Thursday, April 30, 2009

Colombian National Flower

The Cattleya trianae orchid, often called the Orquídia Tricolor by Colombians, is a type of orchid, named after 19th century Colombian botanist, Jerónimo Triana. It is a native species of Colombia and was chosen as the national flower of Colombia in part because its colors match those of the Colombia flag -- yellow, blue and red.

In November 1936, the National Academy of History of Argentina held a botanical exhibition. The Academy asked each Latin American country to bring a flower that represented their native land. The Colombian government ask botanist Emilio Robledo to choose the most representative flowering plant of the country. He choose this orchid because of its similarity to the national flag.

The species grows in Cloud forests between 5,000 - 6500 feet (1500-2000 meters) above sea level. It is currently an endangered species because of habitat destruction.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Colombian National Bird

The Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) is found throughout the Andes regions of South America. It is one of the largest birds in the world with a wingspan of over 10.5 feet (3.5 meters). It is recognized for its ability to fly at great heights, and it has amazing stamina. In a day it can fly over 1,000 km. It is characterized by its longevity, and is therefore known as "the eternal bird." Another interesting feature is that it typically only flies on sunny days.

The Andean Condor symbolizes the Colombian people's freedom and sovereignty. It was selected as a national symbol in 1834.

Unfortunately, it is considered a near threatend species by the international Union for the Consevation of Species (IUCN), and it was placed on the US Endangered Species List in 1970. It is believed that fewer than 100 of them actually still live in Colombia. My Colombian husband saw his first Andean Condor in a zoo here in the U.S.

Some zoos participating in the Andean Condor Species Survival Plan are: San Diego Zoo (the Coordinator of the program), Denver Zoo (CO), Brookfield Zoo (IL), Beardsley Zoo (CT), Cincinnati Zoo (OH), Fort Worth Zoo (TX), Oregon Zoo, Zoo Boise (ID), and San Antonio Zoo (TX). You can find out more info, by googling the zoo and Andean Condor Species Survival Plan. You could also plan to take your child to a zoo where he/she can see the national bird for him/herself.

Get wall paper for your computer and learn more about the Andean Condor at the following National Geographic site.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Colombian Coat of Arms

On May 9, 1834, Law #3 regulating the national coat of arms was enacted by Colombian President General Francisco de Paula Santander.

Under this law, the coat of arms only appears on the President's national flag, on military flags and on the letterheads of stationery for official communications. The coat of arms may be engraved on monuments, in churches, chapels, military or other cemeteries, barracks, ships, educational institutions and other places provided that such coats of arms satisfy the requirements of decorum.

The Colombian coat of arms symbolically represents many important aspects of Colombia.
Atop, is the Andean Condor -- the national bird (see tomorrow's post). It is said that the Condor holds a crown of olive leaves in its beak symbolizing freedom.

Directly below the Condor is a ribbon with the words "LIBERTAD Y ORDEN" -- Liberty and Order. This is the national motto of Colombia.

Below the ribbon is a shield, draped on either side by the flag of Colombia. The shield itself is divided into 3 sections. The top section has 2 cornucopias flaking a pomegranate. The pomegranate hearkens back to the Vice royalty of the Nueva Granada (Colombia before Independence). The cornucopia on the left is full of gold and silver coins which symbolize the mineral wealth of Colombia. The cornucopia on the right is full of tropical fruits found in Colombia representing the agricultural wealth of the country.

The middle section of the shield displays a Phrygian cap. The cap itself is a brimless, limp, conical cap fitting snugly around the head. It was supposedly worn by the people of Phrygia, a region of central Anatolia in antiquity. It became a symbol of liberty and freedom when it was worn by liberated slaves in ancient Rome and Greece. The cap has been used as the symbol of liberty in both the United States and France. In addition, it is also found on the flag, coat of arms or national seal of: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, and Cuba.

The bottom section of the shield depicts two ships on either side of the Isthmus of Panama -- which was part of Colombia until it was "stolen by the United States in 1903" (I put this in quotes as this is the point of view of most Colombians. If you have no idea what I am talking about, you can look forward to future posts on the history of Colombia). This reflects the maritime history of Colombia. Since the Isthmus is no longer a part of Colombia, it now reflects the two oceans that border the country (Atlantic and Pacific).

I want to quote the following information from Wikipedia,
"Some critics have argued that the Coat of Arms is outdated and anachronistic, being the Andean Condor a very threatened species in the country, with barely 100 creatures soaring the landscape. It has also been discussed that the condor is still a vulture and feeds of carrion, making it an animal with a low profile that never hunts its own food. In addition, the Andean condor is also the national bird of Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The pomegranate, being a Mediterranean fruit is not currently cultivated in Colombia and the Phrygian cap is of Greek origin. The Isthmus of Panama, no longer belonging to Colombia, has also been suggested to be changed."

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Colombian Flag

The design of the Colombian flag is attributed to one of the Colombian Founding Fathers -- Francisco Miranda. Simón Bolívar adopted the 3 striped flag in 1813. It was to serve as the emblem of Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador --which were all one country back then (according to a decree signed in Valencia Venezuela, with the date of October 28).

Miranda envisioned a revolutionary flag that would symbolize the riches and wealth (yellow) of the people of the Gran Colombia, separated by the blue of the two oceans, and the red that represented the yoke of bondage of Spain. Today, Colombian children are taught the red represents the blood spilt by patriots during the war of Independence.

