Fall Waning Autumn Moon

Early this morning we docked at this northern port, Santa Marta, Colombia. The University of the North has a location just off the plaza almas, across from the cathedral. Coming from a northern state, it’s a bit difficult to reconcile the steamy climate, the lush Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains and the Caribbean port with the north, but there you are. We’re in a new location and north means warmer, as does port city on this continent with the Andes.

We took a shuttle through the port, an industrial port loaded with Ford Fusions, piping, Kenworth trucks, BMW’s, a small hill of white bags marked ammonium nitrate and various other items of foreign trade, to the office center for the port. The port offices were two blocks from the colonial part of Santa Marta, the place I wanted to see, so we had to take no taxis, or secure any special tour.

An odd feeling. When we walked into the main part of this old section of Santa Marta, we found ourselves among street vendors, whitewashed churches, references to Simon Bolivar, a population with the multiple ethnic origins common in South America: mainly various indian groups, african and Spanish, plus combinations of all three.

A part of me relaxed immediately, so happy was I to be in a place where I was a foreigner. Not sure what this is, exactly, but it seems to be about otherness, wanting to experience myself as other. It also relates to a need to know, to concretely know, that other people live their lives, their vida contidiana, their daily lives, in languages, locations, and cultures radically different from my own. Why this is so I cannot say.

Colombians come here for vacation now, though just ten years or so ago no one come here because the FARC and other revolutionaries had this region locked up.

The Woollies who read this will recall the movie Mark O. brought to a retreat, the one about the Kogi, the elder brothers of humanity. This is their home Department and they live now not far from here by miles, but quite a difficult journey up the rugged Sierra Nevadas which are, with a 19er, the highest coastal mountain range in the world.

The Museo del Oro here has many examples of Kogi gold work and recounts their lives, showing examples of the conical thatched huts we saw in the movie.

Street vendors whacked the top off coconuts for customers, sold hard liquor from a metal stand, offered many religious statues, lottery tickets, sweets and various fruits, vegetables and food cooked in bready pouches.

Santa Marta is a small port city, an old city, the first established by the Spanish in Colombia. Simon Bolivar died here, of tuberculosis at the age of 47, a dejected man. His body was in a crypt in the Cathedral until it was removed to his birthplace in Venezuela.

This is a charming place. The Sierra Nevada’s rise behind it, green as the mountains in Hawai’i. It seems relaxed, and similar in feel to Merida in the Yucatan. I could spend a week or so here, maybe more, exploring the Tairona National Park, visiting the beaches and getting to know the city. Another time.

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