Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fiesta de San Pacho -- Quibdó

In 1648, a group of Franciscan missionaries arrived to the area of what is now Quibdó, Chocó. With them they brought a large statue of San Francisco de Asís. Their mission was to 'civilize' the natives of the region and build new routes for the Gold from Chocó to get to the capitals of the Nuevo Reino de Granada.

Shortly after their arrival, they organized a floating parade. A long line of canoes was headed by a canoe bearing the statue of San Francisco de Asís. By 1684, the natives had become restless with the new religion and killed off the missionaries. This might have been the end of the encroachment on the natives for a while, had it not been for the Spanish conquistadors that had moved into the area in 1670, bringing with them a large groups of African slaves who worked to take gold out of the rivers and hills in Chocó.

The African slaves in the area took San Francisco de Asís as their patron saint, and he was eventually named the patron saint of Quibdó. In 1926, a massive festival was organized in his honor from September 20 - October 4. It is often called the 40 days of partying and the 1 day on reflection.

Today, the festival includes dances and parades and is a unique mixture of Catholic and African traditions. Throughout the festival, the statue of San Francisco de Asís is paraded through every neighborhood in the city.

You can learn more about the festival and see pictures at the official website:
Here is a YouTube video of the fiestas last year:

It would be nice to celebrate this festival with any child adopted from the Pacific coast of Colombia.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


The Currulao is the main dance of the Afrocolombians on the Pacific Coast of Colombia. Its rhythm and music clearly have African roots.

The music consists of a 6/8 rhythm played by up to 10 percussion instruments. These include the marimba de chonta, two cununos (which are 2 drums: one is considered male, and the other female), the tambora or bombo (a big round drum), the redoblante (a small portable drum), and 5 guasás (kind of maraca like instrument made from the stem of the Guadas plant).

The vocals are usually sung by a woman who narrates stories in a rhythmic rhyming way.

See a video of a currulao musicians here:

You can buy a video that will teach you (and your little ones) how to dance the Currulao. Here is the link:

* Foto by

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Pacific Coast -- La Costa Pacífica

The Pacific Coast of Colombia is considered to be one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. In fact, the area contains one fifth of the diverse plant species known in Colombia. There are also many different kinds of animal species, including mammals, birds, fish, and amphibians. The major departments located on the Pacific coast are : Chocó (capital Quibdó), Valle de Cauca (main Coastal city = Buenaventura), Cauca (main Coastal City = Guapí), and Nariño (main Coastal city = Tumaco).

The city of Lloro (which happens to mean 'cries'), Colombia, is the wettest zones on the planet, receiving 542 about inches or 13,300 millimeters of rain each year.

In spite of being rich in natural resources (water, minerals, forests, and plants and animals), it is typically considered to be the poorest part of Colombia.

The majority of the population are the descendants of African slaves who had been brought to the region to work as miners. This brings me to an interesting historical note. In 1728, a slave named Barule, together with his 2 brothers Antonio and Mateo, fostered an insurrection among the salves in the region of Chocó. They won their freedom and established a PALENQUE (an independent city for ex-slaves) that they called Tadó. Barule was declared king over the new city kingdom. However, the kingdom did not last long. A few months after its establishment. Soldiers were sent to quell the rebellion and Barule and his brothers were executed.

Once slavery was abolished, the slaves were left to the coast. There were few attempts at providing education for them -- and today the Pacific region has the lowest rates of literacy in the country. Even today, there is a feeling among many Colombians from the Pacific coast that they are a forgotten part of Colombia.

Evey year a few fortunate families go to Quibdó to receive their child. And others receive children in Cali that were originally from Buenaventura, or in Pasto with the child being from Tumaco. The majority of these children have roots in the Afro-Indigenous peoples of the coast. This week I will be posting more about this area, their dances, their fiestas and even a recipe.
Photo by:

Friday, September 25, 2009

My Cuñada's Recipe for PATACONES

The author of our Monday post on Ibagué mentioned to me in an e-mail that she had eaten a plethora of plantains. Here is a recipe for one plantain recipe: Patacones. Patacones are popular in most of Colombia and are commonly made in Tolima.


Green Plantains

Step #1

Cut green bananas in pieces about 1 inch in length.

Step #2

Fry in hot oil -- but remove before they start to brown.

Step #3

Mash the fried banana.

