Candiru, Colombia’s most important natural site, in danger

Written by By J and a, CNN

The Candiru trail, one of the world’s oldest known trails, runs along Bogota’s Cartago Canal.

The UNESCO World Heritage site incorporates the history and culture of colonial Colombia and is known for its many inlets and canals. But construction continued over the path for much of the 19th century, necessitating a network of lighting and signage to guide travelers through the archipelago.

And at this juncture in history, with an elevated platform housing nearly 15 steps, an old traffic signal stood in its place.

“It was always turned on 24/7,” says Juan Morelli, a photographer and filmmaker who’s been living and documenting Candiru for more than a decade.

“It has seen centuries of use and history,” he adds. “But the traffic light has been there for four decades.”

“My friend had my passport when I arrived there in 2002,” he continues. “She had to hold it, and the traffic light could read her name backwards.”

Such perceptions caused Morelli to find the traffic light fascinating enough to begin documenting it and its relations with the historic site.

Bright, but contentious

Completing his project, he has photographed the structure to document its relationship with the Candiru trail.

“It adds another dimension to the process. It is bright, energetic and there is not much else there,” says Morelli.

“But you also have this contradictory relationship between light and the trail.”

For example, a bicycle lane starts off in the middle, and lights are positioned so that there is a “unique walk between both” lines, more in line with the cartopian lifestyle that the construction espouses.

However, the light’s appearance is also a way to further cut through the distance between the caravan and the trail.

“It points out a frustration for people,” says Morelli. “If there is no vehicle there, and you look at this street, you can practically see the tracks of these vehicles.”

In recent years, more work has been done to protect Candiru and connect it to Colombia’s other important historic and natural sites, such as the Nazca Lines in the north and the Vallenar Balboa in the south.

While some have criticized the project, Morelli says, the light is “just a shadow.”

“We are busy with a lot of other issues,” he says. “So it’s a way of preserving the light as a mark of these two other places.”

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