Friday, April 15, 2011

Socorro - the seat of independence in Colombia

The cathedral here is lovely with Italian
terrazzo throughout, Italian artisans did the
beautiful stained glass windows, and it has
an Old World feel in the design.
The Andes are the backdrop for Socorro's cathedral.
There are so many villages and cities that have long histories in Colombia often it is hard to choose which one to visit first. Since I live in one of them, Barichara, unfortunately I tend to overlook many of its historical aspects as I amble off to the weekly market or a ceramics class. So one of these days I will do a more complete story.

But this week I went with my doctor friend to Socorro, where Colombian revolutionaries began their fight for liberty. I guess I could equate it to the Boston Tea Party or the secret meetings that took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or other early fights for the liberty in the United States. Founded in 1681, Socorro was given the title of "Noble and Loyal Village" in 1711 by the King of Spain, I think. However, he got rather annoyed when the populace wanted to ignore his royal decrees and he rescinded his beneficience once the fighting began over  taxes... quite similar to the tea party, you see.

Sextant of the church shows
us one of the underground
rivers... yikes!
Manuela Beltran, one of the guys who fought and died for the liberty he so badly wanted, is honored with a building called the Teatro Beltran. Sr. Galan has a village named after him as well as a statue in the park, a small tribute for literally getting drawn and quartered for his commitment to the fight. As I stood and looked down at the relatively new cathedral (180 years old) perched on a mountainside across from even higher mountains, I tried to imagine what it must have been like for these men to be resisting authority in what was then almost a virtual jungle in the Andes.

The beautiful church in Socorro was designed after European churches, but the architect(s) failed to properly site the location and it was built on three subterranean rivers. The problem is that after 180 years, the church has become unstable, with the front portion cracking and leaning downhill. It is rumored that the church will be decommissioned soon and possibly disassembled and rebuilt on firmer ground. That is, in itself, an interesting challenge, since all of Santander is lying right on a huge fault line and there are lots more rivers to contend with, both above and below the ground.
The stained glass windows were done by
Italian artisans over 180 years ago.

The trees that grew back then have since been used for firewood, a problem all over the country as they now try to promote planting and saving old growth trees. One that survived is shown here. It is over 400 years old and reminded me of the Old Senator in St. Augustine, Florida. The Old Senator is reputed to be over 600 years in age, supposedly a 'silent witness' to Spaniard Ponce De Leon finding the Fountain of Youth. These trees are even similar in overall shape, although the one here in Colombia is considerably taller and I rather doubt it is a live oak.

400 yr-old tree in Socorro, Colombia

Today there are paved roads, modern buildings alongside the antiquated ones, people making arepas the same way they did over 300 years ago while others are making new things to be used by their compatriots, but the issues of liberty seem submerged by the demands of daily living. The statues are in the park but the purpose seems to be more for pigeons resting on them than for the reminder of what the sacrifice was.

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