The Roads of the Water

These are different stories Columbians and their relationship to water. They were counted during the Literary Editing workshop held by La Feria del Libro de Barranquilla LIBRAQ. More than 15 people participated, including one of our co-founders.

First Story: Children’s Game.

Estefanía fits her three dolls on the floor and sits them against the gallows that hold the hammock. Be judicious, and I bring you gifts. She spoke to them, imitating the tone of voice of his schoolteacher. She then jumped to the other corner of the hammock to collect four empty, half-dirty, discolored tanks. She hadn’t finished tying the containers to the donkey’s chair when she heard musically repeating a name:  Taíiina, Taíiina, Taíiina. Over and over again. 

Thinking of her mother’s screams, Estefanía tied the last tank to the donkey, climbed her little sister, and quickly went downhill. A 15-minute ride that had become routine going back and forth every day. During the tour, she thought more about the dresses that she could weave her dolls with the leaves of palm trees she saw along the way than on whether her little sister stopped crying or if her donkey was thirsty. The lake is about to dry out and has left a trail of mud around. Estefanía learned a year ago when she was seven that in these times of drought it was better to go her little sister under the shade of the avocado stick who, although a little far away, was better to cry there alone than to allow her to bury her feet in the mud where she would surely shout louder.

Twenty minutes later, she filled each tank with murky water that attracted mosquitoes and where small animals swam. She bathed in her clothes to cool off the heat and wet her sister, who had long since stopped crying. With unusual force, Estefanía loaded each tank and tied them back on his donkey with the help of a fallen tree that made the donkey a ladder. Two tanks on each side of the donkey. She again climbed her sister with the same routine moves and then jumped her and galloped, now slower, uphill. Along the way, she picked up some leaves of dried palm.

When she got home, she found her the same, alone and without her mother. Maíiita. Maíiita. Maíiita. She said, like for the wind and imitating his little sister’s voice. She pulled her down from the donkey and left it in the hammock. Then she went down each water tank one by one, leaning on a stool and dragged them, more out of laziness than for lack of strength, to the same place where she picked them up. She untied the donkey and took the dried leaves were the dolls.  Did they behave well? I brought them new dresses. She told them. This time without imitating any voices.

Second Story: The Water of Palermo By Natalie Berdugo Canyon

I walk over the bridge that I’m always afraid to pass, the same one that in my dreams becomes a kind of roller coaster or fatal attraction. In 15 minutes, the bus crosses the bridge that divides Barranquilla of Palermo, and in the middle of them is La Magdalena. An imposing, deep, and earth-colored body of water that runs through the middle of the country and dies with its secrets, testimonies, and tours, here in the Atlantic, meets the sea.

Finally, we arrive in Palermo; we walk towards the community of Villa Clarín by a path on the side of the river. In its thin pipes that enter serene, we find the signage: “beware of the alligator.” The sweltering heat, the humid atmosphere, and the spicy sun make me admire the men who seem to work fishing inside the small pipe. We managed to see the small and medium-sized wooden or brick houses and follow the sandy roads. It’s Sunday, and the music of the tobacconists resonates in a few blocks, friends have one or several beers, others prefer to shelter from the heat inside their homes and some prepare to go to church or to meet with the other inhabitants. “I take the water, and nothing happens to me,” one of the ladies in the group assigned to guide social activity tells me, talking about the water they consume in Villa Clarín. “Some take it, I get spots on my skin, and I get stomach aches,” another woman tells me. I quickly understand what the men were doing in the small pipe; they uncovered the motor pump that brings the water to the town. “We buy water in the shop because the water that comes from the river is foul. We use it for drinking, cooking, and bathing,” says another. “Triple AAA doesn’t get here,” they add. Without a doubt, I compared my reality with that of them. It reminds me of the water that comes out of my tap every day without any situation, makes me think how many times I use the water a day. Even more importantly, it makes me analyze how many times in my day today, I am not aware of this.

The water of the Magdalena River continues to descend on one side of Palermo. It flows a few kilometers in Tajamares de Bocas de Ceniza, where it meets the sea leaving the waste of an entire country and its secrets, testimonies, and routes.

Third story. 5 seconds. By Liane Daza

Taking the class into his hands, Paul watched, with his huge blue eyes, as the particles danced to settle at the bottom of the glass. She counted a minute with six seconds until the liquid was finally crystalline. How are they able to drink this water, a sip of this can kill me! I’ll live at Evian’s point*, she thought ironically.

It had been two days since his arrival in Port Columbia when she decided to give the item the opportunity. It came from Germany, his home country, where the water quality was the mineral. His irony came true, but with national water production. It has been eight months, and every other day 3-liter plastic bottles arrive, accumulating in a large transparent tower in the courtyard of their house. The first solution to all the waste generated, and not relying on the village’s garbage collection system having the sea so close, was to recycle it. Every month she was taken to Barranquilla by a company that takes care of the process.

Two weeks ago, the idea of reuse arose. He met a village lord who told him the importance of these bottles in his neighborhood, where the water does not arrive, and these are his storage system, a precious commodity. Every 15 days, they will come from the ward to pick them up and distribute them. They feel that their water containers have improved, now the particles take after the harvesting path only 5 seconds to reach the bottom of the bottle.

*Natural mineral water, obtained from the French Alps.

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