Showing posts from August, 2010

One Family's Return Trip: Plaza Bolívar North Side

A quote from Colombian Founding Father, Fransico de Paula Santander, is what greets you at the front of the PALACIO DE JUSTICIA (PALACE OF JUSTICE). It reads:

"Colombianos las armas os han dado la independencia, las leyes os darán la libertad" (Colombians arms have given you independence, laws will give you freedom!) However, the site of Colombian Justice has a relatively short and tragic history. In it's short history, there has actually been three different buildings that have occupied the spot. The first was built in the 1920's. It stood until the Bogotazo of 1948. The story of the Bogotazo should really be a blog of it's own, and it will have to be. But, here is the condensed version. On April 9, 1948, a political candidate -- Jorge Eliecer Gaitán -- was assassinated. This led to protests, violence, repression, disorder, and the start of a period known as La Violencia in Colombia. In Bogotá, one of the acts of defiance on April 9 was the burning of the Palacio of…

One Family's Return Trip: Plaza Bolívar East Side

The Plaza deBolívar is the center of the original city, and like the Washington Mall, connects the centers of government. This year it celebrated 472 years as the city center, though its current form was built in 1959-60, when it was decided that it was best not to have the city center be a parking lot.

The Plaza is surrounded by beautiful historic buildings. On the East is the CatedralPrimada, originally built out of mud with a straw roof in 1538. The Cathedral has actually been rebuilt or remodeled several times. The most recent remodel was in 1823 following an earthquake. The Cathedral houses the remains of the Spanish Conquistador, GonzáloJiménezdeQuesada, as well as those of Antonio Nariño. (Read about him here: It also houses a large collection books and records that date back to 1612.

Next to the CatedralPrimada is the CapilladelSagrario. Begun in 1660 and finished in 1700. It houses the reli…

One Family's Return Trip: Afrocolombian Hero

Colombian Law #70 passed on August 27, 1993. Law #70 is also called the “Law of the Black Communities”. It is considered one of the greatest achievements of the Afro-Colombian civil rights movement. Read more here:

Since today is the anniversary of the passing of this law, I thought I'd share what we learned yesterday at the MuseoNacional about the role of Afrocolombians in Colombian Independence.

Here is a translation: In Venezuela and the Colombian Caribbean region, the majority of the patriot army was of African descent. During the wars, the militias, the guerrillas, and the armies (both royalist and patriot) became vehicles for social climbing and the temporary suspension of hierarchies that separated the people by their race, occupations, affluence and social differences. The participation of the people, and particularly the free blacks and mulattoes (mixed race) peoples in Cartagena and M…

One Family's Return Trip: Museo Nacional

In February, I wrote a post about the MuseoNacional. Read more here:
However, because of the Bicentennial, most of the museum's regular exhibits are closed. Instead, there is a special exhibition on the Bicentennial. I loved the theme, "NO COLOMBIAN HAS AN EXCUSE TO NOT KNOW HIS/HER HISTORY". I felt proud to have tried so hard to teach my little Colombianitos their history. They recognized the Battle of Boyacá pictures as well as the portrait of Pedro PascasioMartínez and SimónBolívar. Mommy beaming with pride. :) If you are going to be in Bogotá from now until the 10th of October, I would not miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to live the Independence of Colombia.
Here are some examples of what you can see at the Museum. You can see more at the virtual exhibit: Battle of Boyacá
Simon Bolivar's Sword

SimónBolívar's Crow…

One Family's Return Trip: Step By Step Transmilenio

One of the most practical ways to get around Bogotá is on the TRANSMILENIO. Here is a HOW TO GUIDE for getting on the Transmilenio.

Step #1 Go to the ticket booth at a Transmilenio Bus station. [There are 3 kinds of stations: PORTALES (Main -- located at the beginning and end of the line); INTERMEDIAS (Intermediate -- found at major intersections); and SENCILLAS (Simple -- found along the route approximately every 1/4 mile). Maps of the routes can be found here:
Step #2 Purchase your Bus tickets at the Taquilla. Currently the price is $1600 (in 2010) pesos per person, and includes transfers to other buses (ALIMENTADORES) that are located in the station where you get off. If this seems confusing get someone at the hotel where you are staying to tell you where to get on and where to get off or shange buses to get where you are going. We relied heavily on our friends, whom we affectionately call the Tomato and his wife, to explain to us how t…

