Based on Colombian culture, the Disney film Encanto touches my deepest fibers with two themes close to my heart, family and motherland. This post is not a movie review, it is just a reflection, as a Colombian, of how it made me feel.
My family is from the Santander region, located to the northeast of the country. I was born and raised in Bucaramanga, the region's main city; but my grandparents were originally from a small town named Suratá. We used to go there frequently to visit our farm, which was home to my grandparents and older uncles years ago. The townspeople were very friendly and showed us some sort of respect. We even used to receive small gifts from them for no reason. In my understanding as a child, this warmth and hospitality could only mean that my grandfather was the town's owner and that my family was extraordinary.
My grandfather and his achievements were our greatest pride. When he died when I was three, my grandmother became the sun that illuminated everything and around which we all naturally gravitated. We met almost daily in her big house in the city. A place that, for me (and my cousins), was magical. Almost thirty years later, my grandmother also died. The land was divided, the house ceased to exist, and despite the attachment, the constellation was left floating in small groups, evidently incomplete without the centerpiece. Colombia is not a matriarchal society, but grandmothers are the cornerstone. Strength and service characterize those women of yesteryear whose mission was to keep their large families united around the warmth of home.
Over the years, some members have taken distance and exiled themselves. Others have taken the lead and made decisions, some right and some wrong, in the effort to maintain our constellation afloat.
Convinced of the extraordinary of my lineage, I grew with a feeling of pride, a deep attachment to our land, house, and family, including my grandparents, their ten children, twenty-eight grandchildren, and those who joined the clan by marriage. Deep inside, I wonder if my pride could be unrealistic, but many Colombians experience it as well since, in our culture, family and land are sacred.
Families influence the development of our personalities. While the most privileged clans also have a significant impact on society, either at the municipal, regional or national level. In the best scenarios, clans contribute to society's wellbeing, but in the worst ones, clans use their power for their benefit. In Colombia, family, and land are overlapped. Land ownership is almost an obsession; if you don't own a house or piece of land, you may feel less than others or others make it feel to you so. Sadly, lordship to landowners is still valid. Inequality, based on the distribution of land, has caused some wars. In turn, wars have triggered migration and the massive abandonment of land that represents, for many, losing everything.
The film is a tribute to the magical realism that Gabriel García Márquez immortalized in his One Hundred Years of Solitude. As in his novel, the film seems to have no more plot than the day-to-day life of a simple and special family. The magical realism is nourished by our idiosyncrasy. In Colombia, we believe that our country is extraordinary. We think that unique, implausible things happen in it, and we tell our stories in our own way, always looking for the explanation in the inexplicable. We believe in miracles, either by culture or religion or as the ultimate resource of hope when the nation seems to take no better direction. Then, we end up mixing tragedy and jokes and making fun of ourselves.
The scenography is full of symbols that identify Colombian culture, its geography, and nature. Images that recall the novel of García Márquez, and revelations of the many ethnic tones of the nation. Without entering into the central message of the film, as a Colombian I felt reflected, moved and grateful with that little piece of us that is shown to the world. Proud of my roots, of the beauty of our music, of the richness of our nature. Moved by the subtle but clear allusion to the conflict, which in some way or the other has touched us all, and which has changed the destinies of many, causing, many sufferings such as displacement and migration.
As a migrant, it reminded me how much I miss my family, my country. Reminded me of its food that heals the soul, of some words that don't have a translation into other languages. The decision to build a family together with my husband in a foreign country that offers greater equality and opportunities for our descendants has not been easy. Colombia keeps part of our heart, history, and identity. Migration has been a process of adaptation, of letting go for the sake of the family that we have formed and which is our miracle. Understanding that leaving our home has been the price we have paid for building our future in the light of our own dreams.
Migration, whatever its cause, is a largely rational process. We migrate in search of something better, opportunities, peace, love. But deep inside, emotions easily take the show, and we feel our hearts beating loud and our eyes can't help crying when anything reminds us of our roots. Then, today I watch Encanto and I cry from pain and happiness. Pain for almost three years that I have not been able to visit my homeland. Happiness for seeing my daughters enjoying our folklore and singing with me from the top of their lungs and to the rhythm of vallenato “Colombia, te quiero tanto" (Colombia, I love you so much…)
Dedicated to the Guerrero's