On 20 February 1821, the yellow, blue and red Colombian flag made its first appearance on the international scene when Chargé d'Affaires Manuel Torres presented this design to US Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, informing him that this would be Colombia's flag.

It is interesting to note that during colonial period, the flag's colored stripes were placed vertically - red on the left followed by blue and yellow. On 26 November 1861, General Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera's government changed the direction of the stripes from vertical to horizontal, and decreed that the yellow stripe should be twice as wide as the other two.

During the government of Pedro Nel Ospina in the early part of the 20th Century. Congress decreed (decreto #861 on 17 March, 1924), that the recognized flag -- yellow, blue, red in horizontal stripes -- of Colombia would become the official symbol of the country. This law remains in effect today.

Below is the actual decree, in Spanish, if you are interested.

Decreto Nº 861 de 1934 (mayo 17)

ARTICULO 1º.- El pabellón, bandera y estandarte de la República de Colombia, se compone de los colores amarillo, azul y rojo, distribuidos en tres fajas horizontales, de los cuales el amarillo, colocado en la parte superior, tendrá un ancho igual a la mitad de la bandera, y los otros dos en fajas iguales a la cuarta parte del total, debiendo ir el azul en el centro.

ARTICULO 2º.- La bandera mercante de Colombia tendrá de acuerdo con lo establecido en el decreto número 309 de 1980, tres metros de largo por dos de ancho; llevará en el centro un escudo de forma ovalada, en campo azul, circuido de una zona de terciopelo rojo de cinco centímetros de ancho, y con una estrella blanca en el centro, de ocho rayos y de diez centímetros de diámetro. Los ejes del óvalo, dentro del campo azul, son de cuarenta centímetros el mayor, y de treinta el menor.

PARÁGRAFO:- Esta será la bandera que se pondrá en uso en los barcos de la Marina Colombiana y en en las legaciones y Consulados acreditados en el exterior.

ARTICULO 3º - La bandera de guerra de uso en el Ejército, tendrá un metro y treinta centímetros de largo, por un metro y diez centímetros de largo, por un metro y diez centímetros de ancho, para las armas de a pie; y el estandarte, para las armas montadas, tendrá un metro de largo por uno de ancho. Estas banderas llevarán en el centro el escudo de armas de la República, enmarcado en una circunferencia de terciopelo rojo de cinco centímetros de ancho y cuarenta centímetros de diámetro en su parte exterior, dentro del cual se inscribirá, en letras de oro, el nombre del cuerpo de tropas a que pertenece.
* Photo by Georga Donelly

Friday, April 24, 2009

Save the Titís -- In Honor of Earth Day

Since the Mico Tití is unique to Central and South American Rain forests, and several are also unique to Colombia, the Tití is an important focus of preservation and conservation. The greatest danger to the Micos Tití is deforestation. Forward thinking people have established organizations to save these endangered species.

Perhaps a great way to include your Colombian kids in environmental conservation would be to teach them about the Micos Tití and then participate in programs designed to save these beautiful and uniquely Colombian animals. There are two different programs designed to help protect these animals. Below, you will find more information about conservation efforts and links to the websites.

The first program is the PROYECTO TITÍ. Designed to preserve the Cotton Top Tamarin. From their website, "Proyecto Tití is a multi-disciplinary in situ conservation program that combines field research, education initiatives and community programs to make the conservation of natural resources economically feasible for local communities in Colombia. The program is designed to provide useful information to assist in the long-term preservation of the cotton-top tamarin and to develop local community advocates to promote conservation efforts in Colombia." I really love their focus on the community. They are helping prevent deforestation by giving people other options for earning money. Learn more at their website:

The second program is the FUNDACIÓN BIODIVERSA COLOMBIA. Amongst the many programs they are working on is a program designed to save the Tití Gris. It has a long list of Zoo sponsors, and you might be able to find out more from a local Zoo listed on its site. Unfortunately, most of the information is in Spanish.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

El Mico Tití

There is a little saying that most Colombian children learn. It is called El Mico Tití. Most Colombian kids know this saying and often adults will call their children a "Mico" or a "Mico Tití" as a term of endearment. I could not possibly count the times my husband has called our boys MICOS or MICOS TITÍ. Now, here is your chance to learn the saying too:

El mico tití (The Cotton Top Tamarin)

paso por aquí, (passed by here,)

comiendo maní. (eating peanuts.)

A todos les dio (He gave some to everyone)

menos a mi. (except me.)

In reality, there are several different kinds of Mico Titís. First, is the Mico Tití Melena, known in English as the Cotton Top Tamarin (Saguinus oedipus). Next, is the Mico Tití Gris, known in English as the White-footed Tamarin (Saguinus leucopus). In fact, in Central and South America there are 21 different kinds of Micos Tití or Tamarins of the Saguinus Genus. But, the Mico Tití Melena and Gris are found only in Colombia.

* Photo

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Friends of Colombian Orphans

A while back I reported on an article in El Tiempo that talked about the kids that are never adopted. Unfortunately, the older the kids gets, the less likely he/she will find a forever family. This leaves thousands of kids without the support, help and guidance of a family as they start out life as an adult.

Yesterday, we met Jane and John. They are the proud parents of a beautiful Colombian girl, adopted when she was 13. Jane and John's daughter spent many years living in a orphanage prior to her adoption. It was her home.

When Jane and John saw where their daughter had been living, they wanted to do more than simply take pictures and say "good-bye". They hatched a plan to help the girls left behind. The ones that may never find permanent homes.

They started a non-profit organization "dedicated to improving the quality of life for children in Colombian orphanages."

