Our group of twenty secondary teachers spent the last four weeks of the summer in Bogota, Colombia’s lofty capital. The most used expression I heard in my sponsor’s home was, “Ay que frio!” It so happened that my charming host family had recently purchased a new home. In accordance with local custom, they planned a “house blessing.” When the day arrived, we had an early breakfast and began making preparations for the festivities. Their priest arrived around ten in the morning and immediately began blessing each room in the house. The good father completed his mission by blessing the mother, the father, the six children, the two “muchachas” or maids, and he even blessed me.
Oh, and in the living room hung a framed painting of The Sacred Heart of Jesus. When Padre blessed the painting, I held my breath that all would go well. You see, on the day before the blessing, my Colombian mother had asked me to hang the icon upon the white plaster wall. She handed me a hammer and a nail. I should have known better. I hit the nail squarely on the head. As the nail penetrated the green plaster, a four or five-inch crack appeared. We were devastated. “Hang it quickly before he comes home,” she panicked. I did. For the remainder of my stay with that wonderful family, the merciful, but chiding eyes of Jesus followed me around the room, calling me to confession. In the afternoon, the friends and family, which in Colombia are the same, began to arrive for the festivities which would go on until way after the midnight dinner, which was a chicken dish smothered in mole sauce, served elegantly on fresh banana leaves.
Colombia has changed greatly over the last fifty-some years. It breaks my heart. Yet, I remain optimistic about their future.
Sam M. Owens – Fulbright to Colombia 1965