Skip to main content
Colombian guerrilla badass. | Photo: Matěj Ptaszek
Colombian guerrilla badass.| Photo: Matěj Ptaszek
Matěj Ptaszek - Wed, March 29, 2023 - 08:00

Songs Written with a Machete #4: "The Fight with the Devil"

I spent eighteen months of my three-year South American adventure in the Colombian wilderness, in a mountain village near the infamous Medellín. As a bluesman, I was impressed by local songs, whose lyrics would wake up even Oblomov from his lethargy. I decided to translate the juiciest pieces and bring them to you in the series Songs Written with a Machete.

"In Pablo Escobar's time, nobody felt safe in Medellín. One day in 1987, my younger brother was standing in a corner with his friends and, as the youngest of the bunch, he had to go to a nearby convenience store to buy bottles. When he came back with five Crystal beers, his friends were lying shot in a pool of blood. They never found out who did it or why they did it." This gritty history was told to me by my friend, intellectual and university historian Fernando Cuartas, near the site of Pablo Escobar's infamous Mónaco residence, which, until its famous demolition in the spring of 2019, was said to be haunted and inhabited by the ghost of the famous narco-baron.

Nothing is black and white, they say. But in the case of the narco-war waged by Pablo Escobar against everyone, it was black and white. Either evil or good. Plata o plomo. Money or death. Octavio Mesa, mentioned in the second part of our series, also sang about the war between good and evil. His song Le Pelea Con El Diablo is a chillingly honest confession of a man severely tested by a bloody era.

The Fight with the Devil

As I am a wanderer and nobody terrifies me,
when I take out my machete, the earth begins to tremble.
Yesterday I fought the devil, who they say is very fierce,
I hit him with a machete so hard that it surprised me.

I threw away my bag and my poncho and I sang to myself,
and with the first machete blow, I knocked off his tail.
We continued the fight and before people saw it,
with the tip of the machete, I painted his skull.

Come over here and I'll show you the tail
(whoever doesn't believe me and doesn't want to listen).
Come over here and I'll show you the tail.

When the devil was hurt, he turned into a spider,
he came at me like a shot and almost, almost caught me.
Then, I passed the machete to my left hand
and with a strong machete blow, I knocked off his first leg.

And I gave him about five strikes and shouted "Hail Mary"
and, before he knew it, I turned him to mush.
He had three and a half thousand cuts on him in the end 
and a sign that said: "It's not over yet".

Come over here and I'll show you the tail
(whoever doesn't believe me and doesn't want to listen).
Come over here and I'll show you the tail.

Well, the paisas, the inhabitants of Medellín, don't mess around. The machete is their advocate, their prosecutor and their antidepressant.

Escobar's Mónaco residence in Medellín (February 2018). | Photo: Matěj Ptaszek
Tagy Songs Written With a Machete Octavio Mesa

If you have found an error or typo in the article, please let us know by e-mail

Matěj Ptaszek