Their organization is called "Friends of Colombian Orphans." Friends focus is on orphanages in need. They organize and supervise improvement projects using donated funds.

The amazing thing is that 100% of donations go toward projects that directly impact life at the orphanage. No one on their board takes money. There are no middle men, and they have already accomplished small goals -- painting, replacing windows, and other home improvements.

However, they have bigger dreams in mind. They want to help the girls that are left behind to have a brighter future -- by giving them a practical skill that they can take into the employment world. Right now, that goal is to teach the girls "how to machine knit beautiful garments and offer them at sale outlets both in Colombia and abroad." Their hope is that as the children "age out" of their institutions, "they can go on to build successful entrepreneurial futures for themselves and their children."

They also have even more lofty goals: "As we grow larger, we plan to expand the program by creating halfway houses for our graduates so that knitters have a secure and supportive community of like-minded men and women where they can live and continue to knit while they find their niche as successful, productive members of society."

They are well on their way to accomplishing their goals, but they need help. I am sharing this with you -- the reader -- in hopes of helping this couple achieve their goals. Please follow this link to their website! Learn More! And if you feel so inclined, donate to help the girls.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Older Child Adoption -- Parental Perspective

John and Jane are the adoptive parents of a 16 year old Colombian girl. Their situation is unusual only in that they are both in their late 50's, early 60's. Their daughter came to them purely through serendipity three years ago.

Jane has agreed to share their experiences adopting an older child in a series of "stream of consciousness" essays. Check back on this blog to read more about them -- you will find them under the label Older Child Adoption. Now here is Jane's first contribution.

In the summer of 2005, my husband read about Colombian orphans being hosted in our city through the sponsorship of Kidsave International. We had finished raising our two biological children: both were in their early 20's and out of the house. There was something about one of the children that resonated with us, and we quickly found ourselves taking our first steps on the path to adoption of a 13 year old girl, N., who hadn't found a family yet.

Once we met her and she got to spend time with us, it just seemed natural to bring her into our family. Over gelato one afternoon, before she returned to Colombia, N. talked about always wanting a family: she told me in a matter of fact way about an Italian family who had started the adoption process when she was 6, but then decided to "change their minds". I asked her, "Did that bother you?" She just shrugged.

We tearfully told her goodbye at the airport and started the adoption process -- a long, drawn-out ordeal. It became especially annoying as N.'s records were lost somewhere in Bogotá, and the lawyer, who was assigned to us by the adoption agency, failed to expedite our case. Long story short, we fired the lawyer, hired another, spent a long time in Bogotá getting the business of adoption accomplished and finally got to bring our daughter home.

I've been thinking long and hard about what to write. Here's what you first need to know.

The older child isn't going to believe that anyone is going to want him/her.

Why should she? She's been in a foster home or, in the case of our daughter, in an orphanage for 6,7,10, 12 years. It's the ultimate in rejection. So why, why, why would anyone want her NOW? She's been abandoned and rejected: in her own mind she is unlovable. She has a great facade: you wouldn't know that there is zero self-esteem in there unless you delved deeper.
And that's exactly what needs to happen. This is also where the professionals come in.

The first thing we did was to find a bilingual therapist who treats adolescents with abandonment and self-esteem issues. When your older child is asked to list three things about himself that she likes, she won't be able to come up with a single one. But she'll be able to tell you a dozen "bad" things about herself. You will end up blessing your child's therapist. Don't believe that, just because your child is behaving, that she doesn't have these awful feelings about herself. Start the healing process as soon as you can.

Next time:
Observations on the "perfect" adoptive family.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Older Children Find Homes in Germany

Recently, I was reading some information that I found on the ICBF website. In January, there was a great article about some older children that found adoptive homes in Germany.

Here is a translation:

Thanks to the project “Summer Miracles”, developed between the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF), the Kid Save Foundation, and the German adoption organization -- ADA -- five foreign families are celebrating the end of their adoption process.

In the final phase of their adoptions, the five German families were visiting Colombia after having spent 4 months in Germany with 7 Colombian children between the ages of 4 and 10.

This experience was part of a pilot plan that ICBF is trying out in Germany, and fortunately it has had very positive results -- having opened a way for children that are difficult to place for adoption find homes.

The parents, that had met all of the legal requirements to be adoptive parents, had been on the waiting list to receive children younger than 6 years of age. However, after
experiencing life with these older children -- which was overseen by German authorities -- they decided to accept the boys and girls as their own children.

The German families proclaimed that not only was the Vacation time spent in Germany a successful, but also the adoption process in Colombia. They recognized the dedication and toughtfulness that ICBF put into each case. Isabelle and Berend Marks, the adoptive parents of one of the Colombian girls reported, “ We are happy because our daughter has adapted so well to our family. We are grateful for this opportunity that was given to us.”

The novelty of this new pilot program is that the children were able to spend 4 months in what would be their new country. This situation allowed them to create ties and offered them the emotional stability to accept their new life in a new culture.

In order to guarantee the sustainability of this project, the ICBF, headed by the Director General, Elvira Forero Hernández, seeks the support of the Ministry of Foreign Relations in order to receive support from other embassies.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Los Pollitos Dicen.... Children's Songs

One of the classic children’s songs of all Latin America, including Colombia is Los Pollitos. It is perhaps one of the first songs that little children will learn, and everyone knows it.
In the recording industry, there are as many versions of this song as there are different stars with their own Christmas albums. Some versions are lullaby-like, some are faster. Some versions have children singing, some have adults.

