Monday, August 31, 2009

The Chibchas or Muiscas Explain Creation

In 1536, the Spanish arrived on the plains of Bogotá and explored the Altiplano Cundiboyacense. There, they found the third largest group of indigenous inhabitants in America. These indigenous people called themselves the Muiscas, which meant ‘the people’. They called their language Chibcha. Today, these words are both used when describing the natives of the Altiplano.

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 (then called Bacatá) and Tunja (then called Hunza) located 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. Despite their constant fighting one city remained neutral amid the conflicts -- Sogamoso (then called Sugamuxi) also in Boyacá. This city was the religious center of the culture. [Today, you can see a rebuilt religious center and Temple by visiting the Archeology museum in Sogamoso -- learn more here].

In the social structure of the Chibchas, the village leader -- or CACIQUE (kah SEE kay) -- was at the top. Below him was his family, then the priests -- JEQUES (HEH kays), and then the warriors -- GÜECHAS (GWAY chuhs). Following these groups, the communities were further stratified according to the work they performed in the community. At the bottom of the social structure were the slaves, who were for the most part prisoners captured in warfare.

The family was at the base of the society. Several families formed a clan and several clans a tribe. The tribe would then pay tribute (gold, food, blankets and work) to the caciques.

The Chibchas lived in huts called BOHÍOS. These huts were circular with thick wooden posts forming the circle and a roof made of straw. The houses were surrounded by high fences.

They were also metal workers creating amazing works in gold and copper. The gold, however, was not found locally. The Chibchas traded salt and emeralds in order to acquire it from the Indians in the Magdalena river valley.

Muiscas were also great weavers. Using cotton and other plant fibers, they made blankets and all sorts of clothing. In addition, they wove baskets and other household items from plant material.

Chibcha religion consisted of a collection of gods. All of them were servants to the main author of all creation and supreme god Chiminigagua.

Chiminigagua was omnipotent and the author of the creation of the world. He was the only light that existed when all else in the universe was dark. When he first created the earth, all was in darkness. In order to bring light to the universe, Chiminigagua created two large, black birds and threw them into the openness of space. When the birds breathed out of their beaks, their breath created an incandescent light, and thus the cosmos was illuminated. Their breath can still be seen today in the Milky Way.

Chiminigagua then created the rest of the universe and the earth. After creation, he taught the importance of worshipping the Sun (Xué or Suhá -- male) and the Moon (Chía -- female).

Chiminigagua was never worshipped directly, but rather the worship of the Sun and the Moon were the worship of Chiminigagua.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Children's Book Suggestion

Julia Durango, author of The Walls of Cartagena, also wrote a wonderful description of the life of Saint Peter Claver. If you recall my May 21, 2009, post, you will remember that Peter Claver called himself a "slave of the black slaves". He loved and served the newly arrived slaves in Cartagena in the 1600's. You and your child can learn more as you enjoy this wonderful bilingual (SPANISH/ENGLISH) book. It is called:

Peter Claver, Patron Saint of Slaves/Pedro Claver, Santo Patrono de los Esclavos

This book would be a great addition to your home library. It is especially great for kids 4-8 years of age.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Anniversary of Law #70 -- Celebrating 16 Years

On August 27, 1993, Colombia passed Law # 70, also known as the “Law of the Black Communities”. This law stands as one of the greatest achievements of the Afro-Colombian civil rights movement.
Historically Afro-Colombians have suffered exclusion in Colombian social, cultural and political life. With the passing of Law # 70, the Colombian government must now guarantee protection for the ancestral territories of the Afro-descendants. They must also invest in the economic development of these areas, as well as protect their cultural identity and civil rights.
Under Law #70, Afro-Colombians now have a legal tool to fight against the exclusion, discrimination, poverty, forced displacement and expropriation of their collective territories that have been the hallmark of treatment towards them.

According to the law, Community Councils are now recognized as the ultimate authority in the internal administration of the collective territories. The Community Councils oversee the conservancy and protection of the collective property and environment and the protection of their cultural rights. In the past, Community Councils faced constant threats, harassment and assassination. "Many leaders and members of the Community Councils, have lost their lives while protecting the land and environment inherited from their ancestors."

While May 21st is celebrated as the day of slave emancipation in Colombia, it is important to the modern history of the resistance and the peaceful contributions of Afro-Colombians to the building of a democratic and prosperous society. This includes the mention and honoring of those who through peaceful , grassroots means have worked within the legislative process protect and expand the rights of Afro-Colombians.