Step #4

Place the half cooked mashed banana back in the hot oil and cook until golden and crispy.

Here is a You Tube video of the process.

*Photo by:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Souvenir Ideas -- Tolima

Lest you think that fine ceramics come only from Boyacá, there are many fine potters in the department of Tolima. As in Boyacá, in Tolima the tradition of pottery comes from the original indigenous inhabitants of the area.

While in Boyacá the ceramics are orangish-red in color, in Tolima they are blackish with red undertones.

This type of pottery comes principally from a town in Tolima by the name of La Chamba, near Guamba.

The life of every villager in La Chamba revolves around the making of these ceramics, just as it has done for centuries. It is the job of the children to collect the clay and allow it to dry in sacks. Once the clay has dried, they beat the chunks into dirt using sticks. Then, the women use the dirt to make a clay and then they model it into pots and other pieces. The items are then left to dry for 30 days. When they are sufficiently dry, the men of the village build the fires where the pots will be baked.

The pots get their unique black color from a smoking process that occurs during the baking. Apparently, the use of donkey dung in the fires creates the release of an acid in the smoke that causes the pots to turn black. Bringing home the unique black ceramics from La Chamba would be a great souvenir for any child, especially one born in Tolima. Considering looking for these pots in the artisan markets in Bogotá or Ibagué.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lechona Tolimense -- Not to Miss Cuisine

When talking about the food of Tolima, there is probably nothing more Tolimense than their signature dish -- LECHONA. In fact, the production of Lechona for fiestas in Tolima dates back several centuries. It really IS what's for dinner in Tolima at just about any big celebration -- weddings, baptisms, Christmas, New Year's etc.What is Lechona? In a few words, stuffed roasted pig. How is it made? First, you take the 50 pound pig and debone it and clean it out --making sure to leave the skin intact. Next, you take all of the ribs and meat and chop them up with an axe and add them to about 10 pounds of pork meat (cut in small chunks) and marinate (adobar) it all in a mixture of garlic, green onions, cumin, salt and pepper. Then, you cook the meat in lard. You also prepare rice, peas, and potatoes to add to the mixture.
When all the stuffing ingredients are mixed together, you stuff the pig and then sew it up. You cover the skin with bitter orange juice and cook it all for about 15 hours. Serves: 50
Lechona Tolimense is delicious, heart clogging, but so worth at least one try. It is typically available in at least one restaurant in any medium to large city in Colombia. Ask your driver to take you to try some, and of course, if you are in Ibague -- don't miss the opportunity to try authentic Lechona Tolimense.
*Photos by:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Festival Folclorico Colombiano

In 1959, the first Festival Folclorico Colombiano was organized and held in Ibagué, Tolima. The festival is always held in Ibagué in June. This year it celebrated its 50th anniversary.

The festival highlights folkloric music, dance, and food from almost every department in Colombia. In adddition, there is a beauty contest.

During the week long celebration, there is the Festival de Festivales where a number of folkloric groups display their talents the field of music and dance. The groups invited to present in this mini-festival are typically the most well-known and successful groups in Colombia.

Another important feature of the festival is the Desfile de San Juan (Saint John Parade). In the parade there are floats, bands, beauty queens, and the dancing folkloric groups. In addition, there are people dressed as mythical and legendary characters in Colombian history.

There is also a Tamal Day (Día del Tamal) where people can try Tamales Tolimenses and any number of native Colombian foods --- YUM!!

If you are lucky enough to be in Colombia in June, perhaps a great place to visit to get a flavor of the folklore of the whole country is Ibagué, Tolima.

Photo by:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ibague, Tolima

I want to thank Carrie Trotter for making this post. She is currently in Colombia for the adoption of Johan, a child that she and her husband met through Kidsave. Ibague is one of the few areas my Colombian family hasn't been to, so I asked Carrie to put together a post about the area based on her experience.

Here goes:

Ibagué, a city of approximately 500,000 people, is located in the Colombian Andean region in central Tolima. It is surrounded by mountains on all sides except for one plateau on the East and is nestled on the slopes of the Cordillera Central. Ibagué is on the road from Bogota to Cali and is consequently an important commercial center and road transport hub. The fertile countryside produces coffee, cacao, tobacco, sugarcane and rice.