You can hear many versions on Itunes, look up Los Pollitos. My favorites are by:

Juan José Carranza on Dream Songs, Night Songs
Juan González y Banda Criolla on Caribbean Fiesta for Kids

You can hear the song and see a cartoon at the following site:

There are also differences in the lyrics to the song. Here is the version my Colombian sister-in-law taught me:

Los Pollitos dicen: Pío, pío, pío (The little chicks say: cheep, cheep, cheep)
Cuando tienen hambre (When they are hungry)
Cuando tienen frío (When they are cold)
La gallina busca (The hen forages for)
El maíz y el trigo (corn and wheat)
Les da la comida (She gives them food)
Y les presta abrigo (And she lends them a coat)
Bajo sus dos alas (Under her two wings)
Acurrucaditos (Snuggled nice and tight)
Duermen los pollitos (The little chicks sleep)
Hasta el otro día (Until the next day)

Cuando se levantan (When they wake up)
Dicen, “Mamacita,” (They say, “Mommy,”)
Tenemos mucha hambre (We are very hungry)
Da nos lombricitas (Give us some worms).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

La Vaca Lechera -- More Children's Songs

Here is another kid's song. This one is about a milk cow. The song was actually written by a man from Spain, Jacobo Morcillo, and is popular there also. In the song, you will see the word condensada -- which means condensed -- as in condensed milk. In other Spanish speaking countries they say merengada. Most of the recorded versions that I have heard use Merengada and not Condensada. But, my Sister-in-law insists that it is CONDENSADA in Colombia.

Tengo una vaca lechera. (I have a milk cow.)
No es una vaca cualquiera. (It isn't just any cow.)
Me da leche condensada. (She gives me condensed milk.)
Ay! que vaca tan salada! (Wow! What a salty cow!)
tolón , tolón,
tolón , tolón.

Un cencerro le he comprado.
(I've bought her a cowbell.)
Y a mi vaca le ha gustado. (And this has pleased my cow.)
Se pasea por el prado. (She goes for a walk in the pasture.)
Mata moscas con el rabo. (She kills flies with her tail.)
Tolón, tolón,
Tolón, tolón.

Qué felices viviremos,
(How happy we will live,)
Cuando vuelvas a mi lado (When you return to my side,)
Con sus quesos, con tus besos (With your cheeses and your kisses)
Los tres juntos ¡qué emoción!
( The three of us together. What emotion!)

I love this version because it is sung to a Cumbia beat, which makes it a bit more palatable for a parent :).

If you wish to buy a copy of the song, go to Itunes and look up Vaca Lechera. You can listen to several versions. My favorite is by Ismael Rivera. There are some differences in the lyrics, but again the more adult friendly version makes great listening for the whole family.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Latest ICBF Wait List

I have preempted the original post for today -- There will be More Children's Songs Tomorrow.
The most recent Wait List was published by ICBF on April 8, 2009. The ICBF Wait List applies to adoptions through ICBF only -- not through CASAS PRIVADAS. This list DOES NOT reflect sepcial needs children. The definition of special needs are children with disabilities, children over 8 years of age, and sibling groups of 3 or more. There also hasn't been a lot of movement since December, all dates that have advanced I am putting in BOLD and RED.

Age of Child ------- Date of Application Approval by ICBF

Child 0-12 months ------ Nov-2005
Child 13 - 23 months ---- Nov-2005
Child 2 years ----------- May-2005
Child 3 years ----------- May-2005
Child 2 - 3 years -------- Mar-2006
Child 3 - 4 years -------- May-2005
Child 4 years ----------- Jul-2005
Child 5 years ----------- Jan-2006
Child 4 -5 years -------- Jan-2006
Child 5 - 6 years ------- May-2007
Child 6 years ----------- Nov-2008
Child 7 years ----------- Nov-2008
2 Siblings 0 - 4 years --- Mar-2007
2 Siblings 0 - 5 years --- Jul-2006
2 Siblings 0 - 6 years --- Aug-2007
2 Siblings 0 - 7 years --- May-2008

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

National Anthem of Colombia

Another song that your little one(s) should be familiar with is the National Anthem of Colombia.

The Colombian National Anthem was originally written as a poem in 1887, by Colombian President Rafael Nuñez. The poem was read by Nuñez in honor of the celebration of the Independence of Cartegena. It was later set to music by the Italian composer Oreste Sindici and grew widely in popularity.

In 1920, a law declared it the official national anthem of Colombia, and in 1995, a different law decreed that it be played twice daily (6 am and 6pm) on all radio and TV stations in the country.

Though there are 11 verses, usually only the first is sung.


¡Oh gloria inmarcesible! (Oh unfading glory!)

¡Oh júbilo inmortal! (Oh immortal jubilee!)

¡En surcos de dolores (In furrows of pain)

El bien germina ya. (Good is already germinating.)


Cesó la horrible noche (The fearful night came to an end,)

La libertad sublime (Liberty sublime)

Derrama las auroras (Is spreading the dawns)

De su invencible luz. (Of its invincible light.)

La humanidad entera, (The whole of humanity,)

Que entre cadenas gime, (Which is groaning under chains,)

Comprende las palabras (Understands the words)

Del que murió en la cruz. (Of the One who died on the Cross.)

Here is the link to the TV version of the song.

There are also several places where you can download the Anthem, inlcuding Itunes -- look for Himno Nacional de Colombia.

