ENCOUNTERS WITH COLOMBIAN TILES IN ANTIOQUIA
Updated: Feb 6, 2019
Walking through gentrifying Barrio Manila I was in search of a gestalt psychotherapist with whom I was about to have my first session. 'I hope she doesn't make me switch between chairs,' I kept thinking. Then I arrived and it was worse than I thought; she only had cushions on the floor which necessitated I had to take off my shoes only to reveal very-English mal-painted toenails. When I criss-crossed the streets which surround the Calle de la Buena Mesa on my return, I saw these tiles and took this photograph. The tiles in that area are the saving grace from the insipid tourist influence in that part of town.
Exhibit B: San Pedro de los Milagros, Antioquia.
O Little house on the side street! There you stood proud despite the bulldozing all around you! Your patio was so retro despite it lacking many original colonial or republican features I have come to love. But you taught me not to be so judgmental. It's ok to play with these things a bit more than I would choose to. This looks like the kind of space you can dance nineteen-fifties rock and roll and reenact a bubblegum date at a milkshake bar. Voyeurs shut out by the metallic grill, you are protected from nosey onlookers, and long may you endure.
Exhibit C: La Unión, Antioquia.
Title: 'Cash-strapped Colombia seeks restoration with anonymous feet. c.1772/2018'.
This was the first example I can recall of my seeing what I would like to term 'desperation tiling'. Lacking any sufficient public resources, locals are forced to make do and mend when it comes to repairing broken tiles in the village church. Here we see remaining tiles from the original batch which do not fit the pattern shoved in with a residue of the curious mixture of corruption, cultural disregard, and violent technique. A sad and yet oddly moving sight.
Exhibit D: Casa de la Cultura, Rionegro, Antioquia, Colombia.
"Good afternoon. I am here to leave a package for someone."
"We don't accept any packages here, Señora."
"It was at the request of the recipient."
I show her the name.
"I do not know who this person is, and we don't accept any packages delivered by hand."
"What do you mean? You did in the 1800s."
"It was common to deliver messages by hand in the 1800s."
The security guard is silent. Fortunately so is her brown gun.
"What should I do? By the way you have lovely tiles. Are they original?"
"Are they reproduction or original?"
"Perhaps go and see the woman at the desk over there and see if she has any idea what to do about this."
Exhibit E: Alto de las Palmas, Antioquia.
Cafe Al Alma in Indiana Mall does the best almond croissants (incidentally this post is not sponsored since I am unsponsorable). It's true that if you take it away they will over package it in a box the size of a carrier you might take your dog to vet in, but if you have no qualms about destroying the amazon jungle, then you won't care. I do care about the amazon, but this has yet to stop me gorging on these pastries when I seek an 11.00am carb coma moment.
Exhibit F: La Ceja, Antioquia
On that day as I lit the votive besides the Jesus in his creepy coffin there was a little boy playing a plastic tiple and he had tiny ruana and panama hat. 'A second troubadorcito' said the candle, weeping.
Exhibit G: Retiro, Antioquia
Your house is the house of a grandmother whose grandmother's grandmother made her arepas by the pounding of a giant pestle. These ghost women with their giant skirts continue to ooze out of these houses like human dust. Devout, kind, and wise, they had giant plaits and fatty arms to hold you tight. The Antioquian grandma is the matron of all our region, and her memory cannot be erased.
Exhibit H: Sonsón, Antioquia
Another surreal town whatever anyone else tells you. Because we walked, the two of us down that street with the coffee sacks and the drying beans and there was a smashed-up doll tied to a lamppost with meters long of red string. People stared. A old lady mopping nothing smiled.
"What happened here?" you asked the old lady.
"A woman committed a sin... That's all I heard..."
We walked on and I said to you, "I think that woman did it. The woman you asked."
"Probably," you answered, as though this kind of thing was the most normal thing in the world.
"I think someone in the village had an abortion and that woman found out."
"It's like a way of shaming the couple publicly. And they blame the woman more, don't they?"
"Always. Because of the significance of The Mother in Antioquia."
"There's a dark side to this place."
"Another reason why we should stay another night."
Exhibit I: Marinilla, Antioquia
There is a gambling hall in an upstairs house off the main plaza square. 'WE DON'T LEND MONEY SO DON'T ASK', says a sign as you enter. The tiles there are like Christmassy oak leaves, and they have worn away with the dripping of leaked fantasies of riches unmade.
Exhibit J(ay): What was the Casa Escalante, Rionegro, Antioquia and what became a carpark
It was 2015 or 2016 when I took to the mud floor of an open-air carpark in Rionegro in search of broken tiles. I used my car key to do it. The attendant could not understand my interest, especially given that I was 'a foreigner'.
"What's the blonde woman doing?" the attendant asked my companion.
"She's looking for the broken fragments of the tiles of the old house in the ground. Then she digs up the pieces."
"Why? They aren't worth anything."
"They are to her."
"This is all that remains," I said. "How could they do this?"
"Are you going to try and sell them?" the attendant asked, interested if there was a financial market he had missed. Paisas are always on the look out for a business opportunity.
"No. I would never sell them."
"I don't understand," continued the attendant, wanting his $2,000 COP. "What you have there is worthless, girl."