August 3, 2010
Travelers: Olivia Cadaval, Cristina Díaz-Carrera, Sandra Durán, Germán Ferro, Daniel Sheehy
Fieldwork base: Hostal El Edén, Calarcá; day trips to various towns in the municipality of Calarcá, department of the Quindío
• Day trip to Gachantivá
• Fly from Bogotá to Armenia
• Meet with Carlos Beltrán, who accompanies us in the van as our guide
• Drive to the Hostal El Edén
• Visit to RECUCA (Recorrido Cultural Cafetero), the coffee cultural center
• Meet with jeep driver and yipao specialist Jhon Jairo “Guama” Amórtegui
• Meet with guadua builder José Carlos Jiménez, who rebuilt the Hostal El Edén after the 1990 earthquake
Quindío is a lush forested Andean region where coffee, bananas, corn, and guadua grow. In the area, one can see guadua used for aqueducts, fences, terraces, bridges, kioskos, and furniture. We stayed at the Hostal El Edén at the foot of the mountain – the place used to be the owner’s family finca, or small plantation. The main house, which has been amplified, is built with guadua, a native bamboo, and painted in the traditional bright yellow and blue colors of the area. A second structure was built by guadua builder José Carlos Jiménez, who we later interviewed. He explained that the earthquake proved the guadua’s resilience. He described it as a giant fibrous grass. They cut when there is no moon and the tide is low. The joints are pyramidal and can resist thirty-two tons of weight. In the region, guadua can grow twenty to thirty meters high. The tools they use are simple – machete, saw, hand axe, and gouge. Guadua builders also make furniture and simple crafts. We took many pictures showing how the joints are made and how the guadua can also be use for paneling walls and ceilings. We enjoyed traditional meals at the hostel including recalentao and arepas for breakfast. Recalentao, or “warmed over,” is made from dinner leftovers.
We visited the RECUCA (Recorrido Cultural Cafetero) center located in Barcelona. We formed part of a tour that included strapping plastic baskets to our waist and picking ripe coffee beans. The tour concluded with a demonstration on how to serve and enjoy a good cup of coffee. Jhon Alejandro Arcila was one of the guides who described the Center both as a working plantation and as a tourist destination. His father is a coffee farmer who tends the plants in RECUCA. We also had a tour through the plantation where we could see the different coffee plantings and growing stages. This tour gave us many ideas for presenting coffee as a tradition at the Festival.
Part of the coffee story is the Willy’s jeep. At noon, we saw several jeeps, the area’s “taxi,” give students a ride home. We then went where yiperos (jeep drivers) park in the city of Armenia and met with Jhon Jairo, known as Guama. He is famous for his “pique” stunt in jeep festivals. He is passionate about festivals, but he explained that his main role in the community is to transport products, household furniture, and children at lunch time. He is also a jeep mechanic.
—Olivia Cadaval, Curator
Calarcá landscape. Photo by Cristina Díaz-Carrera, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution