Book reviews, Culture, Globe, Latin America

A new massacre in Porfirio’s Colombia

“The rest is silence”(Hamlet). A well-known phrase to all, but is the modern world really causing the silencing of poetry?

Armando Orozco Tovar

In society today it is the footballers and bad singers that are bestowed all the attention; thistype of recognition could never be obtained by an artist, be he an artist of clay, music, poetry, cinema or theatre. The things that are considered the biggest achievements these days are only those that have had commercial or banking success, and this is the complete opposite of poetry.

Our country is a place in which nothing surpasses the morbid fascination with death in the media.  Criminality and murder are transmitted day by day on television and news bulletins almost praising the horror, as if it were an ‘innocent’ advertisement for a luxury product.

Gabriel García Márquez

The massacres from the most evil personalities are presented as soap operas. The history of the mafia wars wrapped up in floral cellophane: a Christmas present for everybody.

Throughout the year, in order to euphemistically justify this kind of programme, we say: “He who does not know his history is condemned to repeat it”. On the contrary, the dressed up narrative of Pablo Escobar’s history is not Colombia’s only story. We must tell the other stories. Who has ever thought to make the marvellous life of Gabo into a television series, a story which would truly educate our people, or that of Fernando Botero, or the sculptor Negret for instance, who has just died?

During the customary announcement of how many country folk had been murdered that day in the surrounding area, the director of a famous early morning radio channel bypassed the fact that the crimes made on 10 humble countrymen were committed at the birthplace of one of the greatest poets in Colombia in 1883, in Santa Rosa de Osos in Antioquia. Whether this emission was through ignorance or preference, no one can know, but Porfirio Barba Jacob cries from his forgotten tomb. Ten men and a woman, who were gathering the harvest in a fruit plantation, were killed.

“And the tree bore not one harvest/ he heard the great cry towards him/ he was shuddering most intimately/ and he was shaking in pain…” (…) “Oh vague shadow, oh shadow of my first love!/ She was like the poisonous caterpillar- the flower of the twilight-/ and she was like the little terrors: twilight blue.” (…)

We live in a country of poets, but one that is an enemy to poetry. This is a country where the distant blue of Porfirio Barba Jacob is transformed into the blood red of massacred countrymen. The infinite treasures found in our our rich soils and tombs are being pillaged for the personal gain of a small minority.

These are mafia groups that the State does not want to interfere with. Larceny, another atrocious instigator of violence, is something to which we are accustomed to awaking to. Listening to the first news of the day allows us to cry for our dead early in the morning.

Porfirio Barba Jacob

“Ten young people have been murdered”. It is a poem by Plutarco Elías Ramírez, a poet from Cauca who died in the sixties in Cuba. He writes the poem as if it were this very morning, another massacre in his book, similarly ignored. “What the town told me”, written in the fifties: “Angry morning/ Despicable death/ Ten youths have been murdered!/ They were watching over the children’s song, / They were guarding the plough’s trail,/ They were defending a piece of the homeland/ a remnant of the riddled town/ (…) There they were the ten. Splintered/ from a town stabbed in the entrails” (…)

When will things change?


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