the City’s Image by its Elements | Monologues by Teusaquillo
I am Admiral Jose Prudencio Padilla Lopez, leader of the Colombian fleet, liberator of Santa Marta and Cartagena, scourge of the Spanish admiralty. I have sailed the seas West and East, enforcing the freedom of all men of the Americas. I am now the protector of Teusaquillo in this city of Bogota.
I stand guard here, made from brick and brass, watching over the citizenry. I am their leader and their protector. Befitting of my centuries of service I now have a role that is somewhat more relaxed compared to my naval adventures. I stand here tall above the parkland, the rolling waves of wind passing through the trees about me. The light shimmers through the foliage as though on water’s surface. I feel the rain on my face and am reminded of the spray from the Caribbean Sea. Hordes of horseless carriages pass along the roads either side of me, they make the air foul and I feel as if I am covered in a black filth in a way that even the longest of voyages did not leave me. As I stand here I watch the citizens of this great Colombian nation go about their business in the verdant parklands below me.
Much life occurs in this park, for it belongs to all men, not just the wealthy aristocrats and merchants. Not long after dawn, men and women will dance upon my stage. I do not know their dance, but it reminds me of stories of the natives from the Western Orient told to me by the merchants who had sailed there. They move like the trees in the wind and appear to have no interest in making couples or of dancing together. I do not understand their practise but it fascinates me.
As the sun climbs the local inhabitants will walk with their great hounds. They stride towards me, yet do not look up at me. They approach, climbing my stairs, they walk around my feet, and then they return to where the came. Occasionally a foul beast will take relief against me. I am enraged by this impertinence. If this was one of my men I would have the hound shot and the owner keelhauled for this indignity. The local officers of the law pass by but seem ambivalent to these insults.
When the sun reaches its zenith I am accompanied by a host of different characters. I believe they are local merchants. They sit by my feet to consume their midday
meal. Previously I have been visited by a girl who will lean against me and watch the park as I do. I believed her to be my ally but I am presently concerned as to her motives. I suspect her of a plot to usurp me, to fell my body and tear apart my bricks.
In the afternoon couples will promenade through the park. Men and women will walk unchaperoned in full view of the world. Women will show bare legs and naked arms that I have not seen outside of the brothels of Kingston. Men will walk with their colleagues discussing important topics of the day. By the closeness of some of their conversations you could confuse them for the lovers walking together.
As my watch draws on and the sun sets, groups will appear beneath me. Sometimes they speak of topics important to the nation, standing with signs and making a great clamour. Sometimes they whisper revolutionary thoughts and I glower at their treacherous speeches. They never ask for my wiseness and I am too much of a gentlemen to interject. Sometimes these groups will come with mechanical contraptions. They will gather and listen to a strange music made without musician or instrument. I suspect witchcraft, as the music reminds me of songs sung by the Haitian slaves that I and the great El Libertador, Simon Bolivar, encountered on our campaigns there. The men will mount their mechanical steeds and disappear into the night, like a shoal of fish catching the moonlight as they dart across the bow. I would give chase, as you would to a deer, so I could further understand their odd behaviour. However my place is here, standing firm.
As my night watch continues the miscreants emerge from their hovels. They drink noxious juices on my steps, and allow themselves into a state of drunkenness and disorder that would see them locked up on a ship of mine. Not so many moons ago a figure approached me in the darkness. It was the girl who sits at my feet at noon. I was shocked that such a girl as her would dare come out at this dark hour, especially without a chaperone. To my horror she began to smear posters onto my plinth. I could not read these posters but I know them to be sedition. I stood there, in humiliation, for days, until a young man tore the paper from me. I had previously thought the boy a scoundrel having seen him making crude remarks to the women on their afternoon promenades. I now suspect these woman to be part of a radical female infiltration by the Spanish and the boy to be a good patriot.
There is only so much one man, one statue, even one as great and as decorated as myself can do to keep a city safe. It is up to the living men of this area to keep it secure from infiltration and to ensure the great nation of Colombia lives long as the jewel of the Americas. As God is my witness I will do all I can, and together, bricks and mortar, flesh and blood, we shall succeed in maintaining the security of the city and of this nation.
This short story has been written and performed by Matthew Cook during the Space±Time/Narrative workshop in Delft and has become part of his current master project, in the form of a collection of writings on the city of Bogotá.