by Kit & Ben Knotts
Photos by Guillermo Angulo
Captions with large images
"On 16 March 2001, arriving at my country house, I was abducted by the FARC (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces), a kind of Marxist guerrilla army, and was released yesterday. I found thousands of orchids including Odontoglossum ioplocon and no waterlilies (it was too cold)."
Guillermo was held in a number of camps, moving often by foot and horseback, with most camps high in the mountains. He was well treated, though in the primitive conditions lost some weight. In each place he made a little garden of orchids and bromeliads and "even the most terrible of the guerrillas found orchids for me."
Why was he abducted? "Just for money. As in the 'Godfather', it was 'just business'. They were seeking money in order to continue their war against the government. They asked a million dollars ransom. They were wrong about my money. In all my life I have not earned a million dollars. I have external signs of wealth: a modern apartment in Bogotá with a terrace full of flowers that looks to the city's skyline, a modest car, a Nissan truck for plant transportation and a country house 30 miles from Bogotá. And that's all."
After five and a half months, Guillermo was released, without ransom being paid. In a front page story in El Tiempo, Colombia's leading newspaper, it was reported that the only ransom paid was his taxi fare from the release point to his apartment. The abduction and release were minimized and the collection of orchids was the focus of the article, typical of our friend!
His release was also reported by all of Colombia's television stations and two New York TV channels, because he was Consul of Colombia there with the rank of Ambassador. It was reported in Spain, because he was Consul of Colombia at Barcelona, and in Italy, because he has Italian nationality as well as Colombian. He studied film direction in Cinecittà's Rome and his wife Vanna is Italian.
"My wife, who has had six heart bypasses, was very worried. But our two sons, Alessandro and Paolo, who have good senses of humor, helped her. A guerrilla told one of my sons: 'I need your P.O. Box in order to send you some part of your father's body.' And my son Paolo answered: 'We do not accept partial delivery of the merchandise.' "
In recent time, Guillermo is an international news analyst for Radionet, the only 24 hour news radio station in Colombia and writes three columns on the daily news. He spends weekends at his country house. "Tegualda" is a beautiful Old English house of a former president of Colombia, Miguel Abadía Méndez, who died there in 1947. When Guillermo bought it in 1985 for US$9.000, it was in ruins and is not completely repaired today. There he has some 4,000 orchids in cultivation, naturalized trying to reproduce the original habitat of the plants. He also cultivates Bromeliads, Heliconias and every other possible plant.
He has four ponds with waterlilies and lotuses and his dream for several years has been to grow Victorias but has not had warm enough water in the ponds.
"The Victoria seeds arrived from Florida the very day I was kidnapped. My son Alessandro, knowing nothing about plants, said to himself 'My father will be very happy to come back and find the Victoria.' He asked the dedicated gardeners of "Tegualda", Crisanto and Hilda (family photo at left) to put the seeds in a barrel on the sunny terrace. They started to grow.
Though transferred to an aquarium on Guillermo's release, the water temperature was still too low for them to thrive. The addition of a submersible aquarium heater brought one baby through to transplant to a larger pot and larger growing space. "I found an old bathtub and transplanted the Victoria (a 'Longwood Hybrid') there." With heater.
As we write this in December of 2001, the Bathtub Victoria has made three flowers and thrives. Guillermo says, "I think this is the first time a person in Colombia, outside the Botanical Garden of Bogotá, has cultivated a Victoria."
Guillermo is an extraordinary photographer whose sees stunning light qualities and contrasts as few others. In his galleries we display not only his view of water plants but many other images from his garden. More of his photos appear in the gallery of our garden as well, with credits on the larger images.
He also provided us with a quotation that is now on our "Victoria Wall" and seems to be a mutual motto:
Guillermo's Galleries | Index of Orchid Images
Mother, you are my one and only | Madre no hay sino una
A New Orchid Discovered in the Asphalt Jungle
Victoria, a love affair | Tegualda, another love affair