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Festival Etnocultural + Oiba

Here’s a quick rundown of recent happenings in my life. I’ve been a bit busy between working at Colombo and working with private English students. I’ve started working for a family who have the most adorable 11-year-old daughter. Teaching her is such a delight and her mom takes very good care of me – yesterday she had saved a piece of almojábana for me that her husband had brought back from Bogota. It’s a bread made from cheese and yuca that’s available here in Bucaramanga, but is better in Bogota she tells me. [There’s a simple recipe here if you want to try making some! I give it two thumbs up.]

November 1st and 2nd there was a festival in Giron called IV Encuentro Etnocultural “Por un Futuro Negro y Bonito”. It took place in a beautiful old house called Casco Urbano Antiguo.

Son Quindembo

Son Quindembo

Art at Casco Urbano Antiguo.

Art at Casco Urbano Antiguo.

On the first night there was a dance group from Venezuela called Aguacero de Colores, but unfortunately we missed them. We did get to see a live salsa band called Son Quindembo, also from Venezuela.

The second day we got there early for an African dance workshop with one of the members of Aguacero de Colores. It was so much fun! There was lots of undulating of our shoulders, flapping our arms like eagles and flinging our arms like knives. Later in the day our teacher did a contemporary dance performance to the most beautiful song. I had my handy Edirol at the ready so I made a recording of it in order to identify the singer at a later date…

In the evening Son Quindembo played basically the same set from the night before, but this time with black face on. One thing I’ve learned here is that we Americans love being politically correct. A band painting themselves with black face would not fly in the USA, but here it’s no big deal. I asked why they did it, but they just told me they would explain it during their set and that never happened. The whole room was dancing, it was a lovely night.

On Sunday I woke up at 2:30 am for a trip to Oiba, a small pueblo 3 hours southwest of Bucarmanga mostly populated by farmers. I was going with my friend’s NGO called Funsoco. They’ve been working with the people in Oiba to develop small businesses and planned a cultural festival where the business owners could sell their goods and foreigners living in Bucaramanga could share some bits of their culture. I went along with folks from Argentina, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Holland, Canada, France, Romania and the Czech Republic.


[Photo by Hamer Morgenstern]

The US/Argentina/Puerto Rico/Ecuador tent.

The US/Argentina/Puerto Rico/Ecuador tent. [Photo by Hamer Morgenstern]


A school in Oiba constructed this Eiffel Tower for the event. [Photo by Hamer Morgenstern]


Putting my Spanish skills to the test as I talk about my beloved country. [Photo by Hamer Morgenstern]


The whole group of foreigners/musicians/capoierans/Funsoco. [Photo by Aarin Shapiro]


[Photo by Hamer Morgenstern]


[Photo by Hamer Morgenstern]

Some hip hop dancers and a capoiera team came with us as well and did demonstrations at the event. I had never heard of capoiera before and was totally amazed! It’s a martial art from Brazil that combines dance and acrobatics. It has African origins and is accompanied by very percussive traditional music. I got to learn how to play one of the instruments – a berimbau.

During the day I hung out at a table and local Oibans came over to talk to me and ask questions about the US. It was really lovely to meet them and spend some time in their tranquil little pueblo. Later in the day I gave a powerpoint presentation in my almost-intelligible Spanish about the culture of the US. I found myself talking a lot about the diversity of our country – something I’ve come to realize is certainly my favorite part of living there. In the evening we hung out in the hotel watching the capoiera team do their thing and then went to a local high school for some live salsa/merengue music and LOTS of dancing.

The view of Oiba from our hotel.

The view of Oiba from our hotel.

On Sunday morning we went on a short hike to a spectacular waterfall outside of Oiba called Cascada de Chaguatá. I’ve been to my fair share of waterfalls by now in Colombia, but this one was the best.

DSCF0719 DSCF0723

Floor from Holland, Aarin from Canada and me.

Floor from Holland, Aarin from Canada and me.

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