Ibagué is known as the music capital of Colombia due to its famous conservatory and long tradition of offering advanced musical education. Today, the conservatory, founded in 1906, comprises an old, dilapidated building as well as a more modern one. While the buildings are not that impressive they are an important part of the city’s heritage. The conservatory is located just around the corner of Plaza de Bolívar.

Plaza de Bolívar, located in the heart of the historical area, is not only an important symbol for the people of Bogotá but also a crowded meeting point popular with photographers, food vendors, street theatre groups and children running around hundreds of pigeons on the square.

Colombia's most important institutions surround Plaza de Bolívar: Capitolio Nacional (National Capitol), the seat of the National Congress; a French style building known as Edificio Liévano (Liévano building), the seat of Bogota's Mayor; Palacio de Justicia (Palace of Justice) and the Catedral Primada (the Cathedral), in which lies the tomb of Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada, Bogota's founder. These buildings, with the exception of the Cathedral are not open to the public. In the middle of the plaza is a statue of Simón Bolívar made by the Italian sculptor Pietro Tenerani. Dating from 1846, it is the city's oldest public monument.

Another area of interest in Ibagué is a large Botanical Garden just on the outskirts of town. The Jardín Botanico San Jorge boasts over 500 species of plants and miles of walking trails.

Outdoorsmen and hikers use Ibagué as a starting point for the hike to Los Nevados National Park. Within the park is Nevado del Tolima, one of two active volcanoes near Ibagué.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dia del Amor y Amistad -- Colombian Valentine's Day

Tomorrow is Colombia's Valentine's Day. Actually, it is called the "El Dia del Amor y la Amistad" the "Day of Love and Friendship". It is a traditional celebration in which friends, lovers, couples, etc. express their love for each other.

In Colombia, the Dia del Amor y la Amistad, is celebrated on the third Saturday of September. It was establish by law in 1969.

There is an interesting reason why September was chosen over February 14. Traditionally, Valentine's is celebrated around the world on the day that Saint Valentine was decapitated. So, in order to better reflect a day of LOVE rather than a day on which a tragedy occurrred, Colombia chose to celebrate on a day other than February 14.

As in most places, this day of Love is celebrated with cards, music, flowers and if you are lucky a serenade. Below is a link to a song that my husband dedicated to me on our first Día del Amor y la Amistad. It was chosen as the most beautiful song in Colombia during a contest held by RCN back in the early 1990's. It is called "El camino de la vida". It talks about love and family over an entire lifetime the lyrics are beautiful.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Try This Reading Technique -- for all language groups

While I am working with a Speech Therapist and a member of a University's ESL Faculty to put together more suggestions that can help with the teaching of ESL to your newly adopted child, I wanted to make 1 suggestion now that can help you as you read aloud to your child. Here is the technique:
(TO MY EUROPEAN READERS: I found research that shows Dutch speaking children have similar issues to those learning ESL. We might assume, therefore, that children learning other languages -- particualrly those very different from Spanish -- Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, Finnish, Danish, German, etc. would suffer from similar language proficiency problems. So, you can try using this technique as well).

Step #1:

Read the title and look at the pictures. Label pictures that your child cannot name. The talk about or predict what the story is about.

Step #2:

Read 1 page or 1 paragraph, then stop and ask a question about the content. Once child answers, model the correct answer in a short simple sentence.

Step #3:

Continue Step #2 until the story is complete.

Step #4:

Then go back and ask the same questions (reword if possible) and again model the answer.

Another thing you can do is talk about the pictures on each page prior to reading. Help fill in vocabulary gaps by supplying the words. You can ask questions like: What is happening in this picture? What is he wearing? What is he wearing on his neck? Using this technique I discovered my son did not know the word for mittens or scarf. Once you see a vocabulary word that the child does not know, try to use the word over and over again. "Oh look, he is still wearing a scarf." "In this picture, what is he still wearing on his neck?" Then later, use the word in another context. Perhaps go through your closet and find a scarf. "Look, what is this?" Your right, it is a scarf. Do you want to put on the scarf?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


If you have a child adopted at 5, 6, or older, it is clear that they will need English as a Second Language classes at school, and most districts will help you. But what about the adopted toddler or preschooler? Most people -- and teachers -- assume that the child will adequately learn English by the time the child goes to school simply because they only hear English spoken in the home. Ah, but is that true?!?!

