Get Away To Find Yourself March 26 2019 45 Comments
How would you describe yourself? If you have made it this far into my blog posts, I can extrapolate a little bit about you. You are a woman who believes in herself and in the power of positive reinforcement. You know you are born to do something out of the ordinary and are in constant pursuit of what that is. This pursuit makes you curious, explorative, well-traveled, well-read and appreciative of far away places and their cultures.
I like to believe I have all these wonderful qualities. However, my explorative nature was put to test when my husband, Rohit, picked Colombia as our holiday destination last Thanksgiving. It didn't seem like a super tourist-friendly country for non-Spanish speakers and that is what drew Rohit to it in the first place. For better or worse, Narcos has put a dark spin on the country. And, I wasn't very convinced it would be a safe and happy place to spend Thanksgiving.
Boy, was I glad I trusted Rohit!
Armed with Google Translate, we started our trip in the rain soaked Bogotá. We took the Funicular up to the Monserrate hill, which is home to the shrine of 'The Fallen Lord' and has beautiful gardens up at 3152 meters (10,341 ft)! It offers breathtaking views of the city and the real treat is sipping tea from one of the cafes at the top.
Gardens and Quaint Cafes atop Monserrate
No caption needed ;)
The other super enjoyable part of the Bogotá leg was the Graffiti Tour in the old city. I always looked at graffiti as a type of vandalism of public property. The Original Bogota Graffiti Tour changed that school of thought. It's free and you get to interact with artists who explain why they do what they do. It is liberating for them and a treat for our eyes. Oppression has many reactions and graffiti is one of beauty. I am not going in-depth because I want you to experience it first hand, if I can convince you to visit this beautiful place.
Artistic expressions frequently involving socio-political issues
The third exhilarating experience of Bogotá, for me, was the visit to the Museo del Oro (or Museum of Gold). The myth of El Dorado (the golden one) and the pursuit of gold is what drove continental explorers to present day Colombia. El Dorado does not actually refer to a place, but rather to a ritual undertaken by early Muisca (tribal) chiefs. During a tribal initiation ceremony, the people’s future ruler was set adrift on a raft in the middle of Guatavita Lake near modern day Bogotá. Stripped bare he was then dusted with a blanket of powdered gold and submerged in the waters of the great lagoon together with a heap of precious metal sculptures and jewels, to re-emerge as the new king. Spanish discovery of these sacrificial treasures stirred subsequent discussions of a yet undiscovered city of gold.
Muisca raft depicting the ritual in honor of the new tribal chief
The museum exhibits showed a plethora of different styles of working with gold, depending on the tribe that made them. These artifacts were handcrafted before European colonization and display the complex network of societies of the indigenous populations as well as impressive know-how of working with gold. Animal motifs and filigree work are frequently used in gold jewelry and armor.
If I were a queen...
In India, where I was raised, gold is used as an adornment as well as an investment. However, the pre-Colombian tribals thought about gold differently. Gold was known to have important symbolic and spiritual meaning, and was used to engage with animal spirits, music, dance and sunlight. Likewise, gold objects were often incorporated in ritualized hallucination, whereby one would experience physical and spiritual transformation to facilitate communication with the supernatural. Often these transformations involved animals, and thus jewelry showcasing avian pectorals, necklaces with feline claws or portrayals of men transforming into bat-like creatures by embellishing their bodies with such objects, are prevalent amongst pre-Colombian gold artifacts. Those participating in these ancient customs were most frequently the elite, and thus gold became a symbol of status and proximity to the divine.
I left the museum with a sense of excitement. I wanted to repurpose and recreate some of these artifacts into my own jewelry line. With these necklaces, I wish to pass on some of the spiritual energy of these ancient civilizations - of power, healing and happiness.
Phew! There's more where that came from. After the Bogotá leg, we went to the coffee triangle in Quindío and had a whole different kind of experience - coming soon in la segunda parte. Until then, adíos!