Do you consider the Americas to be one continent, or three? I was taught in school (in the UK) that the Americas consist of two continents: North America and South America. This is also what is taught in schools in the USA. However in South America, people are taught that the Americas is one continent divided into three. So, it’s a subject of debate depending on where you come from!
Last weekend I went to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich where there is a gigantic map of the world on the floor in the atrium. On this map it names all seven continents, including North and South America. There are many noticeable differences between North and South America, the primary difference being the native language: English in the North and Spanish in the South.
Do you know how many countries there are combined in North, Central and South America?
...The answer is 35! In total, this is the Americas.
When it comes to designing each Culem watch collection, we will be creating a North America and South America collection. The nine collections are as follows:
1. The World GMT
6. North America
7. South America
9. Our World
At this stage it is confirmed that Europe will be the second collection, but the order after that may change. However, all seven continents will be covered and we will have two world collections. Every time I write about the nine collections, I am so excited to create the full Culem collections over the next decade or so. It’s going to be a great journey!
What follows is an extract from my book, on my travels through the Americas…
One of the greatest explorers ever, Christopher Columbus, set off from Spain in 1492 and discovered the Americas. The continent is frequently divided into North America, Central America and South America. From the ancient world of the Incas at Machu Picchu in Peru, the mystery of the Pitons in the Caribbean Island of St Lucia to the happiest place in the world, Disney World in the USA, the Americas are huge and diverse continents.
I love every place I have ever visited in the Americas. I first went to the USA at the age of 13 on a wonderful family holiday to Florida. Then back again at 15, and numerous times since, to California, Hawaii, Nevada, Massachusetts, New York and Washington D.C.
I never thought that I would go to Las Vegas, but my Dad wanted to go there for his 60th birthday. So, we went and of course we had a fantastic time. We did it all - a fancy hotel, chauffeur-driven limos along the infamous Las Vegas Strip, a helicopter flight over Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, rented a cool convertible and drove it to the Hoover Dam (but it was too hot to put the roof down!), theatre shows, magic, amazing restaurants, nightclubs, shopping and of course gambling. It was my first proper experience gambling and it was so much fun, no matter how much I won or lost. The best part was talking to so many different people at the table - everybody had a story to tell.
My most recent trip to the Americas was to the Caribbean for Christmas last year. My partner and I went on a cruise starting in San Juan, Puerto Rico and visited St. Thomas, St. Maarten, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia and Barbados. We did a lot in just 7 days, and really felt that we experienced the Caribbean vibe of each beautiful island and the happiness of the people living there. We were in search of perfect beaches, and our favourites were Half Moon Bay for its perfect shape and white powdery sand in Antigua, Maho Beach for the exhilarating thrill of watching aeroplanes taking off and landing in St. Maarten, and Soufriere in St. Lucia for the view of the Pitons. I always dreamt of seeing the Pitons and it was a dream come true - their beauty took my breath away.
I love South America too, and have had many experiences there, from visiting Machu Picchu in Peru, the Iguazu Waterfalls in Argentina, the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the jewel of the Spanish Empire, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. As a country, Colombia is perhaps my favourite in the Americas. The buildings and streets of Cartagena are intoxicatingly beautiful and it's like stepping into a timeless movie set.
Then, there are the vibrant cities of Bogota, Cali and Medellin. Medellin is bursting with art and modernism, and the days of Pablo Escobar are long forgotten. However, we went in a taxi to the barrio (suburb) informally named after Pablo Escobar himself, high into the mountains. The driver said that the higher we went, the more dangerous it was, but it did not feel dangerous at all and it was fascinating to see the life high up in the barrios above Medellin. Aside from this, my favourite part of Medellin was the Botero Square and Museum. I just love the work of Fernando Botero and the robustly fat form of all of his statues and paintings. His work brings me great joy and I have a bit of an obsession with seeing his work all over the world. In many of his paintings there is a reflection of Colombia, its people and life in the barrios.
Then, there is the beautiful Zona Cafetera - coffee country. I have visited this area several times and love the lush green mountainous landscapes, huge rivers, abundant vegetation, colourful houses, loud music and salsa, delicious food and happy people. On my last trip a group of us decided to take a Chiva (a very colorful local bus with no doors) from the town square of Villa Maria to the Chinchina River some two hours away. We sat on the roof, and what a laugh and adventure it was ducking under branches and being thrown around the roof as the bus traversed downwards through the lush green valley towards the river.
When we arrived, we got down from the roof and walked to the river. There was a truck in the river with several workers collecting large stones and putting them in the vehicle. There was also a boy working with the men in the river. He came over and looked at us curiously. I did not speak Spanish then, so I was trying to speak to him in English. I think he was amazed to hear another language and actually see a foreigner. From my perspective, I could see that the boy seemed happy working and playing in the river, but it saddened me.
I believe that if you come from a first world country like me you will see some things on your travels that make you question things about life. There is a lot of poverty in the world and, until we travel, many of us do not realise how lucky we are to be born and raised in the first world. Likewise, if you come from a second or third world country and you travel to first world countries, you will realise the opportunities for your country and think about things, like this boy working, that have to change!
I am writing today from an artisanal coffee shop in Albir, Spain, drinking a fine cup of Colombian coffee and its rich aroma reminds me of the Zona Cafetera, Colombia. My appreciation of this and every cup is so much more because of my travels. I am also reminded that I have a duty to help underprivileged people living all over the world like that boy in the river.
Later on this year we will be launching the Culem Foundation to support underprivileged communities - more details to follow. For me personally, there is no experience more amazing and meaningful than travelling, and no object more beautiful and meaningful than a watch. Collectors and travellers combined; let’s make a difference to the lives of others by giving them a window of opportunity to the world.