Sunday, March 7, 2010
Parque Fernández Madrid
CSB’s absolutely favorite thing to do in Cartagena, better than dining on robaló a la plancha, better than swimming in the turquoise Caribbean and losing his swimsuit in the waves, better even than visiting every single church in the walled city and listening to Christine’s detailed history of the saints depicted therein, CSB likes to sit on our balcony overlooking Parque Fernández Madrid and watch and speculate.
He keeps a close eye on the man in the green vest who rents out cell phones that are all attached to cords that originate in his belly pack.
He lets me know exactly how many pastries the parque’s policewoman has consumed this morning. He wonders when the coffee-shot vendor manages to refill his thermoses. He doubts the policewoman ever pays for her coffee shots, and there are many.
He times the arrival of the cardboard recycler. The cardboard man arrives no later than 8 every morning, pushing an ancient wooden cart stacked high with flattened cardboard boxes, and he sings a plaintive almost operatic (Poulenc not Verdi) song as he passes through Parque Fernández Madrid.
In the evening CSB watches the young men and woman, gathering on the broken steps of the statue of Fernández Madrid, playing music and singing. Of special interest are the two young women who each evening sashay through the parque in matching (short, strapless,skintight) dresses featuring a circle cut out of one side; each evening the dresses are a different color, but otherwise the same.
Ours is not a major parque. For starters, Fernández de Madrid was not a saint. He was president of the early republic for all of one year (1815-1816), for which his country thanks him (La Patria Agradecida), though it is not made clear whether the country is grateful for his service or its brevity. The newspaper he founded, El Argos, ended up being published in Havana.
Surrounding our parque we have the ever-lively Wiskeria Zorba and directly across from our little hotel, the Alianza Francesa. There is no church facing the parque, but San Toribio is off in one corner. As Archbishop of Lima Peru, Toribio de Mogrevejo (1538-1606) fought for the rights of the Native Americans against the brutal Spanish conquistadors. A great walker, three times he walked across his district of 180,000 square miles. The church’s interior is undistinguished until you look up and see an elaborate wooden Mudejar ceiling. Mostly the church is locked up, but one time we found it open and went in; the music of Hare Krishna chanting was being piped in.
Also on our parque is the Tamarindo, famous for its happy hour, and a store selling only white cotton blouses and low-cut white dresses and white guayaberas.
Up on our balcony, CSB is at eye level with the highest branches of the pod-laden tree I think is a kind of acacia. He is also at eye level with the raucous squawking parrots; they fumble at the pods with their beaks and nibble away while a fine dusting of foliage drifts to the ground of Parque Fernández Madrid.