Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Cauca, we hardly knew ye

After he introduced us to the plants;

after hiking us up to the mirador, where he told about the macaws of the river valley, how they mate for life, and glide up and down the canyon each day, like an emerald river in the air, and about the serial widow who consolidated mine- and slaveholdings across the region through the 16th century;

after a delicate explanation of what was once a spindle in the hands of the indigenous maiden in bas relief on the plaza de Chinquinquirá in Santa Fe, and had become something else at the hand of some merry vandals, determined to rewrite the story with a rasp file;

after leading us over on this hundred-year-old suspension bridge; and introducing us to its polymath engineer, “amigo de Edison;”

Gonzalo looked back with us across the rio Cauca and laid out how this was the zero point for the impending reservoir slated for damming over the next couple years. Largest hydroelectric project in the history of Colombia, hundreds of families displaced, and, of course, an entire greenwashing booster campaign, big international hotels promised to go in at the Puente de Occidente, and a “zona ecologica” along the 50-mile banks, where they say a million trees will be planted. Like funeral flowers lined up along both sides of the body.

Also: Hydropower will be generated for export.
To the US. By transoceanic cable. No fooling.


Environmental Justice Atlas: Hidroituango

Saturday, April 09, 2016


From what I've seen, the thing to do here, in leading into any discussion of Colombia, is to open with great big gestures toward magical realism. Whether it’s Anthony Bourdain, or Narcos, or even Colombia’s own Ministry of Tourism, so often, Colombia = magical realism : CO : MR: co : mr : co : mr … (bulletproof generals, yellow butterflies, feral hippos, and so on).

Though these can sometimes be tiresome, reductive, and silly, it’s probably necessary on some level. And it’s a lot more desirable, I think, than other go-to distortions, like Colombia=cocaine for yanqui nostrils, Colombia=guerillas & paramilitaries, etc. It can also make for a delightful pastime on long bus rides, imagining yourself a writer for a middlebrow travel magazine:

Passing slow traffic along precarious highways through Andean cloud forests has its roots in magical realism. Mary full of grace, we truckers and mechanics ask your protection.

Men with tattoo guns, ink kits, and iphones coming to a neighborhood near you are today’s main purveyors of magical realism. Por que te quiero, te pinto.

In the imposition of the four gospels on the New World lies the absolute origin of magical realism. And our Lord did juggle the bread.

A desire to reckon the heartbreaking beauty of life and being with the absurdities and horrors of the violence these entail… (OK, maybe that one does have something to do with magical realism).

Sausages, having absorbed all the green-spectrum particles and waves of the Cordillera Central, now infuse our bodily humours with magical realism.

Alright. I know, that’s enough.

Actually, aside from coming up with fake hooks for the alumni magazine, we were there on other errands too.

More photos here and here.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

aves de Colombia (March 25-April 5)

great kiskadee
yellow warbler
cattle egret
snowy egret
green heron
barefaced ibis
clay colored thrush
great thrush
crested oropendola
colombian chachalaca
white-collared swift
yellow-headed caracara
bicolored wren
black crested jay
green jay
ruddy ground dove
rock pigeon
eared dove
black vulture
turkey vulture
palm tanager
blue-gray tanager
bay-headed tanager
flame-rumped tanager
lemon-rumped tanager
crimson-backed tanager
apical flycatcher
vermillion flycatcher
eastern kingbird
tropical kingbird
variegated flycatcher
riverside tyrant
smooth-billed ani
white-capped dipper
saffron finch
bat falcon
crimson-crested woodpecker
red-crowned woodpecker
southern lapwing
scarlet-fronted parakeet
thick-billed euphonia
black-and-white seedeater
late-throated whitestart
rufus-collared sparrow
emerald toucanet
rufous motmot
blue-and-white swallow