Monday, April 13, 2009

El Caballito -- 100% Colombian Children's Song

Back in the 1997, my husband and I were visiting friends in Bogotá, when their then 3 year old boy came out and wanted to play the "Caballito." His father patiently excused himself, put on a CD and began to dance with his son. The song, by pop and vallenato singing star Carlos Vives, is a great participation song. Kids get to act like the wooden horse, limping, galloping, crouching down, freezing, etc. throughout the song. It is really fun! Give it a try, but WARNING, it is really fast, so get ready to sweat a bit.

You can watch the video and get the idea, then try it out at home. I found several places where you can download it for free, but it is not available at Itunes.

Se encojó, se encojó (He grew lame, he grew lame)
Se encojó mi caballito. (My little horse grew lame.)

Mi caballo de madera (My wooden stick horse)
Mi juguete más bonito (My most beautiful toy)
Se le ha dañado una pata (Damaged a leg)
Y se encojó mi caballito (And now my little horse grew lame)

Navegando río abajo (Travelling down stream)
Vi jugando un abuelito (I saw a grandpa playing)
Me enseñó como curarlo (He taught me how to cure him)
Y bailamos este jueguito (By dancing this little game)

Atención a los pelaos (Attention kids)
Que ahora va empezar el cuentico (Because the story is going to start now)
Vamos todos a imitar (We are going to immitate)
Lo que haga el caballito (What the little horse does)

Vamos todos a imitar (We are going to immitate)
Lo que haga el caballito (What the little horse does)

Uelelei ei ei
Se encojó mi caballito (My little horse grew lame)
Se encojó, se encojó (He grew lame, he grew lame)
Se encojó mi caballito. (My little horse grew lame.)

Uelelei ei ei
Caminó mi caballito (My little horse walked)
Caminó, caminó (He walked, he walked)
Caminó mi caballito (My little horse walked)

Uelelei ei ei
Galopó mi caballito (My little horse galloped)
Galopó, galopó (He galloped, he galloped)
Galopó mi caballito (My little horse galloped)

Ay que se encojó y se encojó (Ay he grew lame and he grew lame)
Se encojó mi caballito (My little horse grew lame)
Ay que se encojó y caminó (Ay he grew lame and then walked)
Caminó mi caballito (My little horse walked)

Uelelei ei ei
Ya brincó mi caballito (Now my little horse jumped)
Ya brincó, ya brincó (He jumped, he jumped)
Ya brincó mi caballito. (My little horse jumped)

Uelelei ei ei
Se enhieló mi caballito (My little horse froze)
Se enhieló, se enhieló (He froze, he froze)
Se enhielo mi caballito (My little horse froze)

Uelelei ei ei
Se agachó mi caballito (My little horse crouched down)
Se agachó, se agachó (He crouched down, he crouched down)
Se agachó como un sapito (He crouched down like a frog)

Ay que ya brincó y se enhielo (Ay he jumped and then froze)
Se agachó mi caballito (My little horse crouched down)
Ay que ya brincó y se enhielo (Ay he jumped and then froze)
Se agachó mi caballito (My little horse crouched down)

Egidio con su acordeón (Egidio with his accordion)
También juega al Caballito (Also plays the Caballito)
Egidio con su acordeón (Egidio with his accoridon)
Hazlo tú con las manitos (Do it with your hands)

Galopandó vamos ya (Galloping let's go)
Tiqui-taca el caballito
Como lo diga el tambor (Just as the drum does)
Lo hacemos con las manitos (Let's do it with our hands)
Como Gilberth lo tocó (Just as Gilberth plays it)
Lo hacemos igualitico (Let's do it the same)

Uelelei ei ei
Se encojó mi caballito
(My little horse grew lame)
Se encojó, se encojó (He grew lame, he grew lame)
Se encojó mi caballito. (My little horse grew lame.)

Uelelei ei ei
Ya corrió mi caballito (My little horse ran)
Ya corrió, ya corrió (He ran, he ran)
Ya corrió mi caballito (My little horse ran)

Uelelei ei ei
Ya giró mi caballito (My little horse spun around)
Ya giró ya giró (He spun around, he spun around)
Ya giró mi caballito (My little horse spun around)

Ay que se encojó y ya corrió (He grew lame and then he ran)
Ya corrió mi caballito (My little horse ran)
Es que ya corrió y se paró (He ran and then stopped)
Se agarró de las manitos (He grabbed hands)

Y giró y giró (And he spun around and around)
Y giró mi caballito (And my little horse spun around)
Giró, giró, giró, giró (He spun around, around, around, around)
Y giró mi caballito (And my little horse spun around)

Ya cansado mi caballo (My horse is now tired)
Ha cerrado sus ojitos (He has closed his eyes)
Vamos todos a arrullarlo (We are going to lull him to sleep)
Se durmió mi caballito (My little horse has fallen asleep.)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Judaism in Colombia

Since this week has had a religious theme, and yesterday marked the beginning of Passover, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about the history of Jews in Colombia.

The first Jews arrived in Colombia around the 1500's. Most were considered Marranos, a derogatory word used by the Spanish in reference to Jews that had "converted" to Catholicism. Despite their Christian baptism, the suspicion was that they were secretly still practicing Judaism. In 1636, during the Inquisition of Cartagena, don Blas de Paz Pinto, the leader of a small group of marranos was tortured and killed and soon thereafter, the small Jewish community disappeared completely.

The next wave of Jews came in the 1800's from Jamaica and Curacao. They practiced Judaism even though it was not legal to do so at the time.

