Picture a description of Brave New World:
That was the eerie impression I received from Brasília, the capital of Brazil. Founded in 1960, the capital was built on an immensely ambitious dream led by then-president Juscelino Kubitschek.
Suffocated by the violence and humidity of Rio de Janeiro and drowning in the vastness of São Paulo, Kubitschek, riding on a high train of economic prosperity developed a daring idea, to move the capital of Brazil to a climatically balanced and regionally convenient area. The expeditious construction of Brasília lasted 3.4 years, under the supervision of Lúcio Costa, and the architectural plans of Oscar Niemeyer. Niemeyer envisioned Brasília to be representative of its future, following the almost laughable flag motto of order and progress. Architecturally, each governmental and residential building has a sterile and clean finish that is properly referred to as Modernism. I later found out my judgment wasn’t far off, for Oscar Neimeyer was a die-hard communist.
As many may already know (thank you novelas that overshadow the much more abundant history of Colombia), the Colombian drug war has been anything but “cool.” The violence is often embellished in the latest trending Netflix series, stuffed with rad tactics, and incredibly action-packed scenes. But in reality, the war has truly been a divisive tragedy that affects every single civilian in the country. The situation has led politicians to satiate their gluttony with money birthed from the narcotics, intermingling in their pockets with the money of the people and the cartel. Complicating the corruption, the FARC, for some time, protected farmers who grew coca, in exchange for a large portion of their income. These same farmers would later be displaced from their homes, ambulating into traffic packed cities, whose job market could not match the ever-growing migrant’s population. In fact, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “a shocking 5,840,590 people were registered as being internally displaced in Colombia” in 2014.
But in 2016, two extremely important events occurred in Colombia:
Both decisions have been met with traditionalist opposition: Peace treaty? Those criminals should be sent to jail to pay for their crimes! Marijuana? Now you’ll have a bunch of addicts meandering the streets.
Whatever the opinions of others may be, I have an anecdote to share about post-civil war, post-legalization, from the little town of Toribío.
Only a relatively short but seemingly extended journey from Puerto Escondido lies a quiet beach town stitched together by one main road. Often described as being bohemian and laid back, Mazunte thrives on the curiosity of tourists and its fame for being a Pueblo Magico. Its waves are ravenous and immediately hemmed to its long dusty road which offers no shade or solace from the blinding sun. In this road, is where I found Cesar, a gentleman whose persistent energy keeps him bouncing on his toes and moving to and fro. Despite our foul attitude fueled by the exhausting sun and aching hunger, Cesar maintained a very friendly demeanor with my parents and me, offering freshly caught fish at prices that could be bargained and a genuinely kind smile. It is after our picky ordering that Cesar, for reasons attributed to the friendliness prevalent in Latin America, sat down with us to chat. One shortened conversation led to a deeper discussion, one that Cesar spilled even more by the minute. Here, I share his story, his brave retelling of an incredibly difficult journey pending an ending.
Original interview in Spanish, but I have translated the interview into English too.