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).

Friday, September 30, 2011

Story of the local Antonio José - Part 2 (Historia del baquiano Antonio José – Parte 2)

An endearing story in two parts, from my Dad’s book Commemorations (Conmemoraciones), dedicated to those wonderful characters that make our surroundings a home. The loud but very well spoken and smelly man at the bus stop, the sweet blonde girl at the chemist, the girls at the hairdresser’s who always wave at you, the lovely Greek lady who gives you a little extra at the food markets, the café attendant who makes sure your poached eggs are nice and runny every Saturday brunch…

Baquiano [bah-kee-ah’-no]
1. Familiar with a region. (Latin American) (m)
2. Expert, skillful. (Andes) (m)
3. Pathfinder, guide; local expert. (Latin American) (m)

Story of the local Antonio José - Part 2 (Historia del baquiano Antonio José – Parte 2)

One day we broke
into his incorrigible modesty.
We extracted him from the shop, the salon,
the bar and the theatre.
We put in his hand a golden pen,
the community gathered around him
could not express what they felt in any other way.

When he could foresee the end
he wrote to a friend
who was more than that, a son in the arts
and in the hard existence that they shared from before;
you must know, my dear Nicolás,
that this is how far ‘the local’ goes.

This was the word that described with precision
his nature of guide, of a teacher,
he was a guide sensor of rhythms.

From his pedagogy without rules or syllabus
survive clear traces of his wisdom,
forged behind the counter, at the bar,
and in the humble Sunday hairdressing salon.

There is no mandolin that sounds without evoking the old man.

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