If the topic of Afro-Colombians interests you, "you can make difference by staying informed and taking action. Question US policies related to Afro-Colombian and Indigenous development and ancestral territories. Ask your legislator to not support any policy toward Colombia before ensuring that the Afro-Colombian and Indigenous rights are not violated or affected." You can also Inform others about the Afro-Colombians."

Monday, August 17, 2009


I am going on vacation for a week and a half -- please stay tuned for my next offerings on Afrocolombians and then more Colombian Myths and Legends.

Also, please leave me a comment about future subjects that you would like to see covered. I'd love to answer questions or give any information that you are specifically looking for.

I have a few ideas for weekly series including searching for Birth Parents, Lifebooks, Colombian authors and painters, more on Afrocolombians, and the Amazon. Abuelita Carmen has also sent me a few new recipes that we can try out.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Otilia Ruiz de Jérez

Otilia Ruiz de Jerez is a native of Raquira. She is also perhaps its most famous artist. She was a master sculptor, using the same techniques as mentioned last week with Tia Isabel. However, rather than making the traditional pots and cooking implements, she began sculpting people and religious art. Unlike some of the other people that had began using ceramic molds, each one of her works was unique -- handmade and hand painted.

She is considered one of Colombia's 7 Art Masters and as such she has earned recognition on the Luis Angel Arango National Library Website. See her picture and more of her art at the following link:

In 1994, when my husband and I were married, we were in a mall in Bogota. Inside, on the top floor, was an Art store. In the windows of the store were a bunch of statues made of red clay, most were religious in nature. They were very unique. So, we stopped to ask about them. The salesman told us that they were original "Otilias". I checked the price -- and they were pretty much out of our league, so we thanked the man and moved on.

A few months later, we were in Raquira. There in one of the stores were more of those neat statues. We asked about them, and sure enough, they were original "Otilias". We found one in our price range and were able to bring her back to the US without breaking her. She now sits in our living room with a companion that we purchased several years later.

I guess they are a collectors item as Otilia Ruiz died in 2000. Now, her trade is continued by her daughter, Rosa Jerez. You can buy statues made by Rosa in Raquira. They are a bit more pricey ($40-$75 US) than the multitudes of other massed produced ceramics, but a wonderful investment and a unique Colombian treasure.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ráquira -- Souvenirs Galore

So, you want to get some GREAT SOUVENIRS. Where do you go? Yes, there is an artesan market in Bogotá, but if you want to see endless selection of ceramics, hand made pots and statues, handmade hammocks, ruanas, art, etc. You need to go to Ráquira.

Ráquira is the Chibcha name meaning "City of Pots", and that is exactly what it is. Originally, an area of a small Chibcha population governed by the Cacique Suaya and under the authority of the Zaque of Hunza (Tunja), the conquistadors passed through the village on their way to Bogotá in 1537. The city of Raquirá was 'founded' in 1580 by Fray Francisco de Orjuela, on October 18. The Natives of the area were then taught Catholicism by Augustine Monks who founded the first Augustine Monestary in the Americas in 1607 just outside of Ráquira.

Ráquira is an amazing place to spend a couple of hours. It is about 20-30 minutes from Villa de Leyva. Make sure to bring your wallet and be prepared to make some amazing finds in this little town that was named the most beautiful pueblo of Boyacá in 1994. When you are finished shopping, head back to Bogotá on Sunday night -- about a 4 hour drive.

All Raquira Photos by:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


In and around Villa de Leyva, you will find hundreds of real relics -- FOSSILS. The fossils, particularly those of ammonites are so common that many of the buildings in Villa de Leyva have used them as part of the buildings themselves.

In 1977, farmers in a nearby vereda (hamlet) discovered the remains of a 115 million year old Kronosaurus. It is one of the few completely intact fossil remains of this particular animal to be found -- the others are located in Australia. They built the museum around the original find.

Museo -- El Fosíl
The museum is located about 5.5km (2 miles) outside of Villa de Leyva, just off the main highway to Santa Sofia.

Outside of the Museum, dozens of people are selling fossils they have found in the area. You can pick up 5 inch size AMMONITES for just a few dollars.


Open: Mo-Su 8am-6pm. Entrance Fee: $2.500 pesos -- about $1.30.

