Tuesday, March 31, 2009

La Ombligada -- Ties to the Future

There is a cultural tradition known as the “la ombligada” that is performed on newborn Afro-Colombian children of the Pacific Coast. It is one of the oldest cultural traditions and is performed exclusively by midwives (parteras).

The midwife’s role is to watch out for the well being of the infant and the mother before and after the birth. Once born, the midwife will tie (ombligar) the child to certain elements that are thought to then influence the child throughout his/her life.

Let's say that the mother wants her child to be strong, or wealthy, or gifted in some way, then the midwife will tie certain elements to the child’s umbilical cord. For example, if a wealthy child is wanted, pieces of gold are placed on the umbilical cord and then tied on with cloth. If the mother wants a child that will be lucky in love, the beak of the tominé (a bird from the jungles of Chocó) is used in place of the gold. Toenails of animals are also often used – those of an armadillo mean the child will be a good miner. These elements remain tied to the child’s umbilical cord for 8 days, or until the cord dries and falls off. Then the belly button is treated with certain dried, pulverized plants.

Once, the ombligada was performed on nearly every Afro-Colombian child in Western Colombia, but fears that the tradition was contributing to the high infant mortality in the area lead Colombian health officials, with support from UNICEF, to try to eradicate the practice in 1991. However, once again, it is reemerging, particularly in cities like Buenaventura, where there is now even an organization for parteras. Today’s parteras are using antiseptic knives to cut umbilical cords and alcohol to treat the cord, in addition to cleaning the elements used to prevent Tetanus and other infections.

*Photos by
betta design

Monday, March 30, 2009


The 2005 census found that over 10% of the population of Colombia has African origins -- over 4.26 million people.

Colombians of African descent (Afrocolombianos) are found throughout the country, with the greatest concentrations in the coastal areas. The Department of Chocó has the largest population (74%) that is of African or mixed African origin. The Department of San Andrés and Providencia is second with 57%. While Bolivar and Valle tie for third with 27%.

Approximately 75% of the Afro-Colombian population live in urban areas, and Cali is the city with the largest per capita population of Afro-Colombians. Even Bogotá is estimated to have nearly 500,000 citizens of Afro-Colombian origin.

The Colombian government recognizes 3 distinct cultural groups of Afro-Colombians:

1- Negros or Afrocolombianos -- found throughout the country.

2- Palenqueros -- found in San Basilio -- department of Bolívar.

3- Raizales -- found in San Andrés and Providencia -- over 57,000 people.

Afrocolombianos have typically been a marginalized group in Colombia. In fact, in cities that have a large percentage of Afro-Colombians, statistics show that there is a lower standard of living and greater poverty. In Chocó, for example, the Index of Human Poverty Level is 10% higher than the national average. Only 2% of Afrocolombianos graduate from college.

Colombian government statistics also show that Afro-Colombian children are twice as likely to be forced to work from as young as 5 years of age and twice as likely to die at birth -- in Chocó, it is 3 times as likely that a child will die at birth.

It is also true that an Afro-Colombian child is way less likely to be adopted by Colombian families and therefore, international families are an important part of the reestablishment of a child's right to a family. ICBF has determined that thousands of children are considered "difficult to adopt." Of these children only 33.3% have physical or mental problems. The great majority 66.6% are difficult to place because of their age, ETHNICITY, or because they belong to a sibling group of 3 or more.

For more information:

* Photo by L*U*Z*A* lack of inspiration

Friday, March 27, 2009

Abuelita Carmen's Caldo de Papas

This is another typical breakfast food of the people in the Altiplano Cundi-Boyacense region. It defintely has indigenous roots. In fact, it was the first explorer of the Altiplano Cundi-Boyacense -- Gonzálo Jiménez de Quesada (1536)-- who brought the first potatoes back to Spain. Imagine Spain without Tortilla de Patata. A chorus of "Gracias, Boyacá" can be heard in España today. :)

Now, here’s how you can successfully make some in your own home.

Step #1 --Place the following ingredients in a pot.

8 cups water
3-4 whole green onions with the roots and green stem chopped off

AND one or the other of the following:

3-4 ribs with rib meat OR 3-4 chicken legs with skin.

Step #2 -- BOIL these three ingredients until you have a great broth. Remove the meat/bones (use these in another recipe as typically the meat is not served with the soup).

Step #3 -- ADD:

Several peeled potatoes sliced in 4-6 lengthwise slices. (I prefer Yukon Gold which when peeled are about fist size – in this case I add about 5 potatoes).

1 teaspoon of salt -- or salt to taste

Step #4 -- BOIL until the potatoes are soft and begin to disintegrate. Add more salt if necessary.

Step #5 -- SEPARATELY, mix about

1 teaspoon of FINELY chopped green onion with
½ teaspoon of FINELY chopped cilantro

for each serving bowl you plan to fill with the Potato Broth. Place the onion cilantro mixture in the bottom of each individual serving bowl and then serve the broth and a few potatoes in each bowl.

