¡FELIZ CUMPLEAÑOS, SANTA MARTA!
29 July 1525, Rodrigo de Bastidas founded the city of Santa Marta, on the Caribbean coast of what is now Colombia.
Three major cities dot Colombia’s Caribbean coast: Cartagena in the west, the touristy colonial city. Barranquilla in the center, a serious business hub that lets its hair down for its world-renowned Carnaval. Finally, Santa Marta to the east, a treasure trove on the edge of the Guajira.
Of these three cities, Santa Marta is my favorite. It has an authentic feel to it – touristy, yet with a grimy underbelly for those who peer into the dark corners. And the delights nearby: El Rodadero to the west and Taganga to the east, both with nice beaches. Parque Nacional Tayrona on the coast and Parque Nacional Sierra de Santa Marta in the mountains, both with ancient Tayrona ruins. Inland where the banana plantations lie are Ciénaga and Aracataca. So many wonders – historical, natural, cultural.
One of my favorite things to do is, just before sunset, go down to Donde Juancho, a food truck specializing in fresh ceviche of all kinds. Then I sit on the seawall of the camellón, grab a can of beer from a wandering vendor, and watch the sun sink into that beautiful sea. For dessert, I’ll get a crema de arroz (rice with milk and coconut) from another vendor and watch the last colors fade away. I might then drop by the Alliance Française if it has a movie or art opening going on.
On several occasions, I spent long spells in Santa Marta – long spells that were so poetically fruitful One result was Caribbean Nights, published by Red Bird Chapbooks in 2014.
So – for our poetic journey today, let us go to Santa Marta. Grab a plate of lasagna (for it is National Lasagna Day in the US: https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/fun/lasagna-day) or some great spicy buffalo wings (for it’s International Chicken Wing Day: http://www.nationalchickenwingday.com=.
Tune in to Carlos Vives (who was born in Santa Marta on 7 August 1961), joining other Colombian singers in “Tierra del Olvido”:
His scenes were shot in Parque Nacional Tayrona.