My Colombian Mami

Does a perfect person truly exist? One without a single imperfect thought running through their head – a perfect embodiment of kindness, gratitude, and unconditional love?

Ask me last year, and I would’ve doubted this. But after visiting Villa de Levya, I am a believer. Meet Martha de León, the owner of Hostel Colombia. Or, as I came to know her, Mami.

colombian mami

What makes Mami such a special person? How can someone change from being a stranger to being family over the course of 48 hours? For starters, the first thing you notice upon meeting Mami is her voice. The softness and gentleness in her every word cannot be overstated. The love in her voice permeates the compound – leaving no souls untouched.  

Her trademark phrase, mi amor, makes figurative baby puppies roll over in joy. It’s repeated in intervals anywhere from three to ten seconds, and despite the repetition, remains purely genuine. Rarely will Mami go a sentence without saying mi amor; occasionally will her sentence consist of only mi amor.

The first thing Mami did when we met her (besides cal me mi amor) was to plant a juicy kiss on my cheek and hand me a refreshing fruit smoothie. She’s not shy about kissing – an undeniable part of Colombian culture. Each peck has the love of a box-full of bunnies, only a little less wet. Being in a bad mood is impossible after her kiss; she simply exudes positive energy.

Mami is genuine in every respect; one example is her purposely speaking Spanish slowly so  foreigners will understand her every word. When she brought us a breakfast of toast with homemade mora (blackberry) jam, and huevos con queso, we asked about her life – trying to understand how such a perfect embodiment of benevolence was shaped throughout her life.

Mami painted a picture of herself as an ordinary Colombian. From what we were able to translate, she worked in an “old woman clothes” factory most of her adult life. Married for 30 years, she had a bad separation with her husband nearly a decade ago. “Para muchos años, yo siempre llorar, llorar, llorar,”  (For many years, I always cried, cried, and cried), she said with tears in her eyes. She came to Villa de Levya and started Hostel Solar 8 years ago – in search of rest and peace.

The instant I met Mami, I became one of her sons. The fact that I arrived from a foreign land carrying a week of belongings in a  40 lb backpack and didn’t quite understand her fluently was a non-issue; the love she shared with each and everyone of us was pure and genuine. Through her love and acts of kindness Mami not only represented herself, but also Colombians as a whole. If you can make it to Colombia or Hostel Solar, please do so. But be sure to bring two hearts, because you’ll be leaving one behind.

colombian mami group photo
Photo by Rachel Jones