On the final stretch

On occasions, he wondered where he obtained the strength to keep on going 


Paisajes de guada y café Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia
Bamboo and coffee landscapes           Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia

      A little bit before entering the curve, he had already caught up with Danilo, and gradually, he began to get ahead. The two boys ran as fast as they could, as if their life depended on it. Half way up the curve, surprisingly Magnifico clearly took the lead.

El frente de la casa Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia
The country house           Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia

      By the time they finally came out to the final stretch, the one in front of the pine tree, Magnifico was a few feet ahead in the lead. That boy was happily running, feeling the ground under his feet and advancing with a complete and total assurance. As he passed in front of the Virgin of the Road, he turned around, signed himself, and he actually muttered, his thanks, for her timely help, while a pale smile peeked out from his glance.

La terraza Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia
The front porch           Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia

     Meanwhile, Danilo was doing all he could to catch up to his friend, feeling his heart pounding so strongly in his chest, as if were to burst out. Once in the final stretch, Magnifico caught a second wind and he pulled away even faster still, with an extraordinary speed never felt before.

En la cordillera Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia
In the mountains           Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia

 

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Three for the champ

Nothing like childhood, when you can still fly without wings


Vista hacia Manizales Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia
View of Manizales City           Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia

     “Ready! One, for the fox. Two, for the rabbit. And three, for the Champ…!” Danilo shouted as he started to run on the count of one, as fast as he could. But on this occasion, Magnifico was on his own turf.

La Virgen del Camino Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia
The Virgin on the road           Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia

     Of course, he knew the road perfectly well, the steep climb on the curve and the straight, level stretch after the pine tree (where the Virgin was waiting to see him speed by), until finally arriving at the farm.

Tierras cafetaleras Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia
Coffee lands           Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia

The most important fact of it all, was that on this particular  occasion; Magnífico was barefoot, and so, he wouldn’t trip because of the shoes, as it happened earlier that day in the park. Magnifico, like most of those country boys, rarely used shoes. Because of the party, and especially the Mass, he was dressed in his best second-hand clothes, carefully mended and stitched by his mom a few nights before, and of course, with his awkward-fitting shoes.

En la vereda Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia
At the village           Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia

 

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Afternoon at the village Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia

Waiting on the road

He enjoyed running barefoot down the roads, as he felt the dirt crumble beneath his feet.


Vistas de la cordillera Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Manizales
Highland views           Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia

     “Let’s wait for everyone to arrive at the farm, so they can watch how I beat you once more, or what?”, Danilo remarked calmly to Magnifico, who, at the moment, was concentrated on carefully taking off his shoes.

En el camino Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Manizles
On the road           Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia

     After, he approached the wagon and nonchalantly threw them aboard, as it began to slowly advance. Out of the corner of his eye, he intercepted little Camila’s beaming smile.


El poste Pueblo Bonitos, Caldas, Colombia
The post (Hitching horses, not allowed)          Pueblo Bonitos, Caldas, Colombia

     The riders and the wagons took off on their way. Meanwhile, the boys sat down on the side of the road, giving them enough time to make it all the way to the gate of the house. They quietly chatted, without a care in the world, with that infectious enthusiasm that belongs to the realm of childhood.

La vereda por la tarde Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia
Afternoon at the village           Pueblo Bonito, Caldas, Colombia

 

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A brave dare

Gallant acts of chivalry are not lost; they may be found in the anonymous everyday life of the world’s unsung heroes.


 

La recta Camino a Barichara, Santander, Colombia
The straight stretch           Road to Barichara, Santander, Colombia

     It was on the straight stretch of the road, just before the curve that comes out to the clearing with the pine tree. On the same spot where the family gathered for lunch on Sundays that unexpectedly, Magnifico shouted at the top of his voice, his load voice enough to be heard above the general, happy din:

“Danilo, do you suppose that you could beat me to the house, or maybe, you are too tired to try…”

La campiña Camino a Barichara, Santander, Colombia
The country-side          Road to Barichara, Santander, Colombia

      Immediately, this challenge provoked a heavy silence among all gathered. In the midst of that quiet moment, the confident and quick reply of his best friend was clearly heard.

“But, I already beat you a while ago. Today is your birthday, and I really don´t want to beat you twice in a row, or better said, that you should lose again, you hear?”

Los caminos del valle Carretera a Barichara, Santander, Colombia
Valley roads           Road to Barichara, Santander, Colombia

      As could be anticipated, the silence was broken, right after that exchange between them. The air was filled with catcalls, whistling and jeers that came from both the children and the grownups. In the thick of it, Magnifico jumped from the wagon smiling, but not before he turned to Camila and winked at her.

La finca Camino a Barichara, Santander, Colombia
The farm           Road to Barichara, Santander, Colombia

 

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The popular songs

And what of life, if it were for the music, for it to be properly enjoyed


El parasol Guadalupe, Santander, Coombia
The parasol           Guadalupe, Santander, Colombia

    On the second uncovered wagon, and sitting next to each other, Magnífico and Camila were carrying on this lively conversation, totally engrossed in their own separate world.

Caminando bajo el sol Guadalupe, Santander, Colombia
Walking in the sun           Guadalupe, Santander, Colombia

    To their side and surrounding them, as well as in the next wagon, the rest of the schoolmates and neighbours were to be found.

Al otro lado de la calle Guadalupe, Santander, Colombia
On the sunny side of the street           Guadalupe, Santander, Colombia

      Most of them were happily singing songs that were popular in their time, many years ago, but lost today, among the memories past times. Undoubtedly, they conformed a scene reminiscent of another long gone age.

