Walk down Carrera 30 in El Carmen de Viboral, toward Parque Principal, and look to your right after you pass Calle 32. Look for a tiny bar, about the size of a walk-in closet. If it’s open, you’ll get the chance to meet one of the town’s friendliest residents.
They call him Flaco. The skinny guy. He seems to know everything and everyone when it comes to his hometown. I almost got whiplash turning to watch who was waving to him every few minutes as we sat there and talked about the town.
The tiny city of less than 50,000 about an hour east of Medellín is known for its ceramics. There are stores throughout the town that sell them and let you watch how they are made. Take a look at the buildings and other structures there too. You’ll probably see plates in the walls, or tiles around the base of a lamppost.
It seems like anyone there would be happy to tell you about it. Most of the people are like Flaco, very friendly, happy to help you, to give you advice, share stories about their culture.
You’ll notice something else too: the majority of them have green or hazel eyes. I thought Medellín had its fair share of people with light eyes, until I went to Carmen, where — I am not exaggerating — I would guess that at least two-thirds of the people have ojos verdes.
Carmen was my first stop when I returned to Colombia after a recent visit to Florida. As soon as my plane landed in Rio Negro, home to Medellín’s international airport, I called my friend Lucas to ask him to come pick me up. Fortunately, he was in Carmen, just 20 minutes south of the airport.
“Do you have to get back to Medellín immediately,” he said after greeting me curbside.
I told him no.
“Good,” he said. “We’re going to Carmen.”
I arrived at the perfect time. Lucas, his friend Larry, and Flaco had just made some ceviche and it was on ice, waiting for us when we got into Carmen, some of the best ceviche I’ve ever had. Later we stopped at a little hole-in-the-wall place across the street from Flaco’s hole-in-the-wall bar and we bought some empanaditas. I love these tiny businesses.
As we sat at Flaco’s bar, some of the passersby decided to stop by, to have a few drinks with us. As usual, I answered questions about Hawaii (the place I grew up), what I am doing in Colombia (teaching English and trying to develop Medellin Living into the best travel blog it can be), and how long I plan to stay (not sure, but probably mucho tiempo, a long time). I never get tired of answering those questions. I love that the paisas are as curious about my culture and me as I am about theirs and them.
We lost track of time as the daylight eventually faded into darkness, and now I’m counting the days until I can return to that beautiful town.