Bienvenido a Mompox/Welcome to Mompox

[Spanish Version; Scroll down for English Version]

Today’s post, written by Miguel del Cristo Mieles Davila, is the first in a series of articles and multimedia projects written and produced by 9th graders in Mompox, Colombia. Each day for the next three weeks, we’ll be publishing their work in Spanish and in English. They’d love your comments here on our site, and if you’d like to contact them directly, please e-mail them at mompoxvoices@hotmail.com.
Si llegas por la ruta del Caribe, gozaras de una belleza natural colombiana, de la misma manera disfrutaras de las exoticas y preciosas playas naturales de la region, como son las playas de Cartagena, Barranquilla, Santa Marta y de otras playas cercanas.

Sobre el Magdalena Grande a solo 248 kilometros de Cartagena se encuentra ubicada la Villa de Santa Cruz de Mompox, unas de las mas bellas joyas arquitectonicas, marcada por el amargo y agrio pasado de dolor y sufrimiento.

Fundada en 1530 por Pedro de Heredia, este fue un gran puerto fluvial de gran importancia economica y militar durante la colonia por estar ubicada en una ruta comercial. Su historia esta vinculada a grandes epopeyas en la historia de America. A pesar de su gran importancia y significado no todos sus habitantes conocen de esta etapa historica. Mompox fue la primera en liberarse de la cadena perpetua de los espanoles.

Debemos sentirnos orgullosos de lo que tenemos y somos, deberiamos sentir esa pasion que llevamos por dentro y tener la responsabilidad y el deber como ciudadano fiel en defender y cuidar lo que nos pertenece, es decir nuestra herencia historica que nos identifica como tal.

Contamos con una rica arquitectura colonial: las iglesias como la Iglesia de Santa Barbara, parques, plazas, asi como tambien el haber dado a Colombia el primer poeta negro, colombiano, libre marcando asi de esta manera el nacimiento de la literatura latinoamericana.

Nuestra historia se nutre de nuestros ciudadanos mas humildes, de nuestro rio, nuestra tierra, el cual nos trae todo lo social, cultural, historico. Estos son los elementos que nos dan y nos quita cuanto tenemos hasta el presente. Ese es nuestro turismo!

Mompox no seria igual sin el rio Magdalena, y el rio Magdalena no seria igual sin Mompox, el cual ha arrastrado junto a su sedimentos recuerdos gratos, duros y amargos pero a la misma vez es simbolo de vida y solo vida.

Mompox a pesar de estar a solo 30 metros sobre el nivel del mar nos regala una gran variedad de fauna, flora y frutas tropicales. Anualmente su temperatura oxcila sobre los 30 grados centigrado la cual nos ayuda en gran parte a ser como somos. Solo en Colombia hay cerveza Aguila y solo en Mompox hay corronchos atravesaos!

Mompox es tierra de Dios, donde se acuesta uno y amanecen dos, donde sopla el viento y amanece un ciento, donde la solidaridad y el calor familiar reinara, asi sea por unos cuantos envidiosos de la region.
Mompox seguira siendo Isla, seguira siendo Sol, Agua y Mosquitos.

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If you come to the Caribbean, you can enjoy the tremendous natural beauty of Colombia’s coastal region: the beaches of Cartagena, Barranquilla, Santa Marta, and other nearby beaches. But along the Magdalena River, just 248 kilometers from Cartagena, you will find the village of Santa Cruz of Mompox, one of the most beautiful architectural jewels of Colombia, marked equally by the triumphant joys and the sufferings of the past.

Founded in 1530 by Pedro de Heredia, Mompox was a great fluvial port that was very important because of its location along a bustling commercial route and its latitudinal zone.

Perhaps what most people don’t know about Mompox is that it was the first colony to liberate itself from the perpetual chains of the Spanish. We should be proud of the passion that we carry inside of us. We should recognize our responsibilities and obligations as citizens to defend what belongs to us.

Our rich colonial heritage, the little that is left of it, can be found in our churches, in the story of our first Black poet, and our population of humble people who feel themselves a part of the land, a part of the river, which marks everything: social, cultural, the touristic, the historic. Water is life here.

Mompox, despite the fact that it is just 30 meters above sea level, possesses a great variety of flora and fauna and tropical fruits. The average temperature is 30^ C, and it helps us to be who we are. Only in Colombia is there Costeno y Aguila beer, and only in Mompox are there corrochos atravesaos.

