Walls in Cartagena: The Ironwork of Ernesto Muñoz

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The hot sweat coming through the rugged flannel shirt Ernesto Muñoz was wearing spoke volumes about the man and his dedication to fusing power with elegance: he ripped off the heavy flannel, threw it on a giant stump, studied the piece of iron in his hands, threw the lever on a clamp to secure it, and with the fine teeth of a hacksaw, the blacksmith went into a dizzying spell of thrusts, putting all his might into the beginning of another afternoon building Cartagena.

“Of course I feel powerful,” said Ernesto. He put down the blade and took up a welder’s torch. Blinding white light illuminated his shop. Continue reading on Beacon…

 

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Asphalt Blues: The Streets of Emiliano Villabon

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Emiliano got up from the curb and tossed his cigarette to the ground. He went over to his cart and readied himself for the final trek. The two worn wooden handles came up from underneath him and struck him in the soft spot of his underarms. I saw him wince. The creases and wrinkles in his face criss-crossed madly across his calloused skin. For another day, he was a human mule. He will be 64 years old this year.

Emiliano Villabon roams the streets of Colombia’s capital scavenging for trash that he might be able to recycle. He lives close to an urban underworld of crime and drug addiction, but while many recyclers in the city commit themselves to drugs in order to cope with their misfortune, Emiliano likes his streets, stays sober and seems surprisingly proud. Continue reading on Beacon…

Potatoes and Protests: Losing Benjamin Morales

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BEACON

I knew Benjamin was somewhere. I don’t actually remember how I got to where I was, but I do remember I couldn’t stop the crying. My face was pouring tears. I wasn’t sad though. My mind felt like one great big smudge. I tried to tell myself: this is normal. But nothing about this was normal…

Benjamin Morales is a Colombian farmer who came to protest in the country’s capital. He traveled for hours from his home in half-rural, half-slum Bolivar City to get there. When he did, the peaceful protests he was part of broke out in riotous clashes. I met him accidentally, and briefly, just before the crowd spiraled out of control. Continue reading at Beacon…

Pablo Escobar: One of the Bad Boys of Latin American History

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Ozy Magazine

He was the original narco — the ultraviolent, extravagant bad guy who set the standard.

Before he was gunned down atop the Spanish-tiled rooftops of a Medellín neighborhood in 1993, Pablo Escobar had tightened his ruthless grip on drug trafficking across the Americas. At the same time, he cultivated a reputation as a Robin Hood who tossed goodies to the poor even as he built a grandiose palace for himself on 5,500 acres, complete with a private zoo and orchard. Al Pacino’s character in the 1983 coke-and-violence-fueled Scarface was reportedly based in part on Escobar’s bloody tale. Continue reading at Ozy…