Back to Bogota


After stuffing myself with lechona and tamal tolidense, swimming in the fresh crisp water of one of the local fincas, enjoying the controlled chaos of the market in Lerida and being overwhelmed by the tragedy of Armero – it was time to head back home to Bogotá.

Since it was Sunday, the roads were almost deserted, so we made it home in a fraction of the time it took to travel in the other direction. So much so, that we had plenty of time to stop and look around at more sites on the way home.

I got some great pictures of the drive – heading up into the cool mountains.

the valley below

One of the more interesting places we passed once we returned to Cundinamarca was Guaduas.  Guaduas is a small city of about 30,000 that was the birthplace and home of one of Colombia’s most famous women (no, not Shakira but “La Pola”.)

The city was founded in 1572 and was a well-used and frequent stop for travelers from Bogotá to more outlying areas like Tolima.  Now one of its main claims to fame is Policarpa Salavarrieta or “La Pola” as she is known.  Her likeness and name currently adorn a local bakery in Guaduas.

Ms. Salavarrieta (1795 – 1817)  is considered one of Colombia’s heroes (or heroine) for her role in the Colombian revolution.  She is the only female to be honored on Colombian currency (in multiple different designations over the years.)  She currently decorates the 10,000 peso bill, but was also on coinage in the past.

After being orphaned by a smallpox outbreak, she moved to Bogotá where she was able to sneak in and out of Bogotá (which had tight security under the Royalist regime).

She was a seamstress who used her sewing talents to gain access to the homes of staunch Royalists and eavesdrop on their conversations.  She also stole documents and spied on military officers and recruited others to the revolutionary cause.

Unfortunately, after the capture of one of her fellow revolutionaries, she was arrested, tried and executed along with her lover and several others on November 14, 1817.  She was reportedly defiant even as she was led to the firing squad, and refused to keep her back to her executioners – turning around to face them as they shot her to death.

To commemorate her actions to assist the revolutionary efforts, in the late 1960’s, the Colombian government designated her birthday as “Day of the Colombian Woman.”

After learning more about La Pola from my guide, we continued to Faca (Facativa), a city just outside Bogotá to visit one of the fincas that used to be in the family.  Faca is best known for its native roots, and the many indigenous carvings, paintings and sculptures that were found during archeological excavations.  Faca is primarily a farm town – and is surrounded by several large fincas with livestock and different agricultural products including flower cultivation.

From there – we cruised on into Bogotá; where as much as I enjoyed my journeys, it felt great to be home.

Jose Asuncion Silva, the poet and 5 mil


There are several poems named Nocturne, and a I, II and III.  Nocturne III is the one on the bill – but his simply named Nocturno is my favorite.

“Nocturno” 
Oh dulce niña pálida, que como un montón de oro
de tu inocencia cándida conservas el tesoro;
a quien los más audaces, en locos devaneos
jamás se han acercado con carnales deseos;
tú, que adivinar dejas inocencias extrañas
en tus ojos velados por sedosas pestañas,
y en cuyos dulces labios —abiertos sólo al rezo—
jamás se habrá posado ni la sombra de un beso…
Dime quedo, en secreto, al oído, muy paso,
con esa voz que tiene suavidades de raso:
si entrevieras en sueños a aquél con quien tú sueñas
tras las horas de baile rápidas y risueñas,
y sintieras sus labios anidarse en tu boca
y recorrer tu cuerpo, y en su lascivia loca
besar todos sus pliegues de tibio aroma llenos
y las rígidas puntas rosadas de tus senos;
si en los locos, ardientes y profundos abrazos
agonizar soñaras de placer en sus brazos,
por aquel de quien eres todas las alegrías,
¡oh dulce niña pálida!, di, ¿te resistirías?…

Lee todo en: NOCTURNO – Poemas de José Asunción Silva

the poet

  The poem is actual microprinted on the reverse side of the 5,000 peso bill but despite using my macrolens – it’s impossible to read – I can’t even verify exactly which version is printed here, though one of my sources says Nocturno III, the rest just say Nocturne.  But the bill itself is pretty impressive.

Nocturno III

Una noche
Una noche toda llena de perfumes, de murmullos y de músicas de alas,
Una noche
En que ardían en la sombra nupcial y húmeda las luciérnagas fantásticas,
A mi lado lentamente, contra mí ceñida toda, muda y pálida,
Como si un presentimiento de amarguras infinitas,
Hasta el más secreto fondo de las fibras te agitara,
Por la senda florecida que atraviesa la llanura
Caminabas,
Y la luna llena
Por los cielos azulosos, infinitos y profundos esparcía su luz blanca,
Y tu sombra
Fina y lánguida,
Y mi sombra
Por los rayos de la luna proyectadas,
Sobre las arenas tristes
De la senda se juntaban,
Y eran una,
Y eran una,
Y eran una sola sombra larga
Y eran una sola sombra larga
Y eran una sola sombra larga…
Esta noche
Solo; el alma
Llena de las infinitas amarguras y agonías de tu muerte,
Separado de ti misma por el tiempo, por la tumba y la distancia,
Por el infinito negro
Donde nuestra voz no alcanza,
Mudo y solo
Por la senda caminaba…
Y se oían los ladridos de los perros a la luna,
A la luna pálida,
Y el chillido
De las ranas…
Sentí frío; era el frío que tenían en tu alcoba
Tus mejillas y tus sienes y tus manos adoradas,
Entre las blancuras níveas
De las mortuorias sábanas,
Era el frío del sepulcro, era el hielo de la muerte
Era el frío de la nada,
Y mi sombra,
Por los rayos de la luna proyectada,
Iba sola,
Iba sola,
Iba sola por la estepa solitaria
Y tu sombra esbelta y ágil
Fina y lánguida,
Como en esa noche tibia de la muerta primavera,
Como en esa noche llena de murmullos de perfumes y de músicas de alas,
Se acercó y marchó con ella
Se acercó y marchó con ella…
Se acercó y marchó con ella…¡Oh las sombras enlazadas!
¡Oh las sombras de los cuerpos que se juntan con
[las sombras de las almas…
¡Oh las sombras que se buscan en las noches de tristezas y de lágrimas!..

microscript

 Earlier, I posted what was supposed to be an ‘official translation’ but even as I compared the two – with my limited Spanish – it seemed really, really off.  (Not just shades of nuance – which I have yet to master in Spanish.)

 Jose Asuncion Silva  (1865 – 1896)

They say that Jose Asuncion Silva wrote those words after the death of his beloved sister in 1892, but reading his words more than a century later – I have my doubts.  Unless, like Poe, he nurtured a romantic love for a close family member (Poe married his first cousin.)**

Otherwise, to me – the words speak of a more romantic, more tragic love with a lot of sensual imagery, but of course, that is just my interpretation of my modest Spanish, as well as google translation.

  A few years after his sister’s death, the majority of his work was lost at sea (1895).  Shortly after, in 1896 – burdened by family debt and these emotional losses – Jose Asuncion Silva committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest.

His most famous work – (as posted above) wasn’t published until well after his death in 1908.

You can visit his grave at the Central cemetary here in Bogotá.  (The link is to one of my favorite Bogotá bloggers).  ** Local rumor is that he did, indeed, harbor an ‘unnatural affection for his dear sis..