DELICIOUS! This is one of my favorite Colombian breakfasts.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Museo & Parque Arqueologico de Sogamoso

If you decided to spend the night in Paipa, before heading back to Bogotá, I have another recommendation -- The Museo & Parque Arqueologico (Archaeological Museum and Park). It is located about 40 minutes from Paipa in the city of Sun and Steel – Sogamoso.

The Indiana Jones of Muisca (Chibcha) culture is Eliécer Silva Célis (1914-2007). He was the principal pioneer of archaeological research surrounding indigenous groups in Colombia, and the leading expert on the Muiscas. He made some amazing discoveries. And like Indiana, he felt that Muisca artifacts belonged in a museum. So, he spearheaded the building of a Archaeological Museum and Park in Sogamoso.

Sogamoso was the religious capital of the Muiscas. Both the Zipa and the Zaque honored and worshipped there. The priest of Sogamoso had a great deal of power and on at least one occasion brokered peace between the two warring factions. Silva Celis therefore thought that Sogamoso was a logical choice for a museum.

Templo del Sol

The museum itself includes Muisca mummies, clothing, pottery, jewelry, and other interesting items including 3 actual shrunken heads. The park is a collection of reconstructed Muisca dwellings and the reconstructed Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun).

Shrunken Head

You should plan to spend a couple of hours at the Museum and Park, and then you can head back to Bogotá – a trip that takes about 3 – 3 ½ hours. If you want a break on the way home, there are some great sights in Tunja also – about 1 ½ hours from Sogamoso – but that is a topic for another time.

For more information:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Aguas Termales Paipa

Place #3 -- Paipa

Now that you have seen the amazing monuments to the Battles of Independence of Colombia, it is time to spend the afternoon either relaxing in Hot Water Springs or shopping in the numerous artesan shops of Paipa, Boyacá. Paipa is located just 15 minutes from Pantano de Vargas.

It’s main attraction is its Aguas Termales (Thermal Hot Springs). The great thing is the warm mineral water. Kids love it because they don't get cold. There you can swim as a family, or split up and have Mom enjoy a few hours at the Spa. There you get an aqua massage and for a little more you can be bathed in the mud of the thermal water (supposedly it has curitive powers) – and the prices are amazing.

If you decide to spend the night in Paipa, there are many wonderful hotels on the lake Sochagota, and you can enjoy shopping at the multiple artesan shops. There are also a few antique shops with some pretty amazing finds.

Here is a multi-media presentation from the Paipa mayor’s office.
Also, last weekend, Paipa celebrated their FESTIVAL de la RUANA, during which there was a beauty contest held for sheep. The pictures are really great.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pantano de Vargas

Continuing on our day trip suggestion:

Place #2 – Pantano de Vargas

After spending and hour or so at Puente Boyacá, you can continue on to Pantano de Vargas – Vargas’ Swamp (another hour away). This is the site of the battle, which occurred just a few days before the Battle of Puente Boyacá, on July 25, 1819. This battle turned the tide of the war and brought to the weary soldiers the hope of eventual victory.

Although that name evokes pictures of Southern Florida, the area is anything but swampy. It has beautiful green rolling hills, artesan shops, and an amazing statue of the Lanceros.

The Lanceros were the reason for Bolivar’s decisive victory -- a victory that seemed highly unlikely. Bolivar’s troops were heavily outnumbered and exhausted from a forced march over the high mountains at the Páramo de Pisba. Although there were only 14 Lanceros (Lancers), using deception, they confused and terrifed the Spanish army – under the command of José María Barreiro. Creating an environment in which Bolivar’s men were able to gain the upper hand and win the battle.

Enjoy the pictures of the beautiful Lancero Monument.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Puente Boyacá -- Site of Colombian Independence

Would you travel to Paris and miss the l’Arc de Triomphe? Or how about Philadelphia and miss Independence Hall? Probably not! And yet many families miss out on seeing beautiful historic sights just outside of Bogotá. I am not really sure why. In blogs I see plenty of families travelling to Zipaquira’s Salt Cathedral, but I have yet to see any blog I have followed record a visit to the site where Colombia won its independence from Spain. And this, in spite of the fact that it is only about 1-1 ½ hours from Bogotá in one of the safest parts of Colombia – Boyacá.

Here is a great idea for a day trip, and this comes from my personal BEEN THERE DONE THAT file. And lest you think the trip is too difficult, we made it with a 21 month old and a 5 year old in tow.

So, enjoy the next few days as I take you on a tour of the historical sites -- just outside of Bogotá.

You could plan to do all or part of the trip, or plan to stay overnight and make a weekend trip out of it. But, I really think it would be a tragedy to miss taking pictures with your child in these most important places in Colombian history.

