German Vargas Lleras, the vice-presidential candidate of president-candidate Juan Manuel Santos, was in campaign in Arauca. A man in the audience interrupted him with a question about housing.
Vargas Lleras grew extremely frustrated that his speech was disrupted, and called the man a “gamin.” Vargas Lleras said, “With this gamin here, I can’t do this.”
The man responded, “I am from Arauca, and I also deserve respect.”
A “gamin” is a word for someone uneducated, for someone who loiters on the streets. In Colombia, it is a big insult to call someone a “gamin,” because it implies you are the lowest of the lowest.
The exchange between the vice-presidential candidate from Bogotá and a citizen of Arauca seems a caricature from history.
Politicians from Bogotá, particularly white, male, Bogotá politicians, have traditionally been viewed by the rest of the country as high-nosed, as only concerned with their own interests, and the man’s response — “I am from Arauca, and I also deserve respect.” — is evidence this reputation of Bogotanos lives on.
It is particularly telling that it was Vargas Lleras who behaved this way; he comes from one of the country’s most prominent political families as he is a grandson of former President Carlos Lleras Restrepo, and nephew of the former presidential candidate Carlos Lleras de la Fuente. Vargas Lleras is an example of what academics call “Los de siempre. The same ones as always.” It is hard not to see the entitlement in his behavior.
The man in Arauca is right. He deserves respect. I am sorry for him.
And even so, if the man in Arauca spoke up solely with the intention to provoke Vargas Lleras, it proves the point even further: the incident was plotted to bring out this historical (hereditary) disrespect from Bogotá’s (white male) leadership, which, sadly, the rest of the country has come to expect.