Last weekend I took a little trip to San Jacinto, Bolívar (neighboring department) to visit my friends Michelle and JoAnn and check out the gaita festival. Gaita is a big pipe that is played in music like cumbia, heavy with drums. Unlike cumbia, which is danced to always wearing the same red and white checkered outfit, gaita dancers wear gorgeous colored floral dresses. Here’s an example:
Besides the gaita, San Jacinto is known for its artisanry. As you arrive into the urban center, the highwy is lined with shops filled with the various goods made in town – especially mochilas (purses) and hammocks. Mochilas are crocheted with brightly colored yarn and beautiful patterns. There is another region in Colombia where mochilas are made, but they are different in style as those tend to be made in natural colors and are made with a different stitch that gives them more texture. Both the strap of the mochila as well as the hammocks are woven on looms. Mochilas are generally finished off with a detail of a tassel (or, on some more modern bags, pom poms), while hammocks often have dangling detailing on the bottom (which I don’t really get because I feel like it would just get super dirty).
Michelle and JoAnn are friends with a bunch of artisans and have been working with them to improve their business practices, so we visited a few of them. Our friend Helena, also visiting for the weekend, and I were even given the opportunity to help make the cord for one of them! Michelle gifted me some yarn and a little needle to start making my own mochila…but I’m much better with two needles so haven’t done much work on it. I’m also better at ogling the work of others, which I got a chance to do later when we stopped by a market of artisanry where I snapped pictures of designs I love for the day when I finally get my own mochila made for me.
San Jacinto sits among the Montañas María, the Maria Mountains, and within them is a mountaintop called Cerro Maco where coffee is grown. A bit ago, a young man and a young woman started selling this coffee (locally grown!) from a cart as part of a school project. Since then, the cart has grown into a full-blown stand where tintos, dark heavy coffees, and malteadas, malts are served. And, as it turns out, shots of tequila. Michelle and JoAnn have become friends both with the employees of the stand as well as other locals that hang out there, so we spent quite a bit of time there. I made sure to try all three of the things that I mentioned – and I got to briefly see my friend Angell, who was just passing through after a hike.
Ultimately we didn’t actually see/hear that much gaita…during prime gaita hour we were making killer veggie tacos with guacamole, drinking wine, and chatting away. And it was all great.