It has always been my desire to travel the world and highlight food, musical artistry, and the accomplishments of other human beings internationally. One of my major influences has been Anthony Bourdain. I always closed my eyes and fancied myself the African American version of him, globe trotting the world, tasting dishes and spewing out commentary . It was the episode about Colombia, where at one part arrived in the caribbean city of Cartagena that really interested me in this area. I knew that one day I had to be there and breath that atmosphere. To many African Americans, it might surprise us that The USA does not have a higher population of blacks then Colombia! Colombia in fact has more black people than most African Nations, and it is the 3rd most populated black country, only after Nigeria and Brazil. With that said you know that wherever there is a large population of us there exists a systematic discrimination and unequal balance of power and suppression of human rights-Colombia is no different.
Usually when I am interested in a place, like many other people, I research on the internet. With Cartagena,when you do a google image search you rarely find anything besides the picturesque wall city and touristy things. I know, however that their had to be another area that I wasn’t familiar about.
Below is an interesting vid that I stumbled across while trying to youtube search Cartagena..
(Bishop) Where were you born and where did you grow up?
(Alex) I was born in a Neighborhood called La Maria in San francisco, CARTAGENA, Colombia and grew up there.
(bishop) For a long time I have dreamed of Cartagena Colombia…I know that the beaches are beautiful, as well as the People- and the food looks delicious. But when I look at pictures on the internet I only see the perfectly manicured wall city of Cartagena and tourist enjoying themselves.. Is San Francisco a part of that area?
(Alex) San Francisco is outside and very apart from the old city. It is the area where nobody in town wants to be. It is considered one of the most dangerous and ugly areas of Cartagena, where 100% black people live. A forgotten Area!
(Bishop) When people come from San Francisco to the walled city do they face a lot of discrimination?
(Alex) Oh Yes!!!!, Not only people from San Franscico, but blacks in general. This is a city of a strong slavery background. it was a great slave trade port in the colonial days and it is still the stereotype and the stigma of black people are seen as slaves.
(Bishop) Interesting, so what about the upward mobility of blacks. It must be much harder for a black person to find work.
(Alex) Definetely, its all about skin color and a pretty face. You should see the main banks, big stores and hotel chains. Its all the light skin people you hardly find a black person in the front desk of a hotel or any type of high end restaurant or shop.
(Bishop) ok, so how do darker people make it if we cant find work, how do we eat and get money.
(Alex) We ought to be very talented, like in the US in sports or music, the difference is that in the US there are more opportunities. Here very few blacks make it. Because we ALL have experienced is discrimination, very few of us even try.
(Bishop) Situations like that usually breed violence and drug use.
(Alex) Violence and drugs are MAJOR problems here. I started the foundation out of the love and mercy shown to me by God. I was a black sheep, lots of drugs, violence and hatred were in my heart but God changes that. So after I was a new man I went back to help the people in my community. Especially the children to keep them away from the negativity-The Church has been a big influence in my life.
(Bishop) Thats great, what kind of programs do you offers the children that come to your foundation.
(Alex) Mainly english classes since cartagena is a tourist and port city where more than 2 million people a year visit including Americans, Canadians, English, and other Europeans. We offer moral and spiritual values, art and music classes as well as recreational activities.
(Bishop) Are the children really passionate about learning or is it hard to get them to take advantage?
(Alex) They are VERY passionate about learning english and it will become an advantage for them-Poor people here don’t have access to good quality education.
(Bishop) How many children do you have at the foundation right now?
(Alex) Ok there are two groups of children separated by ages. from 6-11 and from 12 to 14 and then teenagers and adults which is a total of 50 people approximately and growing everyday,since June 2012 until now. I have sent a few people out there for jobs and because of their english they were able to get it. One is being trained by a major institution to work in the tourism industry in the city.
I want to tell people out there that helping other people doesn’t necessarily involve money. You can help other people by teaching them your skills and abilities, your knowledge. if you know how to play an instrument for example teach a kid that skill so her or she can make it and fall in love with it.
For all of those interested in supporting Alex Rocha. CLICK HERE FOR HIS FACEBOOK INFO….and send him an email. He is looking for English Speakers to come and spend time working at his Youth Center.