art is a war 25

When I arrived at the hostel in Mompox on the back of a motorcycle it was dark and raining.  A few minutes later and I may have been locked out for the night.  It looked like they were getting ready to shut down.  The young guy working there took me to the room I’d be staying in.  It was the size of a large closet and quartered into four sections.  My top bunk was in the far corner, away from the light and the fan.  I was so tired I just climbed up and laid down in all my clothes.  Nothing could be done about it until the morning.

Mompox was founded in 1537 as an important port on the Magdalena River, and was the first city in Colombia to gain its independence from Spain.  They had their own version of Patrick Henry’s give me liberty or give me death.  Be free or die.  Simon Bolivar spent a lot of time in Mompox, recruiting soldiers and gearing up for his military campaigns.  A rock beside the river, the Piedra de Bolivar, records all his comings and goings.

The next morning, I went out to investigate.  Due to the heavy rains, the river had invaded the banks, swamping benches and trees that were normally part of a park.  It stretched for a quarter mile across and was moving swiftly, carrying branches and clumps of grass and vegetation that were as large as islands.  I followed the walkway that ran beside it, towards the cathedral and center of town.  At a small café I stopped for breakfast, only scrambled eggs and bland arepas, that went down like Styrofoam.   It was miserably humid and the depression I’d been battling all of my life, coupled with wild desperation, returned to crush my heart with dread.

When I reached the Plaza de la Immaculada Concepcion de Maria, the cathedral was open, so I took my hat off and went inside to pay a visit.  The primary altar was reserved for Mary, dressed in blue and gold, attendant angels on both sides of her and flowers at her feet.  In one of the side chapels was her son, carrying his cross, weighted down by all the sin of the world.  Blood was running down his face from the crown of thorns that had been jammed down over his skull.  It looked like he was ready to collapse.

A few blocks from the cathedral I came across another monument to suffering, the house of the poet Calendario Obeso.  He’d been a mulatto, the son of a white hacienda owner and black maid, and his poems reflect the struggles of the black community at the time and the discrimination he faced.  After falling in love with a white woman and failing to win her over with his poetry, he shot himself in the chest and died at the age of 35.  Blown off in life, celebrated in death.  At least he’d escaped the indignity of having to use his poems to fish for compliments on Facebook.

That afternoon there was a festival that took place outside of the cathedral beside the hostel.  It started off with children celebrating their heritage, dressed up in costumes from the different departments of Colombia and singing and dancing to traditional music.  After the sun went down, they taped off the square and it became a dance for adults that they were charging a thousand pesos to get into.  The speakers they’d brought in for it were massive. 

Sitting in the hostel, trying to get my song and poem gallery project back on track, the whole building shook.  I’d discovered that I could once again upload images to the media library and then insert them into the posts, but now knew I didn’t have enough storage space for the complete project.  I’d matched images for 260 poems and 180 songs, so was almost there, but it was clear that the format of my website was far from user-friendly. 

On my laptop, you could just scroll down and see the pictures and words, one after the other, but when I looked up the site on my phone, all it listed was the titles of the posts.  You had to click on each one to open it.  Then I noticed that the menu, with the about section and contact information was frozen and wouldn’t open at all.  There was no way to see who I was or get in touch with me.  The whole thing was just a piece of crap.

The dance in the cathedral square went on until the morning.  There was a young British couple in the next bunk and a woman from the Netherlands who was volunteering at the hostel right below me.  The idea that anyone was going to get any sleep that night was a farce.  The room was as loud as a nightclub.  It was like being trapped on a merry-go-round that you’d gotten sick on.  Every time you thought it was over and started to climb down, the digital beat could kick back in and drag you back onboard for another spin.

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