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| 11/7/2008 12:00:00 AM

The journalist who fell in love with Bogotá

Exactly one year ago, American journalist June Carolyn Erlick let everyone know that she was in love. But her feelings were not for a person, but rather for a capital city: Bogotá.

It was the 7th of November 2007 when she launched her book “Una gringa en Bogotá”, a very personal memoir of the changes this city has undergone in two different periods: 1975-1984, when she first came to Colombia, and then in 2005, when she returned as a Fulbright scholar. SEMANA INTERNATIONAL spoke to Erlick about how the book has been received, about the translation that is in process and how she views her beloved city, now that she is living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, separated from her love by the Atlantic Ocean and more than 4,000 kilometers.

How can someone fall in love with a city?

I did! Have you got a girlfriend? Why did you fall in love with her? You can’t explain love. People love their dogs, people love money. God! It really was a very emotional reaction.

Who did you write this book for: Colombians or foreigners?

I wrote it for me. I was afraid that I was going to forget all the changes that had happened in Bogotá during my two periods there. My idea while I was writing the chapters was that I was going to come back to the United States and do more of a serious, academic book, and it was only when I was getting ready to leave Colombia, that I discovered that I actually had written a book.

Does the love for Bogotá change when you are far away from it?

No, it’s my love, it’s my home city, it’s the city I really care about. Perhaps being away, I miss the individual people more. Sometimes I just look around, and there are no mountains here, I just miss the mountains, the smell of eucalyptus, and people walking on the streets.

Has the book been translated?

It’s going to be published by University of Texas Press, I have to hand in the manuscript by next month. They haven't given me a publication date, but it’s in the process of being translated.

Has anything surprised you from the comments you have received?

I have had a lot of comments. Surprisingly, an awful lot from second-generation Colombians who are living in the States, or people who left Colombia when they were fairly young. It strikes a chord with them. And I think it is also a source of pride for people, that somebody from the outside can see how much the city has changed and evolved and that someone could love their city so much.

When you look at your book now, would you change anything at all from the version you published a year ago?

I think I would have been more explicit about some of the challenges that TransMilenio (Public Transportation System) faces. It wasn’t my reaction to increase disorder, but it was more of a warning chapter saying ‘look, you have to do something about this’.

Have you visited your beloved city since your book was released?

I usually come about twice a year. I came for the launch of the book, which was after I left Colombia, then I went back for the Inter-American Press Association meeting in Cartagena, and I came back last Christmas to visit friends.

Are you planning to write anything else about Bogotá?

Well, first I want to get the English version out of the way, and then I will think about it. But Bogotá is part of me, and I would imagine yes.

Do you plan to come to Bogotá on a permanent basis?

No, I have got a great job, I want to spend lots and lots of time in Colombia. I think I see myself as living between Cambridge and Bogotá.

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La imputación de cargos al exgerente de la campaña de Santos sorprendió. Pero esta no tiene que ver con el escándalo de Odebrecht ni con la financiación de las campañas. ¿Por qué?