In the corner of the living room and by the window there was a turntable and a record collection. Portraits hung on the wall along with a pair of old shoes, and a lemon squeezer in a frame. A radio station from Medellin, Colombia played on the radio, which broadcasts salsa for 24 hours. “We must have music playing in the house at all times,” said Daniel Ríos, Spanish teacher at UTEP (University of Texas at El Paso) and a Colombian in Texas.
He came to El Paso in 2009 when he earned a scholarship to study a masters in Creative Writing. Eight years later Daniel is still exploring the city as a writer, artist, and professor.
The environment Daniel was used to was green and filled with flowers, fruits, and color; very different from El Paso. As he looked out the plane’s window all he could see was a brown flatland. It wasn’t until the airport’s gates opened that the heat slapped him and he understood how far from Medellin he was.
“This was the most striking thing for me, ‘La puta mierda estoy mas lejos de mi casa que un chucho,’ that was the first thing I thought, then I said, ‘Pues vámonos, que va.’”
Despite the contrast he also found similarities with his country; especially in Segundo Barrio, the first place where he lived, assuring that it was there where he found a connection with Colombia.
“I think it is a neighborhood with a soul, and here it is hard to find a place like that. I cannot explain it. It is very connected to what we’re listening to. I like this radio station because… Just listen and then I’ll tell you.”
We kept silent for a while. Daniel hoped it was one of the many spontaneous shout outs medellinenses do, but it was just the radio speaker giving announcements.
“People call and say hi. That’s very connected to the barrio vibe. What I like about Medellin is that every neighborhood has its own character and each is different.”
For Daniel the soul of Segundo Barrio is kids playing soccer on the streets, celebration, and the everyday interactions between neighbors. “There’s a party called ‘El Baile del Segundo Barrio’: a really cool thing in which they just close the whole block. They close it so cars can’t go through.That’s what happens every December in Medellín.”
– By Veronica Martinez