What’s It Like Being a Jamaican Living in Colombia?

In this episode of “Jamaicans to the World”, founder Xavier Murphy speaks with Craig Young. He is a Jamaican living in Colombia.

Xavier: What is it like being a Jamaican in Colombia? Hi, I’m Xavier Murphy, the founder of and today in Jamaicans to the world I talk to Craig Kingston Young, a Jamaican living in Colombia. Welcome Craig, how yuh (you) doing?

Craig: Wah gwaan (What’s up?) Big up. I’m good, I’m good. Muy bien, ¿y tú? How have you been doing? I’m starting to think Spanish now. Sometimes when I speak, I mix it up cause I’ve been practicing for like eight months. After a while, I start thinking like Spanish now. It’s crazy.

Xavier: I remember because in our pre conversation, I asked you something and you said si.

Craig: I’ll be on the phone wid (with) my bredren dem (friends) and then I’ll be like, oh, I’ll be like si. I’m like yo si, I’m like oh, my bad, oh. It’s starting to click now; it’s finally starting to click. When I first moved here, I didn’t know nothing. It’s like it’s starting to click now, it’s good, it’s good.

Xavier: That’s good. Which paat (part) a Jamaica yuh (you) come fram (from), where you representing?

Craig: Brown’s Town, Orange Hill, big up country living, barefoot, cow, donkey, chicken coop, everything. I’m not gonna lie if I ever move back to Jamaica, I’d move back to Orange Hill because me nuh (I don’t) like Kingston, Kingston too expensive for me man. I’m about the Jamaica, buy me a plot of land and grow all mi ting dem (all my things). Find mi (me) a country gal (girl) and grow all mi ting dem (my things) and just live my little country life.

Xavier: Well yuh (you) open up di (the) topic, folks let me say this first. First of all, yuh (you) know, I’ve been following Craig online, this interview is going to be a little different wi (we) going to touch on some topics that I typically don’t even touch on because Craig is a open book, he’s on YouTube and his handle on YouTube is, “cheap god” and he travels, it’s going to be a little different. He fired the first shot, him seh (say) him going to get him a country girl. Im (he) fire di (the) first shot, so Craig, you had a video about dating in Colombia, right?

Craig: Yeah.

Xavier: Yeah, so we know you’re a single guy that’s dating in Colombia. How does this work, Jamaican, the culture? How do they, when you go out on a date with a young lady there from Colombia and she hear your Jamaican. Talk to me likkle bit (a little) and folks you can watch his video on it separately, but I wah (want) hear wah (what) him have to seh bout (say about) it.

Craig: Yes, it was crazy when I made that video. I have so much different opinions now, now that I’ve been here over a year and a half. Because before you know, I didn’t know a lot of stuff, but now I know so much about the culture now. I will say telling somebody I’m Jamaican they’d be like oh, Jamaicano, oh super. I’ve never met a Jamaicano before. I was just like, okay cool. But I think the biggest thing is like the culture is different. Like in Colombia, things are a lot different, a lot of people here don’t listen to reggae music like that. They listen to reggaetón but reggaetón has changed since it hit Colombia, it’s more of a whitewash type stuff here. It’s not like how it is in Panama close to reggae. I think the culture difference is hard, it’s hard for me honestly. This one woman told me it’s because I’m big, I have tattoos and I have hair. They call these rastas, in Spanish locks is rastas and she was like oh yeah, you don’t look like the typical Colombian, Colombian man. I was just like, okay, I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about that. And she was just like, yes, unless somebody’s family is open to change, like open to somebody that looks different, it’s gonna be hard for you to date. And I’m just like, I’m not cutting my hair. Like I honestly no lie, no lie, I went on a date with a young woman about almost a year ago right, the woman seh (say) why is that on top of yuh (your) head? She said, why is that on top of yuh (your) head? And she was just like, why do you have this? And I was just like, because it’s me and I was just like oh okay. It was crazy, a lot of women here, I’ve met a lot of women here that do not like facial hair, they like the clean cut, baby face, twelve year old boy type face and I’m just like alright.

