Saturday, November 8, 2014

Colombian Double-Takes

The Peñol de Guatape in Cordoba Dept., by Henry Price, in 1852.
Between 1850 and 1859 the Comision Geografica, led by the Italian-born Agustín Codazzi, criss-crossed Colombia studying its people, geography and natural resources. The goal was to catalog and unlock the nation's natural resources, making Colombia a rich country. The wealth did not materialize, but the expedition gathered valuable information about the young nation's far-flung regions. The paintings, most by British-born Henry Price, immortalize a formalized, somewhat romanticized view of Colombia.

Recently, Santiago Harker traveled thru many of the same areas, capturing modern versions of the people and places. His photography also captures the contrasts of Colombian society: rich and poor, urban and rural, humble and glamorous.

Harker's work, on exhibit thru tomorrow in Bogotá's Museum of Modern Art, invites reflection on how things have changed and whether they're better or worse today. Certainly, people appear less formal and pretentious - altho that probably also a result of the old-timers' artistic style. Things move faster today, with less physical toil, but are they actually better?

In the case of the Peñol de Guatape, pictured here, the giant graffiti, the houses at its base and the strange building on top don't much improve the natural landmark.

The final day for the exhibit in the Museo de Arte Moderno, is tomorrow, Nov. 9.
 A nicer view? The Peñol de Guatape today.
The 1850s expedition on the left and Harker's travels on the right.
Couples then and now. 

Gold mining then...
Artesanal, mostly illegal gold mines, haven't become much more sophisticated, but they have become much more destructive for the environment and the miners, who expose themselves to toxic mercury.

...and gold mining now.
Nuns haven't changed, but girls' dress has.

Affection is much more open and intimate.
Zipaquira, location of the Salt Cathedral, back in the 1850s...
...and Zipaquira today.
Diversions are no more sophisticated.
Blue jeans and an old bicycle will make you glamorous.

Rural workers today.
Fishing has changed little.
Kids amongst soldiers. 

Pack right when you travel.

Prostitutes await customers in Antioquia.

I want to be glamorous, too.
Well-dressed youths.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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