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PostBogota Images: Jorge Eliecer Gaitan (John Eipper, USA, 06/13/18 5:32 am)
Must share some Bogotá pictures from our first day in this fascinating city.
First, a view from Plaza Bolívar, the epicenter of Colombia. The plaza was platted in 1539, and is surrounded by the La Candelaria neighborhood, Bogotá's most historic and touristy. Aldona did a great job of capturing my backside, as well as the threatening sky. Rain is nearly a daily occurrence at this time of year.
A pleasant surprise was the house-museum of populist presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, whose 1948 assassination brought on ten years of civil war, known in Colombia as "La Violencia." Some (such as our guide) divide all Colombian history into pre- and post-assassination, with the relentless guerrilla warfare and narcoterrorism seen as byproducts of Gaitán's martyrdom. Gaitán rose from poverty to become the champion of Colombia's underclass. He was the front-runner to win the '48 elections, but as so often happens in Colombia, politics had different plans.
Bogotá Cathedral (Catedral primada de Colombia), Plaza Bolívar. JE (striped shirt) admires from afar
Jorge Eliécer Gaitán grave, Bogotá. Note the dates: 1903-∞ (infinity)
"I am not a man. I am a people, and the people are greater than their leaders." Jorge Eliécer Gaitán
Laguna de Guatavita: Origin of El Dorado Legend
(John Eipper, USA
06/17/18 6:11 AM)
On June 16th we escaped from hubbub of Bogotá to tour the Laguna de Guatavita, origin of the El Dorado legend.
This small lake about 90 minutes north of Bogotá had sacred significance for the Muisca people. Succession occurred matrilineally. A new cacique (chieftain) was selected from among the sons of the current cacique's oldest sister, and administered a test of sobriety and resolve: He was stripped naked and presented with five nude virgins, who spent an entire night dancing and attempting to seduce the youth. If he yielded to the temptation, he was immediately replaced by a different candidate. If the young man proved his abstemious mettle, he was covered with honey and gold dust and taken to the sacred lake. After spending another night in contemplation and ritual bathing, he would be presented with his beautiful new bride.
The story of the Golden Honey Man and the precious objects thrown into Guatavita piqued the interest of the greedy European, who spent the next 300 years attempting to recover the treasures, first by digging and hauling water out with gourds and buckets, and then by more ambitious projects to drain the entire lake. By the 19th century, rapacious Brits were invited in with their dynamite. As a result, one side of the crater was blasted away, and the water fell to 50 feet below its original level (it used to be above the top of my head in photo 1). Fortunately, the Guatavita area is now a national preserve entrusted to the Muiscas, who serve as guides and ambassadors to visitors. The above story comes from Clara, the guide during our trek, which started out in driving rain, but then turned beautiful once we performed a spiritual "cleansing" at the entrance.
Ever owned or merely coveted a Cadillac Eldorado? Well, thank the Muiscas, their preternaturally chaste chief and the natural splendor of Guatavita.
(The weekend's huge news in Colombia: right-wing candidate Iván Duque won a decisive victory on Sunday--54% to 41% over leftist Gustavo Petro. Duque supporters feared that Petro would "Venezuelize" Colombia. Petro backers lament that Duque, a youthful political newcomer, will be little more than a puppet of his #1 sponsor: strongman and former president Álvaro Uribe.)