But it’s getting easier for me because I’m learning a lot more Spanish. When I first made that video, I knew nothing and then also another thing that I’ve learned too, is that a lot of women here see a certain standard of foreigner. Because when a foreigner move here, I’m not gonna say all, but when most black men move here, they act a damn fool. Like they living in the high-rise apartments, they buying the prostitutes, which is legal here, I don’t judge nobody pickney dem (children). They’re doing the drugs and they buying the bottles in the club and stuff, so a lot of women see that and they think that every foreign man that moves to Colombia is like that. Trying to weed out the women that don’t see that perception. Because I live in a local neighborhood. I live in a black neighborhood; I live in a multi diverse neighborhood. People will say I live in the hood, but I really live in like a lower middle-class type neighborhood. Most of the foreigners that move out here, they moved to the high rises and ting dem (thing them). I didn’t move out here for that. I moved out here to be as local as possible.

Xavier: I see.

Craig: It’s like, I went on a date with a young lady and when I asked her where you wanted to go, she was like oh, what about this rooftop? And I was like, I have a question for you; If I was just a regular Colombian man, would you be suggesting a rooftop? And she couldn’t even answer. Honestly like, I don’t judge. Me, I’m not gonna watch nobody pocket dem (them), I don’t judge nobady (nobody) pocket dem (them) but I do things differently. I’m the person that rather just sit at a bar, have a drink and listen to music and stuff like that. I don’t need the whole fancy thing because I didn’t move here for that. It’s a lot, it’s a lot. I would say that’s the only difficult part about dating right now.

Xavier: Okay well good advice, good advice here. Let’s back up a bit. Tell us about your journey in terms of getting there. How did you did you end up in Colombia?


Craig: Basically, what happened was I really touch on this journey is really big for me, it’s mental health. Back in 2018, I tried to commit suicide because of the situation I was in with my job. Living in the United States I really didn’t like what I was doing and the light bulb just went off. And when the light bulb went off, I was just like yow, I’m a disabled veteran, I get a paycheck for the rest of my life, vamos! I’m leaving, I’m gone.

I travelled Asia for about two years, about a year and a half I travelled Asia. I went to Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, I went to Indonesia, Bali. Then I went to South Africa, I went to Dubai. I just travelled around but I always knew my last stop was going to be the Latin American area because it’s closer to Jamaica, closer to the United States if I ever need to fly back to United States for any reason. It’s hard living in Asia. I know a lot of you that live in Asia, it’s hard because the time zone you staying up to 3 a.m. to talk to your friends, because your friends are awake. I was just like, I always knew my last stop would be Colombia. I picked Colombia because Colombia has one of the easiest retirement visas for military. There’s no age limit, it’s relatively affordable, it’s about $200-$300 and it’s three-year visa. I got a three-year visa here and then also Columbia has the second largest African, no second largest African Diaspora outside of Africa. It’s like Brazil, Colombia, United States, there’s more black people here in Colombia than in the United States.

I knew I want to move somewhere where I saw people that look like me. I knew I wanted to go somewhere, where it was close to if I ever have to jump on a plane and go see family and see friends I can. Yeah, that’s basically it. I like it here, it’s cool, it’s cheap. The reason why my name is the cheap god because I travel to cheap countries. I’m not a cheap person but when it comes to countries that I want to live in, I wanna get my buck. I wanna get the most from my buck. And I’m not here to be paying $30 for a plate of food.

Xavier: There’s so much you know, because I’m so familiar with your videos and I’m gonna touch on the food in a minute. But before I touch on food, in terms of your journey there; how are the people? What are the people like? You mentioned, there is a large black population there. What is it like there in terms of the people, the black population? Is there tension between the black population and the rest of the population? I know in some places they are. Tell us a little bit about the people and some of that?

Craig: The people are dope (cool), not gonna lie to you, the people are nice. They’re not used to somebody that looks like me. The white people, the white Colombians are not used to somebody that looks like me, big black tattoos, all the things. I will say I’m in Medellín which is one of the most developed cities in the country. The blacker cities, unfortunately, because of race. One thing let me back up, unfortunately, this is a topic that I’ve had with a lot of Columbians. Columbians don’t believe in race; they believe in classism. They rat race in a nice bubble of classism and think that racism doesn’t exist in the country, but it actually does.