I became aware that my own son (now 4 1/2) may be having difficulty with English acquisition when I started teaching him to read. He was/is doing great sounding out words. We started with the words that end in AT -- CAT, RAT, BAT, etc. He would look at the picture of a RAT, sound out R-A-T and then say MOUSE. I would correct him and say RAT. Then, finally one day he said, "Mommy, what is a rat?" OOPS! In addition to simple vocabulary issues, there are other issues that he has with language, so I reached back to my Master's degree in TESOL and started researching about Language Acquisition in Internationally Adopted kids. Here's what I have discovered.

I came across an article by Diane Robinette, originally published in September 2007, in the TESOL Essential Teacher (unfortunately access to the article on-line is for TESOL members only). However, I would like to summarize it here as the information contained therein is ESSENTIAL for adoptive parents.

The article starts with a typical conversations had by an adoptive parent and a teacher. It goes like this: "Our daughter (adopted at 2) did well in Kindergarten, and she speaks English so well that most people think she is a native speaker. But she is struggling with reading" or "Our (adopted) son...loves science and seems to understand the concepts, but he has difficulty completing the written assignments."

Unfortunately, internationally adopted children "do not fit the model that is characteristic of most second language learners in U.S. schools." In fact, some schools will not offer ESL help because English is the primary language spoken in the home, while others will not test for special education services because the "test results would be invalid since English is not the child's first language."

Internationally adopted children cannot be considered BILINGUAL because in most cases the child will have little or not contact in their native language following the adoption -- thus halting first language acquisition. Then, they begin the process of acquiring a second language and "for a time their language skills are not age appropriate" in either language. Eventually, their new language completely overtakes any first language acquisition.

Research suggests that children adopted before 18 months "usually learn English as their first language." And these children typically achieve all of the important linguistic milestones on time.

However, parents of children arriving home after 18 months of age should be aware that just because your child seems to speak fluently, does not mean that your child is proficient.

So, what should you know and do as a parent?

1. Ensure that your school "provides proficiency testing even if your child appears to speak English like a native speaker." Ms. Robinette points out that while a child can speak at an age appropriate level, it may take "5 to 7 years to reach their academic potential in a second language. Often well in kindergarten but experience difficulty with academic subjects during early elementary years." So remember, CONVERSATIONAL PROFICIENCY DOES NOT PREDICT ACADEMIC SUCCESS.
2. Remember that your child is entitled to receive ESL services. Demand a certified ESOL teacher. If there are none in your district, speech/language therapists may be your next best resource.

3. There are also issues regarding learning disabilities. Often schools refuse to test ELL (English Language Learners) for special education because of language difficulties, so often kids are not tested for years -- thus losing valuable time in correcting learning or language disabilities. There is another great article in the TESOL Essential Teacher relating to this issue from September 2005 called Difference or Disability, you may want to refer to it.

4. School staff and administrators may be unaware that academic difficulties in internationally adopted children may stem from the fact that they are ESL learners. As a parent, you need to advocate for your child. Make your school and your child's teacher aware of your child and his/her needs. I suggest that you get a copy of the articles mentioned here and include them in a packet to your child's teacher and school administrators.

5. The most common problems are an inability to use abstract and figurative language and an inability to understand words (limited vocabulary).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Latest Wait List Statistics

As of July 1, 2009, there were 3,768 potential adoptive families that have been approved by ICBF to adopt. These are the families -- in Colombia and abroad that are currently on the WAIT LIST.

Of the 3,768 families on the wait list, 242 are Colombian and receive PRIORITY and PREFERENTIAL treatment and 3,526 are foreign families. That means that the Colombian family will be considered for any available child BEFORE any foreign family. If the Adoptions Committee considers that the Colombian family makes the best match, then the available child is assigned to the Colombian family. If the Adoptions Committee does not think that the available child makes a good match with the Colombian family, other families are then considered.

Some Colombian families (those living in Colombia) will remain in the Region where they processed they paperwork -- no matter how many children are available. This means that some Colombian families wait many months, others get referrals in a few weeks. Usually the expat Colombians will be assigned to a region based on the immediate availability of children, unless they have otherwise requested a region.

Again, as of July 1, 2009, the following families remain on the Wait List:

144 families who were approved for adoption in 2005
666 families who were approved for adoption in 2006
948 families who were approved for adoption in 2007
1,196 families who were approved for adoption in 2008
572 families who were approved for adoption in 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Latest Adoption Statistics

ICBF recently updated their adoption statistics. Below is a summary of those statistics which were current as of July 1, 2009.

