Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Colombian Traditional Clothing

Indigenous costumes in the Museo de Trajes Regionales. 
Among Latin American nations, Colombia is known for its cultural and ethnic variety - but not particularly as an indigenous nation, as are Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia.

But altho Colombia's population is only about one percent indigenous, it has some 80 different indigenous ethnic groups, according to Wikipedia, whose territories cover close to one-third of the country's surface area.

A traditional loom. 
The Museo de Trajes Regionales (Museum of Traditional Clothing), on 10th St. in La Candelaria, one block east of Plaza Bolivar, is somewhat misnamed. Nearly all of the exhibitions on display right now are of traditional indigenous clothing.

Impressively, since they are such a tiny minority, a considerable number of Colombia's indigenous peoples have preserved lots their traditions. I've visited the Wayuu people in La Guajira along the Venezuelan border and the colorfully-dressed Guambiano people near the town of Silvia.

A Chichba weaving. 

Indigenous youths in traditional clothing walk across
La Plaza del Periodista in La Candelaria.
But many Colombian indigenous peoples have been hit hard by the nation's long armed conflict, by environmental damage and by the rise of the country's capitalist, westernized culture, which lures many young indigenous people from their communities into towns and cities, where success is harder to obtain than it looks, but new addictions and diseases are in easy reach.

Still, one frequently sees students from indigenous communities walking La Candelaria's streets proudly wearing their people's traditional clothes.

Preparing for the exhibition about the --- people of Peru. 
On the 15th of this month the museum will open an exhibit of work by the Shipibo Konibo, an indigenous people from the Peruvian Amazon, whose women consume yage, or ayahuasca, a psychedelic substance obtained from a vine, in order to see visions and create artwork. Yage and other psychedelic substances are widely used throughout South American by indigenous peoples during rituals and ceremonies. But yage in particular has become popular among non-indigenous people, including tourists, as a recreational drug (despite causing vomiting and diarrhea). I've even heard that the vine the substance is obtained from has become scarce in many areas.
A weaving of a woman and an anaconda,
inspired by a yage-taking session. 

The museum's building was once the home of Manuelita Sáenz, revolutionary leader Simon Bolivar's lover and savior. In 1828, the two were together in a building across the street when Bolivar's enemies came to kidnap and kill him. But Saenz managed to warn Bolívar, who escaped thru and window and hid underneath a bridge.

The museum's atrium has a bust of Manuelita Sáenz, who once lived here. 

A Wayuu woman.

The museum charges 3,000 pesos admission.

Find a list of La Candelaria's museums here.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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