Mompox: land of God, where one person goes to sleep and two wake up, where the wind blows and stirs up the spirit of solidarity, the warmth of family, and where peace reigns. Mompox: island, sun, water, and mosquitos.

By: Miguel del Cristo Mieles Davila,
Ninth grade, Institucion Educativa Normal Superior, Mompox

Photos by: Hernando Sanchez Villalba,
Ninth grade, Institucion Educativa Normal Superior, Mompox

In Defense of Good Spelling

I did a quick Google search and confirmed my sneaking suspicion: Good spelling is no longer important in America.

Enter ‘”why good spelling is important” and you’ll see what I mean. Four entries are retrieved, and not a single one of them is truly a defense of good spelling.

Maybe it’s the fact that I won the spelling bee in elementary school–triumphantly taking home my very own hardback copy of a red fabric-bound Webster’s Dictionary— but I really do still believe that good spelling is important. I find people like Jeff Deck and his Typo Eradication Advancement League to be nothing short of heroic.

I know. I’m nerdy.

As I’ve been thinking about why good spelling is important, none of the predictable, conventional explanations seem too relevant anymore. One doesn’t necessarily need to spell well to communicate his or her message. In fact, the sad fact seems to be that few people notice or care when a word is spelled incorrectly. Increasingly, no one buys the argument that good spelling reflects anything important about one’s intelligence, and few people accept the idea that good spelling indicates, at the very least, that the writer isn’t lazy and can at least run a document through spell check.

But here’s why I think good spelling is important. Good spelling affirms that you respect yourself, your reader, and your subject. Spelling well shows that you’ve taken the time to review your document, that you want to present your ideas in the clearest manner possible, and that you care about the reader’s standards (even if they’re low).

Above all, spelling well shows your respect for the power of language, its power to name and describe and explain. No, the world won’t fall apart (hell, it might not even notice) when you write “it’s” when you really mean “its,” but trust me, the world does become a little bit clearer when your spelling is as powerful and as precise as the message you want to convey.

For a few quick guides to common spelling errors–and how to avoid them–click here, here, and here.

Photo: dawn m. arfield (creative commons)

What was that you said about lemons and lemonade?

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Over the course of our lives, we hear hundreds of kernels of advice packaged up into pithy, well-worn adages like these.

You can probably reel off 10 of them without thinking.

Like stereotypes, these sayings endure for a reason.

But also like stereotypes, there comes a time when we have to just cut loose and live according to our own instincts and insights rather than the well-meaning advice that others offer.

Just this week, I had an encounter with an editor that left me thinking. I’d pitched him an article idea a couple months ago and initially received a cool reception. My first impression of the editor was negative–not because he wasn’t interested, but because of his lack of professionalism and his confident assertion that every story about my subject had already been told. I set aside my gut response, though, wanting to be convinced by a friend who knew him that “that’s just his style.”

With the friend’s advice, I recrafted the pitch and the editor rubber-stamped the idea. I wrote a draft, sent it in, and waited for a couple weeks–during which he was “really busy”–for some feedback. After reading the draft, he made suggestions that would have changed the piece completely. If I agreed to the changes, it would be his piece, idea, content, and style. If I stuck to my guns, it would be my piece. But, he hinted, if it was my piece, he wouldn’t publish it.

I sat with his recommendations for a month, mulling over whether giving in was worth it. A couple of friends urged me to revise– My piece would appear in a heavy-hitter publication!; The editor is an important person to know!; If I screwed this up I may never have a chance to pitch the publication again! What if I burned this bridge?

What IF I burned this bridge?

Life would go on.

When I quit my full-time 9-5 job four years ago, I realized that there are really only a couple of criteria I need to apply when making any decision: (1) Will my decision kill me? and (2) Will it hurt the people I love most? If the answers to these two questions are “No,” I’m fairly confident life will go on, burned bridge or no.

I sent the editor a message saying I’d chosen not to revise the piece and would understand if he, in turn, chose not to publish it. True to the character he’d shown so far, he sent a snippy, unprofessional reply, saying that indeed he wouldn’t publish it. He added he expected that if I continued to be resistant to changes, I’d have a short, unproductive career as a writer.

Oooh…. I was so worried I opened a new bottle of wine and toasted to the only adage that’s ever served me well but which I ignored for years: “To thine own self be true.”

Photo: Julie Schwietert Collazo (and no, those aren’t lemons. They’re passionfruit. And I didn’t make lemonade. I made passionfruit cocktails.)