In 2008, there were 2,542 children of all ages placed for adoption. Of which, 1,019 were placed with Colombian families and 1,523 were placed with Foreign families. It would be important to note that COLOMBIAN families are families in Colombia or families with at least 1 Colombian parent living abroad.

Between January 1, 2009 and July 1, 2009, there have been 1,227 children placed for adoption in Colombia -- 524 to Colombian families and 703 to foreign families. Of these, 174 were placed by Casas Privadas and 1,053 were placed by ICBF.

ICBF would like to point out that as of July 1, 2009, there were 8,127 children and adolescents that have official declarations of adoptability and belong to the category SPECIAL NEEDS. Special Needs in Colombia is defined as children with disabilities, children over 8 years of age, and sibling groups of 3 or more. These children are available immediately and families requesting children in this category will receive PRIORITY and PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT.

Here is the breakdown of the 8,127 adoptable children in the Special Needs Category:

743 ---- children younger than 7 that belong to large sibling groups

480 ---- children younger than 7 with a physical or mental disability

3,460 -- children between 8-17, some belong to sibling groups

1,679 -- children between 8-17 with a physical or mental disability

598 ---- children over 18 in a good physical state

1,177 -- children over 18 with a physical or mental disability

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Book??

I have been approached by some adoptive parents with the suggestion of making the Raising Colombian Kids Blog into a book, with the profits going to help fund the charity Friends of Colombian Orphans. Before I spend the hours required to make this a reality, I wanted to know the level of interest in purchasing the book.
I plan to use and the price will vary depending on how many pages I decide to put in the book and the quality of book you'd be interested in purchasing. The costs of self publishing are kind of high -- though there is a 10% discount if you purchase 10 copies or more. How much would people be willing to pay? Which topics would you want in the book? Which things should I leave out? What other things would you want included before publishing?

Here are the prices as quoted on Blurb:
Pages-----Softcover, Hardcover, ImageWrap
20-40 ----US $19.95 US $29.95 US $31.95
41-80 ----US $24.95 US $35.95 US $37.95
81-120 ---US $29.95 US $41.95 US $44.95
121-160 --US $36.95 US $49.95 US $52.95
161-200 -US $43.95 US $56.95 US $60.95
201-240 -US $50.95 US $64.95 US $69.95
241-280 -US $57.95 US $71.95 US $76.95

I will add $10 to the price for the donation to Friends of Colombian Orphans and you will need to pay for shipping. So far I have 6 buyers in Australia (thanks Carina) but what kind of response would I get from people elsewhere?
Making the book will be very time intensive, even though the content is slurped up from the blog by Blurb, you have to order it and place the pictures -- which is another story.
I'll need picture donations as I cannot freely use the FLICKR pictures if I publish the book -- though I am working on getting some permissions. If you have pictures that you would be willing to give me the rights to, or if you are an artist or illustrator and would like to donate a drawing or two please contact me privately.
For more info on the organization for Colombian Orphans -- click here:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Expectations -- Older Child Adoption