In 1853, the Colombian Legislature passed laws that made it possible to practice religions other than Catholicism. In 1886, new Constitutional reforms brought some limitations on the Catholic Church’s power over the country. However, it wasn’t until the New Constitution of 1991, that the Catholic Church was fully separated from the government, and Colombia no longer had an official religion. This allowed other religious groups to apply for full legal recognition by the Government.

The following information is from an article by Sarah Szymkowicz at the Jewish Virtual Library:

Most Jews in Colombia are not observant and generally not active in religious Jewish life. Emphasis is on social gatherings and only a handful of Jews keep kosher.

Despite the low-level of ritual observance, however, many Colombians send their children to day school and the intermarriage rate is only around 10 percent.

The Jews in Colombia are concentrated in a few professions. Most Jewish immigrants started out and are still involved in commerce and business. Jews have played a large role in developing new industries in Colombia since World War II. Some Jews tried farming when they first came to Latin America, but failed in their efforts.

Most of the Jews in Colombia are concentrated in Bogota. There are small communities in Cali, Barranquilla and Medellin. The size of the Ashkenazi and Sephardi population is about the same. There are nine synagogues throughout the country. In Bogota the Ashkenazi, Sephardi and German Jews each run their own religious and cultural institutions. One organization, Confederacion de Asociaciones located in Bogota is the central organization that unites all Jews and Jewish institutions in Colombia.

Due to the unstable economy and violence against Jews, many Jews have left Colombia. In the mid-1990s the population was 5,650 and, in the early twenty-first century, the Jewish population has decreased to 4,200. Most of the Jews that have left have gone to settle in Miami and other parts of the United States.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Religious Diversity in Colombia

Talk of Semana Santa, may give the wrong impression that there are only Catholics in Colombia. This is not true. While the majority of Colombians are Catholic, Article 19 of the Colombian Constitution of 1991 guarantees the freedom of religion and recognizes all religions are valid under the laws of the country.

The Government itself does not keep official statistics on religious affiliation. However, in March 2007, a survey by the newspaper El Tiempo found that about 80% of Colombians consider themselves Catholic, though there is a footnote that not all are active practitioners. Another 13.5% of the population reported following another Christian based religion including Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Episcopals, Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. An additional 4.5% of the population is divided between Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Taoists, Indigenous, and other religions. Additionally, approximately 2% of the population is agnostic or non-believers.

According to the 2007 U.S. Embassy report (with one error which I have corrected), here is information about Non-Catholic church membership.

"The Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Methodist Church had 261,000, and 1,500 members respectively. The Anglican Church and the Presbyterian Church had approximately 10,000 members each. Other Protestant and Evangelical Churches have an estimated 5 million followers. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) claim [nearly 159,000 members. ( ] Other religious groups with a significant number of adherents included Judaism, estimated at between 7,000 and 8,000 families, Islam, with an estimated 10,000 followers, animism, and various syncretic belief systems."

"Adherents of some religious groups are concentrated in specific geographical regions. For example, the vast majority of practitioners of syncretic beliefs that blend Catholicism with elements of African animism are Afro-Colombian residents in the western department of Choco. Jews are concentrated in major cities, Muslims on the Caribbean coast, and adherents of indigenous animistic religions in remote, rural areas. There is also a small Taoist commune exists in a mountainous region of Santander Department."

If you are interested in worshipping with your own religious group while in Colombia, I offer to try and help you find a congregation. Just let me know in the comment section your affiliation and the city where you will be going, and I can try to find a group for you. Remember, not all religions will have a congregation in all areas.

Also, if you have worshipped with members of your religion (Catholic or Non-Catholic) while in Colombia, please share your experience with us.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Semana Santa in Popayán, Colombia

Perhaps the biggest Semana Santa celebration is in Popayán. Popayán is one of the oldest cities in Colombia, founded in 1537 by Sebastián Belalcázar. Its name, comes from the indigenous words for Two Straw Villages. It referred to the two villages with houses having straw roofs. However, today, it is known as the White City, because of its beautiful white colonial houses.

For over 400 years, Popayán has held processions during Holy Week. They are similar to processions held in Spain.

These celebrations start on Palm Sunday with a procession that starts at the Basilica de Belén. People participating in the procession carry Palms, white handkerchiefs and flags proclaiming the royalty of Jesus Christ.

On Martes Santo (Holy Tuesday), there is another procession where the effigy bearers carry four images from the church of Saint Augustine to the center of the city. Accompanying the procession are the sounds of a solemn requiem. They are met at the church by red-robed men carrying incense, small bells, and a large crucifix. At the end of the procession is the statue of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores.

On Viernes Santo (Holy Friday), Popayán celebrates the Passion of Christ. The procession on this day includes the image of death represented by a skeleton and a group of men armed with hammers, chisels, and other tools. These men symbolize those who took down the body of Christ from the cross. Finally, there is a representation of a Holy Sepulcher, where the body of Christ was laid to rest. It is made of ivory and tortoise shell.

Popayán also has what it calls "Procesiones Chiquititas" . Here those carrying the statues and images are children ranging in age from 5-11. The kids are dressed the same as the adults and all of the "pasos" that they carry are exact replicas, on a smaller scale, of those carried by the adults in the formal processions.

* Photo by Maocandimil

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Semana Santa in Mompox, Colombia

In 1564, the city of Mompox was established. Located on the Magdalena River in the Department of Bolívar, Mompox is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it is most famous for its celebrations of Semana Santa (Holy Week). During this week, leading up to Easter, hundreds of Colombians flock to the city to take part in the celebrations.

