Showing posts from March, 2009

La Ombligada -- Ties to the Future

There is a cultural tradition known as the “la ombligada ” that is performed on newborn Afro-Colombian children of the Pacific Coast. It is one of the oldest cultural traditions and is performed exclusively by midwives ( parteras ). The midwife’s role is to watch out for the well being of the infant and the mother before and after the birth. Once born, the midwife will tie ( ombligar ) the child to certain elements that are thought to then influence the child throughout his/her life. Let's say that the mother wants her child to be strong, or wealthy, or gifted in some way, then the midwife will tie certain elements to the child’s umbilical cord. For example, if a wealthy child is wanted, pieces of gold are placed on the umbilical cord and then tied on with cloth. If the mother wants a child that will be lucky in love, the beak of the tominé (a bird from the jungles of Chocó ) is used in place of the gold. Toenails of animals are also often used – those of an armadillo mean the ch


The 2005 census found that over 10% of the population of Colombia has African origins -- over 4.26 million people. Colombians of African descent ( Afrocolombianos ) are found throughout the country, with the greatest concentrations in the coastal areas. The Department of Chocó has the largest population (74%) that is of African or mixed African origin. The Department of San Andrés and Providencia is second with 57%. While Bolivar and Valle tie for third with 27%. Approximately 75% of the Afro-Colombian population live in urban areas, and Cali is the city with the largest per capita population of Afro-Colombians. Even Bogotá is estimated to have nearly 500,000 citizens of Afro-Colombian origin. The Colombian government recognizes 3 distinct cultural groups of Afro-Colombians: 1- Negros or Afrocolombianos -- found throughout the country. 2- Palenqueros -- found in San Basilio -- department of Bolívar . 3- Raizales -- found in San Andrés and Providencia -- over 57,000 people. A

Abuelita Carmen's Caldo de Papas

This is another typical breakfast food of the people in the Altiplano Cundi-Boyacense region. It defintely has indigenous roots. In fact, it was the first explorer of the Altiplano Cundi-Boyacense -- Gonzálo Jiménez de Quesada (1536)-- who brought the first potatoes back to Spain. Imagine Spain without Tortilla de Patata. A chorus of "Gracias, Boyacá" can be heard in España today. :) Now, here’s how you can successfully make some in your own home. Step #1 --Place the following ingredients in a pot. 8 cups water 3-4 whole green onions with the roots and green stem chopped off AND one or the other of the following: 3-4 ribs with rib meat OR 3-4 chicken legs with skin . Step #2 -- BOIL these three ingredients until you have a great broth. Remove the meat/bones (use these in another recipe as typically the meat is not served with the soup). Step #3 -- ADD: Several peeled potatoes sliced in 4-6 lengthwise slices. (I prefer Yukon Gold which when peeled are about fist size – i

Museo & Parque Arqueologico de Sogamoso

If you decided to spend the night in Paipa , before heading back to Bogotá , I have another recommendation -- The Museo & Parque Arqueologico ( Archaeological Museum and Park). It is located about 40 minutes from Paipa in the city of Sun and Steel – Sogamoso . The Indiana Jones of Muisca (Chibcha) culture is Eliécer Silva Célis (1914-2007). He was the principal pioneer of archaeological research surrounding indigenous groups in Colombia, and the leading expert on the Muiscas . He made some amazing discoveries. And like Indiana, he felt that Muisca artifacts belonged in a museum. So, he spearheaded the building of a Archaeological Museum and Park in Sogamoso . Sogamoso was the religious capital of the Muiscas . Both the Zipa and the Zaque honored and worshipped there. The priest of Sogamoso had a great deal of power and on at least one occasion brokered peace between the two warring factions. Silva Celis therefore thought that Sogamoso was a logical choice for a mu

Aguas Termales Paipa

Place #3 -- Paipa Now that you have seen the amazing monuments to the Battles of Independence of Colombia, it is time to spend the afternoon either relaxing in Hot Water Springs or shopping in the numerous artesan shops of Paipa, Boyacá. Paipa is located just 15 minutes from Pantano de Vargas. It’s main attraction is its Aguas Termales (Thermal Hot Springs). The great thing is the warm mineral water. Kids love it because they don't get cold. There you can swim as a family, or split up and have Mom enjoy a few hours at the Spa. There you get an aqua massage and for a little more you can be bathed in the mud of the thermal water (supposedly it has curitive powers) – and the prices are amazing. If you decide to spend the night in Paipa, there are many wonderful hotels on the lake Sochagota, and you can enjoy shopping at the multiple artesan shops. There are also a few antique shops with some pretty amazing finds. Here is a multi-media presentation from the Paipa mayor’s office. http:

Pantano de Vargas

Continuing on our day trip suggestion: Place #2 – Pantano de Vargas After spending and hour or so at Puente Boyacá, you can continue on to Pantano de Vargas – Vargas’ Swamp (another hour away). This is the site of the battle, which occurred just a few days before the Battle of Puente Boyacá, on July 25, 1819. This battle turned the tide of the war and brought to the weary soldiers the hope of eventual victory. Although that name evokes pictures of Southern Florida, the area is anything but swampy. It has beautiful green rolling hills, artesan shops, and an amazing statue of the Lanceros. The Lanceros were the reason for Bolivar’s decisive victory -- a victory that seemed highly unlikely. Bolivar’s troops were heavily outnumbered and exhausted from a forced march over the high mountains at the Páramo de Pisba. Although there were only 14 Lanceros (Lancers), using deception, they confused and terrifed the Spanish army – under the command of José María Barreiro. Creating an environment in

Puente Boyacá -- Site of Colombian Independence

Would you travel to Paris and miss the l’Arc de Triomphe? Or how about Philadelphia and miss Independence Hall? Probably not! And yet many families miss out on seeing beautiful historic sights just outside of Bogotá. I am not really sure why. In blogs I see plenty of families travelling to Zipaquira’s Salt Cathedral, but I have yet to see any blog I have followed record a visit to the site where Colombia won its independence from Spain. And this, in spite of the fact that it is only about 1-1 ½ hours from Bogotá in one of the safest parts of Colombia – Boyacá. Here is a great idea for a day trip, and this comes from my personal BEEN THERE DONE THAT file. And lest you think the trip is too difficult, we made it with a 21 month old and a 5 year old in tow. So, enjoy the next few days as I take you on a tour of the historical sites -- just outside of Bogotá. You could plan to do all or part of the trip, or plan to stay overnight and make a weekend trip out of it. But, I really think it wo

Classic Song -- Campesina Santandereana

Every country has its classic songs, known by old and young alike. Colombia is no exception. In the 1990's, RCN (the Colombian radio station) put together a list of most beautiful songs in Colombia. Among them, was a song written by Jose A. Morales -- CAMPESINA SANTANDEREANA . The song is a Bambuco . Bambuco is folkloric music and is sometimes called the unofficial music of Colombia. The typical Bambuco ensemble is composed of the Tiple , the Mandolin, and the Guitar. The Bambuco has a melancholy sound. Adding this tune to your music collection is a great souvenir idea for children born in Santander. Hear and see a video of the song: The Lyrics Campesina Santandereana eres mi flor de romero , por tu amor yo vivo loco si ni me besas me muero , me muero porque en tus labios tienes miel de mis cañales que saben a lo que huelen las rosas de mis rosales , que saben a lo que huelen la

La Amiga Inés'-- Mute Santandereano

Mute Santandereano is a typical dish in Santander, as the name indicates. My friend Inés, an adoptive mom to a 15 year old, sent me her recipe for it. Ingredients: 16 cups water 4 onions cut in four parts 4 pounds leg of beef -- or bones with meat on them 1 ½ pounds of beef ribs 1 ½ pounds of tripe* 1 pound pork 1 ½ pounds of yellow corn, cooked ½ pound of white corn, cooked 1 pound potatoes, peeled and sliced 1 pound pumpkin, peeled and chopped 1 eggplant, chopped ½ pound of garbanzo beans, semi-cooked ¼ pound of pasta shells 2 sprigs of guascas 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped fine 2 cups of Hogao (see recipe for Empanadas from December 19, 2008) A pinch of baking soda Salt, pepper and cumin to taste Step #1 – Cook 12 cups of water, ribs, pork and onion for 1 hour, and then remove the onion – keep all of the broth. In the meantime, cook the tripe with the baking soda in a pressure cooker for 45 Minutes. Step #2 Cut pork and rib meat into small pieces set aside. Drain the tripe – d

Essential Herb -- GUASCAS

What are Guascas ? These small plants belong to the Daisy family. Originally grown only in the Andes, Guascas were brought to the United States (date unknown) and Great Britain (in 1796) and have thrived. The plant is known as the Gallant Soldier ( Galinsoga parviflora ) and is considered a weed in both the US and Great Britain. However, in the Andes, from Colombia to Peru, it is considered and essential herb. Rich in minerals, it is used in several Colombian dishes including: A jiaco (from Bogotá) and M ute (from Santander) – [see tomorrow’s post for the recipe]. My husband remembers that his mother had a Guascas plant in her garden and would add guasca leaves to the family’s eggs. Dried Guascas can be purchased at the following online stores: More information available: * Photo by Wikemedia

