I know a mime who speaks volumes, but never says a word. For many years he graced the streets of Cartagena, plying his trade, the art of silence, hoping to earn a smile for his efforts. His labours were often unfruitful, at least from a monetary standpoint. Yet what he did was a labour of love …. or perhaps it was love’s labour’s lost as he was unappreciated by some, a nuisance to others and often an embarrassment for a passing tourist. Regardless, he pressed on, day after day. After all, he was born in the streets and he would die in the streets.
What drives a man to be so passionate about his work, that he will perform for nothing ? How unique is this ? Is this man a true artist that he lives for his work and not from the fruits of his work or is he not a fool rather than a mime ?
The locals call him ”Abuleo” or grandfather. Jorge Martelo is his real name and I came to know him as I often frequented the streets of the old city. He was generous with his time and over the years I finally heard him speak. In our conversations Jorge said that he had been a carpenter. One day, in his 5th decade he heard his calling and knew that he wanted to be a mime…. et voila !
Truly his story is worthy of a mimodrama by the great Marcel Marceau. It is a tragic and sad story of hunger, poverty and dedication to become a better artist. Jorge lived in a hovel on the side of La Popa. It was just a room that he did not own, with a very modest rent. It provided him shelter and yet it was to be his downfall.
Four years ago Jorge developed hernia, it grew and continued to grow. The pain increased, irritated by movement and Jorge performed less and less. He went to seek medical aid but alas, the SISBEN system failed him. You see, to receive medical aid, you had to have an address and some proof with your name on a utility bill. Jorge had neither. http://colombia.escapeartist.com/health-care-in-colombia
Sandra Serna and I took Jorge to the courthouse to file any action against the system so he could be treated but it was all too complex for Jorge and he did not pursue his right to seek medical treatment. Recently, I have heard that finally he would have the surgery he required.
Perhaps with any luck he will soon be back frequenting some of my favourite haunts – Parque Bolivar, Plaza de la Coches, La Muralla at the Charleston Santa Teresa. If you see him, he works for smiles but smiles don’t fill your stomach only your heart.
Slip him a few thousand pesos. That too will speak volumes !