book hack


Wade Davis

5 mins

3 key insights

Visual, audio & text

Anthropologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis describes the Río Magdalena - Colombia's main artery - from its headwaters to its mouth.




by Wade Davis


Water creates us and flows through us. For millennia, humans have built their societies around Earth's water sources, but today, we don't often stop to think about it. The Río Magdalena, or the Magdalena River, is a 949-mile long river flowing through the heart of Colombia, and is one such life source.

Colombians have long lived, unfairly and unjustly, in the shadow of Colombia's international reputation for cocaine, corruption, and violence. Their rich history and the beauty of their country has long been overshadowed by the crises it has encountered – especially that triggered by Pablo Escobar and the cocaine trade he ran across the American continent.

Wade Davis, a renowned writer, photographer, explorer, and anthropologist, paints a breathtaking picture of the culture and people of Colombia in his 2020 book Magdalena: River of Dreams: A Story of Colombia. A National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, Davis takes us along the route from the upper Magdalena out to sea and helps us understand the country along the way.

Favorite quote

Like the Mississippi ... the Magdalena is both a corridor of commerce and a fountain of culture, the wellspring of Colombian music, literature, poetry, and prayer. In dark times, it has served as the graveyard of the nation ... And yet always, it returns as a river of life.

- Wade Davis

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