El Dorado: Week 259

Gold artifacts on display at the Museo del Oro: Bogota, Colombia

The legend of El Dorado originated an hour and a half north of Bogota. Many explorers lost their lives in search of wealth beyond all measure; I caught a bus with tasseled curtains for 8,000 pesos. What difference a few hundred years makes.

The indigenous Muisca believed that gold was the vital energy of the Sun Father while lakes were the womb of the Earth Mother. By offering gold to Lake Guatavita they were ensuring the continuity of life and maintaining equilibrium.

One of the best accounts of the ‘El Dorado’ ceremony was published in 1636 by Juan Rodriguez Freyle. While his original account is available online in Spanish, the BBC has a more succinct summary.

Gold 'El Dorado' ceremony raft on display at the Museo del Oro: Bogota, Colombia

“When a leader died within Muisca society the process of succession for the chosen ‘golden one’ would unfold. The selected new leader of the community, commonly the nephew of the previous chief, would go through a long initiation process culminating in the final act of paddling out on a raft onto a sacred lake, such as Lake Guatavita in Central Colombia.

Surrounded by the four highest priests adorned with feathers, gold crowns and body ornaments, the leader, naked but for a covering of gold dust, would set out to make an offering of gold objects, emeralds and other precious objects to the gods by throwing them into the lake.

The shores of the circular lake were filled with richly adorned spectators playing musical instruments and burning fires that almost blocked out the daylight from this crucible-like lake basin. The raft itself had four burning fires on it throwing up plumes of incense into the sky.

When at the very centre of the lake, the priest would raise a flag to draw silence from the crowd. This moment would mark the point at which the crowds would commit allegiance to their new leader by shouting their approval from the lakeshore.”

Gold human-shaped poporo artifact on display at the Museo del Oro: Bogota, Colombia

The Spanish, or any other explorers for that matter, were obsessed with El Dorado. The more gold they ‘casually saw’ in the villages, the stronger they believed that El Dorado was the secret stash house of immeasurable wealth.

After all, if I was impressed by the collection at the Museo del Oro in Bogotá (which are the artifacts that weren’t melted and exported), imagine what the Europeans came across!

Although the Legend of El Dorado also came to represent a mythical golden city, the Spanish did eventually locate and try to drain Lake Guatavita in 1545. Gold was found along the bank but they never reached the supposed wealth in the middle of the lake.

Jaguar-influenced pottery on display at the Museo del Oro: Bogota, Colombia

Unfortunately, when Jess and I were nearing Lake Guatavita, the bus conductor told us we would not be able to visit. Even if we hadn’t seen the white smoke billowing off the surrounding hills it would’ve been impossible to avoid the acrid scent. Local fires combined with pollution meant the lake was temporarily closed for tourism.

Public plaza at Guatavita: near Bogota, Colombia

Suddenly without a destination we decided to visit the nearest town, which was named Guatavita. It was built in 1967 when the old town was intentionally flooded during the construction of a reservoir.

The moment Jess and I stepped into the plaza, I felt like I’d gone back in time or at least like I had walked into my friend’s 1970s condo before she remodeled it. Guatavita was not the historical town I was expecting; it was a quiet, faux-colonial master planned community.

Just off the main plaza was a small two-story museum about Lake Guatavita and the history of the town. There were a few market stalls, a big dessert stall, several restaurants, a dark church, and a bullfighting ring.

Inside the Catholic church at Guatavita: near Bogota, Colombia

City map on display at the local museum in Guatavita: near Bogota, Colombia

Wooden door of a public theater in Guatavita: near Bogota, Colombia

Instead of Lake Guatavita I saw the Tominé Reservoir. While historically less important, it had a pretty view and it was a short stroll away from hot coffee and a cup of strawberries and cream. That was as close to gold as we were going to get.

Tomine Reservoir next to Guatavita: near Bogota, Colombia

How to get to the Museo del Oro: Carerra 6A and Calle 16, Bogotá

How to get to Guatavita: Catch a Transmilenio Bus to Portal del Norte Station (you will need to purchase a fair card). At the station, transfer to the ‘Buses Intermunicipales’ platform and catch a bus to Guatavita. If Lake Guatavita is open, ask to conductor to drop you off at the entrance. It is a two hour walk between the lake and Guatavita.

About: El Dorado

The Goodlands Release: Week 257

Illustration for the graphic novel.

What would it be like if people never died?

I realized it was not a new theme in literature, especially in romance, but it still got me thinking. How would the government work? What would motivate people? Would culture be identified by nationality, by epoch, or both?

What about despotic rulers like Hitler or babies that never stopped crying? Even if people never aged, would they slowly be worn down by natural elements? Not even mountains can escape this.

From my ideas I began to weave a story that explored the intricacies and darkest corners of eternity. The only problem was that the only way I could imagine presenting the story was in a graphic novel format.

I’d gone to school for photography and done some drawing on the side, but I wasn’t entirely convinced I could pull the art off. I went as far as to buy a pad of drawing paper and after completing page one I realized I would be 80 by the time I finished.

The idea was shelved for a few years until I stumbled across it again while living in Australia. The big difference being that now I knew a very good artist – Barret Thomson.

After discussing the storyline over numerous flat whites, we were excited to get started. I spent evenings at the NSW State Library, researching character backgrounds. Barret bought anthologies of historical costumes and began designing clothing and environments.

The more time we spent, the more time we realized was needed. In the end, we decided to take a sabbatical in Colombia so we would have more time to dedicate to getting the project off the ground. Not only has it been cost effective to live n Colombia, but it has also helped inspire the art.

