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Tangent # 24 - Foticos
Snapshots from Santa Marta, Colombia
Howdy friends and welcome to new subscribers! 🎉. Thanks for taking this small Internet detour.
Since last week’s edition was meaty, we’ll keep it light this week
(Confession: I got caught up in exploring Santa Marta and left this week’s newsletter to the last minute. In other words, it’s not that the dog ate my homework—rather, I was spellbound by marine breeze, bright colors, and familiar unfamiliarity of being in Colombia).
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It’s been over three years since I was in Colombia, and it has been 25 years since I’ve been back to Santa Marta, where I’m writing this from.
Santa Marta is a city in the north coast of Colombia facing the Atlantic Ocean. During colonial times, it was one of the main ports for the Nueva Granada colony. It’s also been a constant target of pirates and invasion attempts (no aliens though; it seems they only go to the US).
It is the main city of the Sierra Nevada region—a region reach in biodiversity, natural resources, and freshwater sources (from the Magdalena River and the water from the Sierra Nevada mountains). Sadly, when you look around, you’d be hard pressed to find the richness that comes from this treasure trove of resources and beauty. This contradiction is emblematic of Colombia as a whole.
It also holds historical significance by being the place where El Libertador, Simon Bolivar, died in 1830 (he was our George Washington). Bolivar’s figure and heroic legacy still looms largely in the regional conscience. The enduring power of stories.
For this Tangent, I thought I would capture a few photos from my days here. Hopefully it gives you a little taste of La Tierra Samaria1.
La Iglesia Samaria // Church in Santa Marta
This region remains deeply religious. Catholic holidays like Holy Week set the rhythm of the city and drive tourism from other Colombian cities. Its churches retain a classic colonial architecture and act as central hubs for locals to gather and complain about local politicians, as well as for tourists wander through while they pull their phones out to see where the hell they are and to snap a picture of the church (i.e. tourists like me).
La Arepa Colombiana // The Colombian Arepa
I’m not big on street food. It’s a game of Russian roulette with your stomach. I’ve been on the losing side enough times for my gut to grumble as it passes food stands.
There is one exception. Arepas.
Every arepa street cart is my version of the Delorean from Back to the Future. It takes me back to my childhood days in San Andres (which I wrote about here). After a long day at the liquor store my family owned, my Mom would buy me an arepa overflowing with salty cheese and half melted butter. It was my favorite thing growing up. Chasing that taste, the scent of carbon, the memories of times lived coated by a warm island breeze, make me stop dead in my tracks every time I see an arepa cart.
It will never be like what it was. But it was quite delicious. Who knew time travel could taste so great?
El Puerto // The Port
Santa Marta has been a port city for centuries, but this modern iteration has been around since 1993. Seeing the port in all its steely glory, and knowing that a few dozen miles away lies a Lost City, and one of the most stunning national parks you can ever visit is a nice juxtaposition of life in Santa Marta. The old and the new. The Spanish and the Indigenous. The rich hotel zone and the half built, peeled concrete comunas. The claxons of the motorcycles and the melodies from bird songs. Dualities are bountiful in this area.
I wanted to share photographic evidence that I cannot do a soft smile. The distortion between what my brain sees, what my face actually does, and what the camera captures is significant. Either it’s a cheesy grin, or a frown like you just asked me to share my pizza—there is no in-between. Anyone else relate?
Until next time!
Samarios/as is what the term used for people that are from Santa Marta.