The festivities start on the Thursday before Palm Sunday, when a procession of Nazarenos (Nazarenes) arrive, dressed in turquoise robes, at the Iglesia de la Imaculada Concepción. Once they arrive, they either throw stones or kick at the doors in order to be let inside. Once inside, their robes are blessed in a Catholic Mass. Then, the group proceeds to the Iglesia San Francisco.
The following morning at 4 am, there is a Mass held at the Iglesia Santo Domingo followed by rites at the Iglesia Santo Domingo and then at the Iglesia de la Imaculada Concepción.

Palm Sunday brings a reenactment of the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem. It starts at the Iglesia Santa Bárbara, where palms are blessed. Then a group proceeds to walk through the city en route to the Iglesia de la Imaculada Concepción. During the procession, the Nazarenos (Nazarenes), dressed in blue, carry images that represent Jesus on a donkey, the Virgin Mary, and the 12 apostles.

On Lunes Santo (Holy Monday), the images are moved in a similar procession, to La Iglesia San Francisco. There they remain until Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday).

On Miercoles Santo, is a day to visit cemetaries and visit family and friends that have died. It is often called Serenata a los Muertos.

On Jueves Santo at 12:00, a lone Nazareno with a trumpet plays a mournful song that announces the imminent death of Jesus Christ. His tune is followed by the sounding of a bell. At 6 pm another procession starts. The Nazarenos carry "los pasos" which are big images displaying a reenactment of the Last Supper, Judas’ kiss, Christ before the Roman Judge, Peter’s denial, the flagellation, the crowning of Christ, Jesus before Pilate, and Pilate washing his hands.
At midnight, the procession arrives at the Iglesia de San Francisco. Once again, stones, sticks and kicks are used until the three principal doors open. Here, the "robbers" join the crowd. They represent the 2 robbers that were on either side of Jesus at his Crucifixion. At 2 am on Viernes Santo (Holy Friday), the procession celebrates Mass.

Friday evening, there is yet another procession honoring the burial of Jesus and the pain of the mother Mary. This is followed by numerous celebrations of Mass.

Sábado de Gloria (Saturday of Glory) is a day of prayer and reflection and demonstration of religious fervor. Then, Domingo de Gloria (Easter Sunday), is a joyous celebration with Masses, Eucharist rites, and more processions.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Semana Santa

The week from Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) to Easter Sunday (Domingo de Gloria), known as SEMANA SANTA, in Colombia is a week of religious celebration and fervor for faithful Catholics. For others, it is a week of vacation.
During this week, schools are out and many people do not work. Some families travel to the coast, others plan activities closer to home.

It is also a time when Colombian television shows many classic religious and family shows -- The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, The Sound of Music, The Greatest Story Ever Told, etc. (Might I just add here that seeing the Sound of Music in Spanish, where the songs are in English is really strange).

Most families do not eat meat this week, so fish is available everywhere. I spent a week travelling from Boyacá to Ipiales (on the Ecuador boarder) during Semana Santa 14 years ago. It was amazing to see the celebrations in each city. But, I have never been much of a fish fan, so I ate a lot of rice and bread that week.

For adoptive families who are in Colombia, it is important to remember that courts close on Wednesday afternoon, and do not reopen until the following Monday.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Transracial Parenting -- Advice from an Adoptive Mother

For today’s Been There – Done That, I have asked the adoptive mother of two beautiful Afrocolombianitas to share her feelings and advice. While her own experience is with Afrocolombianas, I think her advice is applicable to any multi-racial family be they, black, brown, or white. I thank her for her candor and thoughtful nature in which she approached my request. Now, here are her words:

Obviously I think parenting my children, who also happen to be Afro-Colombian, is the biggest privilege and blessing I have ever been given. But with that privilege also comes a pretty huge responsibility.

“In preparation for our adoption, we attended seminars and discussed with our social worker issues regarding race, culture & identity. However, the real preparation was done outside of this on our own. The Internet became our main tool. It was here I really first learned the term "white privilege" and what it mean. I realized that as a white person I had gone through life unaware & ignorant to many things that people of color face. I am also the first to admit that at times I am also daunted & worried by the responsibility we have accepted.”

Issue #1 – Be prepared for positive attention

“My children are still young & cute and are often complimented. But I recognize this is also partly because they are different. We, as a family, look different. There has been and will be times when my children will be tired of the attention.” [Editorial comment: I think that constantly being reminded that your family is different can become tiresome and it is something adoptive families often mention as a concern].

Issue #2 – Be prepared for negative attention

“I am also not naive enough to think that the attention they get will always be positive. Thus far we have not experienced any form of racism within our own community - quite the opposite. But we have visited a town where there are many problems amongst the indigenous & non indigenous people. There, my child has been looked at distastefully because of her skin color. It was both a shock & realization when it happened. It was subtle, but my husband & I both felt it. Fortunately, our daughter was only small at that time.”

Advice – How to prepare for the Issues

Suggestion #1 – Ask yourself tough questions

“Before you decide to adopt an Afro-Colombian child, you should ask yourself some hard questions. Be really honest with yourself. There is no shame in being honest and saying, ‘No, I don't think I can handle that situation.’ You do the child no favors if do not feel you can handle the situations that are bound to arise.”

“Step out of your own comfort zone knowing that there will be many times that your child unwittingly has too. Are you prepared to get uncomfortable for your child and yourself?”

Here are some suggestions:

“How will I handle the questions?
How will I react?
What will I do if A, B & C happens?
How will we prepare our children for A,B or C? (The time will come when we are not there or when they are old enough to understand what is happening.)”

