Showing posts from October, 2009

Colombian Halloween

While October 31st is Halloween here in the US, there is a similar -- typically -- less scary holiday in Colombia on the same day. Until 2001, it was called Día de los Niños. However, in 2001, spurred on by the ICBF and concerns over the violent nature of Halloween, the official title of Día de los Niños was removed and passed on to the last Saturday in the month of April -- it is called the Día de los Niñez y Recreacion . Halloween is now just Halloween or Noche de Brujas. On this day, children dress up as their favorite character. Walking the streets, you will see Batman, fairies, dogs, cats, ninjas, cowboys, princesses, etc. The children will get candy, balloons, ice cream and other gifts in celebration. Unlike here in the US, where kids go from house to house seeking candy. Most kids are taken to shopping malls or grocery stores (Centros Comerciales) where they ask for and receive candy. So, what is the Colombian Trick or Treat saying? It goes like this: Triqui Triqui Halloween

Coconut Handicrafts

Until the year 1853, cotton was the major agricultural focus on the Islands (San Andrés , Santa Catalina and Providencia ). However, after this date, agriculture became more and more focused on Coconuts. Coconuts became prevalent in both the gastronomy and economy of the islands. The fiber from the coconut tree branches is used to make hats, baskets, wall hangings and rugs. The shells are used in a myriad of other handicrafts. There are the practical handicrafts -- bowls, spoons, lamps, cups and dishes. Those used to beautify -- necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and belts. Yet another great idea for a Colombian souvenir, particularly if your child was born on the islands or if you choose to visit there. Picture:

Festival de la Luna Verde -- Green Moon Festival

El Festival de la Luna Verde or the Green Moon Festival got its start in 1988, with the 1st annual festival. The Festival was designed to celebrate the Affro Caribbean roots of the islands (San Andres, Santa Catalina and Providencia ). According to an article I read in El Tiempo , the festival is unfortunately no longer held. However, here is what it was like. The party would begin with a parade to all parts of the island, following the roads, accompanied by music. There were marches and dances hearkening back to dances from Ghana and other African places. At night there were music competitions from groups representing European folkloric music like polka and chottis that has influenced the people of the islands. There were also presentations paying homage to the population's African roots. These groups used drums, shells and other native African instruments -- they called this the Congo Meeting. The festival also included musicians from all quarters of the Cari

Rondón or Rundown -- Not to Miss Cuisine

One of the classic dishes of the Islands (San Andrés, Santa Catalina and Providencia) is Rundown or Rondón. Using coconut milk as the broth base, you add snail, pig tail, and fish (sometimes shrimp, crab or lobster are added) as the meat. You also add to the meat green plantains, yuca, breadfruit, yams, dumplings and spices. It is usually cooked outside and most often on the beach in a large pot over an open fire. This unique and VERY typcial dish is well worth a whirl if you get a chance to visit San Andrés while in Colombia * Photos

San Andrés and Providencia

One of the most important places for Afrocolombians are the islands of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina. They have an amazing history, which is as follows: During the 1600's, while Spain and Portugal flourished because of their possessions in the new world, France and England became jealous and angry. They wanted a piece of the pie. However, Pope Alexander I had divided the New World in 1493, drawing an imaginary line between the North and South Pole, giving Portugal possession of lands on one side and Spain possession of lands on the other side. As a result, France and England were excluded from the riches of the New World. The English adopted a belligerent attitude and in 1558, they began an organized, state sponsored, campaign of piracy -- known in English as PRIVATEERING. This tactic was designed to weaken Spain. Pirates such as Sir John Hawkins, Sir Francis Drake, and Henry Morgan stole from the Spanish Armada as they attempted to take the riches from America back to

Pollo Gritador

Yesterday, I mentioned an option for not to miss cuisine -- Pollo Gritador -- Screaming Chicken. Today, I will provide the recipe so that you could try this on your next Bar-B-Q. Step #1 Take 5 pounds of chicken breast , clean and pound them so that they are even and will cook evenly. Step #2 In a food processor, mix the following. 2 large tomatoes 4 green onions 1 medium onion finely chopped 2-3 cloves of garlic 4 sprigs of cilantro -- cut off the stem 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon chicken broth instant powder (I like Herb-ox my MIL uses Knorr ). Salt to taste, if necessary Once ingredients are all mixed and chopped up in the food processor, I cook them in a frying pan on medium in: 3-4 Tablespoons butter (I use regular Smart Balance instead). Cook the GUISO in the butter until everything is tender and the onions just start to brown. Take off the stove. Step #3 Fork chicken and marinate the chicken in about 2 cups of Hogao . Let the chicken marinate over night. Step #4 2 h

