Published 9:45 am Friday, July 5, 2019

Two Colombian girls celebrated Fourth of July for the first time in Andalusia this week.

Natalia and Sara Botero Aristizabal met with Mayor Earl Johnson on Wednesday for lunch at David’s Catfish to talk about their adventures in the state.

At 22 and 19, this is only the second time that the siblings have come to the United States. The first time was when N. Botero Aristizabal was 8 years old.

“We were very young the first time that we came to the U.S.,” N. Botero Aristizabal said. “I mean, I was 8 years old and Sara was only 6. We never came back after that, but here we are now.”

The sisters have been in Andalusia for a month, but they have wanted to come to Andalusia for over a year.

Andalusia local Wes Meeks met the sisters after traveling to Colombia for business.

“We rented an AirBnB in Medellin,” Weeks said. “Natalia’s ex-boyfriend was actually the chef for the AirBnB. We spent a day with them and my girls immediately connected with them. Natalia could take us around the city because she could speak English.”

The girls are both enrolled in college in Medellin, Colombia, studying business management with a focus in marketing and architecture. One main requirement at their university is that they have to be able to speak English.

  1. Botero Aristizabal said that this trip has helped them with English immensely.

“In high school and university we have to take a test to prove that you know English,” S. Botero Aristizabal said. “If you don’t pass the test, then you don’t get to graduate from the university. While we were in Panama City Beach, we actually met a girl from Colombia that was in the U.S. only to learn English. That way she could pass the test.”

In Colombia, they don’t celebrate the Fourth of July. So, both of the girls are excited, but said they don’t exactly know how to celebrate the holiday.

“We are very excited to celebrate the holiday, but it is so different from Colombia,” N. Botero Aristizabal said. “Since we don’t celebrate Independence Day, it is something completely knew for us.”

On July 20, 1810, Colombian patriots stirred the population of Bogotá into street protests against Spanish rule. The Viceroy, under pressure, was forced to agree to allow for a limited independence, which later became permanent. Today, July 20 is celebrated in Colombia as Independence Day.

“We usually just display our flags and have a day off of work,” N. Botero Aristizabal said. “It is like any other holiday, we party and have a good time.”

Both of the sisters agreed that the United States is completely different from Colombia.

“The weather is different, the food is different, just everything is different,” N. Botero Aristizabal said. “But the people are so friendly here. The humidity here is crazy. There is beautiful nature here as well.”

While in Andalusia, the sisters have had the opportunity to do anything and everything they have wanted.

“We have done a lot of wakeboarding, jet ski riding, shopping, intertubing,” N. Botero Aristizabal said. “We absolutely love Wal-Mart. I tried whipped cream and I love it. We don’t have that in Colombia. We have gone to the beach and to New Orleans one weekend. We also got to go to a Dierks Bentley Concert.”

At David’s Catfish on Wednesday, the girls met Johnson. They said that they were very nervous because in Colombia, mayors are very distinguished in society.

“In Colombia, the mayor is very distinguished,” S. Botero Aristizabal said. “He never comes out of his office and you never see him. We were nervous because first, he is a very important person and because there is a language barrier there.”

The Meeks said that it has been not only great to have them here, but they have been immersed in another culture.

“It’s like I have five daughters now,” Meeks said. “We have treated them like family, and we have enjoyed them so much. Especially for the kids, it has been a cultural experience. We have had great food and even learned a little bit of Spanish.”

Along with the Meeks, Kristy Nixon’s daughter Allie Phillips spent a lot of time with the sisters.

“I had a couple of people over the other night with the girls,” Nixon said. “And they called me that night and talked about what a great night it was and how refreshing it was to have another culture of people there.”