I cross again the Colombia and I reach Panama passing through the archipelago of San Blas (Kuna Yala)

Hello friends, here I am. Sorry for the delay but for several days I couldn’t access the internet, apart from Panama City. These two weeks were very intense with lots of movement, often by sea with speedboats.
I crossed quickly again the Colombia, until Panama, where I arrived on the Atlantic side, passing through a fabulous place: the archipelago of Kuna Yala (or San Blas). From there I went on the Pacific Ocean in Santa Catalina and Coiba National Park and now I’m back on the Atlantic in Bocas del Toro, near the border with Costa Rica.

I tell you quickly my last few days. From Pasto I returned to Medellin, where I stayed one day, and after I went to Turbo, a sinister place where I took a speedboat that, after a stretch of river, took me after about 3 hours of sea in Capurgana, a beautiful village on the border where I would have stayed definitely at least a week if I didn’t find an excellent opportunity: for only $ 200 a boat tour of three days in the archipelago of Kuna Yala in Panama.
An opportunity because you can go from Colombia to Panama only by air or by sea, then the alternative would have been spending $ 100 to fly to Panama City and then from there take the tour in Kuna Yala, costing much more.

So I joined to the group of Fabio, a Napolitan guy that has a posada in Capurgana since a couple of years and from time to time organizes these tours (link: www.capurgana-sanblas.com).
In the group there was me, Fabio, Aparicio, a French couple and eight Israelis. We reached Caledonia, a village of indigenous Kuna, where we remained for three days while visiting the deserted islands around. After, the others returned to Capurgana, while I and Aparicio stayed two more days in Caledonia and then we went to an island about 4 hours by speedboat, Franklin’s Island (or Tuba-Senika). There we met a Colombian couple very gentle that from Cartì gave us a ride car to Panama City … but from here I will tell you the next time.

The islands of San Blas are property of the Kuna and in the village of Caledonia, besides us, there was a group of South Korean Christian missionaries completely crazy. And rude, the worst kind of scum, I don’t want even spend words about them. And actually the fact that they are missionaries seemed to me just a cover for some shady trade or business.

Ok, now the photo-story, however just until Kuna Yala (San Blas), otherwise the post comes out too long. Very soon I will write the second part.

 

Colorful boats in the lagoon in the village de la Cocha, near Pasto in southern Colombia.

 

The lagoon de la Cocha, under the fog.

 

When the weather got better, I took a ride on a boat. The only problem was that little filthy dog (look the legs) that jumped continuosly on me and made my jeans totally dirty. It makes to think that there are people in the world so weird that prefer them to cats. Never seen a dirty cat in my life (apart, a little, Rasputin), in fact they always clean themselves.

 

As mentioned in previous posts, I pleasantly re-passed through Colombia, from the spectacular cliff roads around Pasto, to those beautiful of area Cafetera …

 

…and again in Medellin which, I repeat, it will seem strange, it’s a pleasant city, though still a bit ‘dangerous, for example in 2009 there were 2899 cases of very violent death. However, the neighborhood where I stayed both times, El Poblado, is quiet.
This is the Botero park. Botero was born in Medellin.

 

Sweet candy seller.

 

Girls in the university area.

 

Finally I reached Capurgana, in the northern border with Panama, on the Atlantic side. As I said, I reluctantly left it after only one day to join the boat tour with Fabio in thearchipelago of San Blas or Kuna Yala, in Panama.
Behind Fabio (forward) Aparicio, the Brazilian with whom I am traveling now and an Israeli.

 

We reach the kuna village Caledonia, with about 1000 inhabitants, where I will stay 5 days.
The Kuna are an indigenous group of about 70,000 people who live in the archipelago for centuries with very little interference from the Panamanian government. The nearly 400 islands belong to them, but prefer to inhabit only some, leaving others uninhabited.
It was the first group in Latin America to achieve such independence, even if, at a guess, it seems to me that right now are along the reverse path to almost all other indigenous groups in Latin America and especially Central. If the latter, almost disappeared and culturally destroyed, in the last two decades are rising from the ashes – claiming their origins, their culture and their languages, the Kuna, after having for centuries preserved their customs are losing them suddenly in recent years .
It will be also difficult for them to continue to resist the pressures of tourism multinationals that are offering astronomical sums for permission to build holiday resorts on their islands. But maybe it’s just an impression and they probably know how to protect their costumes in the coming centuries.

 

In the village. The Kuna are watching us between suspicion and disgust. :-)

 

At sunset.

