La Guajira (Part 1)

We stayed at the home of her mother in the pueblo of Villanueva on a dry, sun-baked plain between two ranges of mountains. On the plain the trees grew low and wide and cattle, moving slowly in the heat, grazed in the dry grasses. Mototaxistas pulled their passengers in two-wheeled chariots through the dusty streets of the pueblo and it was very hot in the sun and we did not go out of the house until evening. Then, in the evening, we walked through the streets lined with cinderblock homes, greeting neighbors and friends, and had sweet pan de queso and jugos naturales under the great trees of the plaza.

The following day it rained and the sky went black and there was thunder and lightning and the streets of Villanueva ran with muddy water. When the storm passed it was bright again but cool and the people celebrated the rain and sat in chairs outside their homes as the sun went down and they were still there after dark. Her brother drove us through the pueblo and pointed out the discotheque and the pavilion where vallenato was performed and we made plans for Sunday, when he was not working in the coal mine, that we would drink together for the entire day, first beer than whisky. Aguardiente is too expensive here and whisky is preferred, he said. Yes, by god, then we will drink that then.

In the morning a mototaxista delivered her blind grandfather and I sat with him on the porch and he told me of the rivers. His eyes watered as he told me of the great Magdalena which ran throughout the country and I remembered to him that I had bathed in it once outside of Buga in the Cauca Valley. The Magdalena was a fine river, he said, but there were finer ones even. The white cat rubbed against my leg as he spoke to me. Then I excused myself from the cat and the blind man and had a breakfast of yuca arepas and sweet coffee.

That afternoon it was very hot and we sat in the shade of the mango tree and drank chilled whisky. Every ten minutes her brother or cousin or uncle or father would stand and pour out the shot for each of us and replace the bottle in a small metal pail filled with ice. Vallenato played loudly from the corner bar and the domino players smacked at the table and argued. It was very hot and after the first bottle the women pulled down green mangos from the branches of the tree and returned with the fruit sliced and salted for us to eat.

1 comment:

  1. tremendous, my man-this makes a tough man weep with vulnerable joy.


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