Ever since Gio and I began contemplating a move to Barranquilla, we were told to live in “El Norte”, the northern part of the city. Our neighborhood, Torcoroma — named after a Romanesque style church in the area that I have yet to see — is definitely considered to be smack in the middle of El Norte. When we take a cab toward El Centro, the center of town (I know, I know, you never would have guessed that “El Centro” means “center”!), everyone says we are headed South.
So imagine my confusion when one afternoon, on just such a drive, I realized that the sun was in the wrong place. Instead of being on my right, it was almost behind me. The cab driver, Ricardo, laughed and explained that in Colombia, North is less of a direction than a socioeconomic designation. He clarified that we were actually headed more East than South at that particular moment. He joked that in Medellin, North is actually South. (I’ll leave it up to those of you familiar with Medellin to verify whether this is true.) It’s not so stark in Barranquilla: El Norte is generally in the northern part of town. Part of the North/South weirdness seems due to the orientation of the main thoroughfares that connect various parts of the city. Nonetheless, the amazing flexibility exhibited by folks here seems to apply even to the cardinal points on the map.
Honestly, why can’t North be West? Sure, no problem! A la orden.