Typically parents want to offer their child every opportunity to discover and develop their talents. But when is enough enough for an older adopted teen, and how do you avoid the self-esteem issues that come from giving up. Jane has prepared another thought provoking message for those adopting older children:
When do you reach the “enough already” with your adopted teen?
Our daughter had flute lessons in Bogotá when we were awaiting sentencia, and then continued with flute in junior high school. Since she had no musical knowledge, she had to start from the beginning, learn how to read music, how to count, etc. She didn’t mind practicing, but her progress was slow. Compared to the other kids in band who had taken instrument lessons since 6th grade, she was far behind. Even with weekly private lessons, we knew that she would never catch up in this particular instance. By the end of 8th grade, she decided that she didn’t want to continue playing the flute, so she dropped it and moved on to something else.
Trying and failing, or just not measuring up to the required standards is a tough life lesson for all of us. It’s especially hard for your teen who has not had all of the cultural advantages of a middle class American upbringing.
I remember all of the extracurricular activites that were offered to our biological children when growing up: soccer, piano, saxophone, volleyball, dance, etc. Our kids did a lot of things after school and on weekends. They were successful at a few. Those things that they didn't enjoy were dropped.
When N. dropped flute, we tried to couch the experience in terms of trying new things, and finding where your strengths lie. Your child, however, might already have some self-esteem issues, and failure to perform can make it even harder for her. N. tends to want to please us and was reluctant to admit failure and pack it in. We had to reassure her that it's OK not to be perfect, or even LIKE everything you try.
The flute reared its ugly head yet again this school year. Because N’s new school is so small, and because she indicated on her enrollment form that she had taken flute before, the band teacher urged her to join the band. Since she is accustomed to following directions, she joined, even though I knew that this would be a huge struggle for her. After only a week, N. came home frustrated and confused. She couldn’t keep up with the other flautist who has been playing for 5 or 6 years. The band teacher’s suggestion to N. was for her to take private lessons . We told N. that she gave it a good try, but that there was no reason for her to have to struggle with this again. She dropped band, and we can tell that it is a big relief for her.
We spent three summers allowing N. to try out various camps. She excels in pottery and brings home lovely bowls and vases that make her proud. I've taught her how to knit and now on weekends, she and I are fixtures at our local yarn store: she is currently working on a lace shawl. We are pleased and relieved that she has found crafts that she is good at and feels good about. Who knows what else will appeal to her later on? We’ll keep seeking.
For more information on Jane's Foundation please click here:

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Bogotá For Beginners: Salto de Tequendama

A great Saturday or Sunday afternoon excursion while staying in Bogotá is to visit the Salto de Tequendama -- mentioned on Monday. The waterfall itself is about 137 meters high and is located just 30 kilometers from Bogotá. I recommend seeing it on a weekend as the traffic in Bogotá is lighter and you will be able to get through the city's traffic easier.
There are some ASADEROS at the falls where you can enjoy traditional Colombian food. We visited this place the weekend after we picked up our son. At almost 2, he loved to wander around the grounds eating arepas. Our 5 year old enjoyed the story and taking pictures. Just a cool place to say you've visited.

(Update March 2010) Just got an e-mail from an adoptive family in Bogota and need to say that visiting the Falls From December - March during a drought is not a good idea. Not much of a falls. The picture is from an October visit after a rain storm.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A Book to Add to Your Collection

Author Stephanie Sepehri has brought the Chibcha legend of Chibchacún to life for young readers. This is a must have for your growing collection of literature for your Colombian child. The book is entitled:


Purchase the book, new or used:

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Great Flood of CHIBCHACUM

One of the most common stories associated with BOCHICA (see the previous post) or NEMQUETEVA is the legend surrounding the "Great Flood" and the waterfall located at Tequendama. This is the story of his first visit and was originally most closely associated with the name NEMQUETEVA, though today most use BOCHICA in reference to this story.

The legend is as follows:

The God CHIBCHACUM (meaning the Head of all DIETY) had become irritated by the people's inability to keep his commandments. They had become full of iniquity following after the Devil -- HUITACA -- committing all kinds of blasphemies.

In his anger, CHIBCHACUM decided to punish the people by sending a great flood. He flooded the plains of Bogotá destroying the crops and homes of the people. Many were killed and some -- those who were less sinful -- escaped into the mountains and began to plead to CHIMINIGAGUA for help. He recognized their humility and sent BOCHICA to rescue them.

BOCHICA arrived under the sign of a rainbow and threw a golden spear into an area of large boulders and rocks that were blocking the escape of the water. The rocks split asunder and a river began to flow creating a magnificent waterfall -- known as the SALTO DE TEQUENDAMA.

As a punishment for his revenge, CHIBCHACUM was forced to carry the Earth on his shoulders. Thus explaining the frequent earthquakes in the area.

Picture from:

Friday, September 04, 2009


Among the most widely known of the Chibcha myths is the story of BOCHICA -- also called NEMQUETEVA, SADIGUA, or XUÉ (which meant the SUN). Fray Pedro Simon reported that each one came at a different time and did something different. But, he thought it might have been the same man. Lucas Fernandez de Piedrahita states that they were all the same man.