Not to Miss Cuisine - Asado Huilense

The most typically food associated with the Festival de San Pedro (Festival Folclórico de Bambuco ) in Huila is the famous ASADO HUILENSE or Hulian Bar-B-Q. Though each family probably has its own take on the amount of spices and the kinds of spices used, however, the overall idea and taste of the Bar-B-Q is the same. You can use some or all of the following ingredients: Carne de cerdo -- Pork Cerveza -- Beer Spices: Ajo -- Garlic Pimentón -- Green Pepper Cebolla larga -- Green onions Laurel -- Bay leaf Tomillo -- Thyme Yerba buena -- Spearmint Albahaca -- Basil Cilantro Poleo -- Pennyroyal (a kind of mint plant) Oregano Naranja agria -- Bitter orange Nuez Moscada -- Nutmeg Canela -- Cinnamon Sal -- Salt Pimienta -- Pepper The pork is marinated in the beer/spice marinade for at least 24 hours. Then, you put it in a clay tray and place it in the oven -- they use a brick and clay oven. Look at the cool video: I couldn&


The famous Colombian poet -- Rafael Pombo -- once wrote: “Para conjurar el tedio de este vivir , tan maluco , Dios me depare un bambuco y al punto , santo remedio ” which means In order to avert tedium in this life, so awful. God has sent me a bambuco and with it, a holy remedy. Most musicians, anthropologists, and historians claim that Bambuco has its roots in African mixed with Indigenous culture -- with some Spanish thrown in for good measure. Whatever its roots, however, Bambuco is a uniquely Colombian genre that has spread to other parts of South and Central America. Bambuco is most commonly associated with the following Departments of Colombia: Nariño , Cauca , Valle del Cauca , Tolima , Huila , Antioquia , Risaralda , Quindío , Cundinamarca , both Santanders , and Boyacá . While there are modern singers of Bambuco ( Conjunto Villa María , Trío Palo Santo , and Cuarto Palos ), it is typically considered to be folkloric music. It is based on 3/4 or 6/8 time,

National Bambuco Folk Festival and Beauty Pageant

In 1790, the governor of the area that is now Huila , declared a special fiesta in Honor of the King of Spain. These fiestas or "La Jura " was required to demonstrate obedience and respect to the King. Originally, the fiestas were to be held for 10 days in the month of June and corresponded with the Día de San Juan (Day of Saint John -- June 24) and that of San Pedro (Saint Peter -- June 29). In centuries past, the Día de San Juan was more celebrated by those in rural areas and the Día de San Pedro by those in the cities. In 1956, the first parade, where people dressed in traditional clothing, was organized. A few years later, in 1960, the first annual Festival Folclorico y Reinado del Bambuco was declared by a city ordinance. The festival includes competitions and prizes for the best musical groups, the best dancers, and the best floats. Of course, as with almost any Colombian festival, there is a beauty pageant where the contestants are each required to dance a


While the rest of Colombia calls people from Huila -- Huilenses , they call themselves Opitos . Just one of the many unique things about the people and culture of Huila . The capital of Huila is Neiva which is located about 5 hours from Bogotá . Neiva is located on the Magdalena river and is hot and humid -- with average daily temperatures ranging from 89-102 degrees. The city itself was founded on May 24, 1612, by Diego de Ospina y Medinilla , and the department of Huila was established in 1905, with Neiva as its capital. What to see in Neiva ? Parque Santander -- This is the main park in the center of town. Surrounding it are government and religious buildings. You can see the Templo Colonial or the modern catherdral . There are also shops and restaurants. Parque Isla -- This park is located on the shores of the Magdalena. You can take the Teleférico or go in a canoe to get there. It is a nature preserve where you can see birds, ride horses, fish, or kaya

Friends of Colombian Orphans

The FOCO ebay auction is LIVE! It will also appear in Missionfish in a few days. Please take a look! If there is anything you would like, remember that all proceeds benefit Friends of Colombian Orphans. There are some great souvenirs from Colombia, just in case you missed buying a MOLA while you were there.

