Rain splatters on the windows
As my soul feels lonely
I chose a path
To take me to glory
But it failed
I’m at the mercy of intolerance
And the bad spirits
Who haunt me
Amidst the debris of time
And the end of reason
JOSE ISMAEL CAMACHO
I’m sharing with you the life of a clever, funny and gifted writer, a man who could talk about any topic and knew everything.
A father that I miss and wished he could have been preserved for eternity.
Santander del Norte was a quiet province in northern Colombia at the beginning of the twentieth century. It had been rocked
a few times by the wars between the liberales and the conservadores during the last century. In a quiet village called Lebrija
an hour away from Bucaramanga, a young woman (Josefina Camacho) went in labour. She already had two other children and had
lost a few others at birth.
Little Horacio Camacho was five years old and his sister Lijia, three years old when they waited with their father outside
the room. As Josefina pushed for a last time, a rose faced child appeared in the world with locks of fair hair.
The two children heard the baby crying and pushed the door as the father- Ismael Camacho- admired the new addition to the
family. The midwife cleaned the child and cut the umbilical cord.
She didn’t let her Ismael hold the child as Josefina had lost another baby during the previous year. He led his two
other children out of the room and gave them some lunch, while the midwife made sure mother and baby were all right.
That evening little Jose Ismael slept in a small cot by his mother’s side. The sound of the cockerels singing woke them
up the next morning. As the child cried, Josefina put him to her breast. The memory of the other children who had died young
was fresh in her mind.
Jose Ismael grew up into a chubby child with golden curls. He played with his brother and sister in the countryside around
their home. His peaceful childhood was shattered when his father died. Jose Ismael was five years old while Ligia and Horacio
were six and eight years old.
They travelled on the back of a few mules, to a town where Josefina's uncles lived. That journey across the mountains must
have been exciting for a five year old boy.
It was the ninety thirties and the country didn’t have many roads. Jose Ismael didn’t remember much of his trek
through the countryside. Josefina was a young woman who had just lost her husband. She wanted to give her children a better
life and education.
Little Horacio did recall the slow pace of the mules along the path. A friend travelled with them on another mule. He had
a map of the region where the path sneaked through the mountains and towards the next province.
They stopped to rest and ate their food in a lay by. Josefina had brought boiled eggs, potatoes and water bottles. It was
a big adventure for the children who had never left the town where they had been born.
They slept in a tent by a river that evening as the mules munched the grass. Their friend got up early next morning to saddle
the mules in preparation for the journey.
The children ran in the field in the morning. It was a great adventure for them all, even if the weather was a bit cold and
they felt tired.
They played hide and seek while their mother and friend got ready to leave.
Jose Ismael hid behind a bush as Horacio looked for him but then a fox frightened him.
Josefina put the child on the mule as the man helped the other two children on the other one. She was a strong woman who had
chosen to trek across the mountains to find her family. She needed their support in this stressful time.
The mountains followed each other like an immense kaleidoscope as they went in their journey. They had left the province
of Santander behind and the lush grass had given way to the plains where cows lay by rivers and ravines.
The mules moved through the landscape of green vegetation and steep fields while nature rejoiced in life.
As they went deeper inside the Boyaca Province, they saw small houses while children wearing colourful ruanas looked at them.
A dog barked at the mules and a woman appeared at a door.
“We are on our way to Choconta,” Josefina said.
The woman invited them to go in her house to rest. It had started to rain and Josefina was glad to wait in the hut until the
The woman offered them hot chocolate while puppies ran by their feet. Then she gestured at Josefina’s friend.
“You’re very brave to travel across the country with your husband and children, on the back of mules.”
“He’s just a friend,” Josefina said. “My husband died a few weeks ago. My uncles live in Choconta.”
“I’m sorry about your husband,” the woman said.
The sun was shining a few minutes later.
“Thanks for the drink,” Josefina said. “We must go now.”
They went back on the mules while the dog barked. The animals trotted on the muddy path as the sun shone in the sky and the
vegetation changed. They saw coffee plantations in the fields stretching to the horizon.
They arrived at Choconta later. The town had small houses but the church tower was then tallest building of them all. The
mules sensed the end of their journey and trotted towards their goal.
Josefina with little Ismael were the first ones to enter the town and people looked at them from their houses as children
played in the streets.
They found the church behind the park and the sound of the choir spilled into the surrounding streets.
The man helped them to dismount from their donkeys and they entered the church as Father Ricardo read the sermon.
He was a little man, who pushed his big glasses up his nose as he talked. He paused to look at the new arrivals but then
he resumed his speech.
Father Ricardo hugged Josefina and the children after mass.
“I was expecting you,” he said.
He was a catholic priest who believed in the kingdom of God, and helped to bring their belongings inside the church.
The man who had accompanied the family to Choconta stayed in the house that night. He would go back to Lebrija in Santander
the next day.
Josefina and her children were tired after the long journey. Father Ricardo took them to their rooms at the back of a house
after they had their dinner.
His brother- Father Felipe- met the family that evening. He had only seen Josefina once before. He admired the young widow
who had journeyed through the mountains to come to Choconta.
The uncles taught the children all about religion and the bible. The family had to move a few more times, but they paid for
the children’s education.
My father was 14 years old when the second war world started. He used to read everything about the conflict. He liked going
to the movies to see films and the trailers of the time.
He was a clever boy, who did very well in the school. He had inherited his mother’s blond hair and fair skin. His sister
Ligia and his brother Horacio looked more like their father.
Jose Ismael finished school and studied medicine at the Universidad Nacional of Bogota. He got his degree in medicine and
married his second cousin, Cecilia Mogollon, on the 14 of February 1952.
Maria Cecilia Camacho (The writer of this page) was born on the fifteenth of February1953. My brother Ismael Hernando Camacho
was born onthe thirty first of May 1954