Personal Episode of Fear Factor -- Hormigas Culonas

The original inhabitants of Santander were the Guanes . The Guanes spoke a Chibcha dialect, but were very different in appearance from the Chibchas of the Altiplano. The Spanish reported that they looked almost European with light skin and some with fair hair. About a decade ago, 2 Guane mummies were found and research on them established that, in fact, the Guanes appeared to be more Caucasian-like. One unique culinary tradition of the Guanes survives today and is alive and well in Santander . It is the tradition of eating HORMIGAS CULONAS (big-ass ants), which actually served the Guanes as a source of protein. These leaf-cutter ants have large abdomens and are roasted and salted before eaten. They have a crunchy texture and taste like acidic nuts. While this may sound like an offering for an episode of Fear Factor, in reality it is common fare for the people of Santander . Apparently, an enterprising group has packaged them and they are for sale online:


Bucaramanga is the capital of Santander. It is called the Beautiful City and the City of Parks. It is a middle sized city and its metropolitan area is actually composed of four cities, Bucaramanga, Giron, Floridablanca, and Piedecuesta . A fifth city/town called Lebrija is not part of the metropolitan area, but it is really close and this is actually where the International Airport of Palonegro is located Since the city is located 3,146 feet above sea level, the temperature is a comfortable 78°F all year long. This means that people dress in Spring attire year round. So, if you’re going to the ICBF office or court, you don’t have to wear a suit, just think of whatever you’d wear to go to your office during spring time, and for women -- sandals are appropriate. For the rest of your stay, casual dress is fine. However, T-shirts are typically considered to be underwear, and therefore, a polo type shirt or a collared shirt is a better choice. The people of Santander are really helpful an

Muisca Indingenous Names from Bacatá (Bogotá)

The mortal enemy of the Zaque in Hunza (Tunja) was the ZIPA in BACATÁ (Bogotá). There had been war after war between the two groups. Understanding the warlike nature of the relationship between these two groups is important in understanding an incredible experience that happened just prior to the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores. Name: TISQUESUSA (tees kay SUE sah) The Story: TISQUESUSA came to power following the death of his uncle, NEMEQUENE , in 1514. He continued the wars with QUEMUENCHATOCHA (the Zaque of Hunza) that his uncle had started. Eventually, Tisquesusa was able to achieve an uneasy peace with the Zaque. In spite of the peace, the animosity between the two groups continued. Finally, Tisquesusa began to make preparations to again go to war against the Zaque. This sets the stage for an interesting experience. It happened while Tisquesusa was sleeping. He dreamed a dream that disturbed him greatly. In his dream, he was bathing at his summer home in Tena when all of t

La Virgen de Chiquinquirá

Photo of the actual Painting of the Virgen de Chiquinquirá As in many places, religious traditions can have a big impact on the names people choose for their children. Muslims may choose to name their child Mohammed. Jews may choose names like Moses or Abraham. Lutherans could choose Martin. Mormons might pick Nephi or Brigham. Baptists might pick John. You get the idea. But, this is common also in Catholic culture. Take for instance the name Guadalupe, which comes from the Virgin of Guadalupe that appeared to the boy Juan Diego in Mexico. The name Guadalupe is extremely popular in Mexico and it works for both men and women. In Colombia, a predominantly Catholic country, many people choose to name their children names associated with the Catholic church. One name that is sometimes chosen comes from the Patron of Colombia – the Virgen de Chiquinquirá. Name: Chiquinquirá The Story: According to Catholic tradition, Fray Andrés Jadraque ordered that a painting be made of the Virgen del R

Muisca Indigenous Names, from Hunza (Tunja)

In response to this week’s posts on names, I have received several e-mails asking about the names of famous Colombians and their stories and about Indigenous names. I plan to spend the next three days sharing some of them. Also, I will continue to post more in the future and you will be able to find them all by clicking on the NAMES link the LABELS section to the right of the blog. Name: AQUIMÍN ( pronounced: ah key MEAN) or AQUIMINZAQUE (pronounced: ah key mean ZAH kay) When the Spanish arrived on the plains of Bogotá, 1536, they found a great nation. In fact, it was the third largest group of indigenous inhabitants in America. They called themselves the Muiscas , which meant ‘the people’. Their language was called Chibcha . The Muiscas were not a united group, but rather a collection of city states. The majority of the power was held by two main cities – what today are called Bogotá and Tunja (in Boyacá). These two cities were mortal enemies and each enlisted the loy

Adult Adoptees -- Perspective on Name Changes

My husband and I often teased each other, during our years of infertility, that the reason we had been unable to have children was that we couldn’t decide on a name – “And God simply won’t send a child whose parents can’t come up with a name for him.” With all teasing aside, it was very difficult for us to decide what to do when we adopted our son – then 21 months old. He clearly knew his name. What were we to do? The issue of naming a child that already has a name is sticky and personal. Many people offer advice and criticism, but in the end, it is the adoptive parents that have the most say in this issue. But what do adult adoptees say? While the feelings of adult adoptees tends to vary from – I love my new name to I hate my parents for changing my name, current thought among social workers on this issue is that the birth name (whether given by parents, social worker, or foster mother) should be kept in some form as part of the child’s new name. Some people believe that age should be