Suggestion #2 – Communication

“Someone once said to me that the most important thing you can do for your child is to empower them. Give them the confidence & ability & the knowledge to be able to handle & deal with issues & situations if they arise. Talk & talk with your child about anything & everything. Let them know that they can always talk to you & you will always listen to them.”

“Also read, listen & read. Here are some good children’s books: All the Colors We Are, The Color of Us, The Skin You Live In, Black baby, White Hands, I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla, The Color of Difference, and Inside Transracial Adoption.”

Suggestion #3 – Talk with Adult Adoptees

"Adult adoptees who have lived the experience are the best resource available. Granted some of them are growing up during different eras & in different areas/countries. Not every experience will be the same, but they are out there willing to speak. So be willing to hear them even when they are not necessarily saying what you are wanting to hear or reporting 'happy' experiences."

Suggestion # 4 – Find a Balance

"Find a balance - don't overkill race/culture/identity. And don't make them feel excluded from your own culture. There needs to be a balance. Remember that mostly your child just wants to be & feel "normal" & that they belong & if they are happy, healthy & living life to the fullest, then that is what's most important.

"My daughter has at times in her life wished she were white or wished I was brown. She has wished that she came from "my belly". She has wished for straight blonde hair. All of this is normal in my opinion & I am glad she will speak about these things. In countering, I never discount her feelings, rather, I use every opportunity to also instill in her how much we love her beautiful skin, hair etc.

Suggestion #5 – Prepare your home

"We decided once we knew we were being blessed with a beautiful Afro-Colombian baby girl that her room would not be decorated in Barbie. Fortunately, these days, there is an array of colored dolls, books, and movies depicting children of every race. Our children have dolls of every color including white. I always look for books that depict race, disability, etc. & check their content.

"We travel to attend Colombian events & other cultural activities and our children enjoy these a lot. We are also all learning Spanish and attempting to cook & try different Colombian meals. We listen to lots of music from Colombia, and our home is full of Colombian arts, crafts & books."

Suggestion #6 – Prepare to Care for your Child’s Needs

“It is important to recognize that there are differences in hair and skin care. Good reading resources for your child & yourself include the yahoo group –adoptionhair_skincare

And the following books -- It's all good hair and Kinky Kreations"

Suggestion #7 – Seek Out People of Color

“Speak to people of color; seek them out. I believe from any country is helpful. Seek out your family & friends of diverse backgrounds. If you don't have them make some new ones. You can never have too many. We also maintain contact and share close friendships with other transracially adopted families, and we get together with them when we can.”

Suggestion #8 – Prepare and Educate Extended Family and Friends

“Also educate those that will interact with your child. You do not have to be 'over the top', but sometimes it important that you point something out. Many people are simply not aware. Remember you were also possibly one of those people.

"Remember that you are not going to agree with everything you read/hear/see. Just be open to different experiences & opinions. You might learn something & remember your child did not choose this for themselves so if you make a decision to adopt you need to be aware & prepared to parent the child you are blessed with.”

Here is another great resource:
CORPORACION CASA DE LA CULTURA AFROCOLOMBIANA.NIT. 830.097.462-7 Tele. 243 90 69 Fax 336 72 04 Cra. 5 No. 26 – 52 Bogotá, D.C.E-mail:

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Afrocolombian Recipes

Here are two recipes that are considered of Afro-Colombian origin.

Encocao de Camarón -- Coconut Shrimp

2 pounds shrimp
2 cups shredded coconut
milk from 1 coconut
10 green onions, chopped
cilantro -- to taste, chopped (approximately 1 Tablespoon)
oregano -- to taste, chopped (approximately 1/2 Tablespoon)
basil -- to taste, chopped (approximately 1 Tablespoon)
3 cloves of garlic -- crushed
pepper a shake form the shaker
pinch of salt

Step #1 -- Wash the shrimp and place them in boiling water for 3 minutes. Then, peel the shrimp.

Step #2 -- Put other ingredients together in a pot with the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling turn the heat down and add the shrimp. Let it cook on low for about 45 minutes.

Serve with rice and cooked plantains (patacones).

Banana Smoothie

6 ripe bananas
1 liter of milk(about 1 quart)
1 cup of sugar (add more if desired)
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Ice to taste

Step #1 -- Blend this in your blender and enjoy.

The following article lists the names of other dishes and tells you which region they are from.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Afrocolombian Hairstylist

The parents of adopted Afrocolombianos and particularly Afrocolombianitas will appreciate a discussion of hairstyles. Afrocolombians consider hairstyles, particularly braiding, a cultural expression.

The traditional Afro-Colombian hairstylist would work from home. She would use special combs and conditioners to style, hydrate, and color the hair. Most of the products that they use are natural and are found in the flora and fauna of Colombia.

Escoba Babosa or Malvacea -- Conditioner

Going to the hairstylist is considered a social event. From the times of slavery, information was passed along at the meetings. In addition, information was passed along in the hairstyles. Whether the braids were curvy or straight, long or short, each detail of the hairstyle meant something. For example, the hairstyle could show a map to a secret meeting spot or to freedom.

Just in case you want to take your child to get his/her hair done -- so they will look awesome when they meet their new friends and family back home -- you'll want to take them to a professional Afrocolombian hairstylist. In Bogotá, the best Afro-Colombian hairstylists are found on Calle 17 & 19 between 7th and 10th. You can try Galaxecentro 18 located on Carrera 10 con 18.