Ten week extensive scoping trip from Colombia to the Guyanas, scheduled 15 Jan. to 25 March 2019.
15 Jan. 2019
For us, that day had 30 hours. Berlin-Amsterdam-Bogotá-Cartagena. From German winter to tropical 30 degrees.
16 Jan. 2019
Cartagena resembles to Panama City; some parts of it are also similar to Cuba, and so is its population. Caribian diversity and multiplicity of ethnic backgrounds, who all contribute to that blend of culture, or subculture wit its further subcultures. Yet, there is a paradox relationship of tourism and local culture. Locals try to please the tourists with the amenities of globalisaton. Today, we had breakfast in a “local” restaurant, which turned out not to be so local at all. No local guests and dominant music, as you would hear it just as well in Europe, North America, Australia… This way, they are abolishing their authentic culture; consequentially, tourists will wonder why they should go to places that can be found by the thousands in locations that can be reached much easier… The solution would be here, as generally, to find ways of reinforcing authenticity.
17 Jan. 2019
Hundreds of people queuing in the blistering sun for hours in order to have a dip in the gray mud of a volcano… I had my doubts, though, because the just 15 m cone of the alledged Totumo volcano is stabilised with plastic fibres and wooden planks; also, it does not smell of sulphur as it usually does at volcanic sites. There is a 5 x 5 m, timber-framed pool on the cone summit, filled with that creamy substance. Buoyancy seems to be stronger than that of the Dead Sea, so that you float like a cork.
18 Jan. 2019
Bullfight is an archaic phenomenon, and Sincelojo’s Fiestas are based upon it. There were cults around bulls already in ancient Crete and Egypt. Cultural descendants still exist today, like the bull jumping ceremony in Ethiopia. Another descendant, the Mediterranean bullfight, overlapped with another particularity that existed in that region, the worshipping of femininity, which might date back as far as the ice age, when parity was vital for the survival of the community. It was later transformed into the cult of the vestal virgins, who had to take care of fire (a certain connection to the Phoenix cult of Persia), which was then superposed by the cult venerating Isis holding the infant Horus, which was then re-labelled to the cult of adoring Virgin Mary, the semiotics of which have roots in the Roman virginity cult, which, in turn, has roots in the prehistoric maternity – and this: fertility – cult (like the Persian Phoenix cult, which comprises symbols relating to that). Likewise, the cults pertaining to bulls were/are fertiliy cults. No wonder that these cultural elements go along together in festivities – bullfights and adoration of virgin mary. In the modern, carnival-like version of Sincelejo, there are dancing girls on the floats. People squirt water, beer and spume on each other, especially men on women – another fertility symbol. The masses go crazy, there are mounted police with truncheons, security controlls, heavily armed and harnessed police, for good reason: There were 500 fatal panic victims at one of the Sincelejo Fiestas a few years ago. Tonight, panic started when the crowds were wating for a concert. All of a sudden, people were running from both sides of the square, and so did we, taking shelter first behind a wall and then in a corner restaurant, where musicians right next to it were jamming, giving an alternative concert.
19 Jan. 2019
The presentations of textiles as central elements of certain dances originally had a particular meaning that nowadays has largely been lost and forgotten. Weaving textiles was laborious in pre-industrial times, and therefore, textiles were very costly. In Antiquity, serfs and children, thus the majority of the population, went without clothes, and only the small upper stratum of the society more or less permanently used textiles, thereby showing their wealth. Later, in the Middle Ages, textiles became more and more available for common people, who were nevertheless reluctant to constantly use them; in the Modern Age, textiles were still expensive, and families kept costumes for special occasions. They were presented at festivities, and especially the women proudly showed their riches. Flamenco and related dances are typical examples of that. In the Sincelejo versions of the Fandango we saw tonight, the women presented their clothes, repeatedly swirling their skirts through the air during each dance, while each man had to hold a bundle of burning candles, which he also passed to the woman during the dance. This is an interesting division of roles, as taking care of the fire had been a female role since ancient times. But that had been shifted to the men here, so that the women could primarily concentrate on their textile presentation. Of course, fire symbolises passion, and presenting family wealth is a female role in many cultures; in some of them, women have to carry the family’s gold around their necks. However, today’s spectators of dances in which weight is put on the textiles hardly know or think about the origins, but nevertheless still enjoy the colours, patterns and moves.
20 Jan. 2019
I am not going into the eclipse of the moon, which is ongoing right now, as you can see that from many parts of planet Earth in this very moment as I am writing this entry. Here in Santa Marta, where we have arrived tonight, the waterfront is lined with statues commemorating the pre-Columbian inhabitants of this region. Such statues can be found in many countries of the so-called New World; they are actually an indication of the fact that the indigenous peoples have been either physically exterminated or at least culturally deleted. The statues are about all that reminds of the Arawak people over here. Like indigenous peoples all over Latin America, most of them lived free and uncovered until the arrival of the Conquistadores. Typically, they had some piece of garment that was not worn in everyday life, but used for special festivities only. The Europeans decided then that these were their traditional costumes, which they should wear all the time, unless they fully surrendered to European clothing style. The Arawak had a particular hat, and from this head cover, an entire body cover, a tunic of the same material, was derived and even today proclaimed to be the typical dress of the Arawaks’ descendants. However, if there are any of these descendants left in nowaday’s Santa Marta, they would wear that only on folkloric or touristic occasions. Apart from that, you will hardly discern them from other Colombians, as not the European immigrants have integrated into the culture of the locals, but vice versa.