Tempus Fugit (Countdown to the Big Six-Oh Edition): Hazy, Fragmented Memories of Birthdays in Colombia

Bogota, Colombia, where I lived from 1966 to 1972. (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re a regular visitor of this space, you know that both my older half-sister Vicky and I celebrate – or observe, or endure – our respective birthdays just five days apart in early March. Vicky was born on March 10, 1950, while I came along nearly 13 years after on March 5, 1963.

Photo by Bilguun Bayarmagnai on Pexels.com

I can’t remember all of my birthdays or how they were celebrated; I have no memories of my “toddler” years, and I think my share of the family albums is in storage somewhere, so I can’t access any of them to see – much less reproduce digitally – photos from my early childhood in my hometown of Miami or my temporary home city of Bogota, Colombia.

Screenshot of Google Maps imagery showing how built-up the area around Santa Barbara, Bogota, is in 2023. I can’t even imagine where my grandparents’ house was.

I celebrated Birthdays 4-9 in Colombia, but thanks to a cerebral hemorrhage that sent me to the hospital not long after my ninth birthday, I have only hazy – and fragmentary – memories of big family get-togethers, including one party that was hosted at my maternal grandparents’ palatial house in the “barrio” (neighborhood) known as Santa Barbara sometime before they sold the place and moved to a smaller apartment closer to where my Aunt Martha (Mom’s sister and the firstborn child of my abuelitos) resided.

Even though I don’t remember too many details about that particular occasion – I think it was either my fifth or sixth birthday, which would have been either in 1968 or 1969 – but I do remember that it was one of the few occasions when most of my Bogota family members were present, including a small contingent of my dad’s side of the family in the form of his sister-in-law Dora and my cousin Ana Maria Diaz-Granados.

A Pixabay photo of Bogota, taken nearly 50 years after we left that city.

Because Dad’s side of the family either was scattered hither and yon on the Caribbean coast of Colombia – my father was born near Barranquilla, in the Colombian department of Atlantico – or in the United States, I rarely saw his siblings or most of my cousins on the Diaz-Granados side of my family tree.

I have only a few vague memories of visits by my paternal uncle Carlos – who my mom would later compare to Indiana Jones because he spent much of his time searching for gold and emeralds in the Colombian wilderness and, as a result, was estranged from my Aunt Dora. So, until I was in my early 20s, the only Diaz-Granados cousin I knew was Ana Maria, who is – I think – 10 years older than I. We rarely crossed paths even when I lived in Colombia, and because she married a guy from Ecuador, she now lives in Quito.

This means that whenever I refer to my cousins who live in Bogota, especially my 10 first cousins[1] (or, as we say in castellano, primos hermanos), I am talking about my cousins on my mom’s side.

Because this gathering was so large – it was one of the rare occasions when all of us were under the same roof if my memory serves – this party (again, it must have been in 1968 or 1969) could not have been held in the apartment where we lived (we moved three times when we lived in Bogota, in sharp contrast to our second sojourn in Miami, where we only made one permanent move between 1972 and 2015). So, it was either hosted by my abuelitos or my Uncle Octavio, who lived in a house close to them in Santa Barbara.

Image by Angelo Rosa from Pixabay 

The only things I remember about that party were that it featured a huge lunch that included lasagna prepared by my Uncle Octavio, and that I was surrounded by my abuelitos, uncles, aunts, and cousins, as well as my beloved – and much missed – mother.

My “core family” group before a social event circa 1989.

Vicky had not yet graduated from the all-girls school in Parkersburg, West Virginia, so she was not there.

I have not celebrated a birthday with any of my extended family members since 1972. I also have not celebrated a birthday with any of my immediate family members in eight years; Mom died on July 19, 2015, four months and two weeks after my 52nd birthday. And, as you know, I have not celebrated any occasion with my half-sister since our mother’s funeral Mass on July 21, 2015. After that, Vicky only went to “my” house once, and that was to grab whatever she could – including some items she was not supposed to take – either in late July or early August of 2015.

Since then, I have only seen my half-sister once, and that was when we went to a probate court hearing to settle a dispute over what Vicky claimed was a “lost or destroyed” will, which she lost when a judge ruled that Mom’s 2010 will was neither lost nor destroyed, that it was valid, and that Vicky had no legal claims on Mom’s modest estate.

Vicky, of course, was pissed and told me to never contact her again. So it’s safe to say that we will not be exchanging birthday cards any time soon.

[1] As of March 1, 2023, 10 of my 11 first cousins on Mom’s side of the family are still alive; my cousin Mauricio, who was my Uncle Octavio’s fourth child and second son, died in the early 1970s due to issues with his heart. We were living in our Westchester house when Mauricio passed away, and my mom had a framed photo of him on one of the shelves on her bedroom bookcase.


Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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