The original Gringo Trail, we suppose, followed the route of Francisco Pizzaro, who arrived in Peru in 1532, and scorched a path of death and destruction up from the coast and into the Andean redoubts of the Incan Empire, in search of gold and jewels to enrich the coffers of the Spanish crown, and, of course, Pizzaro himself.
But the modern Gringo Trail has origins almost as prosaic and shrouded in mystery. It dates back 35 years, to 1969, when a group of refugee hippies known in Aquarian legend as The Nine, set figurative sail from the fast-encroaching corruption of the Flower Child dream in San Francisco to discover and explore the fertile virgin fields of South America.
The word “Gringo” itself is the object of polemic and punditry from linguists and pseudo-experts both North and South of the Rio Grande. Largely discounted is the colorful theory that the word derives from the green uniforms worn by US troops who appeared in Texas at the time of the Mexican revolution, prompting popular protest cries of “Green Go Home” (discountable if for no other reason from the unlikelihood of Mexican peasants shouting anything in English). More likely is the derivation from the archaic Spanish word of the same spelling, meaning “speaker of unintelligible gibberish” and itself derived from the Spanish word for Greek (greigo), a seemingly universal generic for an unintelligible language, as in “it’s all Greek to me.”
This modern Gringo Trail stretches from the pristine Caribbean beaches of Colombia, country at that time a hippie Disneyland of fantastic flowers, gigantic fruit, and a cornucopia of psychotropic substances unrivaled in the entire world, but today cursed by the negative counter-image of that very richness, lost costal jewels like colonial Cartegena, Baranquilla and Santa Marta, home of the legendary Santa Marta Gold, scent so heavy that opening a bag will fill a room with flowery powered perfume, south through Medellin, source of the equally legendary Punta Roja, the capital of Bogot