Thursday, March 31, 2011

Gold After Cocaine

As growing coca and producing cocaine becomes more difficult, rebels are turning to Gold Mines for money. The NY Times offers the following report.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tagua -- The Ivory of Colombia

Put an end to ivory poaching! Switch to TAGUA!

Tagua is a kind of plant based ivory which is derived from ivory palms in places like Colombia. It is a sustainable alternative to animal ivory because Tagua looks like animal ivory -- with a rich, creamy color. It also acts like ivory and can be carved and worked into just about anything that would traditionally be made from ivory. An additional bonus of Tagua is that when cultivated and harvested responsibly, it can also help preserve the rainforest.

Tagua is actually the seed of the ivory palm, aka the Phytelephas aequatorialis. They are found throughout the rainforests of South America, particularly on the Pacific coast of Colombia.

When, thinking of a souvenir purchase, support Tagua! For that matter, support stores in your home town that offer Tagua products -- especially if those products come fron Colombia! :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

TUNES FOR TUESDAY - From Polyrhythm to Salsa

If you were to dissect a Salsa song in search of its back bone, you would have to set aside several other rhythms, piled onto the core like layers of tissue. This is because, as we have been discussing, Salsa is made up of several rhythms, mostly of Cuban origin. As we also have learned, Cuban origin means African origin.

In this dissection, eventually you would run into the simple sound made by two pieces of wood striking each other. It is a very distinctive pow, pow, pow, powpow -type rhythm, or three distinct hit-pause-hit-pause-hit pause, followed by two hit-hit impacts closer to each other, all this repeated over and over. "Cinco golpes en dos compases de música" (five notes in two music measures) is what those who understand this sort of thing call it. They also call this simple rhythmic progression a clave (a key). There are several claves, the most common are the Son, the Rumba, and the Samba, all Cuban descendants of African claves.

When performing this music, one musician will separately play the basic clave, while the other musicians will play, together, the rest of the music. The resulting polirritmo (polyrhythm) is the essential base of Salsa music. But there is one more ingredient, the pregón (an announcement or a proclamation) a chant which usually forms the chorus of the song.

But before Salsa, the Son Cubano was transformed or adapted into new music that used the same basic clave structure. These new rhythms included the Mambo, the Charanga, the Conga, and, of course, the Chachachá. Interestingly, during the Batista regime of the 1940s and 50s, Jazz made its way into Cuba from the US. This American export would also influence the new developing rhythms, and viceversa.

I was trying to find a song where the clave that we have been talking about would be readily apparent, when I run into this one. A Salsa Classic by one of the bands that started it all.

Jala Jala by The Rhichie Ray and Bobbie Cruz Band

Deep inside this music is that clave, . . . I promise. There's even a live version where they do the just the clave for a few seconds. If you can't hear it here, just enjoy this super song!
Listen for it a 3:40. He says "Esa Clave Esa Clave (meaning that Clave that Clave) pow pow pow pow-pow"

Monday, March 28, 2011

Myths for Monday -- The Paez Version of Creation

The PAEZ Indians of Colombia, also known as the NASA, are found in an area called Tierradentro in the Department of Cauca (today's department) and Huila. Based on their total population, they are the second largest indigenous group in Colombia with a little less than 140,000 people.

In 1536, the Spanish conquistador, Sebastian del Belalcazar, tried to subdue the Paez Indians, but to no avail. Later, Belalcazar ordered the construction of a city -- San Vicente de Paez, right in the heart of Tierradentro. However, in short order, the Paez had destroyed the city. Belalcazar was reported to have said, "What we don't win with our weapons, we will win with our priests!"

Indeed, the next weapon tried to pacify the Paez was the Catholic religion. However, this tactic was also unsuccessful. One priest reported, "The Paeces are the most barbarian of any people found in these new lands. They resist everything....They laugh out loud when they are taught (the catechism). It is impossible to believe that they are rational." For this reason, they garnered the name "Indians Without Peace," and it took over 150 years for the Spanish to subdue them.

