Before our big hike in Tyrona Park with the Wiwa Indians, we journeyed through Christmas in Colombia. We decided to leave Bogota and venture 3 hours by car north to a Colonial hamlet called Villa De Leyva. We saw areas on the car ride that had been sites of much violence. It seemed as though we were lucky to be travelling in this area, because there had been so much bloodshed at one time that travel was out of the question. There were family owned farms– growing corn, potatoes, onions, amazing flower gardens, and livestock in the rolling green hills.
As we entered Villia De Leyva, cobblestone roads led us through a quaint collection of shops, restaurants, small boutique hotels and a town square with one of the oldest churches in all of South America. We were surrounded by blue skies and green mountains. There were no chain stores there, but you could find anything you needed (including amazing gourmet chololate)– it was tiny and completely self contained.
Since Colombia is a Catholic country, we expected the whole town to shut down for the holiday. Boy were we wrong! Many families poured into the town– just as we had on Christmas Eve. There were lights, fireworks and Christmas music was everywhere.
Having just come from experiencing the incredible goldwork and earth-based culture of the Indians before the Spanish Invasion, I had mixed feelings about Christmas. It’s hard to understand how long ago, people from the Catholic religion– that is so committed to peace and loving kindness– could have treated the native people so poorly– stealing their gold, their land, and dominating them so that their culture has almost been erased.
We sat in on prayers on Christmas Eve and sang a few amens before the service was over. Everything was in Spanish, so I could only make out a few words of what was being said. On Christmas morning, David and I entered the church and looked around at the Nativity scene, the gold leaf and Christ on the cross. I stared at Jesus for a long time. I thought about peace and how many of my own ancestors also ran from the Catholic Church. Still though, many of my beloved friends, family, and customers are Christian, and/or Catholic. I sat in the pew and allowed my heart to feel the sadness of our separation. I prayed– to the God of all of us– that my art and life choices would help make a positive impact on the world in terms of softening the religious lines between people. Tears rolled down my cheeks. Then I felt lighter.
PS: Next up– Tyrona Park with the Wiwa Indians (I promise!!!)