Providencia, the island where the time forgot to pass

AUTHOR: Enrique Trheebilcock Olmos

Among the inhabitants of the Providencia Island still resonate the words of that British journalist from the BBC who spent some days on the island: “In Providence, every day is like a lazy Sunday”. Anybody who arrives in this place will understand the arguments that underpin this claim.


Visit the Island is like entering in a short story of sea, pirates and Good.


To start, nowadays is really difficult to find a place where you can breathe so much virginity in the air. The contamination from the rest of the world cannot reach this place that seeks to protect itself against it.


Every construction has to respect the original architecture from the Island and the buildings with more than 2 floors are forbidden. Providencia will never know the meaning of that usual city words as: ‘Trancón’ (traffic).


The absence of world in the atmosphere isn’t free since a big part of it didn’t reach to get neither to Providencia nor to Santa Catalina. Till a few decades ago the tourism knew from its existence. In any case, not many of the Colombian people travel from the rest of the country to this place, at least they aren’t more than the crazy foreigners who do it.


Along the island beaches is more common to find blond swimmers with sunburned skin whose incomprehensible language betrays another continent than the accents from the inside filled with 2 or 3 bags full of chocolates and perfumes, the bread and butter on the streets from the commercial zone of the neighbor San Andrés.


Maybe is the access to the Island which works like filter protector. There are just two ways to get there; by air and sea but both forces the passage through the neighbor San Andrés. Most of the people choose to fly.


The small planes take less than half an hour between these 2 Islands. The route of 90 km by sea between both Islands takes about 3 hours to Providencia and 2 hours back with Catamaran.


The way to Providencia implies stand against the waves while the way back you sail along with them.


The local landscape combines so dissimilar elements among themselves that is so difficult to find them together in another place of the national geography. The awesomeness of its mountains is comparable with the relief of the Bogotá hills but the landscape that can be seen while touring the roadside, which borders the Island, is similar to the landscape appreciated from the Córdoba savanna roadsides with some houses looming on a wide green.


There are unfinished constructions lost into the weed, which gave the impression that the time had stopped in this place.


Its waters and sands are different from those of San Andrés since is a rich Island in mangroves and mineral rocks. When navigating by motorboat to the neighbor Crab Cay you will find a shallow sea with pretensions of being a pool. When going up to the viewpoint in the Cay hill, the blue of the waters makes difficult to distinguish the horizon that separates it from the sky.



In broad strokes, Providencia is a compressed and pure version of San Andrés, the same elements are present but with more intensity. You can see it in its people, music, gastronomy, and culture. The islands taste like lemon pie, corn ice cream, crab fish empanada, spiced fish meat, lobster, snails, shrimps among others seafoods.


In Providencia, the children learn from an early age to read, write and to fish. You see them improvising baits with closed plastic bottles and nylon lines. That’s how they grow up playing with the sea. The population resembles a big family product of the mix between English settlers and African slaves. Last names like Livingston, Taylor, Howard or Hooker prove this.

In those 17 square kilometers is impossible to go out from the house and not find at least one familiar face. However, nobody stays out of its house because although there is any public transport there will be always a known person with a motorcycle to ask for help in the only roadside from the Island. Are just over 5000 souls living 775 km from the coasts of its homeland while the sea stays undaunted defining its lives generation after generation.


Next to Providencia is her sister Santa Catalina. The latter is so photogenic that any accidental shot done in it gives rise to a postcard; is the dream of every Photographer. The seawall of Santa Catalina will never know what a bus station is because instead is full of docks that give direct access to the Caribbean to the homes of its residents.


At the end of the foot road, you get the statue of the Virgen that seems to protect the whole archipelagic. The reigning silent on the atmosphere is broken just with the sound of the breeze and the waves of the sea, which, stay undaunted in the presence of its saint mistress.


When going out of Providencia and Santa Catalina is necessary to go through San Andrés before to go back to the world where the public transportation and the traffic are the harsh reality of the mortals. Fortunately is like that because make the transition abruptly can’t be good for the mental health of anybody.



When you are back to your place of origin you will notice that the world has continued without you. That the people had complained about the current scandal and the papers had news for every day.

Right now you are probably questioning yourself if what you have just saved in your memories was real or was a dream. Then will be the pictures on your phone, which, confirms you that was not a dream, that the nights in South West Bay and the nights in the lover’s bridge were real and that the Providence Island really does exist.


Enrique Trheebilcock Olmos

Enrique Trheebilcock Olmos

Comunicador social, periodista y viajero. Como el mismo lo indica en su Twitter, anda por la vida buscando historias para contar, bien sea desde el periodismo o desde la dramaturgia y se dedica a contarlas como él las ve. Cree que la mejor forma de conocerlo es leyendo lo que escribe.