This proud, fierce group of Native Americans, clung to their religion and history. Today's myth/legend is the Creation story of the Paez.

The Paez origin of the earth and man: T'IWE N'HI 'YU'I NAS

Originally, there was no land and no people. There was only KS'A'W WALA, the "great spirit." KS'A'W WALA was both male and female at the same time, as such, it was able to reproduce itself. Thus, there were born other wise spirits like EKTH' E, the spirit of wisdom; WEET'AHN the spirit that controls sickness; KL'UM, who controls the environment; the spirit of social control, DAAT'I; S'I ', the spirit of transformation; TAY the sun; and many others. Everything had its spiritual creation, and all the creations lived in the enormous house of KS'A'W WALA.

When the eldest spirit children reproduced, they created the spirits of the plants, animals, and minerals. They also created a new and special child, his name was NASA, and he was the first human spirit. All the major and minor spirits lived together. They spoke a single language -- the NASA Yuwe or Paez language, and they knew all things.

One day, KS'A'W WALA told them that they needed to build their own place to live in. It was then, that the spirit children of KS'A'W WALA began to make their own homes. But, it was also when the children became divided, each building their homes in different areas and living separately. They lived in great conflict. The sun spirit, TAY, used its rays to burn the homes of his siblings. The water spirit, YU', caused floods that destroyed the homes of others.

Seeing this, KS'A'W WALA ordered them to join together and form a single household. This they did, bonding together and thus forming the earth. By uniting, they became solid, and they began to reproduce, each after its own likeness -- plants, animals, minerals, and man.

Photo -- A Paez child -- by Diego Tabares

Friday, March 25, 2011

Profetas -- Make it to SXSW

While I do not want to take away from Colombian Daddy's Tunes for Tuesday -- I didn't want to miss the opportunity to introduce you to another Afrocolombian musical group-- PROFETAS. While they have been around since 1997, it has only been in the last 5-6 years that their music and name has been making the rounds in such places as Rolling Stone Magazine (2006) and now at SXSW. You can read more here:

Catch their SXSW interview below and their song Baila below in a separate post.

Profetas - Baila (Video Oficial)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Places Tourists Are Not Welcome

While tourism in the Colombian Amazon is booming, there is one indigenous community that is rejecting the ideas of tourists in their community. Here, AFP reports on this community. However, they do not allow embedding, so you will have to click on the link below.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Restoring What's Lost

In Colombia, millions of people have lost their land during the course of the decades long Civil War. Currently, President Juan Manuel Santos has launched an initiative to restore the land to their rightful owners.

To hear an audio report -- in English -- about this situation, how things got to be so bad, and why it is essential to fix it -- CLICK HERE:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

TUNES FOR TUESDAY - Salsa Genome - Son Cubano

Last week I briefly mentioned Salsa's music genome. Before moving on, and not wanting to leave this topic as another lose end, I wanted to explore it a little more in today's post. So, as we travel through history, let's make our mandatory stop in Cuba. Why? Well, remember that Salsa builds upon aging Cuban rhythms.

During the Spanish Colonization of the New World, Spanish immigrants brought to Cuba music and dances they had adopted from other places in Europe. Among these is the Contradanse, which had made its way to Spain from Versalles, and which arrived in the New World as la Contradanza. It is possible, however, that during the same period, French immigrants brought La Contradanse to Haiti, and that Haitian immigrants took care of moving it to La Habana. Either way, in Cuba, La Contradanza lost its collective nature and became a dance for couples as Cubans created their own version of La Contradanza by mixing the European music with the well established rhythms of African slaves.

The Africans had been able to retain many of their religious and social traditions by confounding the Padres. Where the Priests saw acceptance of the Catholic Saints, the African Slaves saw a way to assimilate their Orishas into the new faith. Thus, Africans from Cuba and Haiti blended their vocal traditions and contagious drum beats with the Contradanza to create at the end of the 19th Century the music that would give birth to the Son Cubano.

