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Colombia’s Parcero

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If I ask who is ‘America’s sweetheart’, I know I would probably hear Marilyn Monroe, Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, or even Monica Lewinsky! You have had many women under this title, over 2,000, did you know? So today, I want to introduce you to our Colombian male version, and not exactly of a sweetheart, but our buddy, our Parcero.

Juanes (Juan Esteban Aristizábal), who is now 41, was born in a small town called Carolina del Príncipe, but he actually grew up in Medellín, my city, during the height of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar’s reign, when we sadly had the highest homicide rate in the world.

In the late 80s, Juanes started his career in heavy metal music, leading a band called Ekhymosis (Bruise, in English). Their first records were sold out thanks to their family and friends, but eventually they got lucky. The band signed with a label, and an evolving journey of almost ten years began.

Most Colombians would remember two things about this band: First, their controversial rock version of the National Anthem.  It was well-received among Colombian youth. Even now, in some high schools (if the principals are not too strict), this is the version we hear for the not so formal ceremonies. Some teachers still freak out when it is played.

And second is Ekhymosis’ greatest song:

The message is simple but powerful. It is a reminder: you should love the place you come from, the woman who gave you life, your blood… they are just one.

By the end of Ekhymosis’ life, their influences went from Metallica to popular Latino Music, and this is the path Juanes has followed as a solo artist since 2002.

Juanes has sold more than 13 million albums. He has won seventeen Latin Grammy Awards, and one Grammy Award. He has been number one on the Billboard Top Latin Albums many times.

But this is not why he is our Parcero (he uses the word ‘Parce’, slang for friend, more than any other person on earth, really!).

Juanes is an activist; he is known for his humanitarian work, especially providing aid for Colombian victims of anti-personnel mines. In 2005, he was named by Time as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. He was also honored that year at the annual benefit gala for Sir Paul McCartney’s Adopt-A-Minefield for his work as a Goodwill Ambassador.

His ‘Mi Sangre’ Foundation encourages education for peace in order to help people transcend from being victims to becoming an agents for change in their communities. They seek to educate participative, democratic and inclusive citizens; free human beings, capable of living in harmony with themselves, with society and with nature.

In 2010 their impact reached the lives of over 8,000 Colombians, mainly children.

And even after this, if you go to Medellín you might meet him at a mall, or at a sushi restaurant… Yeah, we have both things!

Here is one of his latest songs. I hope you like it:

And here he is working with some kids, brother and sister, both victims of an anti-personnel mine. The girl is missing an arm, and the boy, one leg. This was a report, from one of the two main national broadcasts we have, on this dramatic topic, and Juanes’ job. He is trying to make this little girl smile, but she is so reluctant that the whole scene turned out really funny. But at the end she says he’s chusco!

Take a look at the first part… or maybe more. We also have plenty anonymous heroes:

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