When Kiteflying Takes a Surreal Turn

Ben Ruhe
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Ines Elvira Uribe, of Medellin, Colombia, not only holds an annual international kite festival in her city but attends the occasional festival elsewhere around the world. Although some countries in South America have booming kite industries (Brazil’s beaches teem with fliers), few South American kiters other than Uribe, an educator by profession, move outside their continent to demonstrate their considerable art.

Uribe can tell stories that few organizers can match, as she did when interviewed during a junket to Chinese kite festivals. Her first competition in l993 produced a lulu. As Uribe tells it, two of the visiting fliers, Derek Kuhn and Don Eccleston, of England, were scheduled to give a school workshop as part of the festival’s outreach program.

The two were unable to find a taxi to take them to the school because of a neighborhood ruckus and so they adjourned in frustration to the hotel’s parking lot and flew kites instead. What they didn’t know was that they were right at the scene of one of the most dramatic events in Colombian history. Pablo Escobar, the country’s kingpin drug dealer, had just been tracked down by police and military using electronic directional finding equipment and shot dead attempting to escape arrest.

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