The Trovadores (traveling musicians, loners and usually guitar players), contributed to the creation and spread of the Son through cities such as Santiago de Cuba and La Habana. Think of the Son Cubano as the equivalent to the Blues in the United States: a basic rhythm, rooted in deep cultural traditions.

The Son became popular among Caribbean working classes because it was a simple, portable rhythm. It only required a guitar and some form of hand made percussion. When played at a slower tempo, it is called Son Montuno. Both rhythms made it to the US in the baggage of Americans who during the 1930s flocked to La Habana (yes, Havanna) evading Prohibition.

There are more recent examples of the Son, but since we are talking history, here's a song that became the first Cuban hit in New York as well as in Paris and other European cities around 1928. A classic:

El Manicero by Moises Simmons.

Simmons, born in Cuba, was the child of a Basque musician. El Manicero, The Peanut Vendor, was first performed by Rita Montaner, and is sometimes attributed to her. Here it is performed by those who introduced the song to the United States, The Don Azpiazu's Orchestra:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Myths for Monday -- El Silbón

The Silbón (or Whistler) is a common myth of the Llanos that connect Colombia and Venezuela, and it appears to date back to the 19th Century. It is the myth of choice for our department of the day -- Casanare.

The Silbón is an otherworldly, ghostly type man. He is very tall (over 6 feet) and very skinny. In a sack on his back, he carries his father's bones as a curse for having killed him. I have read various accounts and it seems that the reason he killed his father varies in each of them. Most explanations are rather gruesome, so I'll avoid the gory details here.

Now, here are some tips to help you avoid any problems with El Silbón.

The Silbón wanders about, but at night, he stops to count the bones he has in his sack. Typically, he will do this on the doorstep of a home on the Llano. If the occupants do not listen to the clanking of the bones as he counts, it will bring them bad luck, and perhaps even a death will occur in the family. So, while visiting the Llano, keep one ear open at night in case you hear those bones banging into each other as the are unloaded from the bag.

Additionally, people who like to party and get drunk -- BEWARE!! The Silbón will often attack them as they stumble home late at night. He will then uncover their bellybutton and suck until the alcohol in the drunkard's stomach comes out. (I am sure this excuse had been used more than once to explain a late night, "No really honey, I was attacked by the Silbón on the way home.")

He is called El Silbón (the Whistler) because as he roams the Llano, he whistles. His whistle can serve as a warning to those who might encounter him. Here are some hints: HIS WHISTLE IS DECEPTIVE. If it sounds far away, the Silbón is really nearby, and vice versa.

You are most likely to see the Silbón in the rainy months of May and June, as this is the time when he roams the Llano.

With these tips in mind, you should avoid any problems with El Silbón.

PS. I have a nephew that lives in Casanare and swears that he has heard the Silbón's whistle while walking home late at night. In the land of Macondo -- anything is possible.

Friday, March 18, 2011

More Colombians Adopting From Colombia

The new report also shows some interesting trends in Colombians Adopting From Colombia.

First, some history. Back in the early 1990's, very few Colombians were adopting, and most of them were very demanding about wanting "only and infant in perfect health". In 1991, 2,893 children were placed for adoption. This number included the 1,926 placed by ICBF and the 967 placed by the Casa Privadas. At that time, ICBF placed 529 with Colombian families and 1,397 with foreign families. The Casas Privadas placed 77 with Colombian Families and 890 with foreign families.

1991 = 28% of Adoptions by ICBF were to Colombian Families
1991 = 8% of Adoptions by Casas Privadas to Colombian Families

2003 = 35% of Adoptions by ICBF were to Colombians Families
2003 = 11 % of Adoptions by Casas Privadas to Colombian Families

Later statistics combined the ICBF and Casa Privada Numbers in one single statistic. SO here are what the combined statistics look like.

1991 = 20% to Colombian Families

2003 = 24% to Colombian Families

2004 = 63% to Colombians

2007 = 38% to Colombians

2008 = 40% to Colombians

2009 = 42% to Colombians

2010 = 35% to Colombians

So far in 2011 = 37% to Colombians

It would appear that there was a positive change for Colombian children. Once ICBF implemented Hague, more Colombians began to adopt. This was due in part to changes that ICBF required of the Casas Privadas. More Colombians adopting means that more Colombian children will find parents that speak their own language, look like them, and can teach them the traditions of their culture.

