I’ve encountered several remarkable places in my travels across the globe, yet none quite like Leticia. Tucked away in the Amazon rainforest, at the convergence of Colombia, Peru, and Brazil, Leticia is a hidden gem accessible only by plane or a lengthy boat journey from Brazil. On the banks of the Amazon River, I experienced a unique blend of cultures and contrasts.
My journey to Leticia began with a flight from Bogota. After flying over hectares of dense Amazonian forest void of any roads, Leticia suddenly appeared beneath me. As I stepped out of the airport, I was immediately struck by the local population’s effortless bilingualism in Spanish and Portuguese, uncommon in Latin America. This linguistic fusion is a result of Leticia being the singular link between Peru, Colombia, and Brazil, which nurtures a distinctive cross-cultural exchange.
As the evening approached, I ventured towards Tabatinga on the Brazilian side to witness the sunset over the Amazon River. I carried my passport, expecting a formal border crossing, and followed directions to a recommended spot. As I strolled, I soon noticed a shift: Portuguese signs and Brazilian flags began to appear, yet there was no official border checkpoint in sight. I suddenly realized I had crossed an international boundary without even a hint of formality. The stark contrast in road conditions and security measures between Colombia and Brazil struck me, leaving me to marvel at the profound differences that existed within such a short distance.
The next day, as I mingled with the locals, it became apparent that Leticia’s cultural landscape was as diverse as its natural one. The Tikuna people form the majority, yet other tribes, such as the Witoto and Inga, also contribute to the region’s cultural diversity. I also discovered Leticia’s cuisine, full of flavors from Peru, Brazil, and Colombia. I savored refreshing açaí bowl, crispy beijus de tapioca, ceviches, chaufa, sweet chicha morada, grilled churrasco, and traditional Colombian tamales. Beyond this tri-national fusion, the Amazonian cuisine, with its diverse fish and exotic fruits, was also a culinary adventure. From piranhas to the unique suri worms, each dish added layers of flavor to my journey. In essence, Leticia is more than a transit town, and a dot on the map. In the embrace of the Amazon, the fusion of Colombian, Peruvian, and Brazilian influences creates a microcosm of our diverse world. As I left this unique place, I wondered: How many other hidden gems like Leticia exist, quietly waiting to challenge our perspective on culture, community, and coexistence?