“Colombia is a place where magic seems to happen every moment and I would argue that only a people like the Colombians, with their enduring spirit of place, their indescribable capacity for joy, could have endured the agonies of the last 50 years.”
Wade Davis says his latest book Magdalena: River of Dreams is a love letter of sorts. Colombia, he says, is “a nation that allowed me to dream, that gave me my wings to fly.” His love affair with Colombia began as a 14-year-old in the late 60s, when he went on an exchange from suburban Montreal. He has been returning ever since, as a writer, botanist, traveller, and scholar of Indigenous religions, captivated by the unbelievable range of history, cultures, environments, climates, and people that exist in this diverse South American nation.
In this interview, Davis discusses the five years of travels he undertook along the Magdalena River, “a corridor of commerce and a fountain of culture, the wellspring of Colombian music, literature, poetry and prayer,” as the nation emerged from decades of civil war and drug cartel violence. He reveals a resilient, vibrant Colombia, a country where almost every ecological zone found on the planet can be reached within a day’s travel, from Caribbean beaches to snow-capped mountains, rainforests to deserts; a country of literally a thousand musical rhythms, where Indigenous cultures continue to thrive, and where the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez is “just journalism” — a cataloguing of the magic that unfolds on a daily basis.