Place #1 – Puente Boyacá (Boyacá Bridge)

Located about 120 kilometers outside of Bogotá, Puente Boyacá is the most important site in the Colombian battle for Independence from Spain. It was here that Simón Bolivar and his troops defeated the Spanish and the Spanish Royalists and won Independence from Spain – on August 7, 1819.

It is a lovely Park and National Monument site. There you will see the following monuments:

1. La Llama de la Libertad – The Flame of Freedom = the flame is to burn eternally and never be extinguished.

2. La Puente Boyacá – The Boyacá Bridge = a small bridge that spans the Teatinos River.

3. Monumento Von Miller – Von Miller Monument = a statue with 5 female figures (representing Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia) holding up Simón Bolivar.

4. Francisco de Paula Santander Statue

5. La Capilla – the chapel = 4 Catholic masses are held here daily.

The Park also has Tourism Police that can tell you the history in Spanish, English and sometimes French, German or Italian (depending on which soldier is there on the day you visit).

For those of you who already missed your opportunity to visit, I am including photos that you can use for your child’s life book or country reports in school. Find more at FLICKR by typing in Puente Boyacá.

Also for you Spanish speakers, here is a video of a Tourism Police Officer telling the story I found on Youtube.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Classic Song -- Campesina Santandereana

Every country has its classic songs, known by old and young alike. Colombia is no exception. In the 1990's, RCN (the Colombian radio station) put together a list of most beautiful songs in Colombia. Among them, was a song written by Jose A. Morales -- CAMPESINA SANTANDEREANA. The song is a Bambuco. Bambuco is folkloric music and is sometimes called the unofficial music of Colombia. The typical Bambuco ensemble is composed of the Tiple, the Mandolin, and the Guitar. The Bambuco has a melancholy sound. Adding this tune to your music collection is a great souvenir idea for children born in Santander.

Hear and see a video of the song:

The Lyrics

Campesina Santandereana
eres mi flor de romero,
por tu amor yo vivo loco
si ni me besas me muero,
me muero porque en tus labios
tienes miel de mis cañales
que saben a lo que huelen
las rosas de mis rosales,
que saben a lo que huelen
las rosas de mis rosales.
cuando bailas la guabina
con tu camison de olan,
hay algo entre tu corpiño
que tiembla como un volcan,
es el volcan de tus senos
al ritmo de tu cintura,
campesina Santandereana
sabor de fruta madura
campesina Santandereana
sabor de fruta madura

Download this song at Itunes store. The best version is by Garzón y Collazos.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

La Amiga Inés'-- Mute Santandereano

Mute Santandereano is a typical dish in Santander, as the name indicates. My friend Inés, an adoptive mom to a 15 year old, sent me her recipe for it.


16 cups water
4 onions cut in four parts

4 pounds leg of beef -- or bones with meat on them
1 ½ pounds of beef ribs
1 ½ pounds of tripe*
1 pound pork
1 ½ pounds of yellow corn, cooked
½ pound of white corn, cooked
1 pound potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 pound pumpkin, peeled and chopped
1 eggplant, chopped
½ pound of garbanzo beans, semi-cooked
¼ pound of pasta shells
2 sprigs of guascas
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped fine
2 cups of Hogao (see recipe for Empanadas from December 19, 2008)
A pinch of baking soda
Salt, pepper and cumin to taste

Step #1 –
Cook 12 cups of water, ribs, pork and onion for 1 hour, and then remove the onion – keep all of the broth. In the meantime, cook the tripe with the baking soda in a pressure cooker for 45 Minutes.

Step #2
Cut pork and rib meat into small pieces set aside. Drain the tripe – do not keep the water. Cut the tripe into small pieces and set aside.

Step #3
Cook the leg of beef in 4 cups of water in the pressure cooker for ½ hour. When fully cooked, remove from broth and cut meat into small pieces and set aside. Mix the broth with the broth from the pork and rib meat.

Step #4
Put the corn and garbanzos in the broth and cook for 20 minutes. Then add potatoes, salt, pepper and cumin and cook for another 20 minutes.

Step #5
Add, pasta, eggplant, and pumpkin. Cover the pot and cook on low for 25 minutes.

Step #6
Finally, put the meats into the pot and add the guascas. Then cook for 10 minutes.

Step #7
Serve with some hogao and parsley on top.

Mute Santandereano is usually served with white rice and arepas. See a picture here:

*Just in case you are intimidated by the tripe (not everyone loves this ingredient) -- my mother in-law makes it without it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Essential Herb -- GUASCAS

What are Guascas?

These small plants belong to the Daisy family. Originally grown only in the Andes, Guascas were brought to the United States (date unknown) and Great Britain (in 1796) and have thrived. The plant is known as the Gallant Soldier (Galinsoga parviflora) and is considered a weed in both the US and Great Britain. However, in the Andes, from Colombia to Peru, it is considered and essential herb. Rich in minerals, it is used in several Colombian dishes including: Ajiaco (from Bogotá) and Mute (from Santander) – [see tomorrow’s post for the recipe].