One Family's Return Trip: Tourist Info

One of the first places you should visit upon arriving in Bogotá is the main plaza, LA PLAZA DE BOLIVAR. (More on that in as different post). However, when you get to the park, you will want to go to the side opposite the church. There, on the corner, you will see the following sign.
The "i" stands for INFORMACIÓN (information). This is where you can speak to tourist information workers. Today there were 3 girls working: one spoke English, one spoke French, and one spoke German. They can offer you a guide book and map in a dozen different languages. The book has a list of dozens of places that you can visit while in Bogotá. We are only going to be here for 5 days, so what I can cover in the blog is limited. There are lists of places that I have never visited, but we hope to eventually make it to all of them. I picked up the Tourist Map in English and the guide book in Spanish. This is what they look like.

One Family's Return Trip: Goodbye and Hello

The hardest part of the trip is saying 'goodbye.' Months of planning just come to an abrupt end. My husband's family, however, knows how to send you off in style. Not with some whippy BBQ, no. This party comes complete with entertainment.

They call it Noche de Hogar "Home Evening". This one started with a discussion about the importance of being a family, being there for each other, and working to stay united forever. It was awesome to be included, we aren't just the gringo relatives, we are part of the family -- albeit a part they don't see too often, but a part of the family nonetheless. Promises of e-mail, pictures, and Facebook messages were made.

Following the lesson, out came the food -- Abuelita Carmen's Famous Empanadas. Recipe here:
This was followed by a talent show -- who knew the sobrinos (nieces and nephews) were such great musicians. My 10 year old …

One Family's Return Trip: Carne a la Llanera

The Llanos Orientales (the departments of Casanare, Arauca, Meta) are large, flat grasslands famous for their cattle and cowboys. Another tradition is the Llanero style BBQ. These Llanero style BBQ restaurants can be found all over Colombia, and the meat is spectacular. Most places allow you to order a BANDEJA with beef and pork. It comes with fried potatoes and yucca.

Give it a whirl! Definitely finger-licking good!

One Family's Return Trip: The Corner Store

In Colombia, on nearly every street there is a corner store -- TIENDA. They are filled with candy, gum, chips, sodas, beer, bread, matches, and all sorts of odds and ends. These are like magnets for Colombian children. That is a problem for parents wanting their kids to eat healthy while visiting cousins that are used to eating tons of GALGUERÍAS (junk food). After many, many NOs, the boys finally wore us down -- Cokes, Patacones (plantain chips) and Chicken flavored potato chips.
This is an important cultural note. There are some "Can't really say you've been to Colombia, unless you've tried them." Galguerías. Below, is our list. Feel free to add your favorite.
#1 Chocolatina Jet: Inside the wrapper you will find a sticker. You can purchase a book for about $3 where all of the stickers go. The book then serves as a kind of picture encyclopedia.
#2 Papas Fritas Margaritas: It is well worth trying the POLLO (chicken) and LIMON (lime) flavored varieties of Papas Fri…

One Family's Return Trip: Buying Bread

My husband jokes that being Colombian means that you could never do the Atkins diet because rather than an all protein diet, you are pretty much on the all carbohydrate diet. Not a lunch is served without rice, not a breakfast without arepa and/or bread. But, not the milquetoast sliced bread we buy here -- NOOOOOO! It has to be the fresh, baked within the last hour kind. In fact, though sliced bread is available at stores like Carrefour or Carrulla. DO NOT BUY IT! It is dry and gross. Only good for toast, and not many people have toasters. Back to the bread. In smaller cities, there are PANADERÍAS everywhere. In Bogotá they are harder to find. But, they smell delicious!!! Your nose can literally lead you to them. You can know that you have found a good one if there are lots of people buying bread there. In some cases, the bread is behind glass containers and you tell the workers which kind you want. In others, like the one pictured here, you grab a basket or tray, a pair of tongs, and …

One Family's Return Trip: Buying Meat

Living where meat comes in neat little styrofoam containers covered with plastic wrap can never offer you the thrill of a CARNECERÍA. Here large chunks of meat and long sausage links hang in the open air where you can smell them and see the flies enjoying lunch. I am sure that they leave the meat out longer than the USDA would advise, but I have never gotten sick. And while I know this would make my mother's stomach churn, I have to say that I have never tasted better meat than what we buy here at the EL RODEO meat market. But definitely a cultural trip.

