We embarked upon a huge adventure this holiday season and took a trip to Colombia, South America. My husband David was born there and adopted by American-Jewish parents at the age of two. After 40 years in the U.S. he’d never been back. As soon as we heard it was safe to travel there, we got our tickets.
We started in Bogota on December 20th. It is a beautiful city aside a great mountain range. Immediately, David’s facial expression was one of astonishment and relief. We were finally here!
One of our first stops in Bogota was a trip to the Gold Museum. There are five distinct Indian tribes in Colombia and each one had master goldsmiths among them. The goldsmiths were held in high regard among the tribe. They made body adornment for tribal leaders, ritual objects, musical instruments (like whistles), vessels, and even mundane objects like fishing hooks.
As a metal artist, I was continually impressed with their mastery. They used techniques like lost wax casting, fabrication, and forging. They also played with alloys for changing the color of the gold and for raising and lowering the melting tempurature. As a spiritual person, I was moved by their connection and gratitude toward earth. They held ceremonies at Guatavita Lake (outside of Bogota) where they dropped some of their ritual God figurines made from gold and emeralds into the lake. They did this to show gratitude for God and to make sure that they were keeping a good balance between taking and giving to the earth. Unfortunately, the Spanish found the gold in this lake and went to great lengths to steal as much of it as they could.
I was moved to tears at this museum not just because of the beauty and mastery of their goldwork, but also because they were a beautiful people. I mourn the loss of them on this planet. Only 2% of the Colombian population are still genetically entirely Native. Although most Colombians are a mix. David is among them — he is about 50% Indian.
Here’s a piece that clearly gives homage to the sun:
After the gold museum and a delicious traditional Colombian lunch we shopped for emeralds. Colombian mines are the number one source of emeralds in the world. The quality and prices were unmached. We bought many. A few have still not been claimed if you are interested in commissioning a custom piece with one of these special stones:
The next day, we crossed a big threshold of fear and visited the orphanage that David was adopted from – called FANA. Not knowing what to expect or what the conditions might be, we were all in an emotional state. We brought a big bag of new clothes we bought in Colombia as a donation. It was the day before Christmas Eve.
While we were given a tour of the place, the information about David’s biological parents and birth records were being located. We were really impressed at how the orphanage was so clean and orderly. It smelled like mom’s chicken soup. The kids were outside having a party. The staff knew all of their names. There were counselors, therapists, tutors, and hugs. We were imagining what the six weeks that two-year-old David must have lived through during his time at FANA. We were relieved because we could feel that he was well taken care of.
As we looked around we learned all about FANA. They have many programs. They take in children up to age 10 or 12. They can be poor, or coming from an abusive family. Since abortion is illegal there, they have a program for impoverished women who are pregnant and conflicted about their pregnancies. They can live at FANA, be nourished, and once they are feeling safe they can decide whether or not they want to raise their baby or leave it at the orphanage.
While we on the tour, the woman who was looking up David’s records found us. She said there was a baby boy that was going to be presented to his new mom, dad, sisters (also from FANA) as well as many relatives. She unexpectedly asked David (since he was a kind-of FANA graduate) if he would like to be the one to give a baby boy to his new family. Honored and floored– he agreed.
Everyone was tearing up! Here’s a picture of David with the baby boy about to meet his new family:
David found out his birth parents names– and marveled at how neat his biological father’s signature was. Their statement was translated and everything they wanted for their son has come true. They said it was ok for him to live in a new country, have a new name, and have an new religion– just as long as he was loved, cared for, and educated. Before we left, we set up a monthly donation to FANA. David said ” My cup is full.”
Stay tuned for part two– as we venture into the jungle of Tyrona Park, with a Wiwa Indian guide to the Pueblitos……