What are your thoughts about this trend? I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Latest Adoption Statistics -- Special Needs

Recently, ICBF posted their report of the adoption statistics for 2010. I found them very interesting. Today and tomorrow, I will highlight some aspects of the report.

In 2010, there were a total of 3,058 adoptions in Colombia. The surprising statistic is to see how many of those adoptions were of children with special needs -- 889.

Keep in mind the definition of SPECIAL NEEDS ADOPTION in COLOMBIA: Children with disabilities (physical, mental or health issues), children over 8 years of age, and sibling groups of 3 or more.

In 2003-2004, Colombia implemented their Hague compliant adoption program, with goals to increase adoptions of children with Special Needs. The cool thing is to see how their desire to meet their goals has actually brought about as increase in Special Needs Adoptions.

Look at the statistics for children with Special Needs that found forever homes:

In 2002, there were 349 -- 13% of all adoptions.
In 2003, there were 392 -- 22% of all adoptions.
In 2004, there were 356 -- 15% of all adoptions.
In 2005, there were 383 -- 15% of all adoptions.

In 2006, there were 608 -- 22% of all adoptions.
In 2007, there were 776 -- 25% of all adoptions.
In 2008, there were 730 -- 31% of all adoptions.
In 2009, there were 824 -- 30% of all adoptions.
In 2010, there were 889 -- 30% of all adoptions.

If you look at the trend, the number of Special Needs adoptions has doubled. I would say that the plan is proving successful. To read my other blogs on Special Needs click here:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Newest ICBF Wait List -- March 2011

This most recent Wait List was published by ICBF on March 14, 2011. Once again, there has been a lot of movement. Great news for adoptive parents and for Colombian Children!!

Remember, 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.

Several dates have advanced again this time!!! YEAH!!!

The dates that have moved are in BLUE.

Also, this list only reflects that there are no more dossiers at the national office prior to the date shown. Dossiers from before Jun 2007 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 waiting at the national office.

Age of Child ------- Date of Application Approval by ICBF

Child 0-12 months ------ Jul - 2007
Child 13 - 23 months ---- Jul - 2007
Child 2 years ----------- Aug - 2006
Child 2 - 3 years -------- Mar - 2007
Child 3 years ----------- Jul - 2006
Child 3 - 4 years -------- Nov - 2006
Child 4 years ----------- Dec - 2006
Child 4 -5 years -------- Aug - 2007
Child 5 years ----------- Aug - 2009
Child 5 - 6 years ------- Nov - 2008
Child 6 years ----------- NOT LISTED ON NEW FORM
Child 7 years ----------- Feb - 2011

2 Siblings 0 - 4 years --- Dec - 2007
2 Siblings 0 - 5 years --- Nov - 2007
2 Siblings 0 - 6 years --- Jan - 2009
2 Siblings 0 - 7 years --- Oct - 2009
2 Siblings 0 - 8 years --- Dec - 2010

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TUNES FOR TUESDAY - Intro to Salsa History

Ok, back to Salsa. The link between Salsa Music and Colombia may be better understood from a historical perspective. One ironic fact of Macondian proportions is that Salsa Music may rightfully wear a label that reads MADE IN USA. This may surprise even Colombians. While Salsa wasn't really born in the US, it was definitely assembled here. Yet, the component elements came from various and diverse suppliers.

During the musical "British Invasion" of the 1960s, as groups such as The Beatles were injecting new energy to the creative minds of Rock and Roll musicians, Caribbean immigrants in New York were witnessing the withering of the Cuban rhythms-- among them the Son, the Rumba, the Montuno, and the Charanga.

