Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Getting Away - Ubate/Sutatausa (Part 4)

Lake Fuquene on the way south to Ubate/Sutatausa
Sutatausa Church
The trip from Chiquinquirá to Ubate and then to Sutatausa should have taken a shorter time than it did. For reasons I could not comprehend, the driver was not driving as fast as the conditions would allow and so it took quite awhile to cover the kilometers.

By the time we arrived at the church it was beginning to get cloudy and while we were there it absolutely poured buckets.

The reason for coming here at all is that this church is the 'indoctrination' church, an early church used by the Catholics to encourage people, most particularly the natives, to join up. Located about a hour north of Bogota, this early church was settled by the Franciscans and Spaniards. The initial view of the church is one of marvel that the people of the late 1600's could produce such an edifice. But finding out the deeper and more sinister aspect of the methods of encouraging people to join this religion left me feeling very sad indeed.

Interior of the church; secret room is off to the right.
Part of the design of capturing the people when conquering their lands is maintaining control. But with limited troops, the Spaniards in the late 1500's and early 1600's used the Franciscan friars to encourage people to become indoctrinated as Catholics using that religion to control the population. What is more than a little horrible about this 'encouragement' is the realization that if someone said 'No, I don't think so," they were candidates for a visit to a room where they could be convinced. Underneath one of the side altars of this church there is a very small room. (You can see a very small door, like that of one for a cupboard, to the right of the fellow's head in the picture of the side altar below.) My guess is that most of the indigenous peoples were pretty small in stature, so the space didn't need to be very large. But it was too large for me to go inside. And that's just as well, because what if I couldn't have gotten out again?
Barely visible, there is a small latching door at right of guy's head.
It was literally a torture chamber to convince individuals to become Catholics. Not much bigger than an average bathroom and a good deal shorter in height, it houses an ancient wooden rack to pull a person's body parts apart. It has a very small window with bars on it, about the size of someone's head - certainly not large enough, even squeezing sideways to escape. Frankly all you'd have to do is show it to me and I'm such a coward, I'd join right up. And perhaps that was enough for plenty of others, too. The priests could have had someone in there screaming their head off, and even if they weren't doing anything to him/her, that would have gotten the rumors going and anyone for miles around would have probably made the decision to become a Catholic.
Original frescoes on main wall of church were recently uncovered.
My Spanish is rotten, I admit. But when I was hearing the others in the group talking about this, I thought I was really mis-interpeting everything. We walked around and looked at the ancient frescoes painted on the walls which have only recently been uncovered. We went to the church's museum to see all the old paintings of apostles and such like, robes, candle holders, communion cups and plates, and some other antiques of the early period of this church. Then the 'best' was saved for last. Anyone who wanted to could go into this room - if they could fit.

One of the members of our group was small enough and had a camera and did take a photo, but she hasn't sent it to me yet. If/when she does, I will post it. (She was able to get out and return home with us, in case you were wondering.)

Don Pedro, in red cap, points out our location on map.
I don't want to end this journey on such a sombre note, so here are some other shots taken during the weekend that didn't have any particular place to fit except to show you some interesting looking people, places or things. The woman in costume is wearing the traditional comunero garb of a black dress, white blouse with embroidered colored flowers, black shawl and the hat with a black band and red ties on her black pigtails.

The group is standing on a bas-relief map of Colombia at the Nacional University College in Velez and our leader, who was the inspiration for doing a "Route of the Comuneros," is Don Pedro, an historian from Bogota and Barichara. He is wearing the red cap and pointing out where we are at present in the Andes.

Rider needs help dismounting; horse may be pleased.
This was the shot in Puene Nacional that caused my anxiety to rise as I realized that most of the men riding were probably also drinking. This fellow trying to dismount in the first photo had been riding around and perhaps someone told him to get off or he tried to on his own. But clearly he wasn't able to manage and yet a short while later (see him trying to put his foot in the stirrup?) he tried to get on someone else's horse that was left standing. (The metal railing I mentioned that gave away can be seen in the upper left hand portion of the second photo.)

'Borracho' means drunk and this fellow was...
A street in Chiquinquirá on a Sunday.
The last shot was taken as we were driving out of Chiquinquirá and I just pointed the camera as we passed a street or two... just to show what the edges of the city look like. There is a similarity to Mexico in that the houses and shops are brightly colored. But at least from what I saw from the van, the streets looked pretty clean and there was less trash piled up than what I have observed in other Colombian cities and villages.

I hope you have enjoyed this tour with me, although 'enjoy' is hardly the word to use for that last church visit. Right now I am working on a new oil painting and so my next trip is as yet unknown.
I have a few ideas up my sleeve for some other postings, and I look forward to your comments on this one.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoy your write-up, as an armchair traveller without the inconvenience and risks. My recent travels have been interrupted with cold and stuff!
    Take care.