My husband remembers that his mother had a Guascas plant in her garden and would add guasca leaves to the family’s eggs.

Dried Guascas can be purchased at the following online stores:

More information available:

* Photo by Wikemedia Commons
* Photo by pattoncito

Personal Episode of Fear Factor -- Hormigas Culonas

The original inhabitants of Santander were the Guanes. The Guanes spoke a Chibcha dialect, but were very different in appearance from the Chibchas of the Altiplano. The Spanish reported that they looked almost European with light skin and some with fair hair. About a decade ago, 2 Guane mummies were found and research on them established that, in fact, the Guanes appeared to be more Caucasian-like.

One unique culinary tradition of the Guanes survives today and is alive and well in Santander. It is the tradition of eating HORMIGAS CULONAS (big-ass ants), which actually served the Guanes as a source of protein.

These leaf-cutter ants have large abdomens and are roasted and salted before eaten. They have a crunchy texture and taste like acidic nuts.

While this may sound like an offering for an episode of Fear Factor, in reality it is common fare for the people of Santander.

Apparently, an enterprising group has packaged them and they are for sale online:

worth a purchase if you are the adventurous type, or as a surprise for your little one(s) born in Santander.

Oh, and by the way, they are considered an Aphrodisiac.

* Photo by William Fernando Martínez

Monday, March 16, 2009


Bucaramanga is the capital of Santander. It is called the Beautiful City and the City of Parks. It is a middle sized city and its metropolitan area is actually composed of four cities, Bucaramanga, Giron, Floridablanca, and Piedecuesta. A fifth city/town called Lebrija is not part of the metropolitan area, but it is really close and this is actually where the International Airport of Palonegro is located

Since the city is located 3,146 feet above sea level, the temperature is a comfortable 78°F all year long. This means that people dress in Spring attire year round. So, if you’re going to the ICBF office or court, you don’t have to wear a suit, just think of whatever you’d wear to go to your office during spring time, and for women -- sandals are appropriate. For the rest of your stay, casual dress is fine. However, T-shirts are typically considered to be underwear, and therefore, a polo type shirt or a collared shirt is a better choice.

The people of Santander are really helpful and will be willing to aid you in anything you need. However, be warned, the Spanish spoken by the people of this area has a really rough sound. Often outsiders think that people in common conversation are angry with each other. So, if you’re a Spanish speaker, don’t get scared by their accent, they may speak “golpeado” (as if they are fighting), but you’ll be surprised with the how warm Bumangueses can be.

However, that said, throughout Colombia they are stereotyped as fighters. And the women of Santander are seen as fiesty and direct.
An interesting sidenote to add here is that there is a saying in Colombia which I will translate into English -- "What do you call a group of 2 or more people from the Coast? -- A party. What do you call a meeting with 2 or more Paisas? -- A business. AND What do you call a group of 2 or more Santandereanos? -- A fight."

If you’re going to Bucaramanga, as in any other city in the world, you have to be aware of where you go. The city in general is very safe; you just have to be aware to not go to the North at any time, or to the center of the city late at night.

So, how do you know where the North, East, West and South are? If you don’t have a compass with you, the easiest way is understanding the city’s layout. It is set on a grid of streets called calles (running from East to West) and carrerras (running from North to South) . The center of the city is considered to be at the Carrera 15 & Calle 36. As a rule of thumb, the higher the number, the safer you are.

Bucaramanga’s nicest areas are towards the East and the South. Neighborhoods like Cabecera and Canaveral are well known because they are nice and have malls, restaurants, and a lot of other commercial establishments.

The easiest way to get around is to take a taxi. Always call it, and avoid taking a taxi off the street. You can even tell the lady at the taxi company that you want a service by the hour and they will send you someone. It is really cheap and easy way to do some sight-seeing or especially if you have to go to the ICBF regional office, because it is actually located in a semi-dangerous area (North).

I would like to thank Inés and Carolina. Two wonderful Santandereanas and adoptive moms for the wonderful information they are providing for the blog this week.

* Photo by Fred Fraces

Friday, March 13, 2009

Muisca Indingenous Names from Bacatá (Bogotá)

The mortal enemy of the Zaque in Hunza (Tunja) was the ZIPA in BACATÁ (Bogotá). There had been war after war between the two groups. Understanding the warlike nature of the relationship between these two groups is important in understanding an incredible experience that happened just prior to the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores.

Name: TISQUESUSA (tees kay SUE sah)

The Story:

TISQUESUSA came to power following the death of his uncle, NEMEQUENE, in 1514. He continued the wars with QUEMUENCHATOCHA (the Zaque of Hunza) that his uncle had started. Eventually, Tisquesusa was able to achieve an uneasy peace with the Zaque. In spite of the peace, the animosity between the two groups continued. Finally, Tisquesusa began to make preparations to again go to war against the Zaque.