Good News for ICBF Valle del Cauca

Last week, I read a great article in El Tiempo about how an internal ICBF change in that region is getting children out of the system and into adoptive homes more quickly. So far this year (as of September) 114 children from the department of Valle del Cauca have found new homes. This is the same number that found adoptive homes in ALL of last year. Here is a summary translation of the article. All night he slept, covered from head to toe with a blanket. Only his hand slipped outside of his cocoon to take that of his mother, confirming that she would still be there when he awoke. This was the first time that Pepe (named changed) had shared a bed with a mother and father. In his nine years of life, he had never felt such a marvelous sensation. It was the sealing of a pact that had opened the door to the home he had waited for since he was born. Even though expressing what he feels is difficult because he has been deaf since birth, nothing is too difficult for this little boy -- not

Why are kids in ICBF care?

The newspaper El Tiempo recently had a article that discussed the top reasons why children in the department of Cundimarca (the cities and area surrounding Bogotá) end up in ICBF care. According to the article, the number one reason children come into the care of ICBF Cundinamarca is physical abuse and neglect. The report states that in 2008, 3,178 children were referred to ICBF for reasons of physical abuse. So far this year, 2,496 children have been referred to ICBF for the same reason. According to the Infant and Adolescent Police, the cities of Soacha, Chía and Facatativa are the cities with the highest number of reported abuse cases in Cundinamarca.

Most Common Last Names in Colombia

I have posted before about the most common first names in Colombia, but I got an e-mail asking me about the most common last names. And believe it or not, I was able to find the answer. The MOST COMMON LAST NAME IN COLOMBIA IS ........ DRUM ROLL PLEASE. #1 Rodríguez -- with 675,196 Colombianos sharing this last name. #2 Gómez -- 514,497 #3 González -- 506,861 #4 Martínez -- 504,486

An Easy Way to Help Friends of Colombian Orphans

Ebay Giving Works is an easy way for anyone to support Friends of Colombian Orphans. You decide what you want to sell and list it using the link below. When your item sells, you mail it, and MISSIONFISH will collect the donation, send it to FOCO and will send you a receipt for tax purposes. Here is an opportunity for you to sell your stuff on ebay and have the proceeds from the sale to go to Friends of Colombian Orphans. Please decide what you would like to donate, and then go to the following link: You can read more about FOCO at the following link:

Día de la Raza -- National Holiday

Perhaps no holiday is more controversial than that of October 12. It is the day where we celebrate the collision of 2 worlds, which had tragic consequences among the native peoples of America, while creating a New World and a new RAZA (race). This is what is celebrated today. The word RACE in English insufficiently communicates what the word RAZA means in Spanish. When we think of race in English we think of skin color. Raza in Spanish refers to the entire sum of the collision of cultures -- a new kind of race RAZA is what the people have become as a result of the fusion of religion -- culture -- philosophy -- language -- -- etc. Here is a link to some children's songs -- in Spanish -- that celebrate the Día de la RAZA . Many native peoples see this holiday as a celebration of their ultimate cultural destruction. In fact, as we saw last week with a discussion of just 4 of the 87 native peoples of Colombia, the cultural and lingu

Tule or Kuna Indians and the Mola

The Tule (meaning the people) or Kuna (name commonly given the group) Indians live in the Urabá region of Antioquia and the islands of San Blas in Panamá. They are a matriarchal society. When a couple marries, the groom goes to live with his in-laws and he works for them. Like most indigenous peoples, their society revolves around hunting, fishing, and agriculture. The language, Dulegaya, is still spoken and taught in the communities. Here is a clip from a documentary about the Tule-Kuna of Colombia: One of the most beautiful handicrafts of Colombia are the MOLAS made by the Kuna women. Here is a picture of one: Molas are bright colorful works made by using a reverse appliqué process. In the process several layers of brightly colored cloth are loosely sewn together. Then, the top layers are cut and folded back and then hand sewn to the layers below. Molas (which means 'blouse' in the Tula language) are still worn by the women of the vi

The Awá

The Awá indigenous community is located along the south-west mountainous rain forests near Tumaco in Narino (also located in Northern Ecuador). They live on several Indigenous reservations. Awá means the "people." They live in small communities that consist of large extended family units. There is typically long distances between communities. The people live off of the land hunting, fishing, and growing corn (maiz), and other vegetables. Unfortunately, little has been written about the AWÁ and their culture. The best resource is in Spanish. It is a book by Benhur Ceron Solarte called LOS AWÁ-KWAIKER. As I mentioned yesterday, some of the hardest hit by the drug/guerrilla violence are those of indigenous communities. Unfortunately, the reservations where the Awá live are also located in areas where poppy and coca are grown. Thus making it ground zero for the FARC / Paramilitary / Army war. Under such conditions, the Awá have recently suffered great loss. On August 26, there wa

