Boyaca is one of the splendid departments of Colombia for its landscapes and its vegetation, and of most interesting for its history. The famous battle of Puente de Boyaca put an end to Spanish colonization; Simon Bolivar had passed by the village of Tutazá, where he had requested the Virgin of the Rosary, and when he had called upon “the Blessed Virgin of over there where they make pots”, he had been victorious in the famous Battle of Pantano de Vargas; the statues of the Virgin and Bolivar thus decorate the center place of the village, and now, the “Virgin of the small pots”, thus it is called, is venerated every year on the first Sunday of October and those which precede the Ash Wednesday. These days, the village is literally besieged by an huge crowd of pilgrims who visit the church in an attempt to receive a hoped for miracle.
Very many tradesmen unpack their wares around the church, and the potters of the surrounding areas bring their earthenware jars, their pots and areperos...The potters are not very numerous anymore, and almost all come from the hamlet close to Tuaté, whose inhabitants are dispersed on the majestic hills. They preserve rudimentairy but beautiful techniques of manufacture and baking; that is nowadays very rare in Colombia...the baking of the pottery on the ground, without furnace, such as the original inhabitants of America before the conquest had practised it.
We went from Belen to Tutazâ on foot through the wet and green landscape, among the morsels of corn and barley, the animals in the valley, the nets of smoke rise from the baking of the last pots, the maletas (carrying cases) - the pottery is bond tight in the nets of hemp cord, between each of them they are protected by some grasses or some ferns - and are placed on the backs of small donkies or on the backs of the potters themselves. And like this, the peasants of Tuaté prepare for the festival of the Virgin of the Pots.
We have appointment with Isabel Garcia the valiant potter. She awaits us and watches for us from her house -- a tiny adobe at the foot of a gigantic fir tree, which agitates its arms as a sign of welcome. The dwellings of Tuaté are all built in the same way -- two small buildings facing each other. One is the kitchen, very dark, with its open fire or its three stones for the hearth. On a frame of braided branches under the roof the pots are placed for final drying. Facing the kitchen, is the other small building. This one has two small rooms with wood beds and a storage area containing the grain, the potato bags, and corn hanging from the ceiling out of reach rodents. There are calendars or holy pictures on the walls. The meals are eaten outside under the roof the connects the two buildings. It is there that one rests with shelter from the sun or the rain. It is there that one works the clay.
Within three steps of the house, there is a laundry area where clear and fresh water runs continuously.
The mines are far away and it is a challenge for the potter to get there.. The clay is extracted with wood tools because the use of metal risks exhausting the resources of the mine, according to the local belief. The potters are helped but little by their husbands who are occupied in the fields and it is necessary for them to bring back the dirt on their backs, sometimes walking several kilometers.