Little Market’s Conversations with Changemakers event. I especially recommend the Black Mamas Matter chat, which happens to be the non-profit we supported last month with proceeds from this newsletter. Finally, watch Alison Roman’s latest Home Videos where she makes short ribs with creamy potatoes while waxing poetic about Sex and the City. Spend the next 20 minutes trying to convince your boyfriend to eat beef, so you can make the recipe for dinner tonight.
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