I haven’t posted lately because, on top of a demanding work schedule, I have been and will be traveling in the next few days. Last weekend, I popped out of Barranquilla unexpectedly, finding myself in the tranquil lil burg of Valledupar (va-yay-doo-PAR), about four hours down a winding, rickety road in the north of Colombia. Valledupar is the “World Capital of Vallenato,” an ultra-popular brand of Colombian folk music centered around the somewhat shrill accordion. I don’t like the music, but I enjoyed my stay in the city. The people I bunked with (a friend’s family) showed me the town’s beautiful swimming gorge, lorded over by a two-ton bronze mermaid; never once called me “El Gringo,” respectfully using my name the entire time; and made sliced cow tongue with coconut rice for lunch on Saturday. Yes, it was good! I should have taken pictures but, alas, I’m dumb.
Friday, I’m off to the 23rd Annual Drum and Cultural Festival at San Basilio de Palenque, near the former slave port of Cartagena (two hours down a slightly better highway). Palenque was established as a runaway slave settlement and has been honored by UNESCO (the United Nations’ cultural arm) for being the only such settlement still in existence today (though now its residents are, of course, not runaway slaves), and is one of only a few cultural offerings universally recognized in Colombia as African in origin and not absorbed into the mainstream (yet still Africanized, whether they admit it or not) culture of the Caribbean coast. Despite this honor, Palenque remains a marginalized community mired in poverty and lack of opportunities for young people. In 2006, CNN aired a story on Palenque’s history, Creolized Spanish, and “talking drums”:
Saturday night through Monday finds me in Bogotá, the boisterous capital of Colombia and site of much debauchery. No, I won’t be taking pictures of that. 😉