Alirio from Guadalupe, Colombia

The first question I need to ask myself is, what am I doing here? Once I figure that out I will be able to understand why I spoke and photographed Alirio.

Before I start typing this story, yesterday I was having a delicious meal in a nearby restaurant in the Comuna 13, a place with way too much history to spill in a few lines, I was chatting to my host, Sergio.

I suddenly said to him, - mate, you know? I am trying to figure out why I am traveling on this trip. 

Ok, I admit that I’m here to photograph places and people, exchange experiences with friends and strangers and figure out what Latin America is all about. Paint some messages of hope and truth etc. But the central reason is to try and figure out what the meaning of freedom is, ‘freedom’ and ‘love’ actually.

So, I had the opportunity to meet with Alirio a couple of days ago. I figured that the man loved to talk a lot, more than me in fact. He invited me into his house to get to meet his family and friends; a very generous gesture on his behalf I would say.

He does not actually live in Medellin but close by in a community in the north of the city.

With lots of pride, Alirio tells me that he has been serving a transnational company called Noel for over 32 years non stop and his job involves packing all sorts of biscuits for many hours a day.

As I ask him how is it that he has preserved the job for such a long time, he responds that he got the job and has maintained it thanks to the holy God’s will.

I dare to ask him what the conditions are like where he works and he responds that they get fed Mexican food on a designated day during the week and insists that he works for the best international company of the entire country.

The way he found the job was interesting and he attributes it to his one and only friend, that is Jesus Christ and nobody else.

He left his village in Guadalupe when he was 20 years of age in seek of better opportunities. 

When he arrived in Medellin, he did not know anyone and was forced to sleep on the streets. On one occasion he bumped into a man who was selling mangos. Alirio was very hungry and decided to approached him and asked him if he could collect the mango skin that was dumped around. The mango merchant agreed and he started to build a mountain of skin. 

He placed it all in a plate and prepared it with salt and lemon which was provided by the merchant. He kept coming back to ask the man for more mango skin for the next few weeks until the merchant got curious and asked him where he was from.

Alirio responded he was Guadalupe and that he was looking for a job. For a strange reason, the merchant and himself had relatives in common and Alirio ended up working for the man and living in the humble house the merchant and his wife had.

He loved going out and selling the prepared mangos to passersby etc. With a bit of more luck he finally was offered a job at the place he currently works. He is lucky because he has a contract but he says that many other colleagues are offered temporary contracts which means that as soon as it ends they don’t get rehired and are forced to look elsewhere.

Alirio insists that the holy god is his only friend and that there are no real friends around. He is a spiritual person and devotes much of his time thinking about god and praying for wellness.

He built the house we are in thanks to his strength and resilience. 

His wife is also a strong woman who tirelessly works on the home duties, takes care of her 4 sons and daughter but non of that is recognized by his husband or his family.

I stayed with them that night chatting and getting to know them more. They offered me Colombian food which I was happy to try and while I carried on listening to them I kept asking myself, what am I doing here?

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