Semana Santa in the Colombian Mountains

Just returned from watching a Mr. Bean film in the corner cafe. I had planned a nice sancocho* but Mario closed El Oro for Saturday night bingo. Not a lot of other options.

Semana Santa looms on Monday. All weekend Filandia paints and bangs while waiting for the invasion of day trippers and assorted gobbler throngs that dropped the money for a hotel room. The townsfolk seemed startled by the visitors, and most were just from nearby Armenia and Pereira. They all appear uncomfortable. They often stare.

These overnight revelers were the ones who were doing most of the drinking and yelling early on. The locals came later and made their own noise. I headed home at eleven to a smiles and few handshakes on the path to the door.

It is a well-known fact young Colombian waitresses in small towns are deathly afraid of grandpa gringos like me because they are afraid we won’t be able to talk.

“But señorita, there is no English spoken here. If I don’t speak Castillano how do you think I survive?”

Soon, after a little chit-chat I order in Spanish she realizes that it (I) speak the language and communication will not be a problem. Then it’s all suave.

One must realize that as a Norte Americano he is not another predator landing in this culture. You must be a friend. Smiles speak volumes. Kindness reaches out. Kennedy half dollars make excellent tips.

You should be generous. Don’t bother these people with your shit. They have plenty of their own to deal with day to day.

But it’s all so beautiful in so many ways — the forests, the weather, the palms, the hot springs, the volcanos, the green mountains, the rain, the steaming riverbanks. A powerful culture still reigns despite the intrusions of the 21st Century.

While others debate building walls and throw more religion in these tired faces, my Vietnam Vet and ex-Colorado buddy buys Christmas chickens for poor people and spends time in backwater and dangerous locales providing medicine and transportation to the far way hospitals. He quietly walks the walk. He goes about his business without fanfare, without expectation. He changes lives while most of us sit on our thumbs shaking our privileged heads at the desperation that is all around. He’d no doubt be mad at me if he know I wrote about him. More tomorrow.

* sancocho is a three-potato based soup or steak that can contain chicken or fish but most often beef.

Filed Under: Lifestyles at Risk


RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.