Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Preserving the Heritage and Culture

Over Easter weekend, a group of us walked up the mountain-
side above Barichara to see a very very old house and enjoy
the view. A bit hazy and I slipped a bit as I was taking the shot.
Barichara is about to face some serious challenges in the weeks and months ahead. A small village that has been designated an historical monument, it is also one of the cleanest, prettiest and culturally diverse places to be found in Colombia. (There are at least nine more I'd like to see and which are being promoted by the department of cultural history.) And as is the consequence of attraction, there are people with money coming in to build. Not all of them are ex-patriots, but rich Colombians who want to 'get away' from their city lives in this remote (sort of) place.

But with these affluent people comes change, change which is not particularly desirable in all cases. It was with foresight that a law was passed in 2006 which prohibited removal of old roads, old stone fences and demolishing of heritage plants and places. Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped some folks from moving ahead and doing what they want to do to serve their own interests.
This preservation group gathered in front of the
cathedral in Barichara for a Heritage walk in March 2012.

Recently a group aiming to bring this issue of violation of preservation law met in Barichara for a walk in the countryside and to point out what damages are occurring because of this lack of the law being enforced. Over the loud noise of the cicadas in the park, a conversation with one of the group informed me that an old road, paved with the old large stones from 300 years ago, had been ripped up for a new road for cars to drive on, completely altering both the landscape and the past. People who are building here want some of these old stones in their houses and because they are willing to pay for the 'piedras,' (rocks) the demand apparently makes it possible for this theft of the past. It is very sad to think that colored paper with numbers on it can obliterate a far richer history.

One thing I've noticed over the past few seasonal events is that the 'tourists' (all those people who come in from the outside, whether from Colombia or some other country) seem to be afraid to smile. The ones who drive here in huge vehicles look grim as they try to maneuver the narrow and sometimes bumpy streets. The others walking around look as if this was a duty posting, not something they are enjoying. People! Why are you bothering to come here if you can't be happy? Baricharians used to smile all the time, but I notice it takes a few days after everyone leaves before the smiles come back. I cannot save the smiles all by myself, folks. If you are coming here, please help me out by smiling - at least once in awhile.

This is one of the very old houses scattered around Barichara that are of
great historical value and should be protected from vandals and other
elements of change. It is on private land, but not all the others are.
Also, it appears that some people are attempting to stir up a pot with claims that new people are wanting to change the culture, the traditions of Barichara, lodging complaints about various things. I won't go into them here because they don't deserve acknowledgement except to say that no one in their right mind would try to arrest the crowing cock for making too much noise, or issue an eviction notice to frogs for croaking past midnight, or to even attempt stopping the ringing of church bells which serve many functions in this pueblo. The real issue is that of fear: fear that with changes what is now known and regular will be something very different in the future. It is also fear that those changes will leave long-time residents of Barichara disenfranchised in some way.

I fully support, and always have, the tide floating all boats; bringing everyone along in a good way. It is up to all of us, new residents and those long established here, to work together so that no one feels left out and everyone commits to a partnership of both keeping Barichara the clean and charming village it is now and also making sure regulations and laws are enforced to prevent the very wealthy from destroying the very element that brought them here in the first place.
This is the Datura, also sometimes known as Angel Trumpet.
My research shows that it might better be categorized as
Brugmansia as South American plants are more woody, tree-
like, and having pendulous flowers. Delicate scent. 

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