 


Children locked out in their own village by the South Koreans. Among the many, in fact, with a padlock they closed the passage leading to the pier near their rooms because didn’t like children and other visitors. Aparicio and I, that the last two days had our backpacks there, often had to use a canoe from another dock to take our stuff!
The way in which South Koreans treated children was disgusting, but then at a certain time they turned from Mr.Hyde to Dr.Jekyll. maybe in their program there was “playing” with children. So they went in the central square with balloons and strings among children, with an hypocritical smile on face and small eyes. They were unwatchable, I swear, also a non-violent pacifist like me felt a strong desire of punching their faces!

 

Anyway, I was able to witness firsthand the tragic influences of the neo-colonization. One evening, the South Koreans assembled a canvas, like a cinema. I tought they wanted to show a movie but no… it was for karaoke! Luckily, after, the same children, when asked if they liked it, sayd naaaaaa, as to say we were short of crap.
Another time they distributed crosses, as to the guy on the right. In this case all the kids were excited about the gift and kept repeating something like “Christians”, “Christians”. So I said them nooo… Christians is a religion for losers! You have to become Buddhists! They liked the name, they started repeating with fun “Buddhism,” “Buddhism”. It’s a globalized world: South Koreans who convert in Christians, Italians that convert in Buddhists… And in between these poor children.
But nothing can describe the discomfort I felt when I saw that child on the left converted in an Inter football team fan! Let’s do something!

 

Another example of a pernicious influence of contact with the neoliberal civilizations. Until 1990, so 12 years ago, the currency of the kuna was … the coconut! Yes! And who was better than them: no tricks from shady banks that “create” money, no inflation, and every year it reproduced naturally.
But now they only think of dollars. So one evening a kuna man told us that their main task now is to look for loads of drugs that traffickers threw overboard when they are intercepted, by land or by sea, by the police. In fact that is now the main route on which passes the cocaine from Colombia to the United States.
Only a few months earlier they found a load that after, through some contacts, they sold to the same traffickers for $ 50.000, divided by the whole village.
So all the sea around there has become a sort of mega slot machine. Jackpot: it’s said that once a village nearby has found a load of cocaine that payd a million dollars!

Coincidence, right the day after hearing this story, as we were going to that delightful desert island, we saw from afar a large container, like a thermos, floating. I really at that moment I thought I had finally turned. And everybody on the boat. But the euphoria was short-lived, because it was just a floating mark used by a scuba diver. Even on the way back we saw something similar, this time we were all a bit ‘skeptical but the Colombian rider, Marcellino, still wanted to go to see. It was a broke bucket floating upside down. Never a joy.

 

Occasionally we saw dolphins, manta, fish jumping, flying fish. At one point I saw one great near the boat, I don’t know which one it was. An many when snorkeling.

 

At the village.

 

Little girl runs away because don’t want to be photographed.

 

But after she changed mind.

 

Other little girls.

 

And boys.

 

Fisherman returns after sunset.

 

Drinking rum in the shed where we slept in hammocks. From left, Fabio, Mary, Daniel, Aparicio and Ory.

 

A trunk on the beach.

 

A beach.

 

There are other interesting photos of Kuna Yala, but that’s enough for now. Maybe next time along with those of Santa Catalina, Coiba, Bocas del Toros and Costa Rica where I should arrive in 3 days, if I don’t go back definitively in a San Blas island to become an anarchist missionary.

Mompos, Medellin and Pablo Escobar.

Dear friends, be happy: here is in fact a new episode of Dekaro Diary! This time I’ll talk about Mompos, Medellin and Pablo Escobar, one of the most famous drug dealer of all time, head of the Medellin cartel. I also personally met his nephew, Nicolas.

More or less half way between Cartagena and Medellin, there is Mompos , a city that, as Villa de Leyva, seems to have stopped in time. This is probably because it was always a bit isolated. In fact it is difficult to reach, and at some point there is also a stretch of river to do by speedboat.

 

It is the city where is set “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” by Marquez.

 

A square at dusk.

 

Colored chicks for sale.

 

Procession of Palm Sunday.

 

Woman with donkey.

 

One night, in bars around a square, I met Javier, left, with whom I had a few beers. Then I met this gentleman on the right, but it was a bit weird.

 

Indeed, very strange.

 

But basically nice, here is about to smile!

 

The speedboat for the stretch of river from Magangué in Bodega.

 

Guys in Magangué.

 

Medellin is located in a valley surrounded by hills full of houses. Arriving at night it feels like to be wrapped in hundreds of thousands of little lights.
From a metro station there is a cableway that goes up one of these hills.

 

Inside the cableway, which runs just above one of the many neighborhoods.

 

These districts are composed almost entirely of bare brick houses.

 

Posters on the houses.

 

MedellinInside the little streets.

 

Little square.

 

Murals.

 

Football field.

 


Also in Medellin, to my astonishment, I found the “Pablo Escobar Tour” , a tour where you visit the sites linked to the history of Escobar, up to his house, where you can meet his brother or his nephew.
We visited various places, including his tomb.

