Popayán springs back to life after blockade
It’s amazing how a few things like food, gasoline and medicine can breath life back into a city.
Popayán sprang back to life over the weekend after an 11-day blockade of the PanAmerican Highway ended late Thursday.
Long lines of trucks carrying food, gasoline and medicine for the sick wound their way into this colonial, Andean city in Colombia´s southwest.
Bread, fruits and vegetables and meat reappeared on supermarket shelves. Motorcycles and cars lined the streets for blocks around gas stations.
And the city government revoked the “ley seca,” the prohibition on serving alcohol that kept Popayán’s bars uncommonly quiet.
Restaurants that were almost empty for lack of food during the strike were packed and the sound of music and laughter once again rang through the downtown late into the evenings.
Hotels were at near zero vacancy. Bus traffic on the PanAmerican Highway was halted for the 11-day showdown that saw struggling coffee producers squeeze large increases in subsidies out of the national government.
On a sad note protesters left behind a small bomb at a blockade south of Popayán that caused minor injuries to two police and two children.
But all returned to normal over the weekend. The downtown was congested with shoppers, tourists and traffic.
Everywhere merchants were covering over anti-government and anti-capitalist graffiti painted on the walls during raucous protests.
This capital of the department of Cauca, commonly known as La Ciudad Blanca (The White City) resumed preparations for its Semana Santa celebrations, the second largest Easter celebration on earth.
The Camará de Comercio de Cauca estimated losses to the city at more than $80 million. A campaign is under way to attempt to assure Colombians and foreigners that the biggest tourist event of the year will go ahead with its usual cheer.
In the mornings the sound of drums can be heard again as marchers prepare for the numerous religious processions.
The blockades around Popayán were amongst some 20 that strikers used in various parts of the country to pressure the national government, but nowhere was the effect felt more dramatically.
Popayán is particularly vulnerable to such blockades. In 1999 the city was cutoff from the rest of the country by a blockade that lasted some 40 days.