Cartagena Afternoon by Lorraine Caputo

colombia pablo hidalgo licensed

Cartagena Afternoon
by Lorraine Caputo

In the center of
     Centenary Park
A man & a woman
     clap, singing praises
          unto Jesus
The preacher wipes his
     ebony brow

Vendors roam
     with hand racks of
          coffee thermoses
& all walls, all benches
     men sit drinking tinto*

In one corner of this park
     under the shade of tarps
          strung to acacia trees
Stalls sell rainbows of flowers
     plastic, silk & live

Up on the rampart of worn
     brick & cut coral stone
Lovers meet
     or await the arrival
          of the other
A young man writes a poem
     black hair tousled by the breeze

Down below on a side
     fortification, sitting against
          salt-eaten walls
Three street kids take turns
     sniffing a bottle of glue

The more-yellow sun nears the horizon
     casting a blinding sheen
          upon the water
Waves leap over
     a breakwater

The deeply carved clouds
     snag pale indigo & peach
Men wash the sweat
     of this other day
          off at a spigot fountain
Along the sidewalks artisans
     roll their jewelry into cloths

One young foreigner packs away
     incense into his bag
          an infant sleeping across his lap
His sun-toasted mate holds
     their toddler on her hip

Near the statue of Pedro Heredia
     Afro-Colombian youth
          dance their traditions
The beating drums echo
     through the narrow fortress streets

* tinto—strong, black coffee

PHOTO: Plaza, Getsemani district, Cartagena, Colombia. Photo by Pablo Hidalgo, used by permission. 

NOTE:  Cartagena is a city and major port on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region. Founded on June 1, 1533 by the Spanish commander, Pedro de Heredia, the town was named after the port city of Cartagena, in southeast Spain, where most of Heredia’s sailors had resided. The city’s strategic location between the Magdalena and Sinú Rivers gave it easy access to the interior of New Granada and made it a main port for trade between Spain and its overseas empire, establishing its importance by the early 1540s. During the colonial era it was a key port for the export of Peruvian silver to Spain and for the import of enslaved Africans under the asiento system. 

Caputo 02 -- Cartagena

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  The best way to know Cartagena is to just take off walking. In this hoof-about, I started from my hospedaje (cheap inn) in the Getsemaní part of the city—and old artisan craft neighborhood located outside of the fortress walls—and head for the walled city where the richer classes lived (and still live).

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Youth dance near the statue of Pedro Heredia, on the plaza just inside the Torre del Reloj. Photo by the author. 

caputo01-1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lorraine Caputo is a documentary poet, translator, and travel writer. Her work appears in over 180 journals in Canada, the US, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa, as well as in 12 chapbooks of poetry – including Caribbean Nights (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), Notes from the Patagonia (dancing girl press, 2017), and On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019). She also pens travel pieces, with stories appearing in the anthologies Drive: Women’s True Stories from the Open Road (Seal Press, 2002) and Far-Flung and Foreign (Lowestoft Chronicle Press, 2012), and travel articles and guidebooks. In March 2011, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada honored her verse. She has done over 200 literary readings, from Alaska to the Patagonia, and journeys through Latin America, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. You may follow her Latin America Wander travels on Facebook and at latinamericawander.wordpresscom.

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