The different cities in Colombia, the blacker cities, they are some of the most unfunded by the government. The city right now Buenaventura, people are currently getting killed there and Buenaventura is also the only reason why Chinese exports and things can get to Colombia, because it’s the biggest port city, it’s also one of the black cities. It’s like people don’t want to see, then people just say it’s corruption but at the end of the day, it’s actually race, people don’t like to talk about race here. But when I talked to like Latin Americans that actually think about race they said yes. For some reason Colombians do not want to think about it. They think if they don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist, that’s what they think. Not everybody is like that, but it’s different. Especially here in Medellín, they will brainwash you to think like being pro black is bad. Like when I tell somebody that like, when I have a conversation let’s say I had a conversation with a white Columbian one day and she was just like oh why don’t you move to Bosto? That’s the Bosto, that’s the neighborhood I’m in right now. And I was like, because I want to see black people.

I lived in another neighborhood before that was more of a wealthier neighborhood. It was my first neighborhood when I moved here, I only saw one or two black people a day, like a week. And then I moved here and I see black people in the gym, they’re black restaurants, they’re black barber shops. There’s a black bar down the street from my house. I told her I was like I moved here because I want to see black people and she was like oh that’s racist; and I was like, how is that racist? And she was like, you don’t want to live around white people? And I was like, no is that representation matters and I want to see people that look like me. I feel comfortable around people that look like me. But there is drilled in a lot of people’s heads here, that when you are pro black, that you are racist, that you are anti-white. People don’t understand being pro-black does not mean anti-white, a lot of people don’t get that. Even here in the United States everywhere, but especially here being pro-black does not mean anti-white, I want to see people that look like me. Like the girl I was dating before she was light skinned and she grew up confused her whole life. Because here in Medellín, light skinned women aren’t categorized as black. A lot of black people basically indigenous and black people mixed together they’re not categorized as black either, so they’re not going to be lower. Like my friend was telling me that Medellín does a census and one year was 500,000 black people here and then last year was only 250,000 black people. where di (the) black people went? Basically what happened was they stopped categorizing certain looking people as black. No country is perfect, no country is perfect.

Xavier: Right, right, right.

Craig: It was just crazy learning so much about race. Like I knew, this is my first time living in Latin American country, I knew that things were crazy. But learning about it and seeing somebody calling me racist for wanting to see my own people. You don’t call Indians racist for being around Indians. Yuh nuh (you don’t) call Chiney (Chinese) people racist to be around Chiney (Chinese), yuh nuh (you don’t) call white people racist for being around white people. But yuh (you) call black people racist for wanting to be around black people.

Xavier: Interesting, interesting. In general, are the people friendly, warm on a whole?

Craig: In my neighborhood, yes. I feel way more welcomed in my neighborhood, in this new neighborhood I’m in. Because I’m the new neighborhood more of a diverse neighborhood. The only reason why people are staring at me now is because I’m big, because I’m muscular. In my old neighborhood, they’ll just stare at me cause I’m big and black. Like here, when I go downstairs, there’s a store (tienda) underneath my apartment. When I go downstairs, they’d be like waving at me, hola, ¿cómo estás? (hello, how are you?) When I walk down the street the dude who sells bananas on the street be like, what’s up? Everybody’s super nice because the thing about, I will say about Colombians when they start seeing you more they know that you are serious about living here. Soon as they see somebody they’ll be like oh, I wonder how long he gonna be here? But now they see me more and they’d be like oh yes, that’s the big black dude that live around the street, okay yeah. Like I met this dude that own the black bar and he was just like, you know I’d see you walk around down the street and I was like, I know he’s not Columbian. Like to them I don’t look like an average Colombian, so people ask me if I’m American, or if I’m from Venezuela, or something like that, because a lot of Venezuelans here. And I just would be like I’m Jamaicano and they’d be like oh America, oh me gusta, Bob Marley, oh marijuana. I’m like ok.


Xavier: Let’s touch on food, because you are a foodie. I mean, I’ve seen you cook up some meals on your Facebook page, which again, cheap god and you know the curry .