This sets the stage for an interesting experience. It happened while Tisquesusa was sleeping. He dreamed a dream that disturbed him greatly. In his dream, he was bathing at his summer home in Tena when all of the sudden the water in which he was bathing turned to blood.

Awakening from the dream, he felt very afraid. He called all of his jeques (religious leaders) together and asked them to interpret the dream. The jeques responded that the dream meant that the ZIPA would bathe in the blood of the Zaque. Tisquesusa was very happy with this interpretation of his dream. He showered gifts on the jeques – blankets and jewels.

However, one jeque, the jeque of Ubaqué, named POPÓN, had a very different interpretation for the dream. Yet, he was afraid to confront Tisquesusa, knowing that his interpretation of the dream would not make him happy. So, Popón left and began his journey home. On his way, he met three of the prominent men in the community walking toward Bacatá. He told them to give the following message to the Zipa:

“Tell the Zipa that the dream does not mean that he will bathe himself in the blood of Hunza, but rather it will be his own blood. That men from distant lands are coming, even now, to this land, and they will kill him.”

Shortly after Popón predicted it, the Spanish arrived.

To make a long story a bit shorter, Tisquesusa, did in fact meet his end at the hands of the Spanish Conquistadores. He was shot with an arrow from a crossbow, despite having fled the Bacatá valley (for the mountains near Facatativá) in hopes of avoiding the fate that Popón had predicted.

Other Famous Musica Names from Bogotá (Bacatá):

Saquesazipa or Saguipa

Thursday, March 12, 2009

La Virgen de Chiquinquirá

Photo of the actual Painting of the Virgen de Chiquinquirá

As in many places, religious traditions can have a big impact on the names people choose for their children. Muslims may choose to name their child Mohammed. Jews may choose names like Moses or Abraham. Lutherans could choose Martin. Mormons might pick Nephi or Brigham. Baptists might pick John. You get the idea. But, this is common also in Catholic culture. Take for instance the name Guadalupe, which comes from the Virgin of Guadalupe that appeared to the boy Juan Diego in Mexico. The name Guadalupe is extremely popular in Mexico and it works for both men and women.

In Colombia, a predominantly Catholic country, many people choose to name their children names associated with the Catholic church. One name that is sometimes chosen comes from the Patron of Colombia – the Virgen de Chiquinquirá.

Name: Chiquinquirá

The Story:

According to Catholic tradition, Fray Andrés Jadraque
ordered that a painting be made of the Virgen del Rosario accompanied by San Antonio de Padua and San Andrés. In 1563, the painting, by Alonso Narváez, was placed in a small chapel. However, by 1577, the humidity and leaking roof had almost destroyed the painting and in 1585 it was taken to the city of Chiquinquirá. There it was stored in a room rarely used, and some say the canvas had corn placed on it to dry.

In 1586, María Rámos, realizing that on the canvas you could still see a faint image of the Virgin, decided to repair the frame and place it in the most important place in the city chapel. Thereafter, everyday, María would pray to the Virgin and ask her to somehow make herself manifest. On December 26, 1586, as María was turning to leave the painting, an indigenous woman – named Isabel – and her young son passed by and began shouting, “Look! Look! Look!” When María turned to look the painting was glowing and the heretofore faded image was restored to its original splendor.

From that moment, faithful Catholics in the area began to devote themselves to the Virgen of Chiquinquirá. Many miracles have since been attributed to her, and many Colombians make pilgrimages to her sanctuary in Chiquinquirá, Boyacá. In 1916, the government of the Republic of Colombia named her the Patron of Colombia.

Other Popular Catholic Names (I am not including the host of Biblical names):


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Muisca Indigenous Names, from Hunza (Tunja)

In response to this week’s posts on names, I have received several e-mails asking about the names of famous Colombians and their stories and about Indigenous names. I plan to spend the next three days sharing some of them. Also, I will continue to post more in the future and you will be able to find them all by clicking on the NAMES link the LABELS section to the right of the blog.


AQUIMÍN ( pronounced: ah key MEAN) or
AQUIMINZAQUE (pronounced: ah key mean ZAH kay)

When the Spanish arrived on the plains of Bogotá, 1536, they found a great nation. In fact, it was the third largest group of indigenous inhabitants in America. They called themselves the Muiscas, which meant ‘the people’. Their language was called Chibcha. The Muiscas were not a united group, but rather a collection of city states. The majority of the power was held by two main cities – what today are called Bogotá and Tunja (in Boyacá). These two cities were mortal enemies and each enlisted the loyalty and help of near by cities in the many battles they had between them.

When the Spanish arrived, the leader of Tunja (Zaque) was Quemuenchatocha. He was an older man. He was described as very fat, very tall, and very ugly by the Spanish writers. Unfortunately, the Spanish took him prisoner and he later died. He was replaced by his 19 year old nephew, Aquimín, who upon taking the throne was called Aquiminzaque, in 1538.

