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Showing posts from February, 2011

Myths for Monday -- Caballo Cojo & the Vaquero del Otro Mundo

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In the Department of Bolívar (as well as other Atlantic Coast Departments), there are two myths related to horses and riders. This makes sense because Bolívar's main industry is livestock. Both myths tell of scary emissaries of the devil.
#1 The Caballo Cojo (Limping Horse)
In villages in the Center and South of the Department of Bolívar, stories are told that on dark nights a horse can be heard whinnying and galloping across the countryside. The sound of the hoof beats are said to be terrifying and without equal. People who have heard the sound, have also often seen an amazing sight -- a black horse with penetrating, glowing, red eyes --whose presence leaves them frozen and dumb. It is in this frozen and mute state that they will then see the horse, which has only 3 legs, run past. Behind the apparition, will remain a nauseating smell of sulphur.
#2 The Vaquero del Otro Mundo (Cowboy from another Word)
In several of the towns and villages of the department of Bolívar, people c…

When Cultures Collide

Two years ago, a scene played out at a hospital in Quibdó, Chocó, which has repeated itself many times over the years. Here is what happened. An indigenous woman entered the hospital with a sick baby. Once the baby was being taken care of, the mother got up and in broken Spanish stated, "I no want baby. I no want baby." The baby had down's syndrome and was suffering from malnutrition.
An article in the Colombian weekly magazine, SEMANA, reports that this scene is more common than one would like to admit. According to the author, in several of the Indigenous groups of Colombia there is a belief that having a child with any kind of deformity, a cleft lip, crossed eyes, missing limb or digit, mental retardation, etc. is a punishment of the Gods -- one which they cannot accept. They discontinue feeding the child and, without intervention, it will starve.
In other past cases, prior to ICBF intervention and education, children were simply smothered at birth. Now, IC…

Los Colores de la Montaña -- The Colors of the Mountain

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Competing this week for the best Iberoamerican film at the Cartagena film festival is the movie "Los Colores de la Montaña". The movie is directed by the Paisa, Carlos César Arbeláez. It is his first movie. It has already won an award at the international film festival in San Sebastian. Read more here:
http://www.sansebastianfestival.com/in/noticia.php?ap=1&id=1453
The story is about the friendship of 3 boys who live in rural Colombia and are surrounded by guerrillas. They love futbol (soccer), and one in particular, Manuel (age 9), dreams of playing as a professional goal keeper some day. Unfortunately, they lose their soccer ball in a field with landmines. You can see the trailer below. And, here is to hoping that it will eventually appear on Netflix :).

Tragic Cultural Loss

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Within Colombia's Ministry of Culture is a small program known as the Program for the Protection of Ethnolinguistic Diversity. This week the program announced a tragic loss of Colombian cultural heritage -- the loss of 5 native Colombian languages, with 19 on the critically endangered list.
For its size, Colombian boasts an inordinate number of spoken languages, with 65 native languages and 2 creole languages -- this is not to mention Spanish. More than half of those spoken languages are spoken by fewer than 1,000 people. The most threatened language is that of TINIGUA, which as of the date of the report was spoken by only 1 indigenous person living in the department of Meta. The NONUYA language, from the area of Puerto Santander in the department of Amazonas, is next with only 3 speakers. Followed by CARIJONA spoken by 30 people who live in the department of Vaupés.
Among the other 19 languages on their way to extinction is the creole of San Basilio de Palenque, a language…

TUNES FOR TUESDAY --Beloved Alicia

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My series of 5 Songs Most Colombians Will Recognize turned out to be heavily slanted towards Salsa Music. For this reason, I decided to continue by adding to the list songs from other genres which I think also speak to the Colombian common memory.
As with many others, today's song is a love story. Alas, a tragic one. It is based on a true experience from the life of Juan Manuel Polo Cervantes, born September 18, 1918, in Concordia, Magdalena, Colombia. Juan Manuel became a great poet and musician. To honor him, his friends changed his name to Juancho Polo Valencia. Juancho Polo being a cool way to say his name, and Valencia because that was the last name of the best poet in Colombia at the time (most likely Guillermo León Valencia, 1873-1943).
The story goes that Juancho Polo eventually married his sweetheart Alicia Cantillo. She quickly became pregnant with their first child, but possibly developed pre-eclampsia. She was swollen, she bruised and bled easily, and was ve…