But the new creative fever caught the eye - and ear- of the young immigrant generation in places like Spanish Harlem. They started to tweak the Afro-Cuban rhythms and created a new sound, Salsa. The genealogical music tree of Salsa is worth a separate discussion. For now, let me just add that the man credited with coming up with the name for the new rhythm was Izzy Sanabria, a graphic designer from Fania Records, and that Cuban musicians were reluctant to accept the new term, until Celia Cruz, very Cuban herself, started asserting that Salsa was just another way of saying "Cuban Music."

As the popularity of Salsa grew, three main centers became rapidly established as Salsa's natural hotbeds: New York, where the Puerto Rican immigrant musicians abandoned their folkloric rhythms in favor of the new style; Miami, where Cuban immigrants made it the music of the Cuba-without-Fidel movement; and, Colombia where an explosion of talent and innovation took the rhythm to new levels.

But another key word here is Fania. The label gathered the best talent Salsa had to offer at the time under a single umbrella. Eventually, Fania Records would become better known for its creation of The Fania-All-Stars or Las Estrellas de Fania, the Dream Team of Salsa music.

Not just a Salsa Orchestra, Fania-All-Stars was also a Salsa University. And as an appetizer to the history of Salsa music, here today are two of Fania's most celebrated alumni:

Hector Lavoe (vocals) and Willie Colón (on Trombone) performing La Murga.

Though they are not Colombians, no playlist would be complete without them. Watch the video, dance to the song, and we will gather here again next week to talk more about them!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Myths for Monday -- Hojarasquín del Monte

El Hojarasquin del Montea

Woodcutters Beware! The HOJARASQUÍN DEL MONTE is on the loose! This forest dweller is the famous protector of the forests in the Eje Cafetero (Coffee Growing Region) in Colombia which includes the department of CALDAS the Department for today.

The Hojarsquín del Monte is a man whose skin is of moss and lichens, whose hair is of fern fronds or leaves, and whose arms are branches. Some campesinos that report to have seen him say that he seems like a TREE MAN. Others say he is more like a giant monkey covered with moss and dried leaves.

When people cut trees or destroy the forest, the Hojarasquín will appear as an old tree -- a perfect one for cutting. When the woodcutter prepares to swing the ax, the Hojarasquín jumps up and growls. Of course, this terrifies the woodcutting culprit who will get lost in the forest as they attempt to run away from the horrifying scene -- never to be heard from again. (In an alternate version, the Hojarasquín eats the woodcutter.)

The Hojarasquín will also serve as a guide to those who get lost while exploring the forest (not doing any damage). He will guide them to safety.

The Hojarasquín's third mission is to help the native fauna -- deer, tapirs, birds, etc -- escape from hunters. It will leave false trails or make false sounds in order to confuse hunters, making their hunting trips unsuccessful.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Maiden Names in Colombia

When I got engaged to Colombian Daddy, one of our early discussions was about me changing my last name. Like most women -- almost 90% of married women in the USA -- I assumed that I would change my name. I clearly remember him saying, "Why do women change their names?" We talked about that being the tradition in most English speaking countries and that most men just assume that their wife will change her name. We talked about how people assume that if a woman keeps her name that she is trying to make some kind of feminist statement. His response, "And they think we are Machistas!" :)

But seriously, in Colombia marriage has no impact on either person's surnames. This means that people keep their same surnames their entire life. If you were Lucía Reyes García before you were married, you will continue to be Lucía Reyes García after you are married.

In the past, it was customary for a wife to use her husband's first surname (in social situations) in the following way:

María Rodríguez Gómez married Juan Ayala Buitrago. Therefore, she would be called María Rodríguez de Ayala. The DE in the De Ayala means OF (as in possession).

Because of the negative possessive connotations of this, fewer and fewer women use this today. Usually, you will only hear it among the oldest women in Colombia.

Required Reading for Cultural Understanding

Several years ago, I sat in the court room as my husband took the oath as a new American citizen. Just prior to taking that oath, he had been told that he could change his name to anything he wanted. There was mention of dropping one of his two last names. But, as he told me later, "I just kept thinking of my mom. How could I just eliminate her from my name?" So, the change he decided to make was to place a hyphen between his two surnames.

