An adventure with Julián Santaella, one of the people in charge of delivering the monthly electricity bills. His life in this job and also what he does when he is not running up the steep mountains of ‘El Codito’ neighbourhood in Bogotá, is what this chronicle from 2007 narrates.
Publication: Text and photos. Directo Bogotá Magazine No 20, January – March. 2008
- Read here a fragment of the chronicle in Spanish, or read it all here.
- Read a fragment in English here
Fragmento in Spanish
Ir de casa en casa, de puerta en puerta entregando cartas, paquetes o recibos es algo que, muchos de nosotros, pensamos que puede hacer cualquiera. Pero no es tan sencillo, especialmente para un muchacho de 20 años, quien cargando una maleta que pesa 46 kilos, y enfrentándose a toda clase de animales, que en esta labor se han convertido en sus principales enemigos, debe repartir en un día, en la loma del barrio Codito, en Bogotá, 1040 recibos que cobran el consumo de luz.
Julián Santaella Marino es alto y exageradamente delgado, tanto que parece que su cuerpo fuera muy frágil. Viste una chaqueta azul con letras grises, que lo identifica como trabajador de CODENSA, la empresa que provee de luz a Colombia. En su cabeza lleva una cachucha, por la que sale su largo cabello café oscuro, que le llega por debajo de los hombros. Junto a él está su compañero Jeison Caña. A diferencia de Julián, es moreno y acuerpado. Usa la misma chaqueta azul, y a su lado reposa una gran maleta que parece de viaje, pero que en realidad tiene 400 recibos, un poco menos de la mitad de lo que deben repartir este día.
Ellos me esperan en la calle 187 C con carrera cuarta. El día anterior, Julián me advirtió que su supervisor, Rafael Rivera, no me podía ver, porque eso le podía traer graves consecuencias, desde un memorando hasta el despido. Por eso, me dibujó un mapa para que yo pudiera llegar al lugar acordado. “Es fácil. Usted se baja en la séptima y comienza a subir unas escaleras que parece que fueran al cielo. Sube y sube hasta que encuentre el colegio La Estrellita. Allá nos vemos”, fue todo lo que me dijo.Tathiana Sánchez. El Mensajero de la Luz. 2008
Fragment in English
Going from house to house, from door to door delivering letters, packages or bills is
something that, many of us, think that anyone can do. But it is not so simple,
especially for a 20-year-old boy, who carrying a suitcase that weighs 46 kilos, and
facing all kinds of animals, which in this work have become his main enemies, must
distribute in a day, in the hill of the Codito neighborhood, in Bogotá, Colombia, 1040
receipts that charge the consumption of electricity.
Julián Santaella Marino is tall and exaggeratedly thin, his body seems very fragile.
He wears a blue jacket with gray letters, which identifies him as a worker of
CODENSA, the main company that provides electricity to Colombia. On his head he
wears a cap, through which his long dark brown hair comes out, which reaches below his shoulders. Next to him is his partner Jeison Caña. Unlike Julián, he is dark and has a big body. He wears the same blue jacket, and beside him lies a large suitcase that looks like a trip, but actually has 400 receipts, a little less than half of what they have to distribute this day.
They wait for me at 187 C Street with a fourth career. The day before, Julián warned
me that his supervisor, Rafael Rivera, could not see me, because that could have
serious consequences, from a memorandum to dismissal. That’s why he drew me a
map so that I could get to the agreed place. “It is easy. You get off on the seventh
avenue and then you have to start climbing stairs that look like they were going to
heaven. Go up and up until you find the school La Estrellita. We’ll see you there”,
was all he said to me.
I followed the instructions. I found the stairs and started to climb. I was counting
them, but when I reached 306, my eyes clouded. Fatigue began to take hold of me
and I still had to go up much more.
“Ready to exercise?” Julián told me when I finally arrived at the school where we stayed to meet. Although I lack air, I try to mutter a yes, and then we go our way. Santaella takes out the map that the supervisor gaves him that morning, and shows me the whole route we must take.
We have to distribute 1040 receipts, from 187th Street to 190th, between first and
seventh avenues. What I did not know, until that moment, was that each adress was
accompanied by letters, from A to F, and in avenues, the nomenclature went to H.
In addition, the route was uphill.
Julian and Jeison take the suitcase, each with a handle, and lift it up another 200
stairs. When we reach the top, we start walking. Jeison pulls out a package of
receipts and passes them to Julian. He fastens them with a rubber so they do not
fall off. He accelerates his steps and with a technique that, according to him, he has
perfected in the time he has been working, launches one of the receipts under a
door. That would be what the messenger would do during the next seven hours (…)
(…) Julian has always liked animals. In his house he has two dogs who have lived
with him all his life. But he does not deny that he detests them for this work, for these have become his greatest enemies. CODENSA, seeing the threat posed by
residents’ pets for their workers, gave the messengers another instrument of work:
a metal rule of one meter, which serves to scare away any living being that threatens
And the attacks are not insignificant. Movies and television fall short by showing the
dogs chasing the postmen. “There are not only dogs, there are also goats, sheep
and chickens. That’s what I really hate about this job, besides the ‘ñeros’ (homeless)
and the hills”.
While we climb a trail that seems to have no end, a dog about 70 centimeters, white
with brown spots, badge the messenger from afar. He does not look away. Julian
sees it, and he tells us to be careful because that animal always waits for him to bite
The messenger climbs cautiously. The dog gets up and starts barking loudly. Julian
looks a bit nervous, but he does not back down. It is time to concentrate, since you
must be aware of distributing the receipts of those houses as quickly as possible,
and of avoiding the dog.
The animal approaches him, showing his fangs. The messenger with the rule starts
to scare him away, and carefully bends down to leave the last bill. When it is going
down, the dog is launched to bite him in the calf. Julián with a strange movement
manages to dodge it, and returns to scare the dog with the rule. The dog stays behind but keeps barking. “That was the one that broke my pants”, he says agitated, while he raises his leg to show me the small broken jeans. (…)