Showing posts from August, 2009

The Chibchas or Muiscas Explain Creation

In 1536, the Spanish arrived on the plains of Bogotá and explored the Altiplano Cundiboyacense . There, they found the third largest group of indigenous inhabitants in America. These indigenous people called themselves the Muiscas , which meant ‘the people’. They called their language Chibcha . Today, these words are both used when describing the natives of the Altiplano. 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 (then called Bacatá ) and Tunja (then called Hunza ) located in Boyacá . These two cities were mortal enemies and each enlisted the loyalty and help of near by cities in the many battles they had between them. Despite their constant fighting one city remained neutral amid the conflicts -- Sogamoso (then called Sugamuxi ) also in Boyacá . This city was the religious center of the culture. [Today, you can see a rebuilt religious center and Temple by visiti

Children's Book Suggestion

Julia Durango, author of The Walls of Cartagena , also wrote a wonderful description of the life of Saint Peter Claver. If you recall my May 21, 2009, post, you will remember that Peter Claver called himself a "slave of the black slaves". He loved and served the newly arrived slaves in Cartagena in the 1600's. You and your child can learn more as you enjoy this wonderful bilingual (SPANISH/ENGLISH) book. It is called: Peter Claver, Patron Saint of Slaves/Pedro Claver, Santo Patrono de los Esclavos This book would be a great addition to your home library. It is especially great for kids 4-8 years of age.

Anniversary of Law #70 -- Celebrating 16 Years

On August 27, 1993, Colombia passed Law # 70, also known as the “Law of the Black Communities”. This law stands as one of the greatest achievements of the Afro-Colombian civil rights movement. Historically Afro-Colombians have suffered exclusion in Colombian social, cultural and political life. With the passing of Law # 70, the Colombian government must now guarantee protection for the ancestral territories of the Afro-descendants. They must also invest in the economic development of these areas, as well as protect their cultural identity and civil rights. Under Law #70, Afro-Colombians now have a legal tool to fight against the exclusion, discrimination, poverty, forced displacement and expropriation of their collective territories that have been the hallmark of treatment towards them. According to the law, Community Councils are now recognized as the ultimate authority in the internal administration of the collective territories. The Community Councils oversee the conservancy


I am going on vacation for a week and a half -- please stay tuned for my next offerings on Afrocolombians and then more Colombian Myths and Legends. Also, please leave me a comment about future subjects that you would like to see covered. I'd love to answer questions or give any information that you are specifically looking for. I have a few ideas for weekly series including searching for Birth Parents, Lifebooks, Colombian authors and painters, more on Afrocolombians, and the Amazon. Abuelita Carmen has also sent me a few new recipes that we can try out.

Otilia Ruiz de Jérez

Otilia Ruiz de Jerez is a native of Raquira. She is also perhaps its most famous artist. She was a master sculptor, using the same techniques as mentioned last week with Tia Isabel. However, rather than making the traditional pots and cooking implements, she began sculpting people and religious art. Unlike some of the other people that had began using ceramic molds, each one of her works was unique -- handmade and hand painted. She is considered one of Colombia's 7 Art Masters and as such she has earned recognition on the Luis Angel Arango National Library Website. See her picture and more of her art at the following link: In 1994, when my husband and I were married, we were in a mall in Bogota. Inside, on the top floor, was an Art store. In the windows of the store were a bunch of statues made of red clay, most were religious in nature. They were very unique. So, we stopped to ask about them. The salesman told us

Ráquira -- Souvenirs Galore

So, you want to get some GREAT SOUVENIRS. Where do you go? Yes, there is an artesan market in Bogotá, but if you want to see endless selection of ceramics, hand made pots and statues, handmade hammocks, ruanas, art, etc. You need to go to Ráquira. Ráquira is the Chibcha name meaning "City of Pots", and that is exactly what it is. Originally, an area of a small Chibcha population governed by the Cacique Suaya and under the authority of the Zaque of Hunza (Tunja), the conquistadors passed through the village on their way to Bogotá in 1537. The city of Raquirá was 'founded' in 1580 by Fray Francisco de Orjuela, on October 18. The Natives of the area were then taught Catholicism by Augustine Monks who founded the first Augustine Monestary in the Americas in 1607 just outside of Ráquira. Ráquira is an amazing place to spend a couple of hours. It is about 20-30 minutes from Villa de Leyva. Make sure to bring your wallet and be prepared to make some amazing finds in this l


In and around Villa de Leyva, you will find hundreds of real relics -- FOSSILS. The fossils, particularly those of ammonites are so common that many of the buildings in Villa de Leyva have used them as part of the buildings themselves. In 1977, farmers in a nearby vereda (hamlet) discovered the remains of a 115 million year old Kronosaurus. It is one of the few completely intact fossil remains of this particular animal to be found -- the others are located in Australia. They built the museum around the original find. Museo -- El Fosíl The museum is located about 5.5km (2 miles) outside of Villa de Leyva, just off the main highway to Santa Sofia. Outside of the Museum, dozens of people are selling fossils they have found in the area. You can pick up 5 inch size AMMONITES for just a few dollars. Ammonites Open: Mo-Su 8am-6pm. Entrance Fee: $2.500 pesos -- about $1.30. Here is a You-Tube viedo of the museum. Photos:

Children's Book Suggestion -- The Kite Festival

In this book, author Leyla Torres (Colombian), tells the story of a Colombian family's impromptu trip. After randomly deciding on the destination, the multi-generational family piles into the car and heads off to the town of San Vicente. When they arrive, they find that there is a Kite Festival (like the one mentioned in yesterday's post) in progess. The family has come ill-prepared for the festival and so they use their creative skills to fashion a kite. In the end, they are awarded a prize for the most creative kite. The illustrations are so wonderful. She perfectly captures Colombia and the Festival de Cometa tradition. The book is available in English and Spanish. It is probably best for Kindergarten - 3rd grade aged children. Here is a teaching guide and activities for before and after the read: You can possibly find it at your local library, request it inter-library loan, or purchase it here: I

Villa de Leyva

If you check any Traveller's Guide to Colombia, you will find Villa De Leyva high on the list of NOT TO MISS excursions. Located about 3-4 hours North of Bogotá in the Department of Boyacá , Villa de Leyva is an impressively preserved Spanish Colonial village. The buildings -- mostly over 400 years old -- are immaculately preserved , and as a result, it has been declared a United Nations World Heritage site. Villa de Leyva caters to the tourist. Every time we have visited (4 times) we hear German, French, English, Italian, Swedish and other European and Asian languages being spoken -- not to mention Spanish and Argentine accents. There are beautiful Colonial Hotels and Farms where you can stay and be pampered -- they even have SPAS. Shops with all sorts of art and artisan works line the streets. There are some amazing restaurants and bread stores!!! Even if you don't speak Spanish, check out the pictures of the hotels and farms ( fincas ) on this website -- gives the be

Excellent Book

After the story of Pedro Pascasio that I shared yesterday, I wanted to recommend the purchase of a book. This book is only available in Spanish, but is truly is awesome! It is a historical fiction version of the story of Pedro Pascasio. Well researched! Great detail! Pictures! Wonderful! Title: Pedro Pascasio: Heroe antes de los doce años Author: Fernando Soto Aparicio Here is a link to Amazon:

Pedro Pascasio -- Child Hero with Integrity

I SOOOOO Love to tell my boys this story! Pedro Pascasio Martinez Rojas , is the 12 year old boy hero of Colombian Independence. Born on October 20, 1807, in Belén , Boyacá , to a VERY POOR peasant family. He became enamored of the idea of liberty. His whole family worked for one of the wealthy land owning families of Belén , the family of Juan Jose Leyva. Even at his young age, Pedro Pascasio was expected to serve the Leyva family. In his capacity as servant, Pedro Pascasio overheard his employer and his Criollo friends discuss Bolivar's progress and their hopes for liberty from what they considered to be Spanish tyranny . Pedro was inspired by their revolutionary conversations. He wanted nothing more than to join Bolivar. But, no one would take him seriously. He was just a child. Then, something happened that would change his life forever. On July 18, 1819, Simón Bolivar arrived at Belén, and stayed at the Leyva home. While exactly how it happened is unclear, Pedro did indeed

Battle of Boyacá -- Preparing for August 7th

After Bolivar's amazing victory at Pantano de Vargas (July 25, 1819), he withdrew his troops to Corrales (near Sogamoso) in order to rest and regroup. Here's a refresher on Pantano de Vargas: On August 3, after receiving new recruits and supplies, Bolivar once again began his push toward Bogotá. Expecting this, Spanish General José María Barreiro , headed to Tunja, hoping to block the rebels advance there. However, Bolivar had also anticipated Barreiro's move. He marched his troops toward Tunja not stopping to sleep or rest. On August 5 Bolivar's troops arrived at Tunja. This was long before Barreiro, and therefore, the city was easily taken and secured. The supplies meant for Barreiro that were found there -- food, medicine, horses, and ammunition -- were confiscated and distributed among Bolivar's troops. While in Tunja, the Republican forces rested for about 40 hours. Then, on the morning of

Tía Isabel -- Our Famous Potter of Tiestecitos

In the area surrounding Tutazá (mentioned yesterday), there are many areas -- called veredas . A vereda is a small geographical region that usually has a collection of homes and farms in a rural area -- like a hamlet. One of those veredas is called Tuaté. It was there in a small adobe house with a red, tile roof that my father-in-law was born. His family made their living as potters, a tradition handed down from the orginal inhabitants of the area, and as a child he travelled all over Boyacá, Santander, and Cundinamarca with his father selling the pots and other things that his family made out of clay. Though he left his home at 14 and became successful at something other than pot making, his youngest sister, Isabel, remained and inherited the family home. There she continued the family business. However, her inginuity and creativity lead her to be recognized by a famous French potter -- Dauphine Scalbert. In 1994, Ms. Scalbert wrote an article about Tía Isabel and her pottery and tech

Simón Bolivar -- Tiestecitos

There is actually a Virgin of Colombian Independence. While she is officially called the Virgin del Carmen, she is known in Colombia as the "Virgin of the Tiestecitos" (or in English the Virgin of the little Pieces of Pottery). According to tradition, as Bolivar crossed the Andes and began his trek through Boyacá -- where he would eventually win the Battle of Boyacá and achieve Independence for Colombia -- he passed thorugh the small village of Tutazá. In Tutazá, the people were famous for creating all kinds of things out of clay -- pots, jars, statues, figurines, etc. While in Tutazá, he had seen the statue of the Virgin Mary in the church and also the many of the clay pots and figurines in the village. Later, during the Battle of Pantano de Vargas, he prayed for protection from the Virgin of "the place where they make those Tiestecitos." [His exact words in Spanish: "VIRGEN MARIA DE ALLA... DONDE HACEN LOS TIESTOS, AYUDANOS"] Many believed that it was th