Myths for Monday -- La Patasola

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In the department of Atlántico, as well as in other departments, people tell tales of having seen La Patasola (the One Legged Woman). Like the Sayona and the Mancarita, it is one of the many myths that portray scary, monstrous women who are out to trap hapless men.
When a victim sees the Patasola, they will see what appears to be an extremely beautiful and seductive woman -- from the waist up. From the waist down, she has one, single leg -- hence the word Pata (leg) sola (alone). In Black Widow type fashion, she is looking for mate that she can devour.
Some stories say that she calls out to a passing man, begging for his help. Then, as the man approaches, he becomes enchanted by her beauty, and follows her deeper into the forest. As they walk, she begins to change. Her hair becomes matted and snarled. Her mouth large and teeth sharp and long. Her eyes look like those of a tiger and sometimes are reported to glow.
The poor man, that is drunken with love, then becomes the helple…

Drug Sub Seized

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In case you missed it, this week the Colombian military in the department of Cauca seized a drug submarine.
See it here:


This reminded me of a Nat Geo special I saw a few years back (2003), and when I searched, I found it on YOUTUBE. You can see it in 3 parts:





Most Popular Combined Names in Colombia -- Female

This list covers women of all ages in all of Colombia.
Luz Marina -- 153,357 Colombianas share this name.María del CarmenAna MaríaClaudia PatriciaMaría ElenaMaría EugeniaMartha CeciliaLuz DaryMaría IsabelMaría TeresaAgain, this list reflect the entire country. There are some pretty big regional variations from this list.
In Bogotá, the list looks like this: María del CarmenLuz MarinaSandra MilenaSandra PatriciaDiana MarcelaDiana CarolinaClaudia PatriciaMaría TeresaAna MaríaOlga LucíaIn Medellín, it looks like this: Luz MarinaBeatríz ElenaAngela MaríaMaría EugeniaSandra MilenaLuz ElenaPaula AndreaAna MaríaMaría ElenaClaudia PatriciaIn Cali, the list is: Paola AndreaLuz MarinaMartha CeciliaMartha LuciaSandra PatriciaMaría del CarmenMaría FernandaMaría EugeniaMaría ElenaClaudia PatriciaIn Barranquilla, Luz MarinaMaría del CarmenAna MaríaClaudia PatriciaCarmen CeciliaSandra MilenaMaría ConcepciónBeatríz ElenaAngélica MaríaCarmen Alicia

Most Popular Combined Names in Colombia -- Male

Today and tomorrow will mark the end of our series on names. Here goes. Combined names are very popular in Colombia. When you say combined names you are really saying -- first and middle names. However, unlike here in the states, many people in Colombia use both names all the time.
They may use them together: For example, I have a brother-in-law named Julio Cesar. While he is often referred to as Julio, he is just as often referred to as Julio Cesar -- and not just when momma is angry :). "Is Julio Cesar coming?" "What's the news from Julio Cesar?" etc.
Combined names may be used separately at different times: Let me illustrate. I have a nephew named Oscar Leonardo. He has been called Oscar and Leonardo (often Leo) at different times, and sometimes at the same family gathering I have heard some people call him Oscar, while others call him Leonardo. The names are interchangeable.
Names can be combined to make a new moniker: Take the name Juan Esteban. …

