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No English. No Service. No Customers.

As I was walking in the historic center of Cartagena, I found a frantic woman asking me if I spoke English and if I could help her find her hotel. She was an American about 60 years old, completely baffled by the confusing colonial streets. She said she approached several police officers and vendors, but no one spoke English so she really started to panic. Eventually, we found her little hotel. Her family was waiting for her with very grateful looks on their worried faces. They wanted to give me money and take me out to dinner for my troubles. I refused, but it got me thinking of why this situation even occurred.

It was the fact that English has not been taught to the people. Cartagena's developers want the city to become an international destination. They are from the larger more metropolitan cities, Bogota and Medellin, and have smoothed talked international investors.  There are already beautiful boutique hotels and excellent restaurants. Shopping is improving. Currently, the Intercontinental, Hyatt, Sheraton, and other luxury resorts are being built. Beach condominium prices are rising. It seems that they have thought of everything. However, they forgot one important detail:  a qualified workforce. Who is going to work at the restaurants, hotels, resorts, and condominiums? Drive the taxis? Who is going to speak English and provide the excellent customer service Gringos demand and Cartagena´s high prices seem to reflect? Currently, the only Cartageneros that speak English are from the middle and uppers classes who don´t plan to make beds, drive taxis, or serve food. They are either teachers or work at international corporations. However, 75 percent of the population would love a secure job at minimum wage and health insurance. They would do anything if given the opportunity.

In Latin America, the upper classes don´t think to educate the poor. They would prefer to keep the masses down and avoid any competition. I can see their logic, but this time it will fail. Cartagena, glamorous international vacation destination, will not happen without the workforce speaking English. I hope the developers and politicians will soon understand that educating the poor will benefit them even though the cost wasn´t noted on their balance sheets.


  1. Good morning how are you?

    My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

    I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of used stamps because trough them, you can see pictures about fauna, flora, monuments, landscapes etc. from all the countries. As every day is more and more difficult to get stamps, some years ago I started a new collection in order to get traditional letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately it’s impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

    For all this I would ask you one small favor:
    Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Colombia? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Colombia in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

    Emilio Fernandez Esteban
    Avenida Juan de la Cierva, 44
    28902 Getafe (Madrid)

    If you wish, you can visit my blog where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

    Finally I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

    Yours Sincerely

    Emilio Fernandez

  2. Hello Emilio,
    Your efforts are a great idea. I liked your blog and looking at all the stamps. My father traveled a lot as a bachelor and I loved looking the the stamps and coins he had collected during his trips.
    Let's see if the letter arrives; the sooner the better.
    Good luck with your endeavours.


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