The Story of Victor Martinez

Column One: The place where homeless people come to die with dignity

I had been in this country just over a week before I learned to speak Spanish (it took a few months!) when I stumbled across a Facebook page called La Raza Unida. The founder and driving force behind the page, Victor Martinez, was an American who lived in Colombia for a few decades and spoke a few Spanish words. In a country that sees itself as the world’s last colonial power, he was telling his story to the world, about how he had been on the left but now was the right.

It all started last year. He was in a country hotel with his girlfriend and they were chatting. He had seen an ad for a job at a coffee shop and applied for it. He didn’t get it because the owners were racist, he says. He was then contacted by a young woman who introduced herself as Elisabeth de la Cruz. She explained the job in the ad was filled by an American. He was told he couldn’t work because he wasn’t an American. But he had lived here all his life and the reason he could work there was because he was not an immigrant. He didn’t really care what people thought so he said yes.

The coffee shop was only a few blocks from their house. He worked there for five days. At first he was scared, it was so much different, but as he worked in the busy café he began to relax. That’s when he started making friends. During his shifts he’d meet up with people from other countries. He met a young man from the UK who was visiting Colombia. It was in the late afternoon and they’d walk around the block. One day he was chatting to the young woman on his right who was wearing a hijab. What she was wearing that day was shocking to him. “At first I thought to myself, ‘That’s how a Muslim woman should dress’ but I started to realise how ignorant I was, because she was wearing this big, floppy hat. And she’d wear a head scarf and I thought: ‘You really need to change your lifestyle, you need to do something

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