(to) shadow


February 2016



Two joints articulate the division of the Andes, as it moves northward across the Putumayo basin. The “knots” of Pastos and Almaguer, disentangle the thick thread that comes all the way from Tierra del Fuego into three distinct claws, obviously named Western, Central and Eastern cordilleras.

I come from a Valley which hovers a full kilometre above sea level, between two of these ranges. To the west, beyond perpendicular Farallones as high as four thousand meters, lies Balboa’s ocean.

As a child I crossed these mountains many times, atop the ridge, travelling to places with revealing names. Tocotá,[1]la Paz,[2]el Diamante,[3]and el Carmen,[4]spoke about the memories, hopes, ambitions and beliefs of the people who dwell amid the tropical fog forests.

Paired to these names was the figure used to name non-places.[5]Random stops in our way were simply named “shadows” – the term used more as a verb than as a noun. Tired or thirsty, men would request that we “shadow.” If conditions were proper and comrades agreed, middle-of-nowhere-nesswould turn into a stop, and change under the fleeting density of a few or many horsemen.

Old tree shades weren’t obvious stations for the travellers. Steep slopes, swampy riverbeds and narrow paths were obviously not subject to “shadowing,” either; but empty plains, soft hills and barren plots, with little spirit and even less beauty, could host the pack, on serendipitous grounds.

The transfer of a physical reality to a temporary practice, as in the move from the protective shadow that is turned by use into an action with socio-spatial consequences, reveals the workings of the architectural mind.

Mediating between an original situation and an abstract memory of that situation (changed many times by use) remains the word, unchanged, as an anchor.



[1]Pre-Columbine name, with no clear translation.


[3]The Diamond

[4]After Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, in Catholic devotion.

[5]Not exactly in Auge’s terms.




Jorge Mejia Hernandez