Tunes for Tuesday; Songs Most Colombians Will Recognize #5

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This list wouldn't be complete without a song written by one of the most prolific musical minds of Colombia, Jairo Varela.
Back in the early 90s, I remember anxiously tuning in for an interview he gave on Colombian National Television. Jairo Varela was at the zenith of his career then, and having been witness to his musical success, I was ready to finally meet this impressive musician. There are two things about that interview that remain with me to this day. First, he was a man of few words, almost shy. The interviewer had a difficult time prodding for more than just single word answers. I was expecting him to be just as eloquent as his music. Second, he said that at the time he had written and composed more than 300 songs, most of which had remained unpublished. I guess that, in a way, my second observation helps explain the first: He communicated better through his songs.
Jairo Varela, from Quibdó, Chocó, Colombia, might not be as well known as is his band, El Grupo Niche. V…

Myths for Monday -- La Sayona or Mancrita

Today's myth comes from the department of Arauca on the Eastern Plains of Colombia. The legend of La Sayona or Mancarita is shared with other departments of the Llano and the plains of Venezuela.
LA SAYONA was once a happily married woman. When she discovers that her husband is having an affair with her mother. In a fury, she kills them both, but before her mother dies she curses her daughter to spend all eternity roaming the plains avenging all women whose husbands have been unfaithful.
According to the legend, she wears a long white dress and approaches men who have been unfaithful, asking them for a ride, a cigarette, or something else. The two will begin to talk. Eventually, the man will see the skeleton face of the woman and she will attack and attempt to kill him.
This story is hoped to deter men from straying.

David Sánchez Juliao

This week a well-know Colombian author, David Sánchez Juliao, died in Bogotá. He was the author of numerous short stories, children's books, and novels.
His most famous novels include 'Mi sangre aunque plebeya' (My blood even though it is plebeian) and 'Pero sigo siendo el rey' (But I am still the king). The second was the winner of the Premio Nacional de Novela Plaza (National Award for Short Novels), and was later adapted into a television program in the late 1980's.
Here is a link to his children's books. You can read some and portions of others.
http://www.davidsanchezjuliao.com/ni%C3%B1os.asp
He also was a pioneer in using audio books with his most famous being 'El Pachanga' and 'El Flecha'.
In addition to his writing, he served as the Colombian embassador to India and Egypt.

Most Common First Names in Colombia -- Female

Continuing with the theme, here are the most common names among all Colombian women.
María -- with 2, 654, 835 women in Colombia sharing this name.Luz -- with only 790, 323 women sharing this name.AnaSandraRosaMarthaCarmenDianaGloriaBlancaIn Bogotá, Claudia replaces Diana on the top 10 list.
In Medellín, the list looks exactly the same as the national list, with just Claudia replacing Gloria.
In Cali, Claudia replaces Blanca.
In Barranquilla, Olga and Claudia replace Blanca and Gloria in the top 10.

Most Common First Names in Colombia -- Male

Just when you thought that the series on names had ended, there are two more posts coming your way. This time, rather than the most common first names for children born within the last 10 years, it is the most common first names in Colombia --- period.
For men, the most common first name among all ages in Colombia is........
JOSÉ -- with 1,679,871 men sporting this name.Luis CarlosJuanJorgePedroJesúsManuelOscarMiguel
In Bogotá, John, Diego, and Jaime made the top 10 replacing Jesús, Manuel, and Miguel.
In Medellín, it was Jhon, Francisco, and Jaime.
In Cali, it was Diego, John, and Andrés.
In Barranquilla, the names Rafael and Julio replace Jesús and Oscar.

Tunes for Tuesday; Songs Most Colombians Will Recognize #4

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I wanted to say that to qualify for our list of Songs-Most-Colombians-Will-Recognize, the song and artist have to be from Colombia. There are songs by non-Colombians that, as we will see, also qualify. There is also a subset of songs most Colombians will be embarrassed to recognize, and we will get to those as well.For now, today's song begins like this:“I'm going to tell you, brother, a little piece of our history, of our black history gentelman, and it goes. . . .” Then, Chelito de Castro on piano starts that unforgettable short riddle. After the first eight piano strokes every Colombian sings “ooh” with Joe Arroyo, as they either grab their dance partners or simply sit there waiting for the goose bumps to clear.
The song is Rebelión, by Joe Arroyo
This is a love story of sorts set in perfect Cartagena. It is about a slave couple in the 1600s. One day the man sees their Spanish master mistreating his wife. He can't take it anymore and yells something which, as Joe puts…

