Why do this?

My father, José Luis Villamizar Melo, passed away in my home town of Cúcuta, Colombia, in August last year. The law and economics were Dad's profession, but literature, history and academia his passion. He wrote and published several books, articles and book chapters. The thing is that so many people have missed out on his work, particularly on his beautiful poetry, which he wrote in Spanish prior to the world wide web. So I thought, what a better way to keep Dad's legacy alive than to bring his writing beyond his world and share it with mine. That is why I am translating over 250 of my Dad's poems to English and publishing them here, one a day, Monday to Friday during 2011 (Dad, a family man, always believed that you shouldn't work on weekends).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Dad was a master storyteller, who had the gift of intertwining reality with dreams, hopes and fantasy. I know he was passionate about history, but sometimes he made history sound so surreal…

In his book Elementary motherland (Patria elemental), Dad placed tonight’s entry immediately after his poem May the 18th of 1875, which explains the Earthquake of Cúcuta, and gives Mr Piringo a well deserved context in history.


While the earth shook the houses off its skin,
while the people of Cúcuta laid out in the open
now recovered from their fear
in the safety of death,
Piringo noticed that he was the only survivor
who could think of something different
from what the terror-stricken eyes
of everyone else thought of.

Piringo decided he would not die.

He turned debris upside down,
searched among the ruins, collected treasures,
moved corpses away, they were a burden
to his improvised new job of plundering.

The legend proclaims that he tied his youth
to the promise of becoming rich,
in exchange of whatever it took,
some sort of pact with the devil, who, at the end,
would come for him.

When the rope surrounded his neck
and he was hung by the hand of the righteous authority,
it was an afternoon in the month of May in 1875.

If someone started a journey
back to that afternoon, surely they would not
manage to catch Mr Piringo…

There would not be enough ropes and there would be
much to do on the way there! 

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