Thursday, August 28, 2008

Two Faced

"Cartagena tiene dos caras" (Cartagena has two faces), was what Guillermo, the guard at the boxing gym told me the other day. Without any need for elaboration, I already knew what he was referring to. The taxi ride from the bus terminal to my hostal was like driving through the gritty streets of an LA ghetto to the paved marble of Beverly Hills, only it was a 10 min drive from each other.

At first we drove by streets filled with trash piled randomly along the roadside, rusted metal grills encrusted over broken glass windows and peeling paint jobs over molded wood that pleaded for renovation, I thought, "so this is Cartagena." But as we passed by the very blatant divider of the historic city center, my eyes were soon greeted by high rises and upscale speciality stores; a metamorphasis into a man-made paradise available for sale or rent to the casual traveler.

The hostal where I first stayed at and now work is located in the richest area of Cartagena, but ironically is my cheapest option as my employment earns the room and board. The boxing gym, unsurprisingly, resides in one of the more impoverished areas and the boxers come from even humbler origins as their neighborhoods don't even appear on the map plastered on our hostal wall. I enter and return to two different places everyday, virtually two different worlds. Each passing day making it harder to comprehend how such inequalities can be in such close vicinity and seemingly overlooked.

When visitors ask me what there is in Cartagena, I try to casually mention in between the Volcano tour and the Chiva party bus that in reality Cartagena is extremely impoverished and retains an underlying system of racial segregation, but most guests just reply with nervous smile and ask where the nearest beach is. Hell, I can't blame them. Most, after all, are on vacation. Perhaps they lead very socially conscious lives and I still haven't learned to lighten up. I've just lost too much faith in humanity to believe that.

(Outside of my hostal.)

(Outside the home of a fighter.)

("Barrio Bocagrande")

("Barrio Olaya")

These two neighborhoods are fifteen minutes away from each other.


Nathan Cermak said...

i always read your posts and never really know how to respond to them, despite that they are consistently fascinating and upsetting. but i wanted to let you know im still reading and i really appreciate your writing.

Unknown said...

I noticed that your last post has been removed. ¿Por que? I wanted to echo what the previous poster has said: I am still reading and really appreciate your writing. Now if you could only stop writing and come home to el oso de chocolate sexual so that we can have sleepless nights talking about your experiences, huh????

Nathan Cermak said...

things are still going at the U, although not at any exceptional pace - i've another year and a half left. I'll definitely apply for the bonderman, although I don't honestly think i'd have a shot in hell at getting it. Theres a scholarship to do health-research for 2 months in a third world country though, which i am definitely going to apply to and might have a chance at getting