If it were possible to cross the Atlantic in a straight line from Colombia, you would reach Africa, the place from which all our ancestors came.
We are neighbors, just across the ocean, but when we first meet, I see my own surprised face reflected in African faces. The truth is that I do not know which face reflects the other's, because centuries of colonization, suffering, struggles to survive, and of trying to assimilate to European ways have created a chasm that is impossible to bridge with a single glance.
And yet, African drum rhythms pound perfectly to the beat of my Latin American heart. The streets, full of playing children, are the same streets I have already walked by in my dear Colombia. The people are the same people: survivors trying to add color with their dresses and flavor with their spices to the difficult life that history and geography have imposed on them.
At first glance, we might think we come from different planets. This is what world powers have made us believe. If we are invisible to each other, we lose the strength of two continents together. And yet, little by little, I see that our faith, our struggles, our dreams, our rhythms of life, and our life stories are undeniably familiar.
From time to time, it is good to visit the neighbors across the way. When we live with them, we learn to know each other. We build bridges that span the chasms, even if we must do it brick by brick, and even if it takes us a couple more centuries to realize that those strangers are, after all, our family.
Diana Cruz and her husband, Felipe Preciado, are jointly supported by Colombia Mennonite Church and Mennonite Mission Network. They began serving at La Casa Grande, a children's home in Benin, in 2018. Diana teaches English and Spanish. Felipe helps develop agricultural and animal-breeding projects.