“What is the reason that they’re fighting for? We just want to live in peace.”

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Juanes Sings a New Refrain About His Native Colombia

Sunday, March 30, 2008; Page M02  washingtonpost.com

(By Mark J. Terrill — Associated Press)

He’s the Latin American answer to Bono — an anthemic rocker with a social conscience and one name: Juanes. Last fall the Colombian superstar released his fourth album, “La Vida . . . Es un Ratico” (“Life . . . Is a Moment”). This month he staged a “peace without borders” concert on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, and tonight he brings his U.S. tour to the Patriot Center. At 35, the musician from Medellin still lives in that once-notorious city, and he’s deeply committed to using music and fundraising to address his country’s woes: the guerrilla war, the kidnappings, the land mines. But he also wants you to visit. Let Juanes be your guide to Colombia.

— David Montgomery

In “Sueños” (“Dreams”) you sing, “I dream of liberty for all the kidnapped people.” What prompted you to write that song?

My family was actually victim of the kidnapping, unfortunately. Ten years ago, my cousin was kidnapped by the ELN [guerrillas] and unfortunately was killed. In the last 10 years every family in Colombia, each person, has been affected by violence.

I’m very sorry about that.

It’s fine. It’s part of the reality, man.

Have you ever had a chance to meet or talk to a guerrilla?

Not directly. I have been reading a lot of books, and I have been talking to different people who have connections with them. I just try to understand: What is the reason that they’re fighting for? We just want to live in peace.

You’re a celebrity. Do you have to worry about security?

To be honest with you, man, never. Never. When I go to Medellin, I have my normal life, my family has a normal life. Medellin is having an incredible transformation. The last mayor of the city . . . did an incredible job the last four years there. People still talk about the Medellin from the ’80s, Pablo Escobar, and you know, that was 20 years ago. Now it’s different.

By happy coincidence, I’m bringing my wife and two daughters on vacation to Colombia. Pretend you’re a travel agent. What should we do to see the real Colombia?

You have to go to Cartagena, which is a beautiful city on the Atlantic coast. You have to go to Santa Marta. You have to visit the Sierra Nevada in Santa Marta, and you have to meet the Kogis, which are the indigenous community that lives there. You have to go to Bogota, which is the capital, and you have to go to Medellin. You have to see for yourself what is happening, man, because all the places that used to be violent in the past, that used to be dangerous places, are becoming huge entertainment parks, a lot of libraries, really huge places to educate people. . . . Most people outside Colombia just know the bad things about us. Colombia is an incredible place, man.

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