Here is a You-Tube viedo of the museum.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Children's Book Suggestion -- The Kite Festival

In this book, author Leyla Torres (Colombian), tells the story of a Colombian family's impromptu trip. After randomly deciding on the destination, the multi-generational family piles into the car and heads off to the town of San Vicente. When they arrive, they find that there is a Kite Festival (like the one mentioned in yesterday's post) in progess.

The family has come ill-prepared for the festival and so they use their creative skills to fashion a kite. In the end, they are awarded a prize for the most creative kite.

The illustrations are so wonderful. She perfectly captures Colombia and the Festival de Cometa tradition.

The book is available in English and Spanish. It is probably best for Kindergarten - 3rd grade aged children.

Here is a teaching guide and activities for before and after the read:

You can possibly find it at your local library, request it inter-library loan, or purchase it here:

In English:

In Spanish:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Villa de Leyva

If you check any Traveller's Guide to Colombia, you will find Villa De Leyva high on the list of NOT TO MISS excursions. Located about 3-4 hours North of Bogotá in the Department of Boyacá, Villa de Leyva is an impressively preserved Spanish Colonial village. The buildings -- mostly over 400 years old -- are immaculately preserved, and as a result, it has been declared a United Nations World Heritage site.

Villa de Leyva caters to the tourist. Every time we have visited (4 times) we hear German, French, English, Italian, Swedish and other European and Asian languages being spoken -- not to mention Spanish and Argentine accents. There are beautiful Colonial Hotels and Farms where you can stay and be pampered -- they even have SPAS. Shops with all sorts of art and artisan works line the streets. There are some amazing restaurants and bread stores!!! Even if you don't speak Spanish, check out the pictures of the hotels and farms (fincas) on this website -- gives the best US hotels a run for their money:


Villa de Leyva (meaning the Village of Leyva) was founded in 1572 by Hernán Suarez de Villalobos at the behest of the Governor of the Nuevo Reino de Granada -- Andrés Díaz Venero de Leyva -- hence the name. It was established as an agricultural town, producing olive oil and grains. But, it was also the playground of Colombia's elite -- from the very beginning. Today, a status symbol is to say you have a "Finca" in Villa de Leyva -- kind of like the Hamptons of Colombia. However, it is way less expensive and a night's stay in one of the hotels will not set you back much more than where you are staying in Bogotá.

In 1954, the city itself was declared a National Park and is therefore kept amazingly preserved. Everyone takes care of their home and business. Homes are always freshly painted in white and the contrasting green or black. Streets are cobblestone -- often using the ammonite fossils that are found in abundance in the area (see Wednesday's post for more info on the fossils).


This past weekend, the city of Villa de Leyva, held it's Kite Festival. This event is held annually and is famous throughout the country.

Here's a link to the article in El Tiempo:


Art and ceramic making classes
Mountain biking
Cave Spelunking
Horseback Riding
Visiting Vineyards
Seeing & Buying Fossils
Visiting an ancient Chibcha Religious site

While one day may not be enough -- depending on the age of your child -- one day may be all you can do. Earlier this year, I suggested a BEEN THERE DONE THAT escape from Bogotá that can take you on a historical tour of Colombian Independence and Ancient Culture. The first post was on March 23 and continued until March 26

Now, I recommend that you add one more day. On your way back from Sogamoso, take a left at Tunja and go to Villa de Leyva. Leave Friday -- do Battle of Boyacá, Pantano de Vargas, stay Friday night in Paipa. Saturday morning go to Sogamoso and see the museum and then travel to Villa de Leyva. Spend the afternoon exploring the city and then spend the night in one of the many beautiful Hotels. Stay tuned for Wednesday's and Thursday's post to see what you should do on Sunday before heading back to Bogotá. Truly a wonderful field trip no one should miss!!!


Friday, August 07, 2009

Excellent Book

After the story of Pedro Pascasio that I shared yesterday, I wanted to recommend the purchase of a book. This book is only available in Spanish, but is truly is awesome! It is a historical fiction version of the story of Pedro Pascasio. Well researched! Great detail! Pictures! Wonderful!


Pedro Pascasio: Heroe antes de los doce años


Fernando Soto Aparicio

Here is a link to Amazon:

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Pedro Pascasio -- Child Hero with Integrity

I SOOOOO Love to tell my boys this story!

Pedro Pascasio Martinez Rojas, is the 12 year old boy hero of Colombian Independence. Born on October 20, 1807, in Belén, Boyacá, to a VERY POOR peasant family. He became enamored of the idea of liberty.

