When my friend and I traveled to Mompox in 2010, we knew it was unlikely that it would be an easy trip. Santa Cruz de Mompox (or Mompós) is a town in the north of Colombia, nestled between the Magdalena river and the Pozelo swamp. It was founded as an important colonial bridge to transport wealth between the port of Cartagena and the South American interior, but since Colombia’s independence Mompox has relaxed into the sleepy and remote town that my friend and I were lucky enough to visit. The Liberator, Simon Bolivar, said of Mompox, “If to Caracas I owe my life, to Mompox I owe my glory” (It was in Mompox that he recruited many of the soldiers who he led to liberate Nueva Granada). Conversely, novelist Gabriel García Márquez said “Mompox doesn’t exist. Sometime we dream about it, but it doesn’t exist.”
So does Mompox exist? Indeed it does. It took us a few bus rides and a ferry to get there. We found beautifully preserved colonial buildings, quiet riverside restaurants and friendly filigree artisans constructing the jewelry the town in now famous for. On our way out of town, my friend and I decided to brave the land route we had heard about. Mompox did not have a bridge until 2015, but they were preparing for construction during our visit with a bridge of dirt. Unfortunately, the frequent flooding of the region made the bridge crumble under trucks and cars, and the day we were leaving a bulldozer tumbled into the water and a transport truck threatened to do the same. Our taxi wouldn’t cross, so we walked across and met a taxi on the other side. Later on, our bus was stopped by the fires of a protest and we had to walk ahead a little farther, but that’s a story for another day.