One Family's Return Trip: Iza and El Batán

The area between Paipa and Iza is famous for it's many hot pools. Just outside of Iza, there is a great hotel and pool called El Batán. For $40 per night per couple you can stay and enjoy the "therapautic" waters. Or, for $5, you can jut go for a swim in the pools. (I know they look green, but we were told that this is because of the minerals in the volcanic waters. )

Everyone had fun and no one got sick, in fact my son's eczema cleared up -- maybe there is something to those healing waters after all.

After swimming we picked up coconut ice cream in the snack shop -- soooooo delicious! Definitely a must try!! If you are interested in visiting El Batan the phone number for reservations is:578 779-0000.

One Family's Return Trip: Participating in the Informal Economy

A few weeks ago, I posted about the informal economy of Colombia. You can read more here:
Little did I know that I would get a chance to participate in it when I wrote the post. I have a niece that recently lost her job and is struggling to support her 2 children. So, she decided to sell ArepasdelHorno on the street. This kind of job is called the "rebusque". It roughly means doing anything to earn money.
The arepas she sells are traditional in Tolima where she grew up, but have never been seen in Sogamoso, Boyaca. The arepa dough is cooked in a clay oven in little metal tins called a "paila". The cooked arepa is then removed, cut in half and a slice of cheese is added which melts from the heat of the recently cooked arepa. They are truly delicious!!

Since we were in Ferias y Fiestas, there were a lot of people looking for food on the street, so she needed help taking the grains off…

OneFamily's Return Trip: Munidal de Arepa

My husband's family loves any reason to get together and eat. This time, we hosted an arepa making contest, dubbed the Mundial de Arepas (Arepa World Cup). Every family had to bring their best arepa to be judged by 2 non-family members. There were arepas made from arepa harina, some made from hand milled corn, some from Bienestaria, arepjuelas from flour, and arepas made from Peto. In all 8 different arepas were entered in the competition. The winner got only bragging rights, but everyone enjoyed a laugh and a taste of all eight entries. Oh, and my gringa bread entry -- took honorable mention :)

One Family's Return Trip: Tejo

We spent the afternoon of Independence Day eating and playing Colombia's official national sport -- Tejo.

Tejo has its roots in the native Muisca culture. Originally called Turmequé, the sport has been played on the Altiplano Cundiboyacense for over 500 years. It was the sport of the Indian aristocracy, who used a gold disc and simply threw it into a circle placed in clay.

Today, the game is played on a field called a cancha, about the size of one really wide bowling lane (2.5 meters wide x 19.5 meters long). On each end, you'll find an angled container filled with clay. In the center is the round metal target, called a bocin. There are also triangular pouches of gun powder (called mechas) in the clay.

The object of the game is to throw a tejo (a small metal disc weighing about 1/2 - 1 pound) into the bocin and blow up a mecha -- if you do this you get 9 points. If you throw the tejo and hit the bocin, but there is no gunpowder explosion, then you get 6 points. There are a few ot…

OneFamily's Return Trip: Cabalgata

Most Colombian community festivities (Fería de Cali, Feria de Manizales, and yes Ferias y Fiestas in Sogamoso) will include something called the CABALGATA. The English word is the Cavalcade. A cavalcade is a parade that usually includes horses rather than floats. The cabalgata in Sogamoso included hundreds of horses, most ridden my people from the Llanos (Yopal, Agua Azul). Most of the riders tried to show off their horses' ability with the Colombian Paso Fino gait. Check out this video to see what the Colombian Paso Fino gait looks like.

One Family´s Return Trip: Independence Day Flag Ceremony


One Family´s Return Trip: Tía Isabel

Most Colombians probably wouldn´t claim their relatives that live on remote mountain sides, but we love to visit Tía Isabel and Tío Castro. It is like going back in time 100 years. This time the boys learned to milk cows. And cut grass with machetes. In Colombia, having Indian ancestry isn´t exactly something to brag about. But, after tracing my husband´s roots back 8 generations (and sometimes up to 10 generations), we have made the discovery that he has Indian ancestry. He is, in fact, part Chibcha. Even if we hadn´t have found proof, we might have suspected it based on this father´s family tradition of pot making, that somewhere back there someone was an Indian who practiced the traditional art of pot making.
Read more about Tía Isabel and her world famous pots here:

One Family´s Return Trip: Independence Day Parade

Here are some pictures of the Independence Day Parade. It lasted almost 3 hours ....crazy....and fun!!!

Los Lanceros