by José Sandoval Zapata / Translated by Toni Celia
He died when he was just being born, a far-reaching shooting star. Andrés Caicedo was an angel dressed in rock n’ roll... then dressed in salsa and guajiro. With crack and without shame, with melodic but distorted lyrics all in cursive, his was the eternal fear for growing up and etiquette. A melody that looks at itself in the
mirror, transpiring and nervously numb. Agony was his sport, and death his adolescent trophy.
For millions of quadrilateral kilometers of a barbarian town, there grows stories of mushrooms the size of a hippopotamus. Cali: a city jammed still by parties and tragedies, by the fear of gravestones and bongos. It must have been a Macondo that turned itself into a dictatorship and Andrés Caicedo was one of its worst victims. This anti-canonic character has survived three decades merely by virtue of a handful of short stories, one novel, some plays, an assortment of critical essays on cinema and a furious episcopal immolation.
A rebellious and outcast life became an urban myth of Colombian literature. The story of a writer that begun his commercial career at the same time as it was dying: on March 4th, 1977 he went to the post office to pick up his copy of ¡Que Viva La Música!, his first and only published novel that had just arrived from Argentina.
Andrés Caicedo right there and then, made the decision to end his life, thus effectively giving birth to a cinematic story based on legend. A year before, in May, he gulped 25 pills and cut his veins open like rigorously guarded trains. Then, 120 pills of tasty Valium, 10 milligrams, and five days in a coma. This was concern enough for his family to check him into a psychiatric hospital. Andrés was bursting and screaming for a new life, he admitted he had been drugging it up since ‘69. So they filled him up with detoxifiers that
further melted his cerebral tar. He forgot everything about the movies he had seen, and his life became a spiral, a black and dark downward spiral. He was sentenced by epilepsy, but not before fleeing to the country to spend a brief season with Patricia, Carlos Mayolo’s wife (Carlos was his co-horst at the film magazine Ojo al Cine). The three of them were part of the editorial board, and for nine months Andrés would constantly blabber to his cinephile friend—who died in 2007—that his taste for the “hard life” was
starting to take a toll on him. His wife complained too much about Carlos enjoying too much of that tasty white powder. And Andrés, being a contrarian, contradicted him and took it all away. It was 1971 and they were filming Angelita y Miguel Angel, a short film written by Caicedo that remained unfinished until Luis Ospina edited it in the mid-80s.
Sad and Muddy
Caicedo grew up under a very sad cloud. He had two brothers, one older, one younger. Both died shortly after they were born. In the last days of his short life he even assaulted his own father, with whom he always had a constant bickering caused by generational differences, but who would remain of paramount importance
when it came to editing and releasing Caicedo’s posthumous work.
Knowing that he wouldn’t make it past 26, Andrés traced, by hand and on paper, everything he typed in his typewriter and began saving piles of these in crates that his dad sorted through and catalogued after his death. These writings produced the short-story books Angelitos Empantanados, Destinos Fatales, Calicalabozo and the unfinished novel Noche Sin Fortuna, where he traces a tender story of unrequited love. There was also enough material to publish a healthy volume of Ojo Al Cine, which compiled all of his film
More than a cinephile, Andrés considered himself a cinesifilic, a musician of words who wrote about movies just to remember the images that had captivated him while bathed in the darkness of his armchair. In his writing, he shot bullets of nostalgia. And in his real life he strafed with his delirious anguish. The parties and the overindulgence of his youth were inviting him to dance one last song in the fortuneless night.
Caicedo’s poetry breaks beyond the limits of shyness: it throws itself naked into the world and presents a universe filled with shameless innocence. A little man wants to speak to a very pretty girl that sits next to him and he asks her to go wander about. Until death visits them at dusk with the weed smelling delicious while
the stuck-up goddesses cry, as if beauty could penetrate the most rigid boundaries of eternal shame. Kids in high school tragically disappear, following the footsteps of their own disgrace. A cry accompanies the evening. There’s a quincieañera party for the purpose of hating love, for the face to wither with dignity.
Gangs start forming, and in a valley full of tears and disillusion they start occupying the big stores with frustration and vengeance. Like the sensation of water with wind. I have the feeling that soon the
separation will arrive.
“You, don’t stop short of a challenge. And don’t get involved with
any guilds. Don’t let them define or pigeonhole you. Don’t let
anybody know your name and don’t let them give you shelter.
Don’t give in to the ins and outs of celebrity. If you leave behind a
body of work, then die in peace, trusting only a few friends. Don’t
ever allow yourself to grow into an old and respectable man. Don’t
ever stop being a child, even if your eyes are in your neck and your
teeth start falling out. Your parents gave birth to you. Let them feed
you forever, and pay them badly. It’s all the same to me. Never save
your money. Don’t turn into a serious person. Make thoughtlessness
and contradiction your coat of arms. Eliminate truces; make
your home out of damage, excess and nervousness. Everything is
yours. You are entitled to everything, and you should charge a hefty
sum. For the hate that has infected your censor, there is no better
remedy than murder. For shyness, auto-destruction.” (Fragment
taken from ¡Que Viva La Música!)