Cartagena

The difference between Cartagena and Bogotá is the difference between Earth and Moon.  And with the Summit of the Americas going on - or La Cumbre de las Américas as it's known to the world south of Orlando - this 17-day stint has opened a wild window on the universe of Colombia, the US, all of South America for that matter, and, of course, the business of music.

Where to start...

It's hot here.  It'll melt you.  Even the most dedicated worshipers del sol get their comeuppance in this sun. You slow down, to a crawl at times, because when you're wrapped in a blanket of humidity that only a port on the Caribbean can throw around you, you don't want to move.  There are breezes, persistent winds that funnel through the ancient streets of the old city providing blessed relief and making the shade of a palm tree tolerable enough.  But that sun...  It laughs at A/C and sunblock.  

Cartagena is a coastal beauty, though.  As mentioned before, it was the most important port on the Spanish Main for a couple of centuries and has a story of pillage an plunder rivaling any tales told of the Barbary Coast.  The fortress wall that rings it is remarkably intact and offers an amazing vantage for viewing Caribbean sunsets and the colonial architecture lining the narrow, cobbled streets meandering haphazardly below it.  Across the old port entrance is el Castillo, or what is really more of a huge rock of a fort some 30 or 40 meters high.  It's impressive.  Massive.  And at night, after that infernal sun slips into the sea, the whole place takes on a magical cast as church steeples, the wall, the streets light up, coming alive and aglow beneath an inky South American sky filled with stars.  

Earth and Moon is an apt comparison here, too, becuase just up the coast is a spit of land called Bocagrande, which is the large portal to the Caribbean.  It's Miami, or Recife, or any place where high rises tower along the beach - gleaming hotels and apartments providing a sharp contrast of modernity to the antiquity of the old city.  At the end of that long, curving penninsula is the Hilton.

Watching President Obama's motorcade being practiced during the days before his actual arrival was a study in logistics and global reality, because it demonstrated a number of things.  First, Colombia, as the host country of this 35 member-nation assemblage, is responsible for all security.  And they are quite serious about making this place inhospitable to international n'er do wells.  Sirens screaming from motorcycles driven by green and yellow vested cops, helicopters overhead supervising a lengthy phalanx of black SUVs and limousines, a decoy and the real one, make for an impressive deterence, especially when you see, after the fact, the black-clad snipers who were perched atop those aforementioned high rises standing down.

Another remarkable thing is the whole event has done little to subordinate the casual, carefree character of el Caribe.  The ancient attitudes are largely indifferent to what have turned out to be stoplight inconveniences as motorcades roll by to who knows where.  You never really know who's in them.  Except for when the President of the United States is.  That's when things come to a complete stop.   And stop they did when that motorcade was being lined up at the Hilton for a celebratory dinner atop el Castillo and a couple of bombs were reported on the outskirts of town.  They were on the heels of two more reported back in Bogotá.  Both were non-events, but they are reminders that for some degenerates the revolution will be televised.  After a two-hour delay, the all-clear was signaled and PTOS was on his way to the party.

Watching the US Embassy staff from Bogotá in high gear has been equally impressive.  It's a study in detail and redundancy, because in today's US economy everything must be accounted for. There must be 1400 White House staffers alone, CODELs (Congressional Delegations) who must be tendered about wth their tagalong spouses who must be entertained as the Congressionals seek out a little face time with whomever from the region will give it to them.  Lodgings, motorpools, communications, the logistics of a 2 1/2 day PTOS visit is what is at the heart of the US Embassy mission in any country, so to see it going full tilt is quite something.

But no one expected the debauchery and disgrace brought on the Secret Service by 22 agents and military who sought out a little "face time" of their own when they decided to flaunt oath and office by whoring about in their hotel only a short walk from where PTOS would be staying.  Hubris and impunity that not only cost the US taxpayer large sums in penalties, but should cost the Director of the Secret Service his job for being on deck during a very bad watch over the biggest scandal in that venerated agency's history.

Back at the Hilton, Presidents Obama, Santos, and Dilma-Rousseff of Brazil were being moderated by Chris Matthews of MSNBC on the more important matters of trade agreements, the war on drugs, and Cuba.  Shakira addressed the need for educating the poor.  Hillary Clinton and Ambassador McKinley locked in policy dialog while descending the staircase to the lobby.  Unfortunately, back in the States the sordid and salacious seems to be dominating the headlines...

This little vignette was going to cover a rather colorful day spent filming a video for "Caribbean Feeling."  That will have to wait for the next blog.  But suffice it to say that the creativity and attention to detail of Rodrigo and his crew in Cartagena is every bit as good as the music production done in Bogotá for "Coffee Colored Eyes."  It'll be interesting to see the first cut tomorrow.

WS 

 

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