. We planned on taking a 3:30 boat to the next town, but before, we returned to the internet and stayed their until after the boat had left because the clocks on the computers were slow. Seemed like we were going to spend another night in this town, so I figured we should try to talk to somebody. The hotel woman had been here since 2001 and said conditions had improved a lot, the town was safer and people were actually moving here. No word on Gustavo, but she suggested we go to the mayor's office.
One of the rooms in building was air conditioned and probably the coldest spot within a 30 mile radius. We spoke with two women who suggested we get in touch with Abraham Cisneros, the local historian. Another woman walked in and immediately she was volunteered to take us to him on her motorcycle. Fernando went first. I walked around the lobby and studied photographs from 60-70 years ago, the town's golden age. She came back and at first she took me to the river and gave me a little tour passing by a ruined hotel and train station. Then we zoomed away from the river, past a funeral procession, and then straight for a little while. The town, which I had thought to be tiny, suddenly grew exponentially as fast as the moto could go. We stopped in front of a high school where Fernando was standing. I figured Abraham was the local history teacher.
He is a bony small man with an elliptical wrinkled face of 63 years that collects sweat
. We walked a few blocks and sat down at his patio, which is across the street from a plaza. He showed us a book about the Magdalena, which I had found in the Bogotá library. He had contributed to the Puerto Wilches section. He also had published two small volumes of local history, in poetry form, as he said he could not write in prose. He talked to us about the general history of the town. It used to be an important port along the river, but since steam navigation had stopped over 40 years ago, everything had fallen into the decline. The town used to have some of the best wood to fire the boats. He took us for a walk further east. The town was actually huge, 18,000 and 45,000 in the district. An old airstrip that had been constructed before the one in the departmental capital had became a pedestrian and bikeway. On edge of town was a swamp that looked beautiful but had been stripped of most of its life. An African palm company, with Bogatoan capital arrived, but their wages were so pitiful that one could make more one day fishing than a month of hard physical labor. He said Puerto Wilches hasn't suffered as much as other neighbouring municipalities, because it has always been more agriculturally based, as opposed to fossil fuels or narcotics. However, 6 people were found night one night and he had seen a man recite a poem about his sons. One was a guerrilla killed by paramilitary, and the other a para killed by guerrillas.
Turns out, he is only a security guard at the high school, having received his high school degree ten years earlier
. He comes from a family of fisherman, and continues that tradition, though it is harder to harder each year. He is satisfied with his life, mostly because of his three daughters and their children. They all look more African and seem to be the opposite of his physical type. We invited him to dinner and he told me you have to eat fish with your hands and at the end, open up the head and suck out the cerebral liquid. He took us through dark streets and said that even solo women can walk here safely. Fernando was in back pain, enough so he wanted to go the hospital we had seen earlier. They have him a anaesthetic shot in his butt and as we walked outside again, we passed the church, which was about 70 years old. While putting up the cross, the carpenter had fallen to his death. While the electrician was trying to light the cross up, he also mortally fell.
The day in Puerto Wilches started off rather slow. Fernando complained of headaches and slept and I was writing the blog on a computer. We ate lunch, for me that means, rice, plantains, onions, tomatoes, and either potatoes, yucca, or occasionally lentils or beans. We walked around the shadeless dirty streets. The center of town is by the river, a rectangular plaza with walkways, grass, and trees. Unlike the other towns, it doesn't seem to be a social center, with few benches, and dwarf trees provide little shade. On the end away from the river is a small market, the mayor's office, and a white and baby blue church. A few blocks away are dirt streets, wooden shacks with zinc roofs, and barefoot children chasing after a soccer ball, prototypical small town Latin America. We returned to the hotel and asked the keeper about Gustavo Perez, the one name we had been given while we were in Barranca. She said that her friend might be able to find him. In these kinds of places that could take a week, despite that everybody knows everybody