Craig: I had some just last week.

Xavier: Just last week.

Craig: I bought two pounds for $4.

Xavier: Goat?

Craig: Ye mon (Yes) it’s good. I’ve been cooking for a while.

Xavier: Yeah, are you like trained chef or just always cook for yourself?

Craig: No man, I was just raised by all women, in the country in Jamaica raised by all women with bad husbands. I was around all women my whole life in Brown’s Town. My auntie, my aunt Daxcy, my great grandmother, and all her cousins, everybody. I was the only man around the whole house and they were just like, me nuh (I don’t) know how fi (to) raise no man. But mek (make) sure you’re not like your grandfather, make sure you’re not like your father, make sure you’re not like all a dem (them). he must know how to cook, he must know how to clean, you must know how to do all these thing here so you never ask a woman for nothing and I was just like okay. I’ve been watching people cook since I was about four. I still remember a story my great grandmother told me, she was like yeah, when you arrive here, when you came here and you were sitting down one day I was like oh, he being America a lot give him a bottle and I said no, I want yam, dumpling and banana. I’ve been cooking for a while

Xavier: Good, good

Craig: I learned from my family

Xavier: Way back, way back

Craig: And just being around everybody.

Xavier: You’re not lacking any of your Jamaican food there really, it doesn’t sound that way. You find your ways around that.

Craig: The only thing I’ll say, I’m missing a lot of the seasonings I want. But like I have somebody coming here next week, so I’ll be able to get some seasonings. For the meats, I get oxtail, I found a halil dude here a black Muslim Colombian that grows his own goats. I get my goat meat from him. I found saltfish here, don’t know what Colombians use saltfish for but literally pounds of saltfish, so I get saltfish here. The only thing I’m missing here is callaloo and okra.

Xavier: Okay.

Craig: A cya (I can’t) find okra nowhere.

Xavier: So you’d have to get a likkle (little) box if you have some and plant some stuff outside.

Craig: And there’s no okra here and my friend was like, maybe if you go to the blacker cities they might have okra but I cya (can’t) find okra nowhere. That’s the only thing I miss honestly is okra, I could find everything else. I got enough curry and enough browning to last me, so it was fine.

Xavier: Let me ask you about Colombian food now. What’s Colombian food like and if there’s one item you would say visiting Colombia you have to try this, what would that be and would you recommend?

Craig: Honestly, I’ll be 100% with you right now. I live in Medellín mi nuh (I don’t) like the food here. You know Jamaicans our taste buds are built different. We like crave, we like flavor. If you want to come here, to Medellín, I would say try Bandeja Paisa, oh my gosh. It’s a plate of food wid (with) a bunch of meat and rice and beans Bandeja Paisa, I forgot how to say it. It’s the biggest meal here and it has chicharron which is pork belly, steak, plantain, rice, beans, everything like that and try sancocho the soup, it’s their soup here that’s good too. But if you come here, come Medellín go to the black Caribbean restaurant, the black Caribbean coastal restaurants. That food has seasoning and stuff like that, I like seasoning. A lot of people here will argue with me, a lot of non Jamaicans that live here will be like no, the food is great and all things like that. And I was like our taste buds are not the same. I have a friend that used to live here she’s from the Caribbean, she’s not from Jamaica, and she was just like, why di (the) food nuh (don’t) have nuh (any) taste? One thing people here, people here think black pepper is spicy, like they think black yes, yes, boss. They think black pepper is spicy. If they taste black pepper in food, they think is spicy and I was just like.

Xavier: They need some scotchy (scotch bonnet pepper) and thing to spice things up.

Craig: Scotchy would kill these people.

Xavier: Let me ask this question, because you touched on the coast and I know there have been descendants of Jamaicans that have trickled down from Panama when they went to build the canal. And they have trickled down to Nicaragua, the Bluefields area into Colombia. In Colombia in particular, have you come up on some of these descendants of Jamaica? You mentioned the coast where there’s the black Caribbean, maybe those are the descendants and that’s why

Craig: So basically there is an island called San Andres.

Xavier: I was gonna bring that up.

