Leticia was a backwater then, a residence of the Ticuna Indians who still live nearby. Peru which lies just across the river, occupied this village which to this day is not connected to the Interior of Colombia (Leticians call the rest of Colombia, Interior as Rapa Nui refer to Chile as the Continent). One of the many skirmishes for which Colombia was famous for, one can read it with joy in the novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, they established this slice of Amazon as their southern border and Leticia was born, possibly named after some newly born child of an illustrious family who had moved here?
Of the three Amazonian cities that I know, Leticians are certainly the friendliest, I was taken aback when a young policeman greeted me as I was walking away from the Parque Santander where a statue of the National Hero graces the entrance and millions of querulous birds descend on the tree tops to spend the night before flying off at sunrise into the Amazon Rain Forest.
I am always surprised when people recognize me in these outposts, the father owner of a shop,I am friendly with his daughter and her young daughter, greeted me asking whether I was still in the region, to which I had to reply: I just arrived today, and the fact that I have not been here in more than one year seems not to bother him.
The owner of Amazon Bed and Breakfast, without doubt the best place to stay in Leticia drove over the border and picked me up at Tabatinga airport in Brasil and when I arrived a new recruit, Esmeralda looking very Ticuna Indian, was more than friendly. They had upgraded me to a nicer room and soon enough I was settled down to my two days of stay in Leticia. I had to do some chores but mostly I want to rest in between these hectic days of travel as well as a surprise visit to my Cuban colleagues up north in Colombia.
The second best thing about Leticia is the Amazon Fusion Restaurant called EL CIELO. It had moved its quarters and changed hands, I could tell from the music being played, rather than the world fusion music, there was a distinct touch of Colombiana but the new owner and his family welcomed me, they are from San Augustin near the Capital. Both the chef,both Indians, greeted me with joy and exclaimed: we have not seen you in a while. Can you expect a better welcome than that? by Indians? in this corner of the Amazonian rain forest.
I sat down to order CANAJOIS which is much like the wichety Grub
Mojojoy is a grub that is found all along the Amazon and i had them swim in containers waiting to be eaten at Iquitos. These indian chefs have stuffed these grubs with fish ( i did not want meat or chicken). The stuffing tasted good and I followed it up with Rollitos Numakee: Casabe rolls stuffed with vegetables, a touch of olive oil and i tasted some cheese as well. Delicious.
One could choose a Caipirinha but the hot weather was conducive to a colombian beer, Poker, as I will not trust to drink wine in these climes. It went well with the meal.
After paying for my meal, it came to less than 10 dollars. I thought of my Miamian eating Buddies M and G and I know that they would approve of this fusion Amazonian cuisine. I was invited into the kitchen where I took the pictures and I asked the younger of the two Indians: what will you prepare me tomorrow, they looked at each other conspiratorially and said: we will prepare a seafood feast for you!
I got on as a pillion passenger and the breeze was welcome as the driver guided his motorcycle around the potholes of this city by the River.
I thought to myself
I am grateful to be enjoying the two best things about Leticia
Amazon Bed and Breakfast under the kind guidance of Ana Yudit and the El Cielo restaurant, Amazonian fusion restaurant!
Tomorrow I will look for Ileana Vega,a Cuban music teacher and also visit the market area where I could talk to some Ticuna from the village of Nazaret, perhaps go across the border to Tabatinga and look for the new batch of Cuban doctors on their humanitarian mission there.
I will end the day with a nice meal at El Cielo.
(when I have faster Internet, I will upload pictures from today)