Monday, April 20, 2009

Grandfather and Grandson

I met 6-year-old Juan Manuel and his grandfather in a plaza in the town of Santa Fe de Antioquia. They had come from Laureles, a small village three hours where they have a farm. They made the trip to Santa Fe to stock up on supplies, which at 25,000 inhabitants is the nearest "city". I was especially struck by Juan Manuel's uniquely Colombian mix of features.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Tallest Palm Trees in the World

I haven't posted for nearly a month because I was traveling in central and southern Colombia and Ecuador. I'm back home now and plan to post regularly again.

In mid March I visited the Valle de Cocora, in Colombia's eje cafetero region. The valley known for producing Quindio Wax Palms, the tallest palm trees in the world. They can grow to nearly 200 feet. The palm once faced extinction due to over harvesting of wax from its trunk and fronds for Palm Sunday services. It was declared Colombia's national tree in 1985 and since then has been officially protected.

At 8,500 feet the valley is rainy and cool most of the time, with cold nights occasionally dipping near freezing. Luckily the rain had just stopped when I arrived on the 45-minute jeep ride from the town of Salento. Still, most of the forests of giant palms that covered the green mountainsides were shrouded in fog. But as evening fell, the sun started to peek through the clouds.

The valley is all dirt roads and muddy trails, dotted with farms, a few rustic watering holes and a trout hatchery. I ran into this procession on my way back to the main road.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Streets of Santa Fe

Santa Fe de Antioquia's cobbled streets and colonial homes haven't changed much since the town was founded in the 16th century. On a Thursday afternoon, the streets had more horses and bicycles than trucks and cars. The town's main square is adorned with fountains and statutes and stands selling hats, sunglasses and sweets made from tamarindo, a bittersweet fruit popular in the region.

I found these horses tied up outside a hardware shop. Most likely they belonged to farmers coming into town to shop.

As night falls, the orange street lamps cast an almost old-world glow on the homes.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Poker in Santa Fe

The town of Santa Fe de Antioquia, about an hour west of Medellín, was founded in 1541, and was this region's first capital (until Medellín took the title in the 1800s). Today it's a sleepy agricultural town of 22,000, noted for its colonial streets and hot weather because of its low elevation in a river valley. In the weekend, day trippers from Medellín come to the area's many swimming pools and water parks. But on the Thursday I visited, the action was in the town's main square.

Crowds of locals gathered around several heated poker matches. The players slammed their hands on the ground at the end of each round. The crowd murmured as 10,000 peso ($4) bills were won and lost. They told me that the silver-haired man was the undisputed poker champion of the town.

I noticed another man standing on the edge of the poker circle holding a live pigeon.

He had just found the pigeon suffering from a broken wing, and told me that he was going to set its wing and take care of it until it was healthy again.

Tomorrow a post of the streets of Santa Fe.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Teenagers, Medellín Botanical Gardens

I met this group of 15-year-old guys at the botanical gardens. They were very curious about America and had lots of questions for me. They were also eager to show me around, and pointed out some iguanas in the trees that I would have otherwise missed. The guys were also more than happy to pose for this group shot in the garden's jungle boardwalk.

Caras Colombianas (Colombian Faces) Part One

This series shows the diversity of the Colombian people I've met on the streets of Medellín. My first post focuses on men in their early 20s to early 30s.

Andrés Vélez, 23, is a bus dispatcher at the Estadio metro station in central Medellín.

Luis Chalá, 24, is a dancer and English student from El Bosque, a lower-class Medellín neighborhood. Growing up there in the 1990s he experienced some of the city's worst violence. Now he hopes to become an English teacher.

Daniel Felipe Cuartas, 31, graduated with a degree in philosophy but now works as a sports and wildlife photographer in Medellín.

Monday, March 9, 2009

El Peñol, Antioquia

El Peñol was founded in 1714 in a river valley among the rolling green mountains of central Colombia. For two and a half centuries, not much happened in the quiet ranching and farming community, until the government decided to build a hydroelectric dam. In 1978, the government demolished the town and a constructed a "Nuevo Peñol" on higher ground. Today, the new town of neat houses and streets covers a hillside above the water.

The 5,500-acre reservoir is now a popular weekend getaway spot for Medellín residents looking to boat, fish, or relax on the shore with beer and a barbecue. The ruins of old Peñol lie deep below the surface, only a giant cross poking above the surface marks the town church.

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About This Blog

I'm a freelance journalist based in Medellín, Colombia, developing my photography skills by posting regular photo reports on the country. For more information, visit:

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