Myths for Monday -- Madre del Río

Today's myth is common in the Department of Antioquia. It is the Madre del Río (Mother of the River). It is associated with the rivers in Antioquia.
The Madre del Río is a beautiful young woman. Her gaze is hypnotic and her beauty nymph-like. Her only unusual quality is that her feet face backward so that anyone who might try to follow her will go in the wrong direction.
As the legend goes, she was once the beautiful, young daughter of a wealthy, Spanish family. She had golden hair and big, blue eyes. She fell in love with a local Indian. Together, they had a son. When the girl's father became aware of the relationship and the child, he became enraged. He killed the man and threw the baby into the river. In desperation, the girl jumped into the river and drown. However, this act changed her into a River God -- the Madre del Río.
Once changed into the Madre del Río, she became embittered and vengeful. She began to pursue children, calling them with a sweet voice…

Colombia -- A Top Retirement Spot

I can't believe I missed this one. Colombian Daddy brought this to my attention. Apparently, back in December, US NEWS and WORLD REPORT declared Medellín, Colombia a top exotic retirement spot. They cite the culture, sophistication and relative affordability as their reasons. I guess that is one way for us to stretch our 401K.
Read more here: http://money.msn.com/retirement-plan/10-exotic-retirement-spots-for-2011-usnews.aspx

Colombian Wins @ Sundance

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Colombian Diego Jiménez, director of photography, for the movie 'Todos tus muertos', was the winner for Best Cinematography in the Sundance Festival World Cinema Dramatic Composition Competition. This is great news for Colombian cinema. Below, you can see the trailer for the movie which is about a farmer that finds a mound of bodies in his field -- kind of grim I know. The film is currently competing in Rotterdam for the Tiger Awards.


You can read more about the movie in a review by the Hollywood Reporter here:http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/sundance-review-dead-todos-tus-76269

What are Las Cabañuelas?

As mentioned yesterday, Las Cabañuelas is an ancient method for forecasting the weather that goes back centuries. From what I have been able to read, it seems that the tradition started in Spain, but some campesinos in Colombia still use this interesting predictive invention.
No matter the origin, it has the following procedure for forecasting the the weather.
The first 12 days of January are the considered the ESPEJO (Mirror) of the year. If the day is hot, then the corresponding month will be generally hot. If the day is cold, then the corresponding month will be generally cold. If it is rainy, then the corresponding month will be generally rainy. You get the idea.
The 1st of January represents what the weather will be like throughout the month of January. The 2nd of January represents the weather for the month of February, the 3rd = March, etc. Until we reach the 12th which represents December. However, the predictive ability of the Cabañuelas does not stop there. It starts a…

TUNES FOR TUESDAY -- Songs Most Colombians Will Recognize #3

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Back by popular demand (ok, my sister called), here is my pick for this week’s Songs-Most-Colombians-Will-Recognize:


Las Cabañuelas -- The Latin Brothers
The meaning of the word Cabañuela (cavanuelas, cabanuelas) requires a separate detailed post. For now, a Cabañuela is a prediction of the weather for a particular month based on what the weather is like during the first month of the year.
That sounds strange because it is strange, and difficult to do too. So the author of the song writes:
I took my paint brush and my water colors to paint the cabañuelas, But since it is impossible to portray weather I painted the rainbow, and the sky all just to remind me of you, if only for a moment.

A masterful piece of Latin Charm. If that’s not romantic, I don’t know what is!
The singer here is John Jairo Murillo, a great voice, born in Turbo, Antioquia, and who passed away in 2009 in Cartagena. He sang many of Latin Brothers’ hits and went off to form his own bands.
Latin Brothers shares its origins wi…