>A Warm Welcome to Buenaventura

For those who don`t know, Buenaventura is a city on the Pacific side of Colombia and its port serves as one of the main import export centers of the country with ships constantly arriving and departing at all hours of the day. The importance of its port has turned it into a focal point in the ongoing conflict in the country between the Colombian government, FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrillas and paramilitary groups. There are many internally displaced people here from the fighting in the countryside. I walked past the displacement center the other day too shy to inquire about information and saw it literally busting at the seams with people trying to enter in.

I arrived in Buenaventura six days ago unsure of what to expect from this place. When I arrived in the main terminal I was quickly greeted by one of the many young locals who was quick to pitch me all of his goods and services to the local beaches. Some people who you meet in the terminals you can tell right from the start that they are trying to hustle you or if they are someone working honestly and this guy turned out to be quite friendly and before I knew it we began talking about all sorts of different topics and our little friendship blossomed from there. He was getting off of work soon and invited me to go with his wife and little girl to the main park to walk around and see the city. Of course I agreed to the invitation and so off we went for a stroll in the park. Our friendship was treading on delicate groud because I was unsure if he set me up to try and gouge me for money afterwards. It turned out to be a really nice evening and he didn`t ask me for anything although i did buy him a grilled sausage and a pony malta for his hospitality.

The next day he invited me to come visit his apartment in a barrio called Firme. When he got off of work off we went into unexplored , exciting new land. Well, at least for me it was excited and unexplored. We went to his apartment and he took me to his roof where he gave me a blessing and prayed to God for me because he is a devout evangelical. It was a prayer that wether or not i believed in God, I could definitely use.

The neighborhoods of Firme, Viento Libre and Las Piedras were up until very recently disputed territory between the AUC (a paramilitary group) and the FARC. The FARC controlled Viento Libre and the AUC controlled Las Piedras. It was an area where it was almost forbidden to cross from one neighborhood to the other, if one did, they could be labeled informants and sought out by either group and killed. We met up with one of his funny buddies who dances just like michael Jackson and walked from Firme to Las Piedras to go visit one of his other friends. At the time I had no knowledge of the situation about how the neighborhoods operated and who controlled them. We sat in front of his friends house laughing and joking and I taught them how to use my camera. I remember seeing a very buff, Mr. T, Rick Ross looking man strolling through Las Piedras who gave me a glance as he passed by. I was told later that this man was the local AUC leader of Las Piedras. He told me all of this after we went to the area because he didn`t want me to get scared and not come visit his area. I told him it didn`t matter to me and that i would have gone anyways. However, it is an area that I would not venture into on my own. I had an amazing time and it was a very memorable night in Buenaventura. It was one an evening that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I truly belive that if you make friends first it is a lot harder to become enemies later.

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3 Responses to >A Warm Welcome to Buenaventura

  1. Clint says:

    >sounds like a lot of fun. Your friends here miss you. Come visit us.

  2. >like the terminator said, ¨i`ll be back!¨

  3. Mariko says:

    >I love your story telling ability….I am very intrigued to check in on you daily and see what adventures you've been on. I love your line…if you make friends first it's harder to make enemies later…very true and profound. It's snowy and cold here I'll try to get you some pictures so you can show where you're from to your new friends in South America. I love you very much….take care and continue to be smart out there!!

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