08 December 2011

Written in rainy Bogotá

Wandering the streets of Villa de Leyva
I've (temporarily!) left Cartagena and am currently in the capital city of Bogotá, an hour+ flight from Cartagena but by bus it would have been ~18 hours (yes, I flew). I spent a great weekend in a small colonial town about 3 hours north of here called Villa de Leyva where a friend's mother lives (she has a cute little house that's available for rent if anyone wants to spend a few restful days here; see photos of the place here among my photos of Villa de Leyva). This area was always very desert-like but, as in the rest of the country, for the past couple of years it's been raining more than usual and so is greener, wetter, & not as warm as it used to be, but, as you can see in these photos, still beautiful and relaxing!

Holding a sign with photos of kidnap victims at the March for Peace
As you may know, there's a rebel army in Colombia called the "FARC" (a Spanish acronym for Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) which has been around for years, in theory fighting for the poor in Colombia. I won't get in to the politics or the history--way too complicated and I don't (yet?) understand it all--but in the past several years the FARC has been on the decline. One of the main ways they finance their efforts has been to kidnap wealthy citizens and hold them for ransom; they've also captured many police and soldiers to use them as a bargaining chip. In late November, four of the police/armed forces being held hostage were killed by the FARC when the army came across them. In response to the hostages being killed, social organizations here called for a country-wide (& later international) march for peace and freedom for hostages for December 6. I was able to participate in the march here in Bogota on Tuesday; there were many signs and banners showing photos and brief histories of those who have been kidnapped and are either still held or were killed. My photos are here and a good read with photos from another blog is here. People I've met here have had family members kidnapped; some were held for a few days, others for many months. I've read a couple of books written by hostages (3 US contractors and Ingrid Betancourt, former politician) who were held for 6 years in the Colombian jungles. It is difficult to imagine to say the least.

Noche de Velitas with Laura, Olga, Gustavo (via Skype!), Norell, me (& our photographer Angie!)
On a lighter note, last night the Christmas season officially started in Colombia with the "Noche de Velitas" or "Night of the Little Candles" on December 7 (the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8). Everyone lights little candles and carries them around, "plants" them in parks, in doorways, on the sidewalks, wherever. We wandered around the streets of Bogota admiring the candlelight and holiday lights on the streets and in the various parks, returning "home" to light our own candles!

My friend Olga has been making sure I get to taste all of the traditional Colombian foods, from the various types of arepas (a bread-like thick pancake stuffed with egg, cheese, or meat, etc) to the delicious main meals of stews, meats, rice, etc. The type of food served varies from region to region and there are often various versions of the same dishes. And yes, all have to be tried!

Eating well with Olga in Bogota!


CAS said...

Thanks for the news and good photos. Good traveling tomorrow!

Jeff T said...

Great article Barbara!

Ill be in Colombia soon, but for only a short time. I found another good guide for some Must Try Food recommendations while I'm there: http://thisboundlessworld.com/one-day-gastronomic-tour-of-colombia

Thanks again!