His whole family worked for one of the wealthy land owning families of Belén, the family of Juan Jose Leyva. Even at his young age, Pedro Pascasio was expected to serve the Leyva family. In his capacity as servant, Pedro Pascasio overheard his employer and his Criollo friends discuss Bolivar's progress and their hopes for liberty from what they considered to be Spanish tyranny.

Pedro was inspired by their revolutionary conversations. He wanted nothing more than to join Bolivar. But, no one would take him seriously. He was just a child.

Then, something happened that would change his life forever. On July 18, 1819, Simón Bolivar arrived at Belén, and stayed at the Leyva home. While exactly how it happened is unclear, Pedro did indeed join Bolivar and was placed in charge of the care of Bolivar's horse.

Immediately following Bolivar's victory at Puente Boyacá, Pedro Pascasio was ordered to take the horse to find fresh grass. As he went with another servant -- El Negro José, they were surprised to find the missing Spanish General behind some large rocks. The young boy ordered the General to surrender. The General, knowing that the child was obviously a peasant. Offered him riches -- a bag of gold that he was carrying with him. Despite his family's needs, he responded to the General that he thought more of his liberty than his needs. The General surrendered to the young boy and was taken back to Bolivar.

General Bolivar was so impressed he named Pedro Pascasio a Sargeant and promised him a military pension.

The story to this point is just awesome. So, I'll let you know that I always stop there with my boys, but the truth is. Pedro Pascasio never knew freedom. The tyranny passed from the Spanish to the Criollos. He remained in poverty and the promised military pension was never paid.

In his old age, he said the following:

"I wanted a peaceful country, a clean, loving and free country. I do not know if I will die with that dream or if the dream will die with me."

In the late 1800's, a Colombian senator recognized the error of never paying Pedro Pascasio his pension, and though he was long dead, the money was given to his surviving daughter -- Bernabela, the second to youngest of his eight children.

This is the monument in honor of Pedro Pascasio and El Negro José that is found not too far (about 1/2 mile) from Puente Boyacá. It has been placed near the Piedra de Barreiro. Worth a stop if you decide to follow my Been There, Done That -- liberty weekend trip while in Colombia.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Battle of Boyacá -- Preparing for August 7th

After Bolivar's amazing victory at Pantano de Vargas (July 25, 1819), he withdrew his troops to Corrales (near Sogamoso) in order to rest and regroup.

Here's a refresher on Pantano de Vargas:

On August 3, after receiving new recruits and supplies, Bolivar once again began his push toward Bogotá. Expecting this, Spanish General José María Barreiro, headed to Tunja, hoping to block the rebels advance there. However, Bolivar had also anticipated Barreiro's move. He marched his troops toward Tunja not stopping to sleep or rest. On August 5 Bolivar's troops arrived at Tunja. This was long before Barreiro, and therefore, the city was easily taken and secured. The supplies meant for Barreiro that were found there -- food, medicine, horses, and ammunition -- were confiscated and distributed among Bolivar's troops.

While in Tunja, the Republican forces rested for about 40 hours. Then, on the morning of August 7th, Bolivar's scouts returned to Tunja warning him that Barreiro was approaching.

Bolivar began his march and the two armies met on either side of small bridge which spans the Teatinos River -- Puente Boyacá. Lead by Francisco de Paula Santander and José Antonio Anzoátegui the troops easily conquered Barreiro's forces.

When the Spanish surrendered, General Barreiro had escaped (Check out tomorrow's post -- it is a great story). Bolivar had lost 66 men, while the Spanish suffered 250 casualties and 1,600 men were taken prisoner -- including Barreiro's second in command -- Francisco Jiménez.

This was Colombia's Yorktown. Upon winning this battle, the Nuevo Reino de Granada (what is today Colombia) gained its independence from Spain. This post -- and the two that follow will give you more insight into Colombian Independence and the holiday that approaches on this Friday.

To see the post I made about the Puente Boyacá National Park -- click here.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Tía Isabel -- Our Famous Potter of Tiestecitos

In the area surrounding Tutazá (mentioned yesterday), there are many areas -- called veredas. A vereda is a small geographical region that usually has a collection of homes and farms in a rural area -- like a hamlet. One of those veredas is called Tuaté. It was there in a small adobe house with a red, tile roof that my father-in-law was born. His family made their living as potters, a tradition handed down from the orginal inhabitants of the area, and as a child he travelled all over Boyacá, Santander, and Cundinamarca with his father selling the pots and other things that his family made out of clay.

