Colombia: San Pedro Frio: The World We Were Made For

 

by Carol Tyx

Just getting to San Pedro Frio, a small mining town in the San Lucas Mountains, is a challenge. My teammates and I begin with a three-hour boat ride down the Magdalena River, picking up passengers, produce, and a live pig in a sack along the way. A half-hour taxi ride gets us to Santa Rosa, a small city in the foothills. From there, we travel into the mountains by van. The road ends at La Y, named for the fork in the road. We learn the dirt road up to San Pedro Frio is dry enough to walk, but during the ascent I slip into a mud-hole. It takes two of us to free my boot from the thick red muck.

But once in San Pedro, the view is breathtaking, a light veil of mist weaving through layers of mountain. I feel I've arrived in a mythical pueblo out of the novel, A Hundred Years of Solitude. cont. p.6

During our stay, my teammates and I make the trek back to La Y to talk with the commander of the army encampment there. A few weeks ago, a soldier walked through San Pedro Frio with his face covered, which frightened the townspeople. The sentry is curious about our blue vests and red hats, and we start a conversation about CPT's work. Although I can't follow the whole exchange, I'm aware of both the ordinariness of our conversation and the strangeness of explaining the practice of nonviolence to someone with an automatic weapon.

For all the astonishing natural beauty of San Pedro Frio, it is a simple human tableau that stands out in my memory. A father and his two-year-old son come to eat soup and a cornmeal arepa at Doña Alicia's*. The boy snuggles against his father on the wood bench. When Maria slides the single bowl of soup in front of them, the father dips a spoon in the broth, blows on the liquid, then holds it to the boy's lips. The boy shakes his head. "Tome," the father says gently, urging his son to eat. The boy takes a small swallow, leans his head against his father's shoulder. The father holds out a wedge of arepa, breaks off a piece, and lowers it into the boy's mouth. The boy chews the morsel of bread, then reaches for the wedge, breaks off a crumb and holds it to his father's lips. And so the meal continues, the father feeding the son, the son feeding the father. I sit across from the two of them, sipping hot chocolate. I don't want to be rude, but I can't keep my eyes off this tenderness. This is the world we were made for.

*Names have been changed