Hence, I planned a trip to Colombia from the beginning of April to the end of May and chose two different positions related to work with children, got both confirmations, booked the tickets and packed.
This was the first time I authentically sunk my feet in my roots and walked through the language, the customs, the idiosyncrasy, the culture, the colours, the flavours, the clothes, the people. Half of my body inside, covered up to the waist, stroking the core of the earth with my toes and filling my soul with bare land. I knew those faces by heart, I had dreamed of them and I had read their misfortunes and their fortitudes.
Though I know Colombia cannot be told to represent such a huge continent, a taste could be a seed, a wall could be a seed, a step could be a seed and after rain and sunshine I can state I have flourished.
We are not deeply happy here, but that is the price we pay for magic and centuries of colonialism and imperialism and attempts towards freedom and welfare. Welfare is a glass of smooth coffee, half full, sadly almost empty. Coffee is very important here because the smell is a trip through the years: the years which were, the years to come. Although coffee was watered with our people’s blood, we forget and forgetting is our bitterest virtue.
Here land is Pachamama, the sun is our father and drums announce the beginning and the end of the day. Behind, there is a long tradition of no change, no mobility, no justice but hope is the main course in every table, they say. People are incredibly great or incredibly terrible because the middle is a point with no grounds and there are no stars in the middle. Future is a big task and it seems too divided in time and space.
The air is a cold blow on the cheeks and women are starting to stand up but society is still too religious, too busy, too obscure, too lost, too blind. Mountains hold the sky and there are graffitis on the blonde women ads and dolls pouring rain in the balconies. Water is the core course and life flows.
Fruits are amazing and we have different names for the same shapes but we still treat animals as we treat stones and trunks and we are not used to recycle, not even to be aware of the trash we produce. There are people who cannot eat once a day and undernourishment is not alien, nor closely eradicated.
We don’t stop to recognize what we have because we were born surrounded by the unbelievable and we are used to watching the world from the bottom. We work hard, before dawn, and we invented earliness in many ways: early birth, early work, early sadness, early regret, early violence.
Further outrages are set: rapes, women and girls abuse, eld people abandonment, precarious living conditions, unsafe abortion, lack of running gas or water, homelessness, extreme animal cruelty, insalubrity... We still die very young and we still have many children with no father who inherit their siblings’ shirts and trousers and will never cut a label but sell avocados and oranges leaning on two-step stairs with a slightly dirty apron and messy hair. Alcohol has become a problem, so have drugs, extended and somehow affordable, normalized as brutality and hunger.
We have much bad news and we live over them until we are afraid of going out, and though death is sadly common in Colombia, there are still plañideras who are paid to cry for alien losses during funerals. They scream and mourn the earliness related to their own children, wipe their faces afterwards, collect their thorns and their roses and also their round pieces.
Motherhood is still a sacrifice and work positions are usually gender-determined. Bureaucracy moves slow. Flower industry is selling out dignity but gracing tables and shops and grooms’ pockets while kids are left home alone from 6 in the morning to 10 pm. There are many words for ‘thief’ but I found the most honest and extraordinary people: brave enough to fight.
Nature drifts upon our hats, beyond our eyes, treating us equally, humming old songs to our children, rocking the wings of the birds and the armchairs heritage of our ancestors, spilling waterfalls and blue stones and butterflies and deep cliffs where edges are a view point and the world seems too wide to be embraced and too far to be touched. Harmony leads the sunrise and harmony sets the sun and the fire, while we forget our miseries and our glory and justice shows itself through tired roars.
Diversity is a fact and it turns stronger when we get to Santander Square in Bogotá or we go down to Carrera Seventh, up to The Crosses, where they used to throw quartered bodies to a common pit and put ground on their noses for drug cleansing, but now just the name remains, altogether with many other atrocities. Latin American magical realism had its crib here and here it watered the flowers of its grave, naturally.
I spent most of the time in Facatativá and Tunja though we found time to travel. But it was not just The Crosses: it was also the first of May, Simon Bolivar on his feet, La Candelaria, Guatavita, Playa Blanca, La Cristalina River, the political debates about the elections, The Costume Museum, the guerrilla stories, people walking 3000 kilometres through the road to reach Bogotá from Venezuela, the expectations and the witch who read I will go back on my hand.
I didn’t get to the Pacific coast, nor the Caribbean, I also missed Medellín and Chocó, but we built beautiful bonds along difficulties and we tried to learn from them while we shared the uncertainty. And though we would have needed more time to go further, during the weeks we had we poured dedication and we fixed hope, by conviction, until the world didn’t seem unembraceable nor far.