Glen's brief brush with El Presidente Andres Pastrana and Queen Noor of Jordan,
in Plaza Santo Domingo, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, Friday 15th February 2002

I had just finished writing an article about how Rigoberta Menchú had been walking around Santo Domingo the day before when my friend Ashley Rhodes raced into the internet cafe and asked me if I had my camera with me, because President Pastrana was in the Plaza Santo Domingo. We saw him walk into a historic house just off the Plaza and waited for him to come out. He emerged from the building a few minutes later and walked out to the Plaza again, surrounded by photographers and soldiers. After I took this shot with my $15 camera President Pastrana smiled at me, and, seeing a pen and paper in my hand, made a gesture to suggest that he would be happy to sign an autograph. I asked my friend Ashley to take a photo of the signing, and he tried, but handed the camera back saying it had run out of film. Damn! Oh well, at least I had his autograph. If I had known, I would have asked the blonde woman with the blacktop and sunglasses if she would mind signing for me as well. It wasn't until I read the next day's newspapers did I realize she was Queen Noor of Jordan, King Hussein's widow.

Ashley, more accustomed to expensive autowind cameras hadn't realised you had to manualy wind the film. I still had a few more shots left. Everyone was whispering "Mira! El Presidente de la Republica!" People started surrounding him and shaking his hand. A woman I assume was his personal assistant overheard us debating the correctness of asking the President to pose a second time. She said to me, in English, "Don't worry, I will ask him to pose for you". Just as the crowd started to close in on him and he turned to leave, his PA asked him to talk to us. He put his arm around me, and asked here I was from. When I replied Australia, he seemed surprised - I am the sole Australian resident in Cartagena and one of a handful living in Colombia. He shook my hand and waited a while, but not too long, the security would be too comprimised. He is the President of a country of 40 million people embroiled in a civil war and the guerrillas and narcos have a price on his head. Just 5 days after this photo was taken he cancelled peace talks and started bombing rebel bases in retaliation to the hijacking and kidnapping of a Colombian senator. A friendly press photographer took these photos for me. That's his autograph in my right hand. Ashley is a little famous too, he rode his BMW motorbike from Tierra del Fuego to Anchorage Alaska and is the author of the forthcoming book Lonesome Rhodes.

Glen David Short is a freelance writer based in Cartagena. His new adventure travelogue, `An Odd Odyssey: California to Colombia by bus and boat' has just been published by Trafford Publishing.

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Text and Photos Copyright 2005 Glen David Short