1. the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12); also known as Twelfth Night
  2. a moment of sudden and great revelation or realization; state Doris and Louis pursue partout

The Big-E Epiphany

Epiphany came less than a week into our plunge into South America. Both of them, actually – the big-E religious one and a little-e revelatory one.

About the big-E, Catholic festival days are many and major in Colombia so, naturally, Epiphany is an official state holiday, as quiet and closed as Christmas in the States. The Monday it was observed this year found us in Medellin, where even the street hawkers mostly stayed home, leaving the streets eerily quiet and the carts of geegaws bundled up in alleys.

closed cartsOddly in evidence, however, were (and are) Christmas decorations. Locals told us Epiphany would be the end of them because it religiously and officially marks the conclusion of the Christmas season. The Christmas trees, Santa Clauses and other seasonal flourishes we were seeing in January would be gone, we were told.

Well, ho ho ho to that. On a mall crawl a full week later, animated magi in a bigger-than-life creche were still going strong, and the halls all around Medellin were still pretty much still decked. Feliz Navidad is definitely not just for December in these parts.

The Little-e Epiphany.

Then the little-e epiphany.

We arrived in South America at Cartagena, reputedly the most beautiful colonial city of the Caribbean.

cartagena - better

Walking the streets with Louis snapping the palaces, plazas and balconies, we kept finding ourselves wondering (with apologies to Monty Python) … aside from the Spanish Inquisition, extermination of innumerable advanced and primitive societies, plunder of the continent’s mineral wealth, importation of countless slaves from Africa, transmission of killer diseases and introduction of corruption-driven governance that continues to plague Latin America to this day, what was Spain good for in the New World? (Trivia tidbit of the day: the locals don’t call the Spanish “colonists”; they call them “invaders.”)

The Spanish Inquisition (with devices like this was one in Cartagena’s Palace of Inquisition) was one of Spain’s few exports to South America.  

The same can be said to varying degrees about every colonial power, of course, but the British colonials did at least install infrastructure, justice and educational systems, values of free religion and speech and a few other positive legacies while plundering their colonies and introducing killer diseases. Monty Python has covered the Romans.

But the Spanish in the New World? Universal language and future tourist attractions? Central  plazas and gilded church altars? Please, use the comment function at the end of the blog to raise your hand if you have more informed answers.

Just this weekend, we spent much of the afternoon in Medellin’s somber House of Memories, an interactive memorial to victims of Colombia’s violence. Thanks to the Narcos of Netflix and the FARQ, it’s tempting to think of Colombian blood-letting as a recent phenomenon, but how short-sighted that would be. Pretty much from the Spanish arrival in the New World, human butchery was a way of life. Viewed through a longer historic lens, maybe it is not a stretch to view narco mass murderer Pablo Escobar as simply the 20th-century’s answer to the conquistadors.

A mother is reunited with her disappeared son in this photograph in the House of Memories in Medellin

We travel for a lot of reasons, epiphanies and other discoveries among them. Through mid-March, we await them in South America.

Sunlight spilling into Medellin before sunset, lighting the city a bit like an epiphany

From the Partout Travel Toolbox

Folks seemed to find our blog about logistical lessons from the road so useful that we will feature a few of our additional go-to tactics in Partout until we run out of them or you cry uncle. We start with why we rarely use online booking engines for air and car reservations

Aggregators are the operators that search online travel agencies and publish the findings in one place (Kayak, Hipmunk, Skyscanner, etc.). Booking engines are outfits that book travel for you (Expedia, Orbitz, Hotwire, etc.). Doris is Partout’s travel agent, and she uses aggregators obsessively to explore routes and fares (Skyscanner being her favorite). Booking engines are another matter.

Booking engines often offer fewer options and less flexible bookings than the end providers (i.e., the airline or rental company itself). Need to change the day you are picking up your rental car? Fuhgeddaboutit. Something goes wrong with your flight or car? Learn real fast you are not the airline or rental company’s customer; you are Expedia or Travelocity’s customer, and that is not a good thing. Frommer’s ratings of the most popular aggregators and booking engines are illuminating.

Top tip: If you find a fare on an aggregator that you like, go directly to the website of the airline or rental company, not to the booking engine linked from the aggregator.

Coming Soon: Medellin – Are We Safe?

6 thoughts on “Epiphany!?!

  1. Your Partout is great. I hadn’t really put it all together in terms of all the historical violence and torture and corruption that comes with the Colombian territory, but your image of that torture device speaks volumes. I hope the Spanish is shaping up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The little-e ephipany was one of those ah-ha moments that travel seems to facilitate. I asked the Spanish teacher the Monty Python question yesterday. She didn’t have an answer either. (And Spanish is going well enough to ask and get an answer. 😉 )


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