With this in mind and fresh off yesterday's discussion, I have an assignment of "required reading" for my readers. While I do not intend to change any American tradition, I do think that it offers a valuable perspective for understanding the feeling that many Latinos have about their two last names. I recommend it for anyone wishing to better understand this unique tradition.

The book itself is written by a man from El Salvador -- René Colato Laínez. The name of the book is René Has Two Last Names.

In the book, you learn to understand and appreciate why young René, a new immigrant to the United States from El Salvador, doesn't want to be called just René Colato, but rather René Colato Laínez.

If you can't find it at your local library, it can be purchased here:

*************Rare Personal Moment to Follow*******************

Just a side note, my children do lug around with them TWO LAST NAMES -- thank heaven for hyphens, computers can't handle it otherwise. They don't even seem bothered with it and now even my Kindergartener knows how to write them both. I know it's not right for everyone, but I think even my dad (and I know you are reading this), though he was initially resistant, is secretly thrilled that as a father of all girls he actually has 2 grandsons that carry his last name. (You know you love it DAD!)

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

In Colombia Kids Have Two Last Names

When I got engaged to Colombian Daddy, one thing that my parents -- born and raised in the good old USA -- wanted to know was why he had 2 last names and which one was his 'real' last name.

Actually, in the Hispanic world, there is no such thing as a LAST name. In fact, if you were to directly translate the word LAST NAME into Spanish it would be ÚLTIMO NOMBRE. This phrase would be fairly meaningless in Spanish, and it is possible that you would even get the middle name of the person in response to a petition for a LAST NAME.

The word used in Spanish in order to ask for what we call a LAST NAME is APELLIDO, which is more closely translated as SURNAME. In Colombia, as well as all Hispanic countries, most people will have 2 APELLIDOS -- called the FIRST and SECOND APELLIDOS. The person's first surname (apellido) is their father's first surname and the second surname (apellido) is the mother's first surname, what we call "the mother's maiden name in the U.S.".

Here's an example:

Father's Apellidos: García Gómez
Mother's Apellidos: Osorio Pérez

Child's Apellidos: García Osorio

This custom seems strange to most Americans because we just don't do that here. However, this system has been used for generations. In reality, it was one way of showing that you were NOT an illegitimate child. You see, for generations illegitimate children only had ONE APELLIDO, and being an illegitimate child had many negative social consequences. In fact, in recognition of the segregation that illegitimate children felt, it was only recently that Colombia passed a law allowing a child to be given the two last names of the mother and thereby avoid the embarrassing ONE APELLIDO problem.

If you are adopting an older child, one who has spent their entire life using 2 Last Names, it may be important to explain to them the cultural difference in last names and that having ONLY ONE is not a reason to be ashamed or embarrassed. Do not assume that because you understand it, they will too. It is possible that some of these kids have had only one last name their whole lives and they have been ashamed of that. They may even be looking forward to having two and showing off that they now have a mom and dad. Like any cultural topic this should be discussed with understanding and cultural sensitivity, without criticism or negativity. The tradition is neither crazy nor strange, just different from what we are used to seeing.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

TUNES FOR TUESDAY -- Chicaquichá

Some readers may argue that the music here discussed thus far is old or outdated. There may be some truth to that. But just some. In reality, the fact that these songs have been around for so long, that younger generations still dance to them, and that they keep being remade prove that this music is timeless.

Having said that and before we go on, what's new in Colombian music, then?

A lot, it turns out. From the new albums of the well-known (Juanes, Shakira) to a recent release and today's feature:

Chicaquichá by Andrés Villamil.

Guitarist Andrés Villamil is a graduate of both the Music Conservatory at Universidad Nacional in Bogotá and the School of Music and Dance in Cologne, Germany (Hochschule für Musik und Tanz, Köln). He has received awards and recognition in both Colombia and Germany for his music.

