by Carmella Guiol

December 11, 2017

In Cartagena de Indias, men walk down the streets carrying birdcages instead of briefcases, always with the same yellow waif perched precariously behind bars. It’s important for the bird to see the world, one man tells me, his birdcage propped on the seawall, the sea crashing against the rocks a few feet away. That way the bird doesn’t forget what the sky looks like, what the wind feels like in their crayon-colored feathers. In the distance, frigates and pelicans squawk as they chase after fishing boats, gleaning any scraps they leave in their wake, and I wonder if birds know how to envy. 

Another man explains to me quickly, his bus fast approaching, that everyone wants one, these birds in particular, for their birdsong. Very beautiful, he tells me as he jumps onto the moving vehicle that barely slows to pick him up. In a city that clanks and screams no matter the time of day, I can understand the desire for sweet sounds, sounds of freedom. But I’ve never once heard them sing.