Let me give you a very quick summary of his tragic life because, in addition to fascinating, is an integral part of Colombian history.
Small drug dealer in South America, was the first to export cocaine to the U.S. in the 70s when this drug, although already classified as illegal, was virtually ignored by the police and the security of airports.
Becomes in a few years, the 7 richest man in the world, giving meanwhile a good chunk of his earnings to the poor, especially in Medellin, building hospitals, schools and entire districts where homeless families go to live.
For this reason, becomes loved by the poorer classes , ie the vast majority of Colombians, and decides to enter politics, even to gain parliamentary privilege.
Is elected in Colombian Congress but soon after expelled under pressure from the Minister of Justice and from this moment the war between him and the state gets rough. It kills the minister of justice and gives a bounty of $ 1000 for every policeman killed. The policemen of course leave Medellin that becomes the most dangerous city in the world. Also, in the meantime began the war with the Cali cartel. The dead, including many innocent victims, are thousands.
Increasingly cornered, Escobar accepts to get arrested, but on condition that the constitution is changed so as to prevent the extradition of Colombians, because he does not want to end up in the U.S.. When he gets it, he goes in a prison built by himself: the Catedral , one of the most luxurious place on Earth.
But when the government, perhaps under pressure from the U.S., decides to transfer him to another prison, Escobar escapes.
On December 2, 1993, the day after his forty-fourth birthday, is found and killed on a rooftop in Medellin.

 

The headquarters of the Medellin cartel. After having been confiscated, was blown up by the Cali cartel, known as “Los Pepes”.

 

“Wanted” manifest with his brother Roberto. It is inside the house where he lived in the early ’80s, before moving to a country estate about 4 hours from Medellin, called “Napoles”.
The house is now a sort of museum and is home to Robert and his son Nicolas, nephew of Pablo.

 

Me with Nicolas, the nephew of Pablo Escobar.

 

If the tour itself was not exceptional, really interesting was instead meeting Nicolas , a very intelligent person, with whom we could discuss at length.
He said that 90% of the things said about Pablo Escobar are false.
On the death of his uncle no one knows the truth apart from him, his father and a third person. As soon as this third person will die (and Nicolas hopes soon) he will tell it. He apologized for not being able to say more about it but apart from this, responded fully to all questions, always with great sincerity and dignity, using the “we” even for the bloodiest actions of the Medellin cartel, such as the murder of the minister of justice.
He noted that the war waged by politicians against his uncle never had anything to do with moral issues, because the Colombian politicians have never thought in those terms. The problem was political, Escobar was the first person coming from a poor family to challenge the power managed by a cast of five Colombian families. Also, instead of just promising, as all politicians do, he was really helping people, and this is a fact.
On the United States said that the real problem for them is not so much the harmfulness of cocaine, but the flow of money going from there to Colombia and that must be stopped. It reminded me Chomsky that noted that many more Colombians die every year because of U.S. tobacco then Americans because of Colombian cocaine.

Looking back at his past he feels still a great love for his uncle, extraordinarily intelligent person and always ready to help the poor, but he realizes that, despite all the money he had, it was not a good life . He could hardly move around and when he did, he need to be escorted and armed to the teeth. Now he finds himself with 75% of his family and 99% of his friends killed. Even the three years in a hotel in Switzerland for $ 55,000 a day in the early 80s, were more like a senseless folly than something pleasant.

He told many interesting stories of life with his uncle:
Pablo deciding to learn French because he preferred to know the language of the people with whom he does business, and after only 3 months, when he meets up again, he speaks fluently in that language while Nicolas, for years in Switzerland with the best professors, still can’t do that!
The surreal luxury of the Catedral, the prison that Pablo self-built for himself, where almost every night there were parties and sometimes even football matches with entire teams inside.
The escalation of ways and means to bring the drugs in the U.S. beginning with small planes, after with ships, while now the Cali cartel is using mostly submarines.
The many international airports that made them go without controls in exchange for 25% of the value of the carried drugs… etc. … etc. …

Nicolas was arrested only once with a friend, immediately torn to pieces with a chainsaw by Colombian police in front of his eyes. Fortunately for him, in the meantime uncle Pablo knew of the arrest and personally called the president of Colombia, saying that this was a war between them and if they began to put in relatives then he would start to kill the sons and the nephews of all highest military and political men. 25 minutes after the call, Nicolas was free again.
After the death of Pablo, the family decided to stop. Now the drug trade is controlled mainly by the Cali cartel, their eternal rival.

One last curiosity. The war between the Medellin Cartel and the Cali moved also on the football field, with Independiente Medellin against America of Cali. And when the Cali drew a game thanks to a somewhat suspect refereeing, Escobar killed the referee! The hidden dream of every football fan! :-)

A big hug to the many new friends of the facebook page of Dekaro Diary!