The song, Chicaquichá, is a great example of Villamil's ability to blend his training in classical guitar with the unmistakable sounds of traditional (folkloric) music from the mountainous regions of Colombia. And here's something that I love about the new generation of Colombian musicians: Whether rockers, salseros, or classic artists (and especially those who train and record abroad), in their music, they always return to the homeland. There's always a little of the Colombian common code tucked stealthily inside their songs. Andrés Villamil does it overtly in this album. Some of the songs are his own arrangements of old Colombian favorites. But you can hear it even in a new composition such as Chicaquichá.

Chicaquichá is a word borrowed from the Chibcha language, the one spoken by the Muiscas, the native inhabitants of the Bogotá plateau. Depending on the source it could mean "Our Great Village" or "City of Our Father". It was the Chibcha name for the city today known as Zipaquirá, a village that already existed when the Spaniards arrived in 1536, and that is, therefore, among the oldest cities in the New World. Andrés Villamil was born in Zipaquirá in 1976.

Here's a video of Chicaquichá:

Monday, March 07, 2011

Myths for Monday -- Fura Tena and Emerald Tears

Today's myth comes from the now extinct indigenous group called the Muzos. They inhabited what is today the Western part of the department of Boyacá, near the city of Muzo. (This is the region most famous for its beautiful emeralds). Unlike their Chibcha speaking neighbors, the Muiscas, the Muzos were more closely related to the Caribes. They worked in agriculture and pottery, but their favorite activity was war and their favorite victims were the Muiscas. They would often assault Muisca villages in order to get the supplies that they needed. It took the Spanish over 20 years to conquer the Muzos, while is took just a few short months to conquer the Muiscas.

And now, the legend of Fura Tena and the Emerald Tears.

In the land of the Carare (Magdalena) River, the Muzo creator God, ARE, swept over the area creating the mountains and valleys. On the shores of the sacred river, now called Minero, he formed two figures -- one male (Tena) and one female (Fura) -- and threw them into the river. There, they were brought to life. Once alive, ARE taught Fura and Tena how to take care of the gardens that He had planted and make pottery. He gave them rules to follow including the requirement of fidelity in their husband and wife relationship. ARE taught them that violating the laws he had established would lead to aging and eventual death. For a long time, Fura and Tena enjoyed their ageless lives in the beautiful land ARE had prepared for them.

Then, one day, a young man appeared. His name was ZARBI. Zarbi was looking for a flower that could cure any illness. He claimed to have crossed mountains and rivers, looking high and low for the flower without success. So, he asked Fura for help, and she agreed and began to follow him throughout the forests looking for the flower. Soon Fura became aware of her own interest -- not in the flower, but in Zarbi. She was unfaithful to Tena with Zarbi and as a result immediately began to age.

Realizing her error, she returned to Tena, who upon seeing her in her aged state realized that she had broken the law that ARE had given them and she would soon die. Not wanting to be left alone, Tena laid down on Fura's knees and stabbed himself in the heart. For three days, Fura cried with the body of her husband on her lap -- her tears changed into green rocks -- EMERALDS.

Soon, ARE returned to visit Fura and Tena and realized that his laws had been broken. He changed the couple into large rocks. Angered, he also banished Zarbi, who in his own anger changed into a raging river in order to eternally separate Fura's rock from Tena's rock.

The picture above shows the Fura and Tena rocks.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Carnaval de los Indigenas -- Sibundoy, Putumayo

This weekend there is a special celebration to be held in Sibundoy, Putumayo, one that will be declared part of Colombia's national cultural heritage this next year. It is known as the Carnaval del Perdon (Indigenous Carnaval of Forgiveness).

The Carnaval includes a parade where the leaders of the tribe are dressed in the traditional poncho called the kusma (or cusma), black pants (traditional) or jeans (modern) and a crown of feathers. The women are dressed in a skirt and blouse made of linen, dyed with a seed called the curiguasca. The blouse is tied at the waist with a large band of colors. All of these clothing items are hand woven by the Kamsá.

They, both the men and the women, will also wear numerous necklaces of bright vibrant colors, called chaquiras. Some will also paint their faces with red dots or lines.