Though he left his home at 14 and became successful at something other than pot making, his youngest sister, Isabel, remained and inherited the family home. There she continued the family business. However, her inginuity and creativity lead her to be recognized by a famous French potter -- Dauphine Scalbert. In 1994, Ms. Scalbert wrote an article about Tía Isabel and her pottery and techniques for a European ceramics magazine (Revue de la Céramique et du Verre, mai/juin 1994 # 76). In 2002, Tía Isabel was invited to participate as an exhibitor in Expolain 2002, where 50 potters from around the world were to display their wares.

(T'ia Isabel in her Kitchen -- a few years ago they installed the Lorena Stove to keep the smoke out of the Kitchen --
but she still cooks her food over a fire)

Because of the importance of the Tiestecitos in the Independence and in this part of Boyacá, I thought I would make this personal connection. Here is a Babelfish translation of the article:

Boyaca is one of the splendid departments of Colombia for its landscapes and its vegetation, and of most interesting for its history. The famous battle of Puente de Boyaca put an end to Spanish colonization; Simon Bolivar had passed by the village of Tutazá, where he had requested the Virgin of the Rosary, and when he had called upon “the Blessed Virgin of over there where they make pots”, he had been victorious in the famous Battle of Pantano de Vargas; the statues of the Virgin and Bolivar thus decorate the center place of the village, and now, the “Virgin of the small pots”, thus it is called, is venerated every year on the first Sunday of October and those which precede the Ash Wednesday. These days, the village is literally besieged by an huge crowd of pilgrims who visit the church in an attempt to receive a hoped for miracle.

Very many tradesmen unpack their wares around the church, and the potters of the surrounding areas bring their earthenware jars, their pots and areperos...The potters are not very numerous anymore, and almost all come from the hamlet close to Tuaté, whose inhabitants are dispersed on the majestic hills. They preserve rudimentairy but beautiful techniques of manufacture and baking; that is nowadays very rare in Colombia...the baking of the pottery on the ground, without furnace, such as the original inhabitants of America before the conquest had practised it.

We went from Belen to Tutazâ on foot through the wet and green landscape, among the morsels of corn and barley, the animals in the valley, the nets of smoke rise from the baking of the last pots, the maletas (carrying cases) - the pottery is bond tight in the nets of hemp cord, between each of them they are protected by some grasses or some ferns - and are placed on the backs of small donkies or on the backs of the potters themselves. And like this, the peasants of Tuaté prepare for the festival of the Virgin of the Pots.

We have appointment with Isabel Garcia the valiant potter. She awaits us and watches for us from her house -- a tiny adobe at the foot of a gigantic fir tree, which agitates its arms as a sign of welcome. The dwellings of Tuaté are all built in the same way -- two small buildings facing each other. One is the kitchen, very dark, with its open fire or its three stones for the hearth. On a frame of braided branches under the roof the pots are placed for final drying. Facing the kitchen, is the other small building. This one has two small rooms with wood beds and a storage area containing the grain, the potato bags, and corn hanging from the ceiling out of reach rodents. There are calendars or holy pictures on the walls. The meals are eaten outside under the roof the connects the two buildings. It is there that one rests with shelter from the sun or the rain. It is there that one works the clay.

Within three steps of the house, there is a laundry area where clear and fresh water runs continuously.

When we arrive at Isabel's, with gusto, we drink the guarapo. This corn drink is sweetened, alcoholized a little, and refreshes. Isabel speaks to us about her work. The mines where the clay is gathered are rather secret places. William will take us along with the permission of his aunt who will have considered us to be worthy of such a confidence. The child's eye follows the birds which cross the valley. He explains to us where the devil is shown at night, and how the Blessed Virgin appeared to the little girls of the village to teach to them to spin wool and to make pots.

The mines are far away and it is a challenge for the potter to get there.. The clay is extracted with wood tools because the use of metal risks exhausting the resources of the mine, according to the local belief. The potters are helped but little by their husbands who are occupied in the fields and it is necessary for them to bring back the dirt on their backs, sometimes walking several kilometers.

Much of their work is intended for culinary use. They mix a black and sandy clay with a yellow plastic clay. Upon the quality of clays, depends their success when baking. For the small parts they are satisfied with a more common clay that they find more close to them.

