The Llanos Orientales (Eastern Savannahs) of Colombia consist of the Departments of Meta, Arauca, and Casanare.
Villavicencio, the capital of Meta, is known as the “Gateway to the Llanos” (La Puerta al Llano) because of its location as the first city between the Andes and the Llanos. Because of its close proximity to Bogotá (about 1 ½ - 2 hours by car), Villavicencio, often called Villavo, has become a weekend getaway spot for many people from Bogotá.
Villavicencio is a relatively new city for Colombia. In the 1840’s, settlers from the near Bogotá started a small city, which in 1855 became Villavicencio – named after Antonio Villavicencio, a hero of the war of Independence. Today, Villavicencio might well be considered one of the capitals for the “Desplazados” the people displaced by the Colombian Civil War.
Yopal, to the North, a poorer cousin to Villavicencio, is the capital of Casanare. Because of distance and poor roads, Yopal is more isolated. I have heard it referred to as the “Wild West” of Colombia. It’s closest interior city is Sogamoso, Boyacá – therefore, not surprisingly, there are a lot of Boyacenses in Yopal and lots of Llaneros in Sogamoso.
The major cities of the llano have an economy based on agriculture, cattle ranching, and petroleum.
The llanos are definitely Tierra Caliente. The climate is hot and very humid, with an average temperature of 81 degrees farenheit (27 degrees celsius) – of course it can get considerably hotter and with that humidity it feels even more sweltering (80% humidity). The rainy season begins in April and ends in August, and December to March is the driest part of the year.
Like in Cali, the up side of the climate is that no one will expect you to wear a suit and tie or pantyhose. However, nice summer dresses and pants with a collared shirt would be appropriate for your appointments with ICBF and the court.
Ruth, the woman that helped me prepare information about this part of Colombia, said to make sure and suggest that families that are in Bogotá for several weeks plan a week long getaway to Villavicencio.
Here is her suggestion: “When you go to Villavicencio, you will have two options of places where you can stay: Hotels in Villavicencio, or stay on a "Finca" or a farm -- summer home. I would recommend staying on a Finca. Last summer, I stayed at a finca called: "Hacienda El Paraiso", it is just past the Army/Airforce Base on the outskirts of Villavicencio. The Hotel accommodations on the Farm are excellent; the rooms all have Flat Screen TV's with Air conditioning too. They charged just US$50 a night per room. The Service from the Staff was excellent and your night stay also included breakfast! The Kids loved the Pool "Piscina" and the staff also took us on a Farm Tour to see the Horses, Cows, Sugar Cane, and all the Crops, Plants, Birds and Chickens. The Kids loved the Horseback rides $5 US per person.”
It is important to remember, like all of the regions in Colombia, Llaneros too have their own culture including unique food, music, sports, and dance. This week you can look forward to listening to Música Llanera, Seeing Coleo and Joropo, and learning about Chigüiro.
Also, for those of you in the US, Telemundo is currently showing a Colombian Telenovela filmed in the Colombian Llano. It is based on the book, Doña Barbara, though it is set in modern times. Whether or not you live in the US, you can see episodes at the following link:
· Photo by pattoncito