Friday, Feb 15, 2019
A few of us from Colombia Immersion went to Guatape over the weekend to check out this cool little town in the mountains of Columbia. Although not far in miles, it takes about two hours by bus to arrive because of the narrow, but not too dangerous, winding roads.
When we arrived we were hungry so we ate at a restaurant that had a great view of the lakes around Guatape.
Guatape is a collection of brightly colored homes found around the main square and along the many side streets of the community. It sits within the beautiful mountain countryside of Colombia.
Around WWI a man who lived in Guatape had an idea to make a sulcus, which is a molded picture, on the lower front of the house. The sulcus was of llamas in a field, one half looking left and the other half looking right. It was his way to protest the hold the Catholic church had on the life of the people and community. It looked similar to the one below.
It was dangerous to oppose the Catholic church in Colombia, even in the early 1900s, because it was common to be found dead if one’s views were not in alignment with the church’s. The llamas facing opposite directions represented seeing life from different perspectives and living together.
The sulcus itself was painted with bright colors which again was a protest of the dull and drab life imposed by the church in the community. These sulcuses caught on, and others in the community made them on their homes. The sulcuses showed what the people of the house did…farmer, teacher, craftsman. They also could show some history of the people in Colombia, or even just a simple geometric symbol the family adopted as their own.
The homes themselves were eventually painted in bright colors, which was not the norm at the time for the dull browns imposed by the Catholic church ruling the daily lives of the people in Guatape for hundreds of years. The colors became a protest of the hold of the church on the community. Today, it has helped promote tourism to this interesting community.
This sulcus shows how the indigenous people had to carry the Spaniards on their backs for many miles across the country. Multiple indigenous people were brought along for such journeys. Today local people have a celebration where beautiful flowers are made into grand arrangements and a parade of men carry these on their backs through town.
This particular home (below) made a sulcus for the dog who lives inside. The walking tour I was on visits this home during every tour. The dog patiently comes to the door to say hello to all the visitors.
When the man-made lakes were originally created in Guatape, a large section of town was flooded and became permanently underwater. People who had homes in this area were forced to move. It was a difficult situation for these members of the community.
At some point in time, Guatape residents made sulcuses representing the families’ symbols or trade who lost their homes, on the homes that line a street in town, now known as Memory Lane.
At the edge of Guatape is a large rock called La Piedra. Three generations ago, about in the 1950’s, a man bought the field that this large rock sat in. The townspeople laughed at him and called him stupid because the ground couldn’t grow crops. The man bought it for another purpose.
He thought it would be a great tourist attraction if people were able to climb up the rock. Originally wooden steps were built and never made it to the top. Over years the steps were changed to concrete and completed to the top. Today the tens of thousands of visitors per year who come to see La Piedra at Guatape can securely walk up the 700 steep steps to the top.
I believed I paid the equivalent of $5 US dollars to do this. Hmmm, tens of thousands of people times $5 each. Maybe the man who bought the field with the gigantic rock was brilliant after all.
A sculpture of him is in the plaza, filled with restaurants and tourist shops, at the base of the rock. Personally, I think that is the least his grandkids could do for their forward thinking grandfather. 😉
At the top of La Piedra is a remarkable view of the town of Guatape surrounded by a series of connecting man-made lakes. Water sports and activities also draw tourists to this area. The weekend I visited, the skies were overcast. On a clear day however, looking over the lakes at sunrise or sunset is a remarkable site as the sunlight reflects off the water.
On my way down from the top of La Piedra I caught up with this worker who has to carry the trash from the restaurant at the top by hand down the 700 stairs in the narrow passage way. Not sure it is the greatest job but he probably stays fit going up and down all day.
My friend visited Guatape on another day when it was sunny. You can see La Piedra in the background.
The school had a couple of activities for the students this week. One was a scavenger hunt in Envigado. In the process of finding various fruits in the tiendas, books in the library, and statues in a museum, we had to ask the locals in these places for their help. I am continually amazed at the genuine friendliness the locals extend to us.
We had to find a large fish. Since the fish market was over for the day we went into a supermarket and found a frozen whole fish wrapped in cellophane.
We also visited another barrio in Medellin high on the mountainside. The work Colombia is doing to make beautiful community spaces is incredible. What were scary and violent places have become a place of pride, relaxation, and safety for both members and non-members of these communities.
My second week in Medellin continues to amaze me. In actuality, I am staying in Envigado, which is a city/neighborhood in itself, adjoining Medellin. The community here has a pleasant vibe of activities day and night. Exercise seems important. I live across the street from a sports stadium that is used from early morning to late at night by the community running, walking, lifting weights, playing football (soccer) of course, rugby, and basketball. Depending upon the time of day this is all going on at the same time. It is a sight to see.
The neighborhood has tiendas and small restaurants on most every street. Small tables sit in front of the these businesses close to the sidewalk so both diners, and those taking a warm summer’s evening walk, can mix and mingle if they choose.
The food is delicious, the local beers are tasty, and everything is very cheap. A beer can cost from $1-$2 depending where, lunches run anywhere from $2-$6 depending on what it is. I will say that the higher priced lunch specials come loaded with three kinds of meat, rice, plantains or patecones, sometimes beans, and salad. It isn’t reasonable for one person to eat all this food, and somehow I manage. 🙂
…and very importantly, I am continuing to progress with my Spanish!