Craig: I just came from San Andres. it’s an island, San Andres is off the coast of Nicaragua so I did my research. Actually, the Dutch actually brought the first inhabitants of San Andres were Jamaican slaves before the Panama Canal before all of them more Jamaicans came, of course, during that time. But when you go San Andres, is crazy. It’s owned by Columbia but it is nothing like Colombia.

Xavier: I’ve heard and first of all, it is so far off from Colombia. You’re thinking this should be

Craig: Its close to Nicaragua

Xavier: This should be part of Nicaragua.

Craig: Yea, exactly exactly. When I went there I had a conversation it’s so much history. This one little island has so much history boss, like so much. Like between people fighting to figure out who wants to own them, it was like the United States wanted to own them and then Panama wanted to own them and then Nicaragua wanted to own them. And they were like oh, we’ll stick with Colombia. Like that little island, you could drive around the island in two hours. I drove on island on a bike, you can drive around there in two hours. But the island is so different, the people speak patois.

Xavier: Right. Yes I’ve heard them.


Craig: So they speak patois but they call it creole. I don’t know why they call it creole but it’s patois, it’s English, it’s patois. If you speak regular English to dem (them), dem nuh (they don’t) understand. But when you speak patois they understand fully and they speak Spanish too.

Xavier: A friend of mine said if you speak English, standard English a few won’t understand you. But once you talk Jamaican, patois, I call it Jamaican, once you speak Jamaican to them.

Craig: See they know.

Xavier: Fully and you have to talk hardcore. Not the mixing but hardcore you know.

Craig: There was a sign on the beach it was like wash yuh han dem (your hands). Mek (make) sure yuh pickney dem (your children) wash their hand. I was just like, Am I? How is this Columbian? You’d be wondering and then like when you go further south. So I went further south in the island, that’s when it gets really like Caribbean. Like Jamaican, there’s a Jamaican jerk chicken restaurant down there, I had run down. There was a fete, where like someone pulled up the car and had speakers and we listen to all reggae music, vibes. Listen to Beenie Man, everything. I’m just like, these people are like, it’s crazy. And it’s crazy you’ll see like dark skin, you’ll see like, Indian, Chinese, everything in there just speaking patois and I was just like okay. It’s nice, it’s expensive because it’s probably the most expensive place in Colombia, cause it’s an island.

Xavier: Right.

Craig: It’s one of the most expensive places in Colombia, it’s pricey.

Xavier: How long were you there?

Craig: I did seven days. No, no, no.

Xavier: How long does it take to get there from the mainland? You fly, you have to fly?

Craig: It’s only a hour and a half from Medellín. So Medellín is deep in the country, so if you’re flying from like Cartagena it’s probably maybe like 30 minutes or something like that.

Xavier: And the language yuh seh (you said) now, you’re mastering the language and so on. How difficult was that transition for you in terms of there? Because I know for example, I’ve spoken to other folks and I say listen, the Spanish that is spoken in different countries are a little different than in other places. Some people mixing their own localized stuff with it and so hey, if you are speaking the Spain’s Spanish, it may not translate well.

Craig: It nuh (don’t) work here. Spain Spanish nuh (don’t) work here. I will say I have a teacher I go to a teacher three times a week and she’s teaching me correct, like grammatical Colombian Spanish. Now that I know a lot of correct grammatical Colombian Spanish now I’m learning slang.

Because the black people here speak totally opposite from how the white people here. And then if to like Chocó which is the biggest black city here, they speak different from the people here. They speak different Spanish from the people here. Like my barber when he texts me I don’t understand nuttin (nothing) him saying because like he’ll text me bits and pieces, like they’ll cut off words. And I’ll be like okay. Black people here are just like black people in the States they have their own type of language and stuff. But I will say it’s been about eight months right now, I’ve been practicing for about eight months, and I feel a lot more comfortable. Things are starting to click more. I could see myself in maybe about a couple more months being a lot more fluent, I just need to speak more outside. I can write, I can read, it’s all about understanding and all about the talking. It’s difficult to understand because when people wear face masks, tapabocas, I’m like que? What did you say? And especially on the phone too, when somebody call you on the phone, it seems like there’s always noise in the background, it’s always hard to hear. And I’m just like alright, that’s the two things me and my teacher are practicing that now.

