I grew up in Turbaco, a town in Colombia. However my father is originally from Germany and my mother from Venezuela. They met each other in Cartagena, Colombia and they began their life together in Venezuela. This past year, I was in Germany for a few months and while I was there, I realized that it is a nice and safe place to grow up. This made me curious as to why my parents decided to build a family in Colombia, which was a turbulent place when they moved there in 1993.
Why did you move to Turbaco, Colombia, considering the situation of the country at that moment?
Well when I moved, I did not really know how violent the situation was in Colombia. Remember that I was only 21, and with being 21, you do not realize many things. I insisted with your father about us staying in Venezuela, but at that time, he was the one making the decisions. I thought that Cartagena (the city next to Turbaco) was a really beautiful place where my grandpa, who I loved very much, lived. My grandma and my uncle, Jaime also lived there. Then, I thought even if I would be far away from my family, at least here (Turbaco), I could be around part of it.
Why did you decide to buy land in Colombia?
I was really in love with your mother and Latin America, especially Colombia, because of the people and the landscape. I neither felt nor saw the war between the paramilitary, the guerrillas, and narcoterrorists while I was as a tourist or during my first years in the town. I was shown this piece of land that I really liked, the price was fair and the rest is history.
When my father says “the rest is history” he refers to not only building a home on this land, but also opening a restaurant. The Restaurant and home, for me these were unified concepts because they are both the place where my parents, siblings and I lived, played and worked.
What has been one of the saddest moments in your life in Colombia?
One of the saddest was when our employee, Pedro, was killed by his drunk friend, the neighbors guardman. The other event was your godfather.
My godfather was our neighbor and family friend. He was French and worked as the CEO of a seafood company. He liked to play golf and sail. He and my godmother hosted a dinner every two weeks with us, they organized the “novenas”. Novenas is a nine-day catholic feast before christmas, where all the kids in our neighborhood were welcome to come and grab gifts and food at their house. In some way he was the soul of the community.
He was killed because he denounced a drug dealer. He left behind a wife and two children.
A friend of my mother told me that before seeing my father, she thought that every foreigner who came to Colombia was either looking for drugs or prostitutes(Back in the 90’s). However, that was definitely not the case with my father and my godfather.
What do you think is the key moment that determined your decision to settle down in Turbaco?
The key moment was when Daniel (oldest son) was born, I was very happy raising Daniel here with my dogs; Luna and Estrella. I always dreamed of having a house with a big garden and my children being born. After that you (Alan) arrived and I was already rooted.
What was the moment that you felt most afraid during your time in Colombia?
The moment in which I felt the most afraid in Colombia was when we were being threatened and extorted during a time when Daniel was still small. We heard some motorcycles coming and we began to flee because other motos (people in the motorcycle) had previously threatened us. At the time, I was wearing heels. I ran, jumping a fence, towards Los Lagos (neighbors land) to protect ourselves. At that moment, I thought that I would either be killed or kidnapped.
We have been extorted several times. Nowadays, extortion is still a problem for business owners in our town and other places around the country. Although we have had some frightful encounters, we still continued to run our restaurant even after 23 years. Not only my family, but our four employees’ families are dependent on our restaurant in order to pay their bills.
Why did you not go back to your country when you came to realize the violent and corrupt reality in Latin America (before getting to know my mom)?
I watched it and knew about Guerrillas and Paramilitary from the TV. At that time, I was young without responsibilities and I did not think too much about it. I was a happy tourists with foreign friends in the beaches and beautiful Colombian places. I was enjoying life without too much knowledge about politics and security. I was going to Brazil to look for beautiful precious stones and semi-precious stones and sold them to beautiful people that liked stones, it was beautiful. After having my children, first Daniel, then you and lastly Julieta, I realized that at certain times that as a parent and husband the most logical decision for a German in Colombia would have been to move out. But not for me. For various reasons such as my love for Colombia, especially with our land and the economic dependence on Selva Negra (family restaurant name), I had to stay.
After reflecting on this interview, I have gained a deeper understanding of my parent ́s migration. It was a decision based on love. Love for each other and love for the land where they decided to make a family. Building a life in Germany or Venezuela might have been an easier option at the time, but now I understand that they did not make this decision based on reason. They made the decision based on love.