The Goodlands is still a work in progress, but we are excited to say that we have finally launched chapter one and from here on out there will be an update every Thursday.

Happy reading!

The Goodlands Comic

For comic updates: The Goodlands Comic

For development blog updates: Tumblr

Holiday Mail: Week 249

Fantasy Sports by Sam Bosma

In Colombia the bills never arrive in envelopes. They are left in a pile at the main entrance of our apartment building, along with everyone else’s. It’s an odd thing to miss, but I really do like receiving mail. Even when it’s just junk and bills.

This Christmas was the first one I’d had at home in Virginia for the last five years. Of course I was excited to be around my family, but I was also looking forward to collecting all the packages and mail that had been sent there in our absence.

Barret had gone on a graphic novel buying frenzy before we arrived. He couldn’t wait to curl up in front of the fire with a beer in one hand and a book in the other.

Wwake gold band ring

I, on the other hand, had made a late-night-last-minute wedding band purchase. Wwake 24 hour sale until midnight! I’d been out drinking with my friends when I saw this email, so of course I bought three rings.

The travel time between BWI airport and my house was about three hours. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so anxious to rip open a package.

BTW – they all fit!

About: Sam Bosma, author of Fantasy Sports

About: Wwake

Villa de Leyva & Terracotta House: Week 245

Villa de Leyva cobblestone plaza: Colombia

Villa de Leyva is a colonial gem several hours north of Bogotá. It was founded in the late 1500s as a retreat for the well-to-do and high-ranking officials. Because the town was not located on important shipping routes or near significant mineral deposits, the cobblestone town escaped the pressures of modernization.

Although Villa de Leyva has certainly been ‘discovered’, there is still more foot traffic than cars in the center of town. It is also possible to see a bridled donkey on a side street and know that it’s a working animal and not a photo prop.

Donkeys on the cobblestone streets of Villa de Leyva: Colombia

A small courtyard in Villa de Leyva: Colombia

One of the reasons Villa de Leyva is so beloved by tourists is because of its massive main square. At 14,000 square meters, it’s quite possibly the largest cobblestone plaza in South America. The white-washed buildings and churches surrounding the plaza were also beautifully preserved.

Virgin Mary statue in the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary: Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Statue in the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary: Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Jesus Christ statue in the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary: Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Balcony of the Terracotta House: Villa de Leyva, Colombia

On the outskirts of town is an eccentric house named La Casa de Terracota. It was completed in 2012 by the Colombian architect Octavio Mendoza. In his own words, Casa Terracota is, “a project that transforms soil into habitable architecture, by simply using the supporting help of natural resources—e.g. the other three elements of nature (air, water and fire).”

Living room of the Terracotta House: Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Studio at the Terracotta House: Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Aside from the relatively low-cost of the construction process, there are several other benefits to using soil as a building material. The first benefit being the insulation properties of soil and the second being its harmonious relationship with nature. Imagine a house that could actually become stronger after being ‘cooked’ during a season of devastating wildfires.

Bathroom mirror at the Terracotta House: Villa De Leyva, Colombia

While no one lives in the house, the rooms were furnished, wired with electricity, and the tiled bathrooms were connected to running water. I really liked how all of the textures in the house were imperfect and organic, but perhaps the nicest design element was the number of windows and skylights in the house. The warm afternoon light made the terracotta surfaces glow.

I’m not sure how durable terracotta homes are, but if one were available, I could see myself giving it a go. Especially in the desert- how wonderful to live without an AC bill!

Work bench in the studio of the Terracotta House: Villa de Leyva, Colombia

About: Villa de Leyva

About: La Casa de Terracota

Cinespiral & Independent Cinema in Manizales: Week 243

Andrea Outside Cinespiral: Milan - Manizales, Colombia

During the ‘winter’ in Manizales, it is not uncommon to have sunny mornings and afternoon showers. The dove gray clouds creep over the mountains and sink down into the valley later in the day. Some people might not enjoy the rain, but I don’t mind. Not only is it beautiful to watch the clouds roll in, but it also is a good excuse to see a movie.

The only independent cinema in Manizales is located in the neighborhood of Milan. It is a pretty tree-lined neighborhood on the ridge of a mountain. Currently there’s a lot of sidewalk construction, which detracts from the serenity, but it will make for a nice stroll when all is said and done.

Cinespiral is the name of the cinema and it is a small venue with four screening rooms and a narrow lobby. There is no popcorn, but there are small bottles of Argentinean wine. There are screening hours, but there are not any specific films that play. Rather, it is the customer who chooses what they want to watch. It reminded me a lot of the DVD bangs in Korea with their libraries of movies and their private viewing rooms.

My friend Andrea and I went during the French Film Festival, so we browsed through a list of French films until we selected a diamond heist thriller called La Ultima Diamante.

Andrea is such a frequent patron that she put her movie ticket on a tab and then lead me through a rabbit warren of passages until we reached our screen. We had the whole place to ourselves, so we stretched out on the couch and made ourselves very comfortable.

Cinespiral isn’t the kind of place you visit if you want a massive screen and million-dollar sound equipment. It is however the perfect place to hide out on a rainy day.

“Do you want to watch another?” Andrea asked me as we were leaving.

I couldn’t stick around because I had some work to finish, but I knew exactly what I’d like to do the next time the clouds rolled in on a Saturday afternoon.

How to get to Cinespiral: Cr 23 #75-200, Milán, Manizales, Colombia

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: