From the Mules to the Willys

From the Mules to the Willys  Coffee Region

Cutting whips, hacer embarrotados (tying sticks), heads and suckers, weaving cinches, and packsaddle, shoeing, rigging and carrying, feeding, loving, taking care and spoiling the mules; they are trades of the true muleteer. The Arrieria (the muleteer’s job) is an art, it is full of details that are learned with years of practice.

Pablo Teleche from his 7 years began his first steps, trade that inherited from his father. That was his destiny, that of the mules, the one he remembers so much with nostalgia and pride, the one he likes to tell while showing his valuable pieces, tools for shoeing, pita cord for knitting, rings, brakes, syringes for the care of animals, because it is an integral trade that is woven among generations; Pablo’s grandfather was an oxen Arriero and his father from a young age dedicated his life to pass the wisdom of the Arrieros. Pablito Teleche, as we call him today, took the reins with an immense passion which he transmits to us today by telling us his stories about the trails, stories of abundance in food and freedom.

Footloose people by nature, such were those men who, at the foot of many mules, crossed plains, humid forests, hot mountains and high paramunos. Years ago, some 50 years and even a little more, Colombian countryside was interconnected through these strong men: the Arrieros. In charge of crossing borders with products, furniture, fuel, wood, panela (raw cane sugar) and crops of corn, potatoes, beans and coffee to take from the countryside to the main cities of Colombia and vice versa. The Arriero was where there was prosperity, recalls Pablo, as in the year 64, the great potato bonanza in the municipality of Pijao, as in Santa Helena Tolima, the coffee in Génova and Buenavista, Quindío where finally Pablo stayed.

Years later, the prosperity was little. The negotiation of the mules changed and its profitability diminished, roads were built and with them gasoline powered vehicles arrived. The Willys arrived in Colombia finding a path of peace, since in its origins this car was manufactured for the Second World War. The Arriero was then replaced by that off-road vehicle also capable of traversing shortcuts and with enough force as that of the many mules that the Arrieros like Pablo used to herd before.

That's how it was 12 years ago, with four million pesos and without knowing how to drive, Pablito bought his first Willys; He started the engine of his new car, his berraquera (tenacity) was delivered to the steering wheel and left along the trail of Los Juanes de Buenavista to learn of his new destiny. His destiny of Willysero (the driver of a Willys) to which he dedicates himself today, without forgetting his mules, keeping his tools, his apron, mulera, carriel (leather bag) and his words woven of exciting stories; that are impossible for me to transmit through a writing. To feel it, you have to meet Pablo Teleche who in the middle of a walk through Buenavista field, can make you live love for the simple things of life.

And this is how life of the countryside in Colombia has been transformed between bonanza, from the trails to the roads and from the Mulas to the Willys.

Written by: LaurAcostaJ