Shortly after ascending to the throne, Aquiminzaque was converted to Catholicism and baptized. In 1541, he decided to marry the daughter of the Chief of the nearby city of Gámeza. He was married in a Catholic ceremony.

In celebration of his nuptials, the Zaque of Tunja invited the Caciques (leaders) of all the nearby cities to a party. The then leader of the Spanish, Captain Hernán Pérez de Quesada, took Aquiminzaque’s actions as an affront to his authority. He felt that all the support that was shown to Aquiminzaque was really Aquiminzaque’s way of sending the message that he was still powerful. Despite Aquiminzaque’s protests to the contrary, Hernán Pérez de Quesada was unyielding in his assertions. He declared that Aquiminzaque and all the Cacique leaders be imprisoned. The following morning, he sentenced all of them to death.

Aquiminzaque knew that he had done nothing wrong. So, in response to his impending death, Aquiminzaque showed his understanding of the Christian doctrines he had been taught when he stated the following, “Tell the Captain...that I became a Christian when he took my temporal kingdom away from me, and that he should not be in such a hurry to kill me, lest he lose his eternal kingdom.”

The interesting fact is that shortly thereafter Hernán Pérez de Quesada boarded a ship to return to Spain and was struck by lightening and killed. He died having never enjoyed the riches that he stole from the Muisca Indians.

Other Famous Muisca Names from Tunja (HUNZA):

Hunzahua (OON zah OOwah)
Tomagata (toh mah GAH tah)
Tutazúa (too tah SUE ah)
Michua (mee CHEW ah)
Quemuenchatocha (kay mwen chah TOH chah)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Adult Adoptees -- Perspective on Name Changes

My husband and I often teased each other, during our years of infertility, that the reason we had been unable to have children was that we couldn’t decide on a name – “And God simply won’t send a child whose parents can’t come up with a name for him.” With all teasing aside, it was very difficult for us to decide what to do when we adopted our son – then 21 months old. He clearly knew his name. What were we to do?

The issue of naming a child that already has a name is sticky and personal. Many people offer advice and criticism, but in the end, it is the adoptive parents that have the most say in this issue. But what do adult adoptees say? While the feelings of adult adoptees tends to vary from – I love my new name to I hate my parents for changing my name, current thought among social workers on this issue is that the birth name (whether given by parents, social worker, or foster mother) should be kept in some form as part of the child’s new name.

Some people believe that age should be the deciding factor, yet I know adoptees that in spite of being adolescents wanted to change their names to erase the difficulties of their past. So, perhaps age may not be the only factor. In fact, I was reading on a friend’s blog that their 6 year old (just adopted a few months ago) has abandoned her birth name for a new one that she chose herself and asked to be called.

I recently asked adult adoptees to send me their thoughts and feelings on the issue.
Here are some of their responses, I have edited them to make them shorter, but not to change their intent. Some stated that they were happy with their new names, others were not. I am labeling them as Positive and Negative.


“I am a Colombian adoptee...from Medellín. I was adopted at 20 months in 1982. For almost 2 years of my life I only knew Spanish and went and answered by the name Dilia Disnei (Disney). When I was adopted to Americans, my name was automatically changed to Dalia Shifra, and on top of it I became Jewish to a religious family. I had to learn English and Hebrew together and forget Spanish; now I have real identity issues. For a while, my parents called me Dalia Shifra so I would respond, and then just Shifra. I prefer Dalia, but I'm not used to it. I always get harassed because I hesitate on the name Dalia, and I automatically think I'm lying about who I am. Dalia means something to me because its the closest to my name. To not complicate things I say my Spanish name is Dilia Disnei- so I haven't officiallylost it.

I worry because I wonder how my birthmother can find me if I am a completely different person. I feel like I'm a witness protection client. If or when I get married as much as I want to start a new life and my own family- I won't take my husbands name because I don't want my last name to be changed 3 times. I'm very against name changing even at birth because the mother, if she didn't abandon child and the child didn't have a name- gave her baby a name that had meaning and it was thought through- just like any other mother would do. I say respect the child’s identity. Thank you- Dalia Shifra Saltzman aka Dilia Disnei Atehortua- Medellin”


“I was only a week old when my parents got me. At that point, La Casa had named me after my biological mother, Gladys. My parents did not keep that name for me as I was named, Dawn Marie instead. I guessbeing so very young it never bothered me. I did however, use Gladys as my confirmation name later on when I was 16 years old. I hope this helps.”

“My birth name was given to my by my birthparents – Oscar Leonardo. I was adopted at 2. My parents didn’t feel right about having a child named after a “Grouch” or a “Ninja Turtle”. However, they also didn’t feel right about ripping away my Colombian Identity completely. They chose to name me after Simón Bolivar, the hero of Colombian Independence. As my middle name, they named me after my adoptive Grandfather. I find that their effort to help me feel a part of both cultures very reassuring.”

