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Story Publication logo August 30, 2007

The Octopus in the Cathedral of Salt

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The government of Colombian president Alvaro Uribe has been paralyzed by allegations that highly...

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When the trumpet sounded,
everything was prepared on earth,
and Jehovah divided the world
among Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other corporations:
The United Fruit Company Inc.
reserved for itself the juiciest piece,
the central coast of my own land,
the sweet waist of America.
—Pablo Neruda, "The United Fruit Co."

Our flight from Bogotá to Apartadó headed north along the great verdant spine of the Andes. Flying over Medellín, a city of brick high-rises surrounded by mountains, you can look down onto the cocaine mansions and see if there is anyone in the pool. All of the country's cities have growing slums on their peripheries, filled with war-displaced peasants and the dispossessed looking for work. Neighborhoods lit with a single bulb. Corrugated metal roofs on rough shacks lining red-dirt roads. The inhabitants of the poor barrios are the refugees from a war that has lasted more than forty years. White veils of clouds drifted over the ridges as we landed in Medellín then took off again a few minutes later for Apartadó. From the air you want to buy a parcel, you want to get in on all that beauty. We flew down out of the cool air of the Andes toward an airport that was nothing more than a few lines of asphalt cut out of the bright green banana plantations. The plane touched down and we were in the belly of the organism, but we didn't know it yet...

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