Saturday, October 18, 2008

Let There Be Light

Palenque, Colombia. The first self-liberated African slave colony in all the Americas. Naturally, this also means it was and still is one of the most socially oppressed places today. But what always comes from struggle comes beauty. From Palenque comes wondrous music, the first international Colombian actor, and of course, the great "Kid Pambelé".

Antonio Cervantes, aka "Kid Pambelé", a boxing legend and national hero. He won the title in 1972 and with it, brought electricity, running water and telephone for the first time to his hometown Palenque. And people say boxing is a sport of brutes. Ironic that one "brute" can bring all the commodities of what they would consider "modern civilization". Or maybe those people just need to take a closer look into a world they never bothered stepping into.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Back in Venezuela

"I'll never have to do that again," I sighed with relief after finally crossing back into Colombia from Venezuela two months ago. Yet lo and behold, I'm back again, in need of renewing my Colombian visa that would have expired a day ago. At the second of the eight border revisions, they demanded I step into their office for a body search.

They started with the same sorry ass pat down and then requested I get nude, again. I protested, again. But this time my "where's it say that in writing" line didn't work. He just said I couldn't get into the country if I didn't drop my trousers. I told him I would take off the pants but the underwear was staying. He nodded. We managed to come to a mutual agreement.

If I had wanted to bring drugs into the country, I could have put them in my shoes, my hair, or somewhere in the other bag they didn't even bother to search. I felt singled out, picked on, nearly violated.

When I got back I was told they were looking for a bribe. I just felt they wanted to exercise their power, perhaps a plus to the money they never received nor asked for. In the sense of solidarity, the driver angrily recalled his experience in Miami airport, how immigration designates a line for Colombians only, how they do the same that they did to me, only semi-nude negotiations can't be made, the "random search" takes three times as long, and dignity is stripped down much further.

I thought about the US customs. I couldn't imagine them wanting a bribe (or at least their amount would be astronmically higher). You couldn't buy your way out of the humiliation and degradation. I felt like a 1 yr old baby crying over spilling some milk when the stonefaced kid next to me had gone days without any. Maybe it wasn't solidarity at all. Maybe it was a, "It happens. Quit whining and get over it".

I echoed someone else's explanation about how its because Colombia had a bad reputation, how everyone thinks about either the FARC or cocaine trafficking. One of the passangers said now it was going to be worse. Apparently some man in Barranquilla hired a hitman to kill his own son. The press was tearing this story apart.

It immediately reminded me of a case we discussed in an American Ethnic Studies course about a white woman drowning her baby in a river and then blaming a ficitional black man of kidnap and murder. I wonder why when discussing the US, people don't think of that or the dozen of other similiar stories I found on "google" when trying to find the name of that first case.

I guess the world is weird like that. Unfair to say the least.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Shadowboxing in the Rain

Moments of clarity come at the strangest times. For me it was after a friend's birthday party, running on the flooded streets of Cartagena at 4:30 in the morning. What started as a walk turned into a jog, which soon enough turned into a run. As the light drizzle became a heavy pour, I stopped at a dock and watched the raindrops overturn themselves in the water. They say that God is in the rain.

For some reason I threw out a left jab, then a right, then danced around and threw classic 1-2-3's. Shadowboxing felt like the only proper thing to do.

That night I saw how shallow human nature can be, how things like trust, honesty and friendship are manipulated for personal gain. I can't say I'm innocent as this was a strange reflection of my own actions; a self-inquiry of who I am versus who I want to be. I wouldn't say it all made complete sense then or even now, but I am starting to see this journey and myself more clearly.