Colombiana hit theaters over the weekend, but not everyone was necessarily looking forward to it. The film, which stars our September cover girl Zoe Saldana, is about a young Colombian woman who becomes an assassin after witnessing the murder of her parents. Members of PorColombia, a nonprofit group, feel that the film uses the country’s armed conflict to its advantage and plays on stereotypes.
Some folks feel very strongly that the film only portrays one side of what it means to be Colombian—so we wanted to take the time to acknowledge some of our favorite citizens of the South American country.
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Shakira’s so beloved, she’s known on a first name basis. The 34-year-old singer’s stardom shot to an international level after her 2001 English crossover album, Laundry Service. Her unique vocals have garnered her countless awards – among them, two Grammy Awards and seven Latin Grammy Awards. Shaki’s music career is indeed impressive, but what we love most about the singer is her big heart. In 1995, she founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation, which helps impoverished children in Colombia, and she also recently teamed up with FC Barcelona (her boyfriend Gerard Pique’s soccer team) to launch sports complexes in Miami and her native country.
Born in Carolina del Príncipe, Colombia, 39-year-old Juanes moves us with his music and his peaceful demeanor. The rocker’s hugely successful music career (which includes 17 Latin Grammys, one Grammy, and 13 million albums) doesn’t ever seem to get to the singer’s head. He’s an advocate for peace, making headlines back in 2009 when he organized the controversial Peace Without Borders concert in Cuba, which drew millions. Juanes also established Mi Sangre, which helps victims of land mines. With that much heart, no wonder the recording artist was named one of the most influential people by Time magazine in 2005.
Sofia Vergara’s accent is one reason why we love this colombiana. It’s obvious how proud she is of her roots, which has helped her tremendously in her career. The 39-year-old provides us with plenty of laughs through her role in ABC’s hit comedy, Modern Family. We aren’t the only ones who adore the voluptuous actress. Earlier this summer, she earned an Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Emmy nod for her role in the show.
The late Joe Arroyo was considered one of the greatest performers of Caribbean music in his country. The salsa singer/song-writer, who passed away last month at the age of 55, began singing at 8 years old in his neighborhood in Cartagena. Take a peek at his expansive discography and you will realize why the singer was so respected in the music genre. He was known for blending salsa with other sounds like merengue and soca. Though he is no longer with us, Arroyo’s music will live on.
Born in Bogotá, 49-year-old Ingrid Betancourt is a politician and former senator who drew headlines when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia kidnapped her and 14 other hostages in 2002. Rescued six and a half years later, Betancourt received numerous awards – and was even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2008. She isn’t revered by everyone – some of the other hostages painted her in a less appealing light in the 2008 book Out of Captivity.
Gabriel García Márquez is a living legend. Best known for his novels One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, the 84-year-old novelists’ work has ushered in critical acclaim throughout his career. Also known as Gabo, Márquez was the first Colombian to win a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982. His books maintain a prominent place in bookshelves all over the world. In addition to literature, Márquez has also kept his hands in film, having written several screenplays.
47-year-old funny man John Leguizamo has kept us laughing since the 80s. The actor/comedian, who was born in Bogotá and emigrated to the U.S. at 4, dropped out of New York University to pursue a career in stand-up comedy. It worked. Leguizamo has starred in countless films and numerous television shows. He’s also lent his voice to various projects, including Ice Age and games for PlayStation 2 and Game Cube, to name a few. Leguizamo’s latest project, the solo Broadway show Ghetto Klown, is currently touring.
Carlos Vives, whose fearless blend of different sounds such as vallenato and rock with traditional Colombian rhythms have caused both fury and delight by listeners, is by far one of our favorite Colombian singers. The 50-year-old’s music has garnered him much success, including a Grammy for Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album and a Billboard Award for Best Album for 1993’s Clásicos de la Provincia.
Born in Baranquilla, Nina Garcia can be seen judging fashion designs on Lifetime’s hit reality show Project Runway. The 46-year-old fashion director at Marie Claire magazine also worked for more than 10 years at Elle. She doesn’t just hold a keen fashion sense – Garcia is also an author of several best-selling books, including 2007’s The Little Black Book of Style, which was translated into Spanish and Portuguese.
Fernando Botero has called himself “the most Colombian of Colombian artists.” The 79-year-old’s work, which includes paintings, drawings, and sculptures, has garnered him international recognition and are a favorite of major museums and private collectors. In 2004, the artist had a series of drawings and paintings that dealt with his native country’s violence from the drug cartels. Botero is also well known for a series he spearheaded on the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.
Originally from Bogotá, Esteban Cortázar got his start in fashion at 13 when he showed his sketches to Todd Oldham, designer and president of L-7 Designs Inc. Only 27 years old, Cortázar impressed us by being the youngest fashion designer to have shown at Miami International Fashion Week. He graduated in 2004 from the Design & Architecture Senior High in Miami's Design District.