Colombia comes to the District of Columbia

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Colombia at the 2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

July in Washington, DC, in addition to the 4th of July celebration, means the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival is on! This year, Colombia was the featured country and Rhythm & Blues the featured musical tradition.

Susan and I traveled down to the National Mall of the second Saturday of the Festival, arriving at Smithsonian Metro around 11:45 a.m. Colombia's participation was themed as Colombia: The Nature of Culture. The varied regions of Colombia were on display through their traditional activities and their music: Andean Highlands, Coffee Region, Momposino Depression, Pacific Tropical Rainforest, Southeastern Plains, Amazonian Rainforest, and Cities.

Tower of Paradise: theme structure for the 2011 Folklife Festival.
Colombia went all-out in providing diverse artists and artisans. Clearly, Colombia was hoping to reverse its image as a drug cartel warzone and encourage interest in seeing its folk culture and typical activities.

The centerpice of the festival was the Tower of Paradise, part architectural statement, part social statement, part sculpture, designed by Colombian architect Simon Hosie. The 46-foot (14 m) tower of steel and bamboo was influenced by his time in the Barrio el Paraiso in Bogota and is meant to evoke the working class barrios of Latin America. Graffiti on the tower and on the concrete bases gives a taste of life in the city.

To see the exibits, we began at the Andean Highlands area. Here, a potter was at work at his wheel and women were demonstrating weaving wool clothing, baskets from sisal, and hats from palm leaves.

Colombia: The Nature of Culture.
Everywhere, something was going on and suddenly appearing where least expected! I watched Aires del Campo, a string music group, play Andean music from the Coffee Region.

Time for lunch to get ahead of the crowd! Of course, Susan and I headed for the Colombian food tent. I had Pollo Sudado (slow-cooked chicken) and Susan the Beef Empanadas. Very good! We shared a table with another local couple, from Fairfax, and a visitor from the Philippines. After lunch, we went next door to the Colombia music tent where Don Abundio y sus Travesios, from Mompox, were performing. The fokloric group played music of the Momposino Depression region, on the Carribbean, and reflected a mix of Spanish and Carribbean rhythms. Many in the audience got up and danced along!

Returning to the program area, the colorfully dressed members of Circo Ciudad de Bogotá caught our attention.

The circus and street performers were pretending to be street vendors. I'm not sure what statement, if one, they were making, but they were having a good time doing it! Them up popped another muscial group! La Contundencia is a small brass band that plays chirimía music from the Pacific Tropical Rainforest. Their style and rhythms reminded me of New Orleans music and they would not be out of place there. Wood carving demonstrations were in abundance from all the regions enabling one to view the different styles, motifs, and purposes of the art--stools, Carnival masks, ceremonial masks, canoes, and Christian statuary. Another surprise! A procession had begun. Participants were carrying a canoe with garlands of flowers and a staue of a Spanish friar, I believe, and the brass band was following! What a photo op!

But, something completely different, was the Yipero Jeep demonstration. After World War II, surplus Jeeps came to Colombia and began to replace pack burros as a means of transport in the Coffee Region highlands. The vehicles and their drivers (Yiperos) have become such an instiution that Jeep rallys are held at Carnival time. Drivers compete in trying to drive overloaded Jeeps on their rear wheels. Well, you have to look at the photos to see what I mean!

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Colombia at the 2011 Smithsonian F…
Colombia at the 2011 Smithsonian …
Tower of Paradise: theme structure…
Tower of Paradise: theme structur…
Colombia: The Nature of Culture.
Colombia: The Nature of Culture.
Andean pottery-making.
Andean pottery-making.
Hat weaving with palm leaves
Hat weaving with palm leaves
Sikuani wood carver from the South…
Sikuani wood carver from the Sout…
Carnival costumes
Carnival costumes
Cafetero and burro from the Coffee…
Cafetero and burro from the Coffe…
An Yipero drives an overloaded Jee…
An Yipero drives an overloaded Je…
An Yipero drives an overloaded Jee…
An Yipero drives an overloaded Je…
Colombian coffee at the Festival M…
Colombian coffee at the Festival …
Weaving sisal for baskets
Weaving sisal for baskets
Wool weaving
Wool weaving
Don Abundio y sus Travesios from M…
Don Abundio y sus Travesios from …
Don Abundio y sus Travesios
Don Abundio y sus Travesios
Don Abundio y sus Travesios
Don Abundio y sus Travesios
Andean string music by Aires del C…
Andean string music by Aires del …
Colombian food selections
Colombian food selections
Beef Empanadas
Beef Empanadas
Pollo Sudado
Pollo Sudado
Grupo Circo Ciudad de Bogotá
Grupo Circo Ciudad de Bogotá
Grupo Circo Ciudad de Bogotá
Grupo Circo Ciudad de Bogotá
Hair braiding from the Pacific Tro…
Hair braiding from the Pacific Tr…
Band music by Chirimía La Contund…
Band music by Chirimía La Contun…
Ceremonial Procession
Ceremonial Procession
Coca-Cola Man--sculpture from recy…
Coca-Cola Man--sculpture from rec…
On the grill
On the grill
Rhythm & Blues music at the 2011 F…
Rhythm & Blues music at the 2011 …
Rhythm & Blues: The Monitors
Rhythm & Blues: The Monitors
Rhythm & Blues: The Swallows
Rhythm & Blues: The Swallows
Rhythm & Blues
Rhythm & Blues
Peace Corps: Guatemalan bottle con…
Peace Corps: Guatemalan bottle co…
Peace Corps: Peruvian sculptor
Peace Corps: Peruvian sculptor
Peace Corps: Peruvian sculpture
Peace Corps: Peruvian sculpture
Peace Corps: Kenyan weavers
Peace Corps: Kenyan weavers
Peace Corps: Malian Storyteller
Peace Corps: Malian Storyteller
Washington Sights & Attractions review
World Cultures Come to Washington, DC
Every summer since 1967 the Smithsonian Institution has held the outdoor Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC. It's a … read entire review
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photo by: b93sp