Luis Henao Uribe


Luis Henao Uribe

People said that Civil War was over but you still could see smoke coming out of the Central Library and wounds would still bleed through bandages and sheets. Of course, there were celebrations but people was too tired and the houses too dusty to really be happy. The afternoons were silent because we already were used to the sound of bombs and guns, and screams and cries. But we didn’t find contempt or assurance in that silence. Too many promises were already broken and too many compromises already done. We weren’t well, we just stopped fighting.
History will say that at the dawn of the 21st Century the Purple Party took control of the city over the Orange Party. They will be called winners. But I have seen them: legless and childless, scarred enough to not be able to build upon their victory. Their Purple flag up high on the Mayor’s office is just a symbol of useless change, of nothing achieved. It could have been worse: in other cities, where people were leaning towards the Orange Party, the war was longer and the Purple army had to fight mothers and kids armed with stones and pans.
Certainly, we will survive. We will go out and clean up and rebuild. We will reopen stores and create monuments to those lives lost. Buses will do their routes, taxes will be collected. Kids will be learning how to add two plus two and poets will keep trying to capture freedom in a piece of paper. My neighbors will say hi to me on my way to work and they will ask me to water their plants when they leave for vacations. It’s not going to be pain free, but it’s going to be.
But now, weeks after the Storming of Lica, we face the first challenge of our renewed city: The monument to García de las Vacas, the founder of the city, was destroyed in one of the assaults. What was the statue of a proud men, strongly stepping on a rock, pointing forward with determination and holding a compass in his left hand, now is just pieces of metal bent all over the place. Only his left foot survives in its original position. You can still make out his hand holding the compass some twenty feet away from where it used to be.
The first person to bring up the issue was a columnist of “Memorando,” a weekly newspaper that even before the Civil War was on the brink of disappearing. Tomás Martínez, former Dean of the School of Journalism of the Departmental University, wrote in his opinion column about his recollections as a young kid playing around de las Vacas’s paternal image. Martínez already had seen too much, and such an old soul as his only could ask for a little sense before he abandoned the typewriter once and for all. He wanted the new local government to commit to rebuilding the old monument “that celebrates a history common to all of us, disregarding favorite colors.” The reconstruction of the statue will represent the reconstruction of the society willing to amend all the mistakes that by force or by omission were made during the Civil War. Having García de las Vacas’s right hand pointing towards the future will mean that the city itself has achieved the subtle balance between respect for tradition and progress. “My ink is about to finish, you know, and we, the old inhabitants from Lica, deserve the tranquility of knowing that we stand firm in the memory of this city.”
Soon enough, voices on the radio, specially from the Estación Primordial, started to call old Martínez a senile pawn, mumbling words from the Orange’s tombs, because he was closer to death than to life. Yoyo Gonzaga, one of the most influential DJs, even suggested than probably Martínez and de las Vacas had gone to school together. Less offensive were those voices from the new government that respectfully rejected the idea for merely economical reasons: “So many hospitals that need supplies, schools that were partially destroyed, even those bridges. . . We can’t follow the path of history and spend our limited budget on ornamental issues when there are so many needs to be solved.” Of course, somebody would reply that it was them, the Purples, who overcrowded the hospital, destroyed the schools, and blew up those bridges. But, just a couple of days after this statement, the new appointed Secretary of Urban Development announced a public contest to design a new statue to be erected where de las Vacas stood for centuries.
Openly, there wasn’t any Orange Party anymore. But there was an Orange mentality that quickly accepted its place outside the government but was still willing to keep voicing its ideas. Nobody wanted war, that’s true, but we still weren’t an uniform mass of minds ready to move at the same beat and in the same direction. But the divisions weren’t just those of parties; they were certainly deep: division of race and class, age and gender, left handed and right handed, blonds and brunettes. We, the city, were a shattered mirror, broken beyond repair.
One of the most respected figures of the Purple Party, Antonio Oro, former governor and author of Blue and Red: Aspects of the New Purple Identity, publicly announced that he agreed with professor Tomás Martínez’s statement. The need to rebuild the statue of García de las Vacas was imperative, he said. The founder also fought his way trough the jungle, the mountain, combating the indigenous tribes and unknown diseases, to earn the privilege of calling Lica his home. That courage and determination were fundamental parts of the new citizens that new order proposed. Having de las Vacas holding his compass again will mean that not even time can conquer brave souls—a deserved tribute to those fellow fighters fallen in battle. Of course, Yoyo Gonzaga, from Estación Primordial, asked to put Antonio Oro in the same fucking museum as more-dead-than-alive Martínez. And suddenly kids started printing shirts with de las Vacas’s image and tagging walls with #teamdelasvacas.
A group of recognized artists released a statement from the Plaza where the statue lies. “The past and History are the ones that have brought us all these sufferings. The war should end where it began. In order to move forward we have to create. New ways for new days. Let’s forget, let’s be reborn.” All of them were wearing white clothes and holding hands and all of them talked about a monument that reflects what we, as a city, wanted to become. It wasn’t an empty promise, but a strong commitment to a better society. People clapped and drank white wine being extremely careful not to stain their dresses. Next day, surprisingly, Yoyo Gonzaga laughed at those “How do you call it? Mimes? Do they think we are still in the fucking seventies?” Wearing white ribbons became a symbol of agreement with the idea of a new monument.
The way this city is, people don’t talk about anything else. Rebuild. Build something new. Every taxi driver had an opinion and they made sure that you listened to it. Family dinners turned sour and a few couples broke up, all because of the statue. Orange and Purple alike aligned for or against. Opinion columns, talk shows, beauty parlors, barber shops, bank lines, street lights, social networks, chat rooms. Everywhere, all the time, the same.
And just yesterday fucking Yoyo Gonzaga, a devious guy in my opinion, threw another stone at the broken mirror: “You know what? Do you? Just leave the fucking pile of garbage right there. Leave the foot standing there, you know. And so we all could go and see the freaking left hand holding that compass and all the pieces of garbage all around. Let’s leave it there, just like that, just like the fucking monument that we surely deserved. I mean, let’s be serious, we’re all fucked up. And that’s what we are, no? Am I crazy now? That’s what you’re thinking? Is Yoyo cuckoo? Finally lost it? Yes, I am. I always have. So are you, lovely listener, so is all the city of Lica, my friends. Let’s leave the blown-up statue as it is. That’s the fucking thing that we should see today, tomorrow, and the years to come: that fucking statue”.
And, for the first time, I think that he is right.

On a Star’s Behavior on a Clear Night

Luis Henao Uribe

She got Grandma Paulie’s big deep blue eyes and from there her destiny was marked. They named her Lisa, like a diva, and they spent a lot of time convincing everyone that she was cuter than baby-cute, more special than as charming as you get. And then, at three, they got her a magazine cover. That golden hair and huge smile shined in every doctor’s office waiting room in the State.

She didn’t know how to sing; she didn’t have sense of rhythm or tone. But her parents paid for very expensive private classes. The teacher said: She doesn’t know music, but she follows orders pretty well. Her talent was to obey, and she did it well, and she learned eventually. Singing, dancing, horseback riding, knitting, baking cookies, origami, foot massage.

She was a little star, that girl Lisa, and made parents all over feel less happy about their children. Those big and deep blue eyes caught everybody’s attention, including records companies and popsicles makers. She made millions but never got a pony.

I just want to paint a smile
On the faces of the world
And dance, dance a-and jump
Ho-Ho, hee-hee-hee!