Un día de sol Guadalupe, Santander, Colombia
A sunny day           Guadalupe, Santander, Colombia

 

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Noon Zapatoca, Santander, Colombia

Leaving from the park

In a good life, there should always be time for a bit of rumba with friends


La Subida Zapatoca, Santander, Colombia

The hill          Zapatoca, Santander, Colombia


    Their departure from the central park was, without any doubt, tainted with the overtones that came from a long gone past. The serious part of the celebration, The Mass, was over and now it was time for the rumba: good fun and party.

Compartiendo tiempo Zapatoca, Santander, Colombia
Sharing a while           Zapatoca, Santander, Colombia

      The tired, old traveller contemplated that encounter with his past, was taking place in his dreams, with a definite sense of admiration. Danilo, his childhood friend, whom he had not seen again in so many years… was proudly mounted in, haunches upon his father’s horse, looking totally satisfied with himself; his gaze confidently challenging the future.

El Gran Cachaco Zapatoca, Santander, Colombia
El Gran Cachaco           Zapatoca, Santander, Colombia

        The men and women mounted upon their frisky horses, who looked anxious to be on their way. Some of the elder persons were comfortably sitting in the first of the open wagons with smiles on their faces, while onlookers bantered and swapped jokes with the crowd.

Noon Zapatoca, Santander, Colombia
Noon            Zapatoca, Santander, Colombia

 

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On the way to the farm

Among the most distinctive characteristics of the human race, is the propensity to celebrate their happiness


Los colores de la tierra  Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
The town’s colours           Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia

     The bells had rung eleven times, and his parents began to organize the short journey to the farm. It was a big group. Even though his classmates and neighbours were but eleven, each was present with the family. Since most of them had huge families, it was necessary to find a way to transport everyone to the farm.

La lancha Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
Boating         Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia

      His dad had rented the typical wagons called “zorras”, which could be drawn by mules, horses or perhaps, an ox team. Luckily, the summer had extended for a few months during the dry    spell, and the rains from the previous winter had ultimately dried out. For that reason, the dirt road was reasonably open to travel. So different from the same dirt roads, during the rainy winter, where the mud made them almost impassable even with a team of sturdy oxen mightily pulling the carts.  

El callejón Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
The alley           Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia

    Between his friends and neighbours, they added up to a few more than forty grownups, and more than a hundred fifty kids. All had been invited to their first son the only child’s birthday party, which among such numerous families was an unusual, and unique event.

Casas del lago Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
Lake-side houses           Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia

 

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The young farm workers

Since they were quite young, they had learned to pay their way, and their passing through childhood was brief at its best


Las palomas Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
The doves            Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia

    Two years had gone by already, since they stopped attending school, for there was only first and second grade to pursue, and when they had finished, they were barely seven years old.

Vista del lago Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
View of the lake          Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia

    That had been a very special day, for they rarely saw each other anymore. Few were the occasions when they had the time to gather together. When they finished second grade, each found themselves helping out with the chores at the farms where they each lived with their families.

Fachada en azul Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
Blue facade          Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia

      In those times, all had to work since they were very young, and they didn’t have the time to play among themselves.

Los perros del lago Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
The dogs at the lake           Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia

 

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Just… to get it to start boiling

And in the bleak skies of his old age, the warm skies of his childhood shined once again


El puente Cañón del Río Suarez, Santander, Colombia
The bridge           Río Suarez Canyon, Santander, Colombia

    The morning was still young. Both of the spectacular races were over: the horse race, which Danilo’s father had won, riding his new horse; as well as, the five laps around the park, won by Danilo, who ran with his sparkling new shoes.

El carrito amarillo Cañón del Río Suarez, Santander, Colombia
The yellow car           Río Suarez Canyon, Santander, Colombia

     For a couple of hours, the kids played in the park, and they ate ice creams bought from Miss Aurora, at her store, at the corner of the park. Meanwhile, the grownups enjoyed the sun, lazily talking among themselves while sitting on the benches, scattered beneath the trees in the park.

La planicie Cañón del Río Suarez, Santander, Colombia
The plateau           Río Suarez Canyon, Santander, Colombia

     Remembering the conversation, Magnífico held with his father the day before; he turned to Camila and softly said to her:

     “So… Camila, and have you thought about whom you’ll marry?”

     Observing Camila’s puzzled face, and unable to hold back his laughter, he blurted out one of his Uncle Gelipe’s favourite sayings:

     “Just… to get it to start boiling!”

La ribera del río Río Palomino, La Guajira, Colombia
The river banks           Palomino River, La Guajira, Colombia

 

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A young man

When he was a boy, he wanted so much to be a grown-up…. when he was grown-up, how he missed being a boy!


Entre amigos Honda, Tolima, Colombia
Among friends           Honda, Tolima, Colombia

     Y así, en su ensueño regresó al domingo, contento pues, la fiesta de cumpleaños era su despedida de la infancia.

Por la tarde Honda, Tolima, Colombia
Afternoon           Honda, Tolima, Colombia

     Para el próximo cumple tendría diez años y dos dígitos para expresar su vida.

Las sombras Honda, Tolima, Colombia
Shadows          Honda, Tolima, Colombia

     Lo más importante claro está, Magnífico se deleitaba desde ya en llegar a ser un hombre, como le había dicho su Apito: «Un hombre joven, pero un hombre al fin y al cabo».

Las calles al alba honda, Tolima, Colombia
Streets at dawn           Honda, Tolima, Colombia

 

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