Bochica was a man that appeared on the Altiplano Cundiboyacense riding a strange animal, that by description sounds like a camel. This man was definitely a stranger. He had white skin, white hair, and a long white beard. He carried a Macana (a wooden weapon with sharp flint sides) and he carried a cross. He wore a tunic and had long hair kept in the "style of a Nazarene" as the early Spanish priests identified it. (see footnote #2)

He was credited with bringing "civilization" to the Chibchas. He taught them to weave, paint and make ceramics. The blankets, clothing, and pots made by the Indians were considered their greatest treasures. In fact when Hernán Pérez de Quesada (the brutal brother of the Conquistador -- Gonzálo Jiménez de Quesada) requested that the natives bring him all of their treasure, he became enraged when they brought him blankets and ruanas -- but that is another story for another time.

Back to Bochica. In addition to teaching the Chibchas basic skills, Bochica also taught moral values and religious traditions, heretofore unknown or practiced by the natives. He taught that the Indians should worship one supreme God -- Chiminigagua. He taught that he was the representative of Chiminigagua. There was also a belief in a Trinity -- with three Gods being one in purpose -- that being the salvation of man. This was evidenced by statues found in Boyacá of Chiminigagua with one body and three heads. The Chibchas explained that it represented three persons that were united in heart and mind. (See footnote #1)

Bochica's main message was that people should love each other, that they should serve each other and fully repent of wrong doings. He also taught that every person had a body with an immortal soul and that every soul would some day be resurrected and then judged. The Chibchas had also learned about the importance of the 'cross' from Bochica, and as a result, graves were marked by a cross. (footnote #2)

The Spanish also reported that the Chibchas believed in a story that was remarkably like that found in the Old Testament. Apparently, the people were dying of bites from a poisonous snakes. However, when they looked to the snake placed on a pole, they would be healed.

Bochica spent many years among the Chibchas, going from village to village preaching his gospel. He also left red drawings on many rocks in the area that were to serve as reminders of his teachings, though by the time the Spanish arrived the Muiscas (who had no written language) could not recall what the drawings meant. (see footnote #3)

When finally it came time for him to depart, Bochica left a miracle to remind the Chibchas of his visit. He stamped his feet on a rock -- located in what is today Iza, in Boyacá -- leaving deep foot print indentations. For years the rock remained a site of pilgrimage, even after the arrival of the Spanish. However, with time, worship in and around the rock declined and today its whereabouts are unknown.

The striking similarities between many of the Muisca beliefs and Christianity made more than one early Spanish priest speculate that the Chibchas had actually been visited by one of Chirst's apostles. The most named was Bartholomew. They also agreed that the original teachings of the supposed apostle had been corrupted over time and the people had fallen into apostasy, though many of the original teachings could still be found.

As a result, Catholic priests found that Chibcha descendants were easier to transition into Catholicism than many of the other natives found in the Americas. Most embraced the new religion and over time all vestiges of previous worship disappeared.

#1 -- Muiscas: representaciones, cartografías y etnopolíticas de la memoria By Ana María Gómez Londoño
#2 -- Historia General del Nuevo Reino de Granada by Lucas Fernandez de Piedrahita -- on line at
#3 The picture I used on my blog is of one of those drawings. The original is located in Fusugasugá.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Bachué -- The Birth of the Chibcha People

According to Chicbha legend, Humans in general were created by Sugamuxi and Ramiriquí under the direction of Chiminigagua. But where did the Chibchas come from? They also have a creation myth that surrounds their arrival on the Altiplano Cundiboyasense.

According to the legend, in the area around Tunja there exists a lake called Iguaque. It is from the waters of this lake that Bachué (bah chewAY) first appeared. She was surrounded by light and was accompanied by a three year old little boy. She walked down the mountain to the plains and built a hut -- the first Chibcha dwelling -- in the area of what today is the town of Iguaque. When the child grew up, Bachué married him -- the first Chibcha wedding ceremony.

The couple was very prolific and Bachué was very fertile. With every pregnancy, she bore 4 to 6 children. The couple would travel to different areas and in each, they would leave children. This is how they were able to populate the land. When the two were very old, they called all of their descendants together for a large meeting on the shores of the Lake Iguaque. There, Bachué gave them her final words of counsel. She exhorted them to live in peace and harmony with each other. Once she had finished giving her words of advice, she and her husband changed into large snakes and swam out into the lake.

Bachué and her husband became venerated as gods. The lake then became a place of worship. The Muiscas would make pilgrimages there where 2 "Bohíos sagrados" -- sacred huts were built. One hut was for Bachué and the other was for her husband. In one hut was a solid gold figure of a little three year old boy. With the boy was a solid gold statue of a rock that is used to grind corn.

