Today I went and sat in a work of art that responds to nature. My day was finished. Sunset was at 7.33 this evening. A few days ago, driving Christine Gutierrez to her hotel, I turned a corner into Punta del Este and she told me about a house on the right as we went in. CasaPueblo. HouseVillage. In Punta Ballena.

It’s the work of a local artist, now deceased, Carlos Páez Vilaró. He was born in Montevideo. He bought this incredible home with a view of the sunset sea. He built unusual whitewashed sculptures and gradually created a remarkable place that responded to nature. His legacy has been to leave it to the Uruguayan government, with the understanding that it stays open to the public. He has a poem to the sunset that he recorded with Spanish guitar. It plays to every sunset, and people come and participate. I had to pay an entry fee and then I wasn’t allowed to sit on the terrace without buying something. So there was no stipulation in the bequest that his art was meant to remain free. This happy-go-lucky country can be happy go lucky because of these taxes and charges everywhere. The Uruguayan government is very very good at extracting taxes, but they give back and it works – because the population is low. At some point the balance will tip to too many people as it always does, but right now there’s opportunity here. It’s too late to buy property unless you’re from here in which case there are workarounds. A lot of the tax is for visitors. If you say it’s a company you pay more. But also I think this whole bureaucracy exists now as a wedge because this place was built on laundered money and they don’t want to be what Rishi wants us to be anymore.

But I paid and sat in a fine seat at Carlos’ old gaff. I looked out over the ocean. The beautiful sun dropped into the sea. The poem played and I found myself thinking about time and about endings. I thought about how happy I am right now, all the way over here. This one -time loner is integrated with a group of humans who are trying to lead change by example in a traditionally dirty industry. I thought about happiness, generally. I thought about my parents today as I watched the sunset. I thought about all the sunsets they saw. I thought about how they both would have severally engaged with this work I’m doing here. Nuts and bolts but in one of dad’s old industries. “The Godfather of Speed”. Ha. And mum would’ve loved the sunset even if she had internalised The Daily Mail enough to worry for my safety in the foreign place. We watched so many sunsets together, holding that hand that is now a ghost of a memory.

Carlos made CasaPueblo into a work of art. He could’ve been robbed or burnt or something. He wasn’t. And this is why we have to make. It still stands and helps pay for the fact I can stagger home tipsy and clutching an expensive phone in South America and still have both my arms and all my money and my phone in the morning. Bad things happen occasionally in the world. But if we don’t risk anything in case something goes wrong we eventually atrophy to bitter little stumps. I’ve seen it.

I watched the sunset. A poem played in Spanish. I understood some of it. I let it wash over and let my own thoughts come in. I wept with joy and loss. I was happy and sad and I knew both deeply. I could not tell you if the tears were joy or grief. They were sunset tears, knowing the losses, knowing the privilege, knowing the luck I’ve made. We all stand between what we have and what we don’t. All we can control is the direction we face.

I was going to post an extract of the sunset poem now. It’s lovely to hear and to read in translation. Like much great poetry it is simple thoughts well expressed. One of the surprises for me is that the poet knew many would weep about the parents and the grandparents that saw other sunsets. As I say, I was going to post… But looking at the internet, sites get taken down for quoting it. There is no way in hell the poet intended his home and work to be turned into a moneymaking exercise, but the safety in this country has to be paid for and this is part of it. If I post an extract some bastard will ask me to pay or cut the blog. It’s not Neruda…

I’ll give you the gist.

Sun. There’s like loads of sun all over the place yeah? Other countries get sun too. It’s leaving us but you know right like other countries will have it still yeah I think um yeah. So like goodbye and all that huh. I mean my parents must have had these feelings too yeah? Like watching you go into the sea and knowing you’ll come back. Cos you always do come back, sun. And we all have eyes and our eyes see things different but the same or something. Great. So there it goes. Sun go now. Bye bye sun. Go Go sun. Sun here now gonegone.

That’ll be 400 pesos. My PayPal is

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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