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Those times of confrontation

At the end of the 1940’s my father, manager of a Swiss company, arrived in the country.  He threw me out of the home for being a ‘stone thrower’ at a school where leftist teachers were turning everyone into Marxists.  It’s an ideology that’s still in vogue today.


Armando Orozco Tovar


At the beginning of 1964 without much idea of what to do in life, I arrived at communist leader Omar Bernal’s house seeking refuge.  Bernal would perish several years later in an aeroplane accident in China.

Back then, people would go on trips to socialist countries: Sochi, the Russian home of the recent games; Leningrad, as it was known, with its breathtaking bridges and the Hermitage, they’d go for strolls down Gorky Street in a bid to avoid the huge queues to see Lenin’s mausoleum… And Stalin’s, at least back in 57 when he was still there.

When Gabo visited he wrote an account, remarking that the ‘iron man’ had ‘women’s hands’ and that “the iron curtain was nothing more than a pole: a red and white barber’s baton”.

They made these trips in the times of conflict between the world’s two ‘big chiefs’, who insisted on turning the globe into another new, fresh hell.  They would go to the USSR, Bulgaria, Poland and East Germany, if only to ease the nerves their revolutionary efforts brought on.

One of those globetrotters, a leader, was nicknamed ‘Magallanes’; for having circled the globe many times.

He was a man who would accept every invitation extended to him to visit the ‘true’ socialist countries.  He travelled around the Eurasian continent, visiting the hospitals in Crimea like some Caribbean sultan.

He was unscrupulous, taking every advantage of his position to go on any trip he was sent on: even though he didn’t believe in the cause one iota, no matter how zealously he would praise it.

He now appears in the gossip columns, proudly showing off his fine mastiffs like some character from Padura’s novel The Man Who Loved Dogs, bragging to the media: “he will be the nation’s ‘first gentleman’”… How well things went, and are going now for the nomadic, militant, opportunist who was once a leftist, back in the day.

“Seeing as your father’s thrown you out why don’t you go meet Manuel Marulanda (nicknamed Tirofijo: Sureshot)…” “Where is he?  What region?” I asked.  “It’s not important” he answered, “you’ll meet him”…

It was the second month of that very year when news started to break of the army’s imminent attack on the so-called “Independent Republics”: places where peasants lived, people who had got through La Violencia (Colombian Civil War), and had made the decision ten years prior to not give up their battered weapons to Gurropín.

“Are you staying or going?” asked the man from the coast, the dog lover of today; “Yes, I’ll go.” I replied.  And a week later I was heading south with a native.  When he noticed I didn’t have any papers, he dropped me straight off at the first bus stop we came to before leaving Bogota.  “Get hold of your documents,” he said, “I’ll be back in two weeks – where we’re going is surrounded by troops, and if you don’t have them, you’ll be killed”. That was ‘when I jumped off the revolutionary bandwagon’, when he sent me there.  That man, that leftist, who now has his presidential bloodhounds, an old renegade from the revolutionary cause. A man who would zealously praise the revolution without ever actually believing in it, as he went on to show years later.

Ever since then I have chosen to put my faith in my ‘guardian angel of poetry, and thank it for liberating me that time from going to the mountains.

(Translated by Claudia Rennie  – Email: – Photo: Pixabay

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