Magdalena - A journey on the river
A fisherman in the town of Honda opens the belly of a fish in its reproductive phase that should have escaped death that night, a girl in Barrancabermeja waits with dreamy eyes for her boyfriend who embarked an iron freight ship that morning. A farm laborer employed in a vast oil palm plantation in Puerto Wilches recalls the biodiversity of his land. Some young kids bet a few pesos at the roulette of a night clubs of the river town of San Pablo.
The Magdalena River is the major river of Colombia, it rises in the central cordillera of the Andes and for approximately 1500 km flows through almost the entire country: from the south region of Huila to its mouth "Boca de Ceniza" (Mouth of Ashes), name received by the Spanish conquistadors that saw his impressive reversal of gray and murky waters into the Caribbean Sea.
It was April 1536 and the 800 strong troops of the Spanish conquistador Jimenez de Quesada were setting off on the largest inland expedition ever mounted to the hinterland of the New World. Driven on by an exaggerated intuition that Spain would get greater service from the Magdalena than from all the Indies together, they envisaged gold at the end of the river, or at least a shortcut to Peru. Despite the huge losses that the expedition suffered as a result of attacks by Indians, wild animals, tropical diseases, dysentery, etc. the conqueror in search of “El Dorado”, found the rich empire of Muiscas holder of an emerald mine and salt.
The Magdalena river is one of the most important symbols of the natural, cultural and historical richness of Colombia. On its banks colombians believe it is preserved the memory of the country. It has seen many massacres, from the oldest to the most recent dating from the period of " La violencia" and the subsequent genesis of the armed conflict between the guerrilla groups FARC, ELN and the State, when a third of the victims are estimated to have been thrown into its waters.
Once a natural paradise of exceptional rarity, today the Magdalena river is only a shadow of itself. Heavy industries, rapid urbanisation and the consequent uncontrolled release of waste and sewage into the river compounded the Magdalena’s decline into the river it is today: an open drain, albeit still a very enticing drain.
Emblem of a resource-rich country that lives in a constant conflict with its past, the Magdalena river perfectly reflects Colombia today, a country that, in order to quickly conquer an advanced place in the economical race between South American countries, is willing to sacrifice its very essence.