Xavier: Winding down. What would you seh (say) was the biggest adjustment apart from the Spanish that you had to make when you moved to Colombia?

Craig: I will say this for anybody that wants to move is not thinking people’s culture is weird, it’s their culture. I had to adjust to their culture. Like, the food nuh (don’t) season. Yea di (the) food nuh (don’t) season, I just cook mi (my) own food. I’m not gonna complain about the food, I’m just gonna cook mi (my) own food. I will say the hardest thing for me right now is making friends because Colombian circles are strong. Like trying to get into a Colombian friend group is hard boss. And then like because I’m always by myself, because I really don’t have any friends here, people look at me like, I’m strange because I’m by myself. trying to get into a group of Colombian friends when you are by yourself is difficult. Because they are like, what I’m saying is Colombians don’t go nowhere by themselves, like nowhere. Like nowhere, they are always in groups, like always. The hardest thing for me is that like, I’ve been here almost a year and I really don’t have anybody like really solid, like really solid to be like, yow (yea) that’s my friend. Not just saying somebody go to the club and have a drink with but like yow (yea) that’s my bredren (friend) that’s mi (my) boss. And like I don’t have that.

Xavier: Probably Covid plays a part in it right now too?

Craig: Yes but now everything’s open. Medellín open up, open open, big open.

Xavier: Okay.

Craig: The quarantine did play a big part in that. We were locked up for like six months.

Xavier: Man, man.

Craig: Only supermarket.

Xavier: In terms of attraction, I want to talk about and I know San Andres beautiful, right? I heard beautiful. But is there another place that you would say or experienced that you would say if you come to Colombia, you must do this, or you must see this. I know it’s a challenge now because you’re coming out of Covid, still in Covid.

Craig: If you come to Medellín, it’s all views. Medellín is green and all views. Like most of the time when people come to Colombia is Medellín or Cartagena or Cali. If you come to Medellín it’s all views, if you go to Cali it’s all salsa, you’ll love it. After Covid you must come to a football match here. Football matches in Colombia, like I knew Latin America football matches are crazy but Latin American football matches like, I’ve never seen something like that. Before Covid like craziness. If you come to Columbia post Covid go to a football match. It will be one of the most fun experiences you ever do, like I’m telling you right now you must come to a football match.

Xavier: All right, so Craig, listen, I appreciate you taking some time to tell us your story and your experience in Colombia. I want you to kind of quickly let people know your handles because you’re online. I did mention, “cheap god” on YouTube, I don’t know if I missed anything. I think you’re on Instagram also.

Craig: I’m on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, all cheap god. I post cooking videos; you know I’m just a very open person. You could go follow me, more to come. I’m trying to get my mind right to start making more content.

Xavier: All right.

Craig: I just been chillin enjoying life.

Xavier: Well good.

Craig: But yeah, just follow me on the platforms. I’ll be around here.


Xavier: He has some good stuff out there, advice on Columbia be sure to check him out. Here’s how I typically end and I know you’re learning the language and if you watched any of the videos you know. In the most informal way how would you say goodbye? Yuh (you) know like in Jamaica you seh (say) bwoy catch yuh lata (boy catch you later) you know wi seh (we say) likkle more my yute (little more my youth) or whatever. And now that you’re in the black neighborhood in Colombia, what do they typically say when it’s a goodbye?

Craig: Honestly it just be like chao. Be like chao with a fist pump and a fist pump be like chao. Like chao, fist pump and be like Hablarme más tarde and I’m like cool.

Xavier: what?

Craig: Hablarme like talk to me. Hablarme más tarde talk to me later. Hasta luego, or hasta manana you’ll be like si, you’ll like chao. Everybody when they see they’d be like chao.

Xavier: Chao, habla and what?

Craig: Just say chao.

Xavier: Let’s do the virtual fist pump.

Craig: Yah (yes/yeah) man. Chao.

Xavier: Chao.

Photos – Deposit Photos, Unsplash

About the author

Xavier Murphy