“Could you drive us past the statue of Valderrama?”
“Ah, El Pibe!’ smiled the taxi driver. “Si, claro!”
You can’t go far in South America without finding a statue. On a hill, in a plaza, at the border – statues.
Santa Marta was the last resting place of Simon Bolivar, liberator of much of the north of the South America. You’ll find a statue of him in many cities and town, or a street or square named after him.
But that wasn’t why we were here. We were in search of Carlos.
Carlos ‘El Pibe’ Valderrama was one of the most striking figures of world football, leading the Colombian national team in the 1990s. But the most famous thing about Carlos was his hair, a shock of blond Afro which only got bigger each time he appeared in a key match.
As we turned the corner to the football stadium, we weren’t expecting what greeted us – a 22-foot statue of Carlos in action, towering over us and complete with tightly strung bronze curls.
A handful of middle-aged men hung around the statue, half-heartedly offering football shirts for sale to any fan who made the pilgrimage.
“Will we have time to see the Shakira statue in Barranquilla?” I wondered.
Sadly we didn’t, but I don’t think it could have topped Carlos.