“My parent’s shortened my name, which was fine with me considering along with my new last name, it would have been awful. Although I did run around as a kid telling people my name was what it originally was. I was so grateful that my parents kept some form of it. I was comfortable that I had my Hispanicname.”

I received a response from 12 adoptees, only one was negative. But, what I did notice was, with the exception of Dawn Marie, every other adoptee had had their parents make an effort to keep some aspect of their birth name or a name from their birth culture as part of their name. While this is in no means scientific research, I do find it interesting, and something well worth adoptive parent consideration.

I found an additional helpful discussion at adoption.com.


Monday, March 09, 2009

Popular Colombian Names

Recently, I was asked to write a post on Colombian names, and popular Colombian names. I had a hard time finding a list, but eventually I did find one. According to I.N.E. - Instituto Nacional de Estadística, -- unfortunately, when I found this it doesn't say the year -- the most common Colombian boys names across all ages are:


The girls are:


Just as here, names go through ebb and flow. Fourteen years ago when we were married, I attended several baby baptisms and met numerous friends of my husband. At the time, it seemed like everyone was naming their kid Juan CAMILO (boy) or Maria CAMILA (girl). I met dozens of them. Then, about 7 years later, I heard tons of SANTIAGO, JULIAN, SEBASTIAN and FELIPE being called in the park together with MARCELA, CATALINA, NATALIA and JULIANA.

It seems to me that the current trend among the upper and middle class in Colombia is to name their children really SPANISH sounding names -- what we would have called old fashioned in the 80's is now super hip. Kind of like what has happened here int he US with Abagail, Grace, and Isabella.

Try running a name by your American family and your Colombian family -- trying to get some sort of agreement that it sounds OK in both languages. My husband wanted to name our kid FREDDY or OSCAR (popular names for boys in the 80's) -- I said NO WAY!!! Horrible! Then, I made some suggestions that were immediately shot down by him.

In our Colombian family adoption group (COLOMBIANS ADOPT COLOMBIANS), there seems to be a trend to name the kids the following names because they work well in both English and Spanish. (In order of popularity, based on the actual names the kids ended up with)

Boys: Mateo, Alexander, Christian, David, Jonathan

Girls: Gabriela, Isabella, Sofia, Juliana, Cristina

One thing that I do know is that among the lower classes in Colombia you are likely to see all sorts of strange names, many names are words in English:

USNAVY (Comes from United States Navy and pronounced OO S NAH VEE)
MERRY CHRISTMAS (I actually know someone with this name and her brother's name is -- drum roll please)
MACGYVER (Other spellings include: Maguiber, Magaiber, Maguaiver -- Richard Dean Anderson would be so thrilled)

Here is a link to a fabulous article by Daniel Samper Pizano. It talks about the strange names that have been seen on Colombian passports that have passed through the Colombian Embassy in Spain. Very humorous -- in Spanish--but you can read the names even if you can't read the article.


Friday, March 06, 2009

Saying of the Week -- No Sea Sapo

Here is a funny Colombian expression -- related to the theme of frogs that I have been working on this week. NO SEA SAPO.

I include it because it is quaint, amusing, and makes no sense outside of Colombia. But, it can be heard in Colombian Telenovelas or on the street. However, it is kind of low class, so you may not want to throw it out there with your lawyer or the judge.

The literal meaning of SAPO in Spanish is TOAD. But, in Colombia a SAPO can also be a person that is a tattletale, someone who sticks his nose in other people's business, or someone who answers a question when the question wasn't directed at him. The expression is "No Sea Sapo." -- don't be a tattletale or busybody. It can be useful with children -- but note it is strong.

Since it can be rude to call someone a sapo, Colombians have created several humorous expressions that imply that someone is a sapo without having to come right out and actually say that they are a sapo.

For instance, someone might say, "Don't act like an amphibian." (No seas amfibio) or "Would you jump into my hand?" (Salte aqui -- while holding out your hand) or "Are you hungry for a fly?" (Quieres una mosca?), etc.

Colombians assign to animals certain human characteristics. Then, they use the animals to describe human behavior. Here are other examples:

Loro (parrot) = someone who talks too much
Burro or Mula (donkey or Mule) = someone really stupid
Perro (dog) = a womanizer
Lagarto (lizard) = a person who helps someone in hopes of personal gain
Cabra (goat) = a hyperactive kid
Vaca (cow) = a fat person
Marrano (Pig) = someone who behaves like a pig!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

El Renacuajo Paseador -- The Wandering Tadpole

One of the most famous children's poets of Colombia is Rafael Pombo (Bogotá, 1883 - Bogotá, 1912). He is like the Dr. Seuss of Colombia. Just as we must memorize poerty here, most Colombians will be required to memorize at least one of Pombo's poems prior to graduating from elementary school. My husband remembers memorizing Simón el Bobito in 4th grade.

