Thursday, September 29, 2011

Men of Colombia

Two years ago, while in Tanzania, the director of the local farm collective chastised me for taking pictures of exotically dressed villagers, tribal people and the poor. He pointed out that it gave the wrong impression of his country to the West, because I had eliminated showing all the progressive, successful, fashionably-dressed, modern-thinking people.

I have chosen the three pictures of men of Colombia without including a modern big city businessman. Yet so many other faces are missing as well, so in the end, this post fails miserably to describe this country's people or its character.

The bottom picture is Nelson, my host in the Orinoco. This seemingly simple-looking chap, together with his father, own a huge 30,000 acre cattle ranch consisting of jungle and savannah and which also serves as a nature preserve. He is now doing a little eco-tourism for the truely adventurous, since, as I have told in a previous post, it takes a three hour boat trip downriver through the jungle to get to his place. Aside from knowing seemingly everything about local plants and animals and, of course, ranching, Nelson is an incredibly accomplished oil painter and, of all things, harpist. After eating one of his sumptous all meat meals, he seranaded us. It is strange to hear such sweet tones wafting through the forest. The above photo was snapped when his son Sabastiano and he took me piranha fishing.

The second photo is of Pablo, what other name did you expect?! His family has lived along the river forever, subsisting almost entirely on local foods and making everything in traditional ways. Homes are built entirely of bamboo and palm leaves. You may think he looks primitive, but he exhibited such a gentle understanding and has clearly developed a unique level of knowledge coming from the ingestion of certain psychotropic plants.

I know the least about the top photo. I took it the other day of a cowboy who agreed to pose for me. I liked his hat, his shawl and his tough expression. So many of these rural Colombianos are so staunchly proud of their environment, their culture and their history. He lives in a enchanting valley on the western slope of the middle range of the Andes and is probably accustomed to rounding up cattle at 9,000 feet.

These fellows are small pieces in the puzzle of Colombia. I could stay here for years before I had a clue what the final picture might even remotely look like.


  1. Marvelous and interesting post! Love your photos, the faces of the men and their backgrounds. Look forward to more.


  2. I remember why I loved your pictures of India so much - you are a genius at capturing people. Thanks for this. The guy in the boat is my favorite. It's a wonderful portrait and description.

  3. These are wonderful portraits. The three men are all so strong, yet each one in a uniquely different and individual way.