The parade will also include music made from traditional pan flutes and other instruments, as well as sightings of some of the famous wooden masks made in the region. As seen here:

If this group of Indigenous people interests you, I highly recommend that you look at the pictures from the following 2 resources. You can see a picture of the parade and read an article (in Spanish) about it here:

and see pictures of it here:

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Kamsá Indigenous People

In the valley of Sibundoy (located between 10,000 and 11,000 ft above sea level), in the Northwestern department of Putumayo, live the indigenous group known as the Kamsá --(or Kamenstá, Sibundoy). The language spoken by this group is also known as Kamsá, and is known as an language isolate -- meaning that it is unrelated to any other known language. In 1980, it was estimated that the population was around 4,700 people.

The Kamsá engage in trade and training with several Indian tribes from the lower, jungle regions of Putumayo -- Kofán, Coreguaje & Inga. The training consists of the training of their shaman (religious/medical leaders), who learn to use medicinal plants and religious ceremonial plants like the hallucinogenic plant yagé. They cultivate corn, beans, potatoes, and peas.

See a picture of the Kamsá here:

Online I found the following list of Kamsá words:

English/Français/Español.......... Kamsá
One/Un/Uno ........................Kañe

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Alt. Latino Goes to Colombia

Sunday morning, while preparing breakfast and listening to NPR, I heard music to my ears. Could it be? Were they really talking about one of my favorite topics? Yes, indeed! Colombian Music :)

Alt.Latino is NPR's new show and blog about Latin Alternative music and Rock in Spanish, and they recently made a trip to COLOMBIA to check out the amazing music of my favorite foreign land.

Here is a link to the radio show broadcast:

The Alt. Latino crowd went with the PBS show Music Voyager to Colombia. You can link to their report here -- but scroll down to the bottom to see Colombia Part 1 and Part 2. You can find out when the show will be aired on your local PBS station on the same site. You can also purchase the music you hear on the show from a link they have:

Below is a bonus post to give you a taste of the show which will air on PBS in the coming weeks. It features the group that Colombian Daddy spoke about yesterday -- Aterciopelados.

Aterciopelados live in La Candelaria, Bogotá, Colombia

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

TUNES FOR TUESDAY - Colombian Conexion

With today's song, I want to briefly introduce a decidedly Colombian rock band. Eclectic in style, irreverent in their lyrics, daring in their song's themes, from Medellin here's Aterciopelados.

Colombian Conexion by Aterciopelados

Anyone familiar with Colombia's traditions and modern history will be able to understand the connection offered in the song. It starts right where a traditional Colombian folkloric song ends, the "oh, how proud I feel to be a Colombian . . ." riddle, and ends with "but here goodness germinates" a phrase borrowed from our national anthem. In between, sprinkled with irony and some sarcasm, Aterciopelados names a series of people, places, and events that indeed connect all Colombians.

Taken literally, Aterciopelados would mean The Velvety Ones (Terciopelo = Velvet). But since this is Colombia I think that there has to be more to it. Well, don't forget that in Colombia a Kid is a "pelado." Just saying the name of the band makes me think about growing up in Colombia, about being un "pelado" there. This is no accident, I think that this exemplifies Aterciopelados music. It is hard to listen to it and not feel that (Colombian) connection. Indeed, as the song says, te vas te vas y no la olvidas--you leave, you leave but you never forget her.

Los Pelados in Aterciopelados are Andrea Echeverry and Hector Buitrago. Andrea is a music hero in Colombia, but she is the anti-Shakira type of hero. Not a flashy star, just a charismatic one who, as many in her generation, carries the weight of Colombia's social issues on her shoulders. Here's my favorite part of Colombian Conexion, right after Gringos go home, it says:

Pobre Colombia irredenta
poor unredeemed Colombia

Desnuda, fria y hambrienta
Naked, cold, and hungry

Y a diario tan descontenta
and daily so unhappy

con la crisis turbulenta
with its turbulent crisis

Pero el bien germina ya, Germina ya!
But here good germinates, it germinates!