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When I first arrived to Colombia, my wife and I lived in a small town or pueblo as they call it. Functioning and especially running in a pueblo at over 9,000 feet above sea level in the mountains of Colombia, South America takes understanding, especially for an American used to life just above sea level. Exiting the door of the house, I heard Colombian Bolero music coming from the area of the town square. This regional Bolero sounds like circus music to me. Whenever I hear it my mind envisions dancing bears and clowns. Mention of the mental image to my Colombian wife brings out the Latina fire.
“It is not circus music. It tells the story of the people with feelings and emotions. It is what my country is all about,” She tells me.
Still a couple steps back from clearing the building before the park I heard the people before being able to see them. But the sound seemed slightly different than the usual children playing and adults chatting. With my next step, a wall of hide obscured my vision for a moment. I stopped, said a little prayer for not being faster in my walk and watched a dirty white Brahma bull gallop away. A man in his early 20’s and a boy about 14 years-old followed. Both panted more than the animal.
The town square consisted of scattered and strewn people who had moved quickly to avoid the charging animal. In a safe section behind trees, a group of young men mocked and laughed at the older bull chaser. Bent over with his hands on his knees he inhaled huge gasps of air. The younger male kept up a steady trot in the direction of the fleeing animal. I decided to follow.
Before coming to the South American I did daily morning runs through the woods surrounding my house in California. Plus I had run with bulls before in Mexico and Spain. This beast quickly exited the streets of the town and headed toward the open fields leading up the mountains. My mind had forgotten to register that running at an elevation of 9,000 feet is much different than near sea level. Sooner than ever expected my lungs and legs reminded me of the forgotten thoughts. Now I was thankful the horns were in front of me instead of behind me this time.
The beast made a right hand turn into a group of trees. The now shirtless and previously out of breath chaser went by me gaining my respect for his stamina. Following, came a man with a determined look on his face and a nylon rope in his hands. I walked slowly back to the park and plopped my body on a bench. I figured the mockers in the park where now talking about the gringo who could not run far.
Fifteen minutes later yells came from down the street. They signaled the coming of the animal again. It seemed to me that this bull had a smile on his face. Five sweaty, heavy breathing men with sticks ran in hot pursuit. They were followed by a cattle hauling truck. Two more young men held on to opposite ends of a rope that ran across the horns of their prey. Attempts to dig heels in and stop the fun romping bovine were fruitless. Their feet stumbled; they ran to keep from falling and were sometimes dragged across the cobblestones as the animal kept a steady pace.
The bull turned into the park sending the young adult mockers again scurrying for cover. I watched from my bench seat while listening to the Colombian Bolero music and the laughter of the crowd.
Here is another article about living in a small town in Colombia: Stranger in a Strange Land