Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A fluctuating Monologue...

It started raining on Sunday morning after Mass and did not stop until Wednesday night. I heard the storm had carried away the train tracks that used to link La Sabana Station with the rest of Cundinamarca region and that had been abandoned long time ago; the torrential rain also opened up the tombs in the Cementerio Central also emptied to turn the premises into a sort of cultural centre! A woman said that "a very persistent smell of the dead animals floating along streets horrified her but then, pregnant women are always imagining things..."

Sitting on a rocking chair in front of the old fireplace, which we'd only used the night the electricity went out, I began thinking about how long the heavy rain would last. I'd cancelled my last filming in Corabastos three times now due to the rain; today, however, my thoughts went to try imagining the coteros working under this weather... Hours were going by very slowly and I decided to make a film inside the house fearing at times that the water will start coming through the glass that covered the inner patio.

Whereas I was filming the rain pouring against the glass, I recalled the scenario of Corabastos, when I felt so overwhelmed by the chaotic movement of people, trucks, carts... lit by the street lamps. I thought of how I was going to be able to represent this place in my film. That evening, I came across a text on Buddhist tradition that gave me some ideas:

When the Buddha was still alive and living in Bihar, a young man was sent to make his portrait, despite the fact that painting had yet to be invented. When he arrived at the place where the Buddha was in meditation, our artist realised he had a problem: he was so overwhelmed bu his subject's enlightened glow that he could not look at him. But then the Buddha made a suggestion: "We will go down to the bank of a clear and limpid pool", he said helpfully, "and you will look at me in the reflection of the water". The found an appropriately limpid pool, and the man happily painted the reflection. 

Beneath the world of phenomena, we believed, there lay a deeper, truer, and more real reality of physical laws expressible as formulae or as essential forms, a reality of which we mortals might only sense the projections. Everything else, but especially colour and the proximal senses of touch, taste, and scent, was epiphenomenal. It was not then sight as such which was feared so much as the temptation that sight evoked, the temptation to enter into dialogue with the phenomenality, the material textures of the world.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Corabastos is a place out of time; a place where everything that is going there seems as it’s been happening since immemorial age. The premises consist of thirty bays distributed by the goods they sell from potatoes to bananas. The bays' interiors glows side of the basy which are loaded and unloaded by an army of men and women who classify, wash and pack. The market closes only three days a year, of course.
I drew a map of the Corabastos market to give it to the crew and I realised how similar it was to that of the mythological city of Tartarus. In ancient mythologies, Tartarus became the place where the punishment fits the crime. For example Sisyphus, who was a very crafty king who defied the gods and tried to elude death. His punishment in Hades was to endlessly roll a huge stone up a hill -- as soon as it reached the top, it would fall back to the bottom. The poor king spawned his own adjective, Sisyphean, meaning an impossible task. The Greek writer Homer describes him thus:
And I saw Sisyphus at his endless task raising his prodigious stone with both his hands. With hands and feet he tried to roll it up to the top of the hill, but always, just before he could roll it over on to the other side, its weight would be too much for him, and the pitiless stone would come thundering down again on to the plain.

Shucking off peas...

After almost twenty years of waiting for her husband to return to Ythaca, Penelope was forced to agree to wed one of the many suitors that had occupied her palace, and promised to make a decision once she had finished weaving a shroud for Laertes. Weaving during the day, she stayed up tearing it up at night to delay the moment, but was discovered and just about to make the choice when Odysseus finally turned up, killing or chasing away the suitors...

This is exactly how I felt about the women who work from very early morning until dawn at the Bay 30; there they were sitting, some with their baby sleeping in the push-chair on their side whereas shucking off the endless peas and selecting the best quality ones to be packed and classified. The rhythm and speed by which they took off the peas looked like they were playing a music instrument.

I thought of those women working night by night sitting on the same crate taking the husk off peas; yesterday, the day before yesterday, tonight, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow... from 4:00 am to midday when they go back to their homes and feed their children and back to the Corabastos to start all over again...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Coteros at night...

Coteros in the dark... from midnight to dawn,
every day, from Monday to Sunday,
carrying goods brought from the far land into the city.
hundreds of them...
Young men and those
who can't even carry their own bodies,
bent by the weigh of endless sacks
thrown at them from the inside
the trucks without mercy...
Of course, as they are paid
by the numbers of sacks
they can carry
and deliver
and store
inside the bays' big belly ...

Coteros at dawn...
they are paid £ 2.30 per day;
they are our arms,
the hands
that get dirty
so that our nails remain clean
and our belly safely fed.
Who are you, sons of darkness?
Where are you from, brothers?
What's your name?
Do you have any sons,
so that they can continue feeding us?


The coteros, usually men, work in Cobarabastos unloading the sacks from the lorries and piling them inside the bays. This is a very informal job, so workers had no tax benefits so when they fall ill there is no income to provide for their families.

Others labourers at Corabastos are known as zorreros; they also start at midnight and ending at 2 pm. Their job is to transport products in human traction wheelbarrows from trucks to the stalls as the coteros also do. A zorrero earns on average eight thousand pesos per day (£ 2.50/$ 3.30) to respond with as head of household.

We were well into the night when the whole market was already at its busiest; people running from bay to bay looking for the goods to purchase and negotiate prices with sellers; then, they will pass a list to the cotero so he would go around the stalls loading the sacks on his shoulder and deliver it to the truck.


(part 1)

We walked through the empty alleys towards the bays. The warehouses were quiet; inside the stalls looked like dormant animals wrapped in plastic canvas... the whole place was lit by a striking green light which made me feel strangely as I was all dragged out of time. As we started filming the corridors, a sound that would become familiar , began to come from outside: the workers have already commenced carrying wheelbarrows...

Corabastos is considered the biggest food supplier in the whole continent; everyday, tons of food, including black beans, carrots, creole and savannah potatoes, onions, mangoes, guanabanas, corncobs, manioc, tomatoes, melons... are poured into the 30 bays of Corabastos by the campesinos from as far as the regions of Boyaca, Cundinamarca, Meta, etc.

Gradually, the coteros started approaching the lorries parked in front of the bays; suddenly, a cacophonous mixture of noise coming from the lorries, shouts and salsa music being thrown from the speakers filled the air of the until then quiet bay. By midnight, The choreographic races of the coteros coming in and out of the bays left us confused trying to make sense of the (apparently) chaotic movement.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


(First Night of Filming)
Our first night of filming was in Corabastos; we arrived at 9 pm when the market is still closed. Outside the premises hundreds of lorries and vans of any size and model were waiting to enter. My idea was to film this enormous space without people to convey the feeling of a colossal animal waiting to be fed. The night was unexpectedly chilly and a full moon was shining above us.

We climbed to the parking building from where I could see all the bays and get a better view of the place. Two policemen accompanied us as we walked through the empty warehouses lit up by old-fashioned lamps. We set up the crane in the corner of the main entrance and waited for the lorries to start coming in.
We had been warned of a deafening uproar when around 10:30 pm the noise of the engines would surround the air as the lorries, which had arrived from the region of Cundinamarca laden with fruits, potatoes, carrots, peppers, etc. rushed to the bays to start downloading. Slowly, the silhouettes of coteros (people who carry goods in wooden wheelbarrows) started to appear from the darkness as the lorries parked at the still closed bays.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Back to Corabastos

Sunday morning; I have arranged to meet Jhon Arias, a student of the Universidad Nacional, to go back to Corabastos. Jhon has been working there since he was a kid, helping his father with the business. We walked around the bodegas (Bays) where thousands of carrying boxes were piled up and owners were negotiating the selling of the goods to interested buyers.