Popular Colombian Names

Recently, I was asked to write a post on Colombian names, and popular Colombian names. I had a hard time finding a list, but eventually I did find one. According to I.N.E. - Instituto Nacional de Estadística, -- unfortunately, when I found this it doesn't say the year -- the most common Colombian boys names across all ages are: 1 JUAN CARLOS 2 CARLOS ALBERTO 3 ALEXANDER 4 ANDRES FELIPE 5 LUIS FERNANDO 6 DIEGO FERNANDO 7 JHON JAIRO 8 CARLOS ANDRES 9 ALEJANDRO 10 JUAN DAVID The girls are: 1 SANDRA MILENA 2 LUZ MARINA 3 CAROLINA 4 PAULA ANDREA 5 CLAUDIA PATRICIA 6 MARIA EUGENIA 7 PAOLA ANDREA 8 DANIELA 9 LILIANA 10 MARTHA CECILIA Just as here, names go through ebb and flow. Fourteen years ago when we were married, I attended several baby baptisms and met numerous friends of my husband. At the time, it seemed like everyone was naming their kid Juan CAMILO (boy) or Maria CAMILA (girl). I met dozens of them. Then, about 7 years later, I heard tons of SANTIAGO, JULIAN, SEBASTIAN and FE

Saying of the Week -- No Sea Sapo

Here is a funny Colombian expression -- related to the theme of frogs that I have been working on this week. NO SEA SAPO. I include it because it is quaint, amusing, and makes no sense outside of Colombia. But, it can be heard in Colombian Telenovelas or on the street. However, it is kind of low class, so you may not want to throw it out there with your lawyer or the judge. The literal meaning of SAPO in Spanish is TOAD. But, in Colombia a SAPO can also be a person that is a tattletale, someone who sticks his nose in other people's business, or someone who answers a question when the question wasn't directed at him. The expression is "No Sea Sapo." -- don't be a tattletale or busybody. It can be useful with children -- but note it is strong. Since it can be rude to call someone a sapo, Colombians have created several humorous expressions that imply that someone is a sapo without having to come right out and actually say that they are a sapo. For ins

El Renacuajo Paseador -- The Wandering Tadpole

One of the most famous children's poets of Colombia is Rafael Pombo (Bogotá, 1883 - Bogotá, 1912). He is like the Dr. Seuss of Colombia. Just as we must memorize poerty here, most Colombians will be required to memorize at least one of Pombo's poems prior to graduating from elementary school. My husband remembers memorizing Simón el Bobito in 4th grade. As long as we have spent so much of this week talking about frogs, here is one of Pombo's most famous poems. It talks about a little frog (named Rinrín Renacuajo) that leaves home inspite of his mother's warnings. Once outside, he is invited by his neighbor, mouse, to visit Doña Ratona (Mrs. Mouse). As the two friends visit with Doña Ratona, they drink (beer), eat, listen to Doña ratona sing, dance, get comfortable, and become distracted. Then, enter the cats, they eat the mice and just when we think Rinrin Rencuajo is going to get away, he is eaten by a duck. This, unfortunately, leaves Mrs. Frog alone. The moral? Obe

10 New Species of Amphibians Found

Continuing with the theme of frogs this week, you may not know that Colombia holds 2nd place in the world for the number of unique amphibians with 650. Oops! Better make that 660, in February, 2009, Colombian scientists announced that they had found 10 new unique amphibians -- 9 frogs and 1 salamander. You can read more and see a slideshow of the new species at one of the following spots. In English, En Español,

Kogi -- Frog Myth

Myths serve to explain the world view of a people. In Colombia, the KOGI, an indigenous group, explain why frogs only come out when it rains. According to their oral tradition: The Frog was chosen as the second wife of the Sun God. However, she choose to be unfaithful to him. When the Sun God discovered her treachery, he became angry. In his fury, he grabbed his wife and threw her down to earth, where she shattered into a thousand pieces. Each piece then became a new frog. The frogs quickly hid themselves from the Sun in the dense forest, where they remain unobserved until it rains. As the drops begin to fall from the sky, the frogs leave their hiding places. They choose to leave their cover only when it rains because the sun is hidden behind the clouds and cannot see them. * Photos by Sailing Nomad

Sana Que Sana -- For those Boo Boos

So, your little one falls and scrapes a knee or bangs his head. What do you do? What do you say? Ahh! During the hugs and kisses you can repeat this little rhyme. Sana que sana (Heal, heal) Colita de rana (Little frog tail) Si no sanas hoy, (If you don’t heal today,) sanarás mañana (you will heal tommorrow) Si no dentro de una semana. (If not, within a week) French translation: Guéris, guéris Petite queue de grenouille Si aujourd'hui tu ne guéris pas Demain tu guériras.