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 the norther of Colombia at the beginning of the twentieth century. It had been
rocked a few times by the wars between the liberals 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, two years old as they waited with their father outside the
room. As Josefina pushed for a last time, a rose faced child appeared in the world, locks of fair hair on his wet head.
The two children outside the room heard the baby crying and pushed the door. The father, Ismael Camacho, rushed to his wife’s
side and admired the new addition to the family, while the midwife cleaned the child and cut the umbilical cord.
The midwife didn’t let him near the baby. Josefina had lost another baby during the previous year. The midwife wanted
to make sure everything would be fine this time. Ismael led his two other children out of the room. He gave them some lunch
while the midwife made sure mother and baby were all right.
That evening little Ismael slept in a small cot by his mother’s side. The sound of cockerels singing woke them up the
next morning. As the child cried, his mother put him to her breast. The memory of the other children who 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
his home. His peaceful childhood shattered when his father died. Jose Ismael was five years old while Ligia and Horacio were
six and eight years old.
He travelled with his mother, brother and sister on the back of mules, to a town where his 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 mountains. Josefina was a young woman who had just lost her husband. She wanted to give her children a better
life and education.
Jose Ismael didn't remember much of that journey.
His brother Horacio did recall the slow pace of the mules throughout the mountains. A friend had 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 would stop to rest and to eat their food. Josefina had brought boiled eggs, potatoes and water ion 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 ate the grass. Their friend got up early the next morning to saddle
the mules in preparation for the day.
The children played early the next morning. It was a great adventure for them all, even if the weather was a bit cold and
they were tired.
They played hide and seek in the field while their mother and their friend got ready to leave.
Jose Ismael hid behind his mother as Horacio looked for him.
Josefina put the child on the mule while 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 look for 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. The top of the Andes looked
dark under the rays of the sun. They had left the province of Santander. The lush grass had given way to the mountains where
cows and goats stood in the most dangerous places.
The mules digested their food of grass and marigolds while moving through the beautiful landscape of green vegetation growing
in the steep fields. An eagle circled above looking for pray as nature rejoiced in life.
They saw the mountain vegetation as they went deeper inside Boyaca. A house made of mud lay at one side of the path while
children wearing colourful ruanas looked at them. A dog ran around the mules while barking.
A woman appeared at the door and called the door.
“Where are you going?” she asked Josefina.
“We are on our way to Choconta,” she answered.
The woman invited them to go in her house to rest. It had started to rain and Josefina was glad to wait in the house until
the weather cleared.
The woman offered them hot chocolate while puppies ran by their feet.
The woman gestured to 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 have to arrive at Choconta before the evening.”
They went on the mules while the dog barked. The animals trotted on the muddy path for a while. It was warmer and the vegetation
had changed. The plants that grew near the paramos had been replaced by coffee plantations.
They saw Choconta from far away, the church steeple against a cloudy horizon. The mules sensed the end of their journey and
trotted towards the houses at the edge of the town.
Josefina with little Ismael were the first ones to enter the town. People looked at them from their houses as children played
in the streets.
They found the church behind the park. The sound of people singing spilled out into the surrounding streets.
Their friend helped them to dismount from their donkeys. The five of them entered the church as the priest read the sermon.
He was a little man, who pushed his big glasses up his nose as he talked.
He paused for a minute eyeing the new arrivals. Then he resumed his speech.
The priest came towards them after mass. He hugged Josefina and the children.
“I was expecting you,” he said.
He was Uncle Antonio. He was a catholic priest who believed in the kingdom of God.
Uncle Antonio 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 Antonio took them to their rooms at the back of the 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 between the uncles a few times. 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.