The Real Heroes of Mompos

Much is made of my adopted home town with her Andaluz style architecture so delicately balanced parallel to the Brazo de Mompós branch of the Magdalena River, the bats swooping down low beneath street lamps as darkness falls, geckos scurrying in for the kill against a backdrop of whitewashed colonial walls and the dizzying conundrums of the logistics in reaching this distant Macondo routinely overlooked by the state.

roads to Mompos

Roads to Mompos

I love this town, were it not the case I would not be embarking on my fourth restoration project here. Six years is but the blink of an eye in Mompós’ colorful history but I feel that my tenure has achieved some noteworthy successes. Tourism is up, both domestic and foreign and the town has been earmarked for some serious restorations putting it up there as one of the next major colonial destinations in Latin America.

But, all is not well in this costeno remanso de paz. Our haven of tranquility is rotting, and visibly so.

Given all the brouhaha over Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro’s ousting over some thoroughly debatable politics whilst attempting to nationalize the capital’s waste services, one would imagine that Mompós’ Mayor would be in line to face several life sentences. Here in our watery corner of paradise, in this land of Camargues or Cienegas depending from whence you hail, there has been no refuse collection in over two years.

The last administration could lean on the issue of the climatic conditions and the flooding of 2010 and 2011 for leaving the issue of Mompós’ trash to one side. With precious little dry spaces of land there was nowhere for our human detritus to be dumped. Then, with a new Mayor, a medical doctor no less, were we mistaken to have thought that perhaps this new member of the political class would be concerned about the health of his keep?

Refuse on the banks of the river at Mompos

Refuse on the banks of the river at Mompos

Apparently corruption is the root cause of the problem. The full details of a mob-run festival of putrid shenanigans remain foreign to me. And while there must be a solution upon the horizon, as the green hue from burning plastic releases untold pollutants into the atmosphere including dioxins, benzene, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), becomes a nightly spectacle alongside Mompós’ highway, nothing seems to be materializing.

The town’s riverbank, always a setting for bustle and commerce, is now awash with black bin liners full to bursting with shit tickets and unwanted household discard.

Colonial Mompós is shabby and litter strewn and no amount of restorations to the town can paper over this problem.

So, while there is a great deal of inactivity being practiced in the halls of power here in Mompós, who are the real heroes? Why, the most humble and the most hardworking of souls are those who should be lauded and held up aloft. Resourceful and unwavering, we should be celebrating the pro-activity of those members on the fringes of our society with little or nothing to their name who are now making a decent and honest living by carting away the refuse.


Sonia and her son

It’s not ideal that our waste is fly-tipped by the town’s highway, but neither should it be stored in the hotel and in these sweltering conditions. People like Sonia and her son and ailing husband are out here, pounding Mompós’ rutted and dusty streets performing a service that even the Alcaldia has seen as unfit to address.

These are the real heroes of Mompós.  

About Richard

Anglo-Canadian resident in Colombia. Journalist, Writer, Hotelier, Expedition Guide
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