My second trip to Salamina was actually the very last trip for The Lustrum Project. I can’t believe how quickly the last five years have passed!
Ever since my first visit I’d wanted to return. So when a friend came to town, it was the perfect opportunity to show her a part of Colombia that wasn’t exactly frozen in time but also wasn’t in a hurry to change.
The old lady who sits outside the cemetery with a cat on the end of a string was still there. It was an odd day to relax though, given the wailing of a funeral party on the other side of the wall.
At the back of an artisanal shop was the wool blanket I didn’t buy the first time round. Its plastic sheath was quite dusty.
Near the cathedral was a museum that displayed the history of the town and old-objects-in-general. While the information wasn’t entirely precise and the items weren’t exactly relevant, the stories were the best.
On one wall was a portrait of an unsmiling priest. He had maintained a muladar, a separate cemetery for sinners, until his brother was involved in unsavory business. Shortly after that revelation everyone could suddenly be buried in the same location.
A few frames over were collages of ‘typical Salamina people’. The photos were yellowed and each person had their nickname pasted on the photo. Siete Culos had the town’s biggest butt and the most demure stance. It was impossible to tell if he lived up to his reputation.
The town drunk, Media Vida, had disappeared during turbulent times. Eddy, the caretaker, suggested he was most likely the victim of armed conflict.
Around 6pm Eddy’s wife called. When he answered the phone he said, “Mi Reina, there are a lot of people today!” Eddy had opened the museum especially for us and I had noticed before we left that we were the only two people to sign the guest book in the last three days.
I usually pick the cheapest hotel or hostel I can find, but my friend and I decided to upgrade for our girls weekend. Casa Carola was definitely worth it. The beautiful old building had been in owner’s family for generations and he had lovingly turned it into a chic bed and breakfast.
The gardens were lush and Salamina has the perfect weather for sipping tropical juices in the courtyard. A wall of traditional woodwork marked the entrance between the courtyard and the dining room.
The living room on the other side of the building was papered in a bold print and peppered with cracks. Antique chairs were set in a circle on a plush rug. It was the perfect location to unwind with a bottle of wine or crack open one of the many coffee table books lying around.
Semana Santa is a full week of Easter celebrations in Colombia. Most towns hold different processions and we were lucky enough to catch the Procession de las Ramas on Palm Sunday.
The plaza was filled with school bands and students. The boys anchored small sprigs in the waistband of their pants. All of the Virgins had purple robes and gold shoes.
I must be getting older because I noticed that none of the band students had ear protection.
After the procession we went on a tour with Don Carlos, my long-lost blue-eyed Colombian relative and owner of Finca La Irlanda. We drove up to his finca, which unraveled over the steep slopes of a mountain, and began the afternoon with a cup of coffee sweetened with panela.
Don Carlos walked us through the process of being Nespresso AAA certified and the life cycle of a coffee plant. While the landscape was beautiful, I couldn’t help but imagine how much work it must have been to cart that ruby-red fruit up the slopes.
After the tour we were dropped off at a small vereda where a little boy entertained us with a tablet full of Shakira videos. We switched jeeps in La Merced and met a woman who had recently bought a fruit farm. She pointed the gate out to us when she disembarked and invited us to spend the night the next time we passed through.
It feels very clichéd to write about how warm and welcoming people are in Colombia, but it’s something I continually encounter. The country is rapidly modernizing, but there are still many charming places with old-world hospitality. Salamina is just one example, but it’s my personal favorite.