As the second largest economic centre in the department of Bolivar, Magangue is a bustling, chaotic, stifling and confusing city on the banks of the Magdalena River. Economically important for the fluvial connections into the wetlands of the Mojana and the Depresion Momposina, Magangue bears the traditional hallmarks of a port town.
I have passed through Magangue on many occasions en route to Mompos but have only had to stay the night twice. I did see a blog once where a traveller wishing to come to the Casa Amarilla had to stay the night and ended up here.
My room was cheap, small and functional, far different from the aforementioned. I did not want to be in Magangue but since Satena had unhelpfully changed their timetables for flights from Bogota to Corozal, there was no way I was going to make the connections via, air, collectivo, chalupa and then further collectivo to Mompos.
But, what I really wanted to mention was something that stopped me cold in my tracks as we hurtled towards Magangue in the journey from the airport. On the outskirts, there was a huge billboard claiming the innocence of the region’s most famous and still living capa (feminine of capo), La Gata or Enilse López Romero.
The billboard declares the innocence of Enilse Lopez of all accusations and makes the claim that Magangue, Cartagena and the department of Bolivar support her. The image pictured here is from the same billboard which appeared at the same time in the area of the Mercado de Bazurto in Cartagena. And recently in both Magangue and Cartagena there were marches in support of Lopez.
Born in the town of Naranjal in Sucre in 1953 there is some confusion as to how “La Gata” started out. Wikipedia (always a bastion of reliability) suggests that she read the tarot for some before moving into gambling and informal money lending. From here things become clearer and the magazine La Silla Vacia has her with increased financial interests through the region and indeed with strong links through friendship and business with the infamous Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha ‘El Mexicano’.
Her husband and father were kidnapped by the FARC and her three brothers were killed by the guerrilla group. There are significant references to her connections to paramilitary leaders Salvatore Mancuso and Carlos Castaño.
Lopez donated 100 million pesos to Alvaro Uribe’s first presidential campaign.
Gustavo Petro, before he became Mayor of Bogota, revealed this fact.
There are claims that the Lopez family possesses some 65 properties and more than 150 bank accounts. In all truth the list of possible offenses purported to have been authorized or overseen by La Gata and her entourage runs incredibly long. There is just so much money, power and influence involved that La Gata just seems to keep on getting away with it all apart from the supposed order for the killing of a toll booth worker Amaury Fabián Ochoa in 2000 near to Carmen de Bolivar for his alleged links to the FARC.
This blog was never meant to turn out this way, perhaps draw some light for those travelers coming through Magangue to Mompos, so that they know a little about the contemporary history of the place and don’t just wistfully or whimsically pass on through on a backpacking jaunt.
Politics is bought here in Colombia, how an earth can someone who has been convicted, is under house arrest for 40 odd years command everything? Who oversees the march and the erection of the billboards in Cartagena and Magangue? Where is the rule of “legitimate” law?
For now Enilse Lopez is under house arrest in Magangue. Rumour has it she was looking for a safe house in Mompos. Other sources say that the DEA is possibly going to request her extradition to the USA. But, I suggest it to you that whatever order comes through, she’ll find a way to slip around it…most probably due to her widely reported health problems.
Magangue, Bolivar: Home to La Gata