Mule driving in rural Colombia


Colombia is a country of very specific topographic features. It has five mountain ranges of which three contain snowy peaks and cross the country from south to north. This, and its equatorial geographical location, have given rise to a vast diversity of flora and fauna which, to the Spanish colonizers, thirsty for gold and land, was an earthly paradise.

Acquiring the gold was relatively easy to begin with, but as communities grew, available land turned scarce and this, together with declining mining activity in the Antioquia region, moved big family groups and some lone colonists to carve their way into the region, in search of free land to own and cultivate. Those expeditions crossed mountains and peaks, jungles and rivers, opening up new narrow paths.

These were the very first paths in the colonial areas of the republic. Paths over which Indians, oxen and mules succeeded each other as means of transport. The latter in particular carried all the objects and tools required to colonize and settle new villages. Two hundred years later, despite the changes brought over time such as roads and motorised air and land transport, the mule -followed by its mule driver- continue to be the only all-terrain transport to cover the farthest corners of the country's same intricate landscapes, by now widely inhabited and cultivated, where the new modes of transport cannot reach.

It is only thanks to this mule driver that many small communities, still inaccessible by road today, can establish commercial ties with larger towns. In a country where peasant life has been ignored within the social scheme of the country since Independence, many places remain where written communication is not the prerequisite for belonging. In those places, today, the mule driver and mules are often the only way to bring goods, medicine and even the latest news.

  

Nicolás Macario Alonso

  

MONTE ADENTRO film by Nicolás Macario Alonso