As long as we have spent so much of this week talking about frogs, here is one of Pombo's most famous poems. It talks about a little frog (named Rinrín Renacuajo) that leaves home inspite of his mother's warnings. Once outside, he is invited by his neighbor, mouse, to visit Doña Ratona (Mrs. Mouse). As the two friends visit with Doña Ratona, they drink (beer), eat, listen to Doña ratona sing, dance, get comfortable, and become distracted. Then, enter the cats, they eat the mice and just when we think Rinrin Rencuajo is going to get away, he is eaten by a duck. This, unfortunately, leaves Mrs. Frog alone.

The moral? Obey your parents, they know what's best for you!

EL RENACUAJO PASEADOR -- The Wandering Tadpole

El hijo de rana, Rinrín renacuajo
Salió esta mañana muy tieso y muy majo
Con pantalón corto, corbata a la moda
Sombrero encintado y chupa de boda.

-¡Muchacho, no salgas¡- le grita mamá
Pero él hace un gesto y orondo se va.

Halló en el camino, a un ratón vecino
Y le dijo: -¡amigo!- venga usted conmigo,
Visitemos juntos a doña ratona
Y habrá francachela y habrá comilona.

A poco llegaron, y avanza ratón,
Estírase el cuello, coge el aldabón,
Da dos o tres golpes, preguntan: ¿quién es?
-Yo doña ratona, beso a usted los pies

¿Está usted en casa? -Sí señor sí estoy,
y celebro mucho ver a ustedes hoy;
estaba en mi oficio, hilando algodón,
pero eso no importa; bienvenidos son.

Se hicieron la venia, se dieron la mano,
Y dice Ratico, que es más veterano:
Mi amigo el de verde rabia de calor,
Démele cerveza, hágame el favor.

Y en tanto que el pillo consume la jarra
Mandó la señora traer la guitarra
Y a renacuajo le pide que cante
Versitos alegres, tonada elegante.-

¡Ay! de mil amores lo hiciera, señora,
pero es imposible darle gusto ahora,
que tengo el gaznate más seco que estopa
y me aprieta mucho esta nueva ropa.

-Lo siento infinito, responde tía rata,
aflójese un poco chaleco y corbata,
y yo mientras tanto les voy a cantar
una cancioncita muy particular.

Mas estando en esta brillante función
De baile y cerveza, guitarra y canción,
La gata y sus gatos salvan el umbral,
Y vuélvese aquello el juicio final

Doña gata vieja trinchó por la oreja
Al niño Ratico maullándole: ¡Hola!
Y los niños gatos a la vieja rata
Uno por la pata y otro por la cola

Don Renacuajito mirando este asalto
Tomó su sombrero, dio un tremendo salto
Y abriendo la puerta con mano y narices,
Se fue dando a todos noches muy felices

Y siguió saltando tan alto y aprisa,
Que perdió el sombrero, rasgó la camisa,
se coló en la boca de un pato tragón
y éste se lo embucha de un solo estirón

Y así concluyeron, uno, dos y tres
Ratón y Ratona, y el Rana después;
Los gatos comieron y el pato cenó,
¡y mamá Ranita solita quedó!

Here is a link to a great cartoon of Rinrín Renacuajo --


Also, you can get it as a poem or a rap song at Itunes -- look under El Renacuajo Paseador. Personally, my kids love the rap version, well worth the 99 cents.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

10 New Species of Amphibians Found

Continuing with the theme of frogs this week, you may not know that Colombia holds 2nd place in the world for the number of unique amphibians with 650. Oops! Better make that 660, in February, 2009, Colombian scientists announced that they had found 10 new unique amphibians -- 9 frogs and 1 salamander. You can read more and see a slideshow of the new species at one of the following spots.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Kogi -- Frog Myth

Myths serve to explain the world view of a people. In Colombia, the KOGI, an indigenous group, explain why frogs only come out when it rains.

According to their oral tradition:

The Frog was chosen as the second wife of the Sun God. However, she choose to be unfaithful to him. When the Sun God discovered her treachery, he became angry. In his fury, he grabbed his wife and threw her down to earth, where she shattered into a thousand pieces. Each piece then became a new frog.

The frogs quickly hid themselves from the Sun in the dense forest, where they remain unobserved until it rains. As the drops begin to fall from the sky, the frogs leave their hiding places. They choose to leave their cover only when it rains because the sun is hidden behind the clouds and cannot see them.

* Photos by Sailing Nomad

Monday, March 02, 2009

Sana Que Sana -- For those Boo Boos

So, your little one falls and scrapes a knee or bangs his head. What do you do? What do you say? Ahh! During the hugs and kisses you can repeat this little rhyme.

Sana que sana (Heal, heal)
Colita de rana (Little frog tail)
Si no sanas hoy, (If you don’t heal today,)
sanarás mañana (you will heal tommorrow)
Si no dentro de una semana. (If not, within a week)

French translation:

Guéris, guéris
Petite queue de grenouille
Si aujourd'hui tu ne guéris pas
Demain tu guériras.