Luz Dary Cogollo works to preserve plants legacy2019-08-29T23:03:22+02:00



With traditional recipes, Luz Dary Cogollo works for the market squares preserve their legacy.

52 years ago, Córdoba` savannas saw Luz Dary Cogollo Bedoya born: a woman with the spirit of standing in any park or street and teaching people the importance of market squares for the country’s gastronomic and cultural tradition. It all started in Tolú, 50 kilometers from Sincelejo. “I spent the best years of my life there. My babyhood and my childhood are there,” she says between sighs, with her eyes fixed on the sky, as if she wanted to feel again by the heat of his grandmother’s stove who taught her the Caribbean cuisine art along with her aunts and her mother.

This is precisely how she named her first restaurant in 2011 in La Concordia square in Bogota, Tolú, for which he fought for more than a year in an Institute for Social Economy (Ipes) project and which she had to leave two years ago, when for structural failures the square was dislodge.

However, that has not been the only life challenge of this monteriana. 42 years ago, when she arrived in Bogota, she had to knock on doors to cook anywhere, give away her work and even clean fish.

“I arrived at a fish market in the El Lago neighborhood. I remember that the back hall was huge, I could not even approach the restaurant, only people who were going to eat got in there. I cleaned any amount of fish and went back out through the same hall,” he says while fixing the red scarf that adorns his head.

On another occasion, she remembers, she resorted to selling lunches on the North Highway with 170th Street. She had to take a bus with one of her three children, the one in the middle, Erick, and take packaged food. They were almost the first to get in and the last to get off and that was the daily hustle; work that sometimes left her feeling bitter, well, she says there were those who ate and did not pay her.

“In those days, they were building TransMilenio, that was years ago. One day I said no more, when Erick got off the bus and, to save the lunch juice jug, they almost killed him on the highway,” she reveals.

In La Concordia Square, located on calle 14 con carrera 1.ª, Luz Dary reached up to 500 clients, including students, workers and tourists from the sector who ate in Tolú, her restaurant. The love with which she treated her visitors, in addition to her famous Yam Soup on weekends, made them return and bring more guests.

When she left the square in 2016, she started working on whatever came out. Again, this freckled brunette woman with more than one and a half meters tall and a penetrating gaze, walked the life’s journey which one day, put her in front of a thriving business and, another one, left her out on the curb without even a spoon to cook her famous dishes.

However, ‘Mama Luz’ – like that, with no accent mark and a Cordoba accent – as her clients call her, they never forgot her. Seven months ago, when she managed to get a place again in the renovated Plaza La Perseverancia, they frequented it once more again.

But that did not happen overnight. Luz sadly tells that, when she opened once again, only three clients arrived at Tolú. “Given that, I went to the carrera 7.ª to deliver flyers. I put my apron with the logo ‘Go back to the square’ on and I told those who passed by: ‘hey, if you don’t go, we will close the market square, which is our legacy’, and it started to fill”, she says with loud tone; despite the flu that afflicts her since a few days ago,  she defends the market squares vehemently since she was able to move forward thanks to one of them.

Now, the cuts and burns on their hands, the same ones that cooked last year the best ajiaco santafereño, according to the District Tourism Institute (IDT) contest, reveal their journey through the the country`s flavors and teach them to other cooks in the Plaza La ‘Perse’ how to serve the dishes, how to make them more balanced and how to keep their customers.

“We meet with the other stalls cooks and I advise them: if it is very saturated with flour, you have to worry about dishes are not dripping, sometimes I prepare a homemade sauce and distribute it,” she says.

Now, Luz Dary is grateful to be nominated, along with renowned chefs Leonor Espinosa and Harry Sasson, for the La Barra awards, a specialized gastronomy magazine. “I don’t know who put me there, however, I tell you that several clients have written to me, they tell they and their families have voted for me. I am glad to know my food still exists in their memories,” she says.

Thanks to this labour, Luz has managed to meet chefs like Carlos Gaviria with whom she teaches master classes for gastronomy students at the University of La Sabana, transmitting the traditional Colombian food`s value.

“My kids ask me, ‘Mama Luz, how do you know the food has the right amount of salt without a scale? How do you do it, the answer is in my roots; that’s how I was taught and that’s how I teach. Cooking is love, that’s why it tastes so good,” he smiles and greets the diners who have just arrived because it is already noon and the hustle is almost beginning.

“In a square you find Colombian flavor. Do you see that lady over there? She is 82 years old; she has lived here all her life and she, sitting there, is the one who guides her daughters and granddaughters in the restaurant. She is a Colombian tradition bearer like every cook here,” she says.

‘Mama Luz’ will continue her fight. Like when, in Santa Marta, she stood in front of the market square and when she saw that people did not get in there for lining up in the supermarket chain in front, she told them: “Hey, that man you see there gets’ tired ‘all day long selling you those tomatoes which you buy here for the double.’ Thus, she will keep “facing” life with toughness and temperament.

Source: El Tiempo – tuesday/2018