Jordan Salama tells the story of the Río Magdalena, nearly one thousand miles long, the heart of Colombia. This is Gabriel García Márquez's territory—rumor has it Macondo was partly inspired by the port town of Mompox—as much as that of the Middle Eastern immigrants who run fabric stores by its banks. Following the river from its source high in the Andes to its mouth on the Caribbean coast, journeying by boat, bus, and improvised motobalinera, Salama writes of the lives of those he meets. Among them are a canoe builder, biologists who study invasive hippopotamuses, a Queens transplant managing a failing hotel, a jeweler practicing the art of silver filigree, and a traveling librarian whose donkeys, Alfa and Beto, haul books to rural children.
One of the most moving descriptions is of the town of Puerto Berrío where 'people go to the cemetery to visit the tombs of people they have never met' ... What Salama has produced is not only a moving book about social and cultural survival in the shadow of environmental and political chaos but also a deeply lyrical and astonishingly mature piece of writing that will move its readers. This stunning volume heralds an exciting new voice in narrative nonfiction.
In his debut travelogue, Salama tells the stories of the people who live along the Magdalena. Throughout each chapter, he shows how Colombia is continuing to struggle with the ongoing impact of its half-century of war and the environmental fallout of industrialization ... Salama’s insightful observations leave readers with a deep and nuanced look at Colombia.
A mesmerizing travelogue ... Through keen reporting, he unpacks how 'the ever-shifting fortunes of the Colombian people have long mirrored the rise and fall of their country’s greatest river' ... Both complex and achingly beautiful, this outstanding account brims with humanity.