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Colombia's rebel poets: from 'verbal terrorists' to favoured sons

The Nadaistas, an iconoclastic group of young poets in Medellín, once sparked outrage but now their influence is felt from the metro to the corridors of power

In a small plaza in Medellín, the teenage poets threw the canon of Colombian literature on the bonfire. Their leader, a thin 27-year-old named Gonzalo Arango, stepped forward to read out the group’s manifesto. It was written on a roll of toilet paper.

It was 1958 and the nadaístas – Colombia’s equivalent of the beatniks – were on the verge of notoriety both for their iconoclastic verse and the bohemian lifestyles that antagonised prudish Medellín society. “The Nadaistas invaded the city like a plague,” opens Arango’s most famous poem of the time.

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