29 August 2015

The New York Times: “The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogotá”

Carlos looked at Wilber, his mirror image. They took a quick peek at each other — they both shouted Ay! and turned their backs, covering their eyes, each turning red. Wilber started speaking, but Carlos was having a hard time catching what he was saying. Instead of rolling his R’s, Wilber spoke with hard D’s. The speech impediment! Carlos had one as a child but overcame it with speech therapy.

All four started comparing notes, quizzing one another, finding out which essential qualities the identical twins shared. Who were the crybabies of the family? Carlos and Wilber! Who had sweet temperaments? Jorge and William! Who were more organized? Carlos and Wilber! Who were the girl-­chasers? Carlos and Wilber! Who were the strongest? Jorge and William!

Even still, while Jorge was seeing sameness with every glance he stole at William, Carlos was seeking differences between him and his country double. Look at our hands, Carlos said. They’re not the same. Wilber’s were bigger, more swollen, marked with scars from countless quarrels with the knives of the butcher shop and the machetes he used in the fields growing up. Carlos, by contrast, frequently got manicures; his nails, as is not uncommon among male professionals in Colombia, were covered in clear gloss.

Susan Dominus

Part South-American telenovela, part serious scientific study about the effects of genes and environment on personal development, this is a fascinating story about a couple of identical twins mixed up after birth and raised separately until their chance encounter two decades later. Along with their conflicting emotions and difficulties adjusting to this new reality, a striking aspect of the article is the wide gap between living in the poor Columbian countryside and the capital, how this divide forces choices and shapes lives beyond the power and will of individuals.

The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogota
(From left) Wilber Cañas Velasco, Carlos Alberto Bernal Castro, William Cañas Velasco and Jorge Enrique Bernal Castro.
Stefan Ruiz for The New York Times

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