Waunana and their Werregue

The Waunana are closely related to the Embera and inhabit much of the same territory of the Embera . Many live in Chocó in the San Juan River basin , but there are others in the department of Cauca these are the Waunan Nonam . I have read some estimates that say prior to 800 AD they were the same people and spoke the same language. Then, sometime between 800 and 1200 AD their language began to change and now they are as closely related as German is to English. Their cultural and religious traditions seem to be much more cohesive than the diverse Embera , but their overall lifestyle is very similar. I also read that there has been a lot of racial mixing between the Waunana and Afrocolombians in the Chocó region. I am not sure if this source was particularly reliable, however, I think that it stands to reason based on the following: One of the most unique handicrafts of Colombia, WERREGUE BASKETS, are made by the Waunana Indians in the Chocó region. The Colombian official Touri

The Embera

The Emberas are nomadic peoples that live primarily in the department of Chocó and the part of Antioquia known as Urabá , however, there are also Emberas in other parts of Colombia as well as in neighboring Panamá . The Emberas are Colombia's 3rd largest indigenous group with a population of approximately 71,000. They are hunter gatherers and often still use the poison dart (made from the poison-dart frog)blow-gun, bows and arrows, or spears to catch their prey. They live in houses on stilts, which were to protect them from jaguars, wild boar and other jungle hazards. Both men and women are shirtless in their native environment wearing loincloths and skirts. One of the unique features of the Embera is the body painting that they do. The Embera use the inedible fruit JAGUA to create a black dye that is then used to paint their bodies. The dye lasts 10 days to 2 weeks. Each design has a meaning and each is different for age as well as gender. There are actually 5 different di

Colombian Indigenous Group Statistics

The DANE (the government office in charge of census and statistics) provided the following information in 2005. There are approximately 1,400,000 indigenous people , from 87 different ethnic groups that live in Colombia. These groups speak 64 different languages from 13 different language families. There are 710 reservations and the Indigenous peoples occupy 29.8% of the national territory . In 1900, 25% of the Colombian population were indigenous, today it is 3.4% . The Colombian Constitution guarantees 2 senators and 1 congressman to represent the collection of the nation's indigenous population. * photos

Indigenous Groups of the Pacific and Afrocolombian Influence

Although the largest portion of the population on the Pacific Coast is of African descent (approximately 700,000 rural afrocolombian farmers), there are still large groups of indigenous peoples all along the coast. The largest group is the EMBERA (40,000), followed by the AWÁ (10,000), the WAUNANA (7,000), and the KUNA (600) native peoples. The native peoples accepted the afro colombian encroachment much more readily than that of the white man. There has been some, though not much, mixing of the races and the children of afrocolombian and indigenous people are called Zambos . They make up approximately 2 1/2 -3% of the population. In a book by Javier Ocampo Lopez (a professor at the UPTC in Tunja ), I found an Embera legend about the origin of race that I thought might be interesting to share to close out this week. According to the group of Embera Indians known as the Catios , who live in Choco , there exists the god EUANDAMA , whose body is that of the sun. Euandama mar

Drinks of the Costa Pacífica

One of the most unique aspects of food from the Pacific coast is the large variety of drinks that they have. Each department seems to have their specialty drink. CHOCOLATE CON LECHE DE COCO -- from Chocó . For this coconut chocolate milk, you take 8 bars of Colombian chocolate, 2 cups of coconut milk from freshly opened coconuts, 4 cups of milk, and sugar to taste. First, melt the chocolate in the coconut milk on low heat. Mix constantly with a hand mixer (molinillo). When the chocolate is completely melted, add milk and sugar and stir until they are dissolved. JUGO DE NAIDÍ - from Guapí, Cauca The naidí (nigh DEE) is more commonly known in the U.S. as the acai fruit. They come from palm trees where they grow in bunches, like grapes. They start out green and turn a deep reddish-purple when they ripen. To prepare a delicious drink from the fruit, you place the ripe berries in a pot of water that just covers the berries, and then boil on high for about 30 minutes (add water if necessary