When the Spanish arrived, they found a number of offerings that had been made to the child statue including beautifully made blankets, gold bars, tejos, and other small figurines.

The Island Sanctuary of Fúquene was another site of religious pilgrimage. There the Chibchas would worship many different gods, including Bachué. It was there that priests could learn their craft in a sort of seminary called a CUCAS. Also, there were 100 priests assigned to take care of the shrines and help the pilgrims that came to visit.
The legend of Bachué had an impact on Chicbha culture and that impact continues today. Because of Bachué there was a worship of the feminine. Families were matriarchal. The power of the Cacique was passed not through the father, like in Europe, but through the sister of the current leader (the oldest nephew). Mothers were respected and loved and they were the 'true leaders' of the family.
The historian and author Javier Ocampo López points out that this legend has also lead to a certain respect for lakes. Even today, campesinos in Boyacá and Cundinamarca have a certain fear of them. They believe that there are spirits and enchantments that are related to them. The will not swim or wash their clothes in them. And, when passing them, the campesinos today will make the sign of the cross. Some believe that the spirits not only inhabit the water, but they can travel below the ground and sap human strength.
Photos by dgolzano

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Creation of Man, the Sun and the Moon -- Chibcha Legend

Once the earth was created, there was still no sun or moon to illuminate it and no people to enjoy it. All was lonely and as dark as a night without a moon. Something had to be done.

With Chiminigagua, were 2 men -- the first caciques, Sugamuxi and his nephew, Ramiriquí. Their first assignment was to create man. In order to populate the earth, they decided to make men and women. In order to create the first man, they used yellow dirt. Then, they used herbs and stems to create women.

Yet, all was still dark, so the cacique Sugamuxi ordered his nephew to go up into the sky and become a sun that could illuminate and give life to the earth. This, Ramiriquí did at once and the earth was bathed in heat and light.

Once this was done, however, there was still concern that there was no light to rule the night. So, the cacique Sugamuxi went up into the sky and became the moon.

When the Spanish arrived they experienced firsthand the Chibcha celebration of the Sun and the Moon. In Sogamoso, annually at the end of December, a festival was held in memory of Sugamuxi and Ramiriquí. The festival was called HUAN. At this festival, 12 Indians, dressed in brightly colored clothing, carried feathered strings and small birds in a parade through the village. In front of the 12 was a beautiful woman dressed in blue. All would sing and cry out, "We are all mortal, and will someday become as the dust of the earth, without knowing what will be the end of our souls." The Spanish reported that the event was very somber and sad, yet very moving.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

August 2009 ICBF Wait List

I have preempted the original post for today -- You can look forward to more myths and legends tomorrow, and now also into next week. The most recent Wait List was published by ICBF on August 27, 2009. The ICBF Wait List applies to adoptions through ICBF only -- not through CASAS PRIVADAS. It also ONLY APPLIES TO NON COLOMBIAN FAMILIES. It DOES NOT reflect special needs children. The definition of special needs are children with disabilities, children over 8 years of age, and sibling groups of 3 or more. There also has been movement in many categories, all dates that have advanced I am putting in BOLD and RED. Also, this list only reflects that there are no more dossiers at the national office prior to the date shown. Dossiers from before Jan 2006 in the 0-23 months category, for example, may still need a referral, but they have already been sent to a region and are no longer at the national office.

Age of Child ------- Date of Application Approval by ICBF
Child 0-12 months ------ Feb -2006
Child 13 - 23 months ---- Feb-2006
Child 2 years ----------- June-2005
Child 3 years ----------- Oct-2005
Child 2 - 3 years -------- Apr -2006
Child 3 - 4 years -------- Jul-2005
Child 4 years ----------- Aug-2005
Child 5 years ----------- May-2006
Child 4 -5 years -------- Apr-2006
Child 5 - 6 years ------- May-2007
Child 6 years ----------- Nov-2008
Child 7 years ----------- Apr-2009
2 Siblings 0 - 4 years --- Mar-2007
2 Siblings 0 - 5 years --- Jul-2006
2 Siblings 0 - 6 years --- Aug-2007
2 Siblings 0 - 7 years --- Nov-2008
2 Siblings 0 - 8 years --- Oct-2008

The most striking change is the addition of the 2 siblings 0-8 years category.