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, July 6, 2011

Catatumbo Lightning (Faro del Catatumbo)

The Catatumbo Lightning (Spanish Relámpago del Catatumbo) is an atmospheric phenomenon in Venezuela. It occurs strictly in an area located over the mouth of the Catatumbo River where it empties into Lake Maracaibo. The frequent, powerful flashes of lightning over this relatively small area are considered to be the world's largest single generator of tropospheric ozone. This refers to ozone that does not replenish stratospheric ozone layer.

It originates from a mass of storm clouds that create a voltaic arc at more than 5 km of height, during 140 to 160 nights a year, 10 hours per day and up to 280 times per hour. It occurs over and around Lake Maracaibo, typically over a swamp area that forms where the Catatumbo River flows into the Venezuelan lake.

After appearing continually for centuries, the lightning was not seen for several months between January and April 2010, apparently due to a drought, raising fears that it may have been extinguished permanently.

From my Dad’s book Elementary motherland (Patria elemental).

Catatumbo Lightning (Faro del Catatumbo)

At the top of Tasajero Hill the hands
of the night weave and interweave luminous threads.

The Catatumbo Lightning embroiders
volatile threads of light in the warm night
of the valley.

The jungle emits its message. And in the flash of lightning  
and the thunder it seems to remember the strength
of the native indigenous merely surviving.

The splendorous and eternal shine of a
decaying civilisation.

The violent lights adorn the nights
of the summer skies.

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