As the dirrt leaves the mine, Isabella prepares a large stone slab. She also uses a rammer made of a very hard wood -- a pizon. It is hard work, Isabel is in sweat. She mixes two clays and makes a heap with them. She crushes the earth with the pizôn and unceasingly starts again. When there appears any impurities, she removes them one after the other. She adds water and is protected from the splashes with a plastic bag tied around it. Isabel prepared the dirt for eight wet (pots) in one of which she will be able to cook the potato soup or ferment the guarapo.

She kneels in the air shaft at the foot of the low wall, her tools and the eight molds within reaching distance. What she calls her molds are true spinners, actually plates with a round bottom. They turn well, balanced some on their axis, and the potter nimbly outlines her pots there. In less time than one would usually need for it, I observe that she forms a coarse plate that she rounds like a cone, and then the plate becomes a pot when she fixes it on the firm mold with punches. She adds clay wads, the clay goes up, the pot turns, already outlined, the edge carefully is turned and smoothed. Later in the afternoon, she will work on them again by rounding the interior form with the rubber sole of a shoe. Tomorrow she will refine them with a sheet of metal, like others would do it on the lathe with a tournasin. The thickness will be equal, the light pot, the natural and silky form.

Isabel finishes her eight pots and covers those from yesterday with a cloth. With a heavy rag cloth, she coats the still wet pots. After drying, she can polish them with a fine stone and a patient rhythm.

Her daughter, Nancy, returns from milking the cows and helps her mother in the domestic tasks. Her son, Javier, is studying catechism as he has returned from school. Luis Alberto is in the fields with his father collecting potatoes. Daily life for the peasants -- this is the rhythm for Isabel, who like the other potters of Tuaté, work only when they have an order, or for the festivals of Tutazâ, and the fairs of Duitama, Santa Rosa or Sogamoso.

Isabel has prepared 100 pots that need baking. If the day's hot and the sun is shining, they will be dry. Thus commences the work of pre-heating. For this, a fast baking is essential. It is necessary to go to seek the pots on the sarzo -- the frame of branches braided placed near the top of the fire in the kitchen for the arrangement and the pre-heating of the pots.

Isabel carries those which already hot and are smoked out. The surface used for baking is vast, Isabel cleans it and spreads out a layer of ash distributed -- for this she uses a branch. Not a lot of wood is used for baking, but an interlacing tightened, thick, form of flexible wood is used to receive the pots. The large ollas (pronounced OY - Yas), or pots, are filled with smaller pots, chorotes or miniatures. Thee aligned, some encased in others, it appears to be in a pleasant geometric shape with many generous curves. At the four sides of the bed of branches Isabel places the trancas which are large split or notched pots which make it possible for the fire to breathe under the bulky branches. And finally she covers all these pots with the areperos thus resembling roof tiles -- which serve to store the heat. The men brought on their backs two wood loads and two loads of dry grasses from the hills, which are very dense, which is a necessity. For air circulation. Isabel lays out some tufts on the pots, lights fire and orders it exactly according to her liking.
To read the article in its French Original -- click here:

Monday, August 03, 2009

Simón Bolivar -- Tiestecitos

There is actually a Virgin of Colombian Independence. While she is officially called the Virgin del Carmen, she is known in Colombia as the "Virgin of the Tiestecitos" (or in English the Virgin of the little Pieces of Pottery).

According to tradition, as Bolivar crossed the Andes and began his trek through Boyacá -- where he would eventually win the Battle of Boyacá and achieve Independence for Colombia -- he passed thorugh the small village of Tutazá. In Tutazá, the people were famous for creating all kinds of things out of clay -- pots, jars, statues, figurines, etc. While in Tutazá, he had seen the statue of the Virgin Mary in the church and also the many of the clay pots and figurines in the village.

Later, during the Battle of Pantano de Vargas, he prayed for protection from the Virgin of "the place where they make those Tiestecitos." [His exact words in Spanish: "VIRGEN MARIA DE ALLA... DONDE HACEN LOS TIESTOS, AYUDANOS"]

Many believed that it was the power of the Virgin of Tutazá that brought the amazing victory against insurmountable odds at the Pantano de Vargas.

Incredibly, I have been to this tiny town -- at the end of a dirt road -- in the middle of know where -- not once, but twice. While it is not the easiest place to get to, it was very picturesque. The picture is of the statues found in the main plaza. They depict Simon Bolivar and the Virgin of the Tiestecitos.