Lately I am been hearing again that Colombian people are happy. I hear people repeating that Colombia is the second happiest country in the world after Costa “Rrrica”… I never take time to see how those rankings are made or if they really make sense but whenever people talk about them I remember my life in Colombia, Germany and Peru, and ask myself where people looked happier to me.
According to my personal experience, most of Colombian people are happy even if they are not happy. I have observed and luckily also experienced that happiness in Colombia is not a project but a disposition, an attitude rather than a desired circumstance. It is like dancing Salsa in Cali.
Most of the people from Cali dance even if they do not know how to do it and eventually they become pretty decent dancers or even professional dancers. They take music and dancing as a way to express themselves, relate with others and enjoy life. They do not care that much about doing the proper step at the proper time because they are busy transforming the rhythm and the emotions and thoughts that come with the music into movement. That is why everyone dances differently there, even when they do the same basic things: To transform music into movement they let the songs bring out their personality. They move in the way they feel the music in that particular moment, beyond the repetition of a correct set of steps and turns… I have seen many people from other countries worried about how to dance in the correct way but not worried about how to be themselves and break free through dance like the caleños “naturally” do it. When you grow up in Cali you can see if people are feeling what they dance or just repeating a nice choreography to look well and say to themselves: “I am dancing well”. But even if they do dance well you tend to reject the sight of it and look in the dancing floor for other couple that is dancing in a maybe not so impressive way but full of joy and flavor (“¡sabor!”)…
So these statements about how happy Colombians are have helped me to reflect about happiness and make me believe that I am happy because I decide to be so rather than because I do or have some special set of things. I dance simply when I dance (on my own way) and not only when I dance well. I told to a German friend once, as we were in an improvised party on one of the main streets of Cali: “Hier hat Tanzen nichts mit Leistung zu tun, kein Stress!” (“Dancing here does not have anything to do with performance, relax!”). The same may apply to happiness, what do you think?