To worship at the altar of martyrdom.




Quote taken from this interview with Andy



Through its tumultuous past, and its extreme interpretation of Catholic iconography and beliefs (both of which are highly informed by native tradition), Colombians developed an insatiable taste for martyrdom and spectacle early on. An appreciation and understanding of pain and suffering on a grand scale is very much a part of the Colombian psyche, and as such, the nation has always understood and loved cycling.

Other sports have come and gone in Colombia, largely driven by the success of one of our own in that discipline. But those sports have been too refined. Too beautiful. Too graceful. Cycling, on the other hand, has always resonated with the Colombian public because of the near-monopoly that it holds on martyrdom in sport. The lone rider, struggling uphill, bloodied and seemingly near death. It's an exhibition of pain and sheer will that was almost tailor-made for Colombian sensibilities. This is something that the Colombian press recognized, particularly as Lucho Herrera arrived bloodied into St Etienne in the 1985 Tour de France.





The nation's response to those images was euphoric (people connected to that stage victory are still regularly interviewed by the media, including the soigneur who stitched him up, and reporters who saw him at the finish line) . The similarity between Herrera's bloody face and the gruesome images of a fallen Christ throughout Colombia's churches, was too obvious for the press to pass up. The newspaper El Tiempo referred to stage win that day as his Via Crucis, using the Latin term for the Stations of the Cross. People at home, watching the live TV feed, instantly made the same connection.

This was not just a martyr. He was our martyr. And even in a deeply Catholic nation (90% Catholic by most counts), no one considered it a blasphemous stretch to suggest that maybe, just maybe, because he was representing Colombia on the world stage, he suffering on our behalf.

Then there were the disparaging comments made by the foreign press. The taunts by European riders, the comments about their dark skin. The elbows and fists that were thrown in an attempt to make riders like Martin Ramirez crash. But these hardships only helped elevate the riders in our eyes. They were mythical figures...biblical actually. They endured what we as Colombians did within the greater context of the world. In the 1980s, we too endured hardship, we too felt beaten down and taunted. We saw ourselves in them.

But as we elevated them, we lost sight of their humanity. And we knew this, but were too stubborn to let this notion go.

And that too, I would argue, is the Colombian way. Reality and sanity be damned. We wanted to be enveloped by euphoric joy. We didn't care how foolish or insane or even blasphemous any of it seemed. We wanted to worship at the altar of martyrdom. So we did.