It was with some excitement that I boarded the plane bound for Colombia – What would it be like? I knew little of the place apart from my highly coloured impressions of drug cartels and left wing guerrilla groups fighting for control of the country. As I would find out, this is only part of the history of this extraordinary country.
My first stop was the National Library of Colombia for a talk by Jon Voss on the work Historypin has been doing for the Comparte Tu Rollo project. Working in partnership with the library, the project has engaged with over 110,000 users in 900 libraries across Colombia.
Talking with Library CEO Consuelo Gaitán about why this project has been so important, Colombia’s history of liberation and change resonated:
‘This project is crucial in order to understand this country…….why we have been as we are, why we continue to be so, and what we want to be’.
Into the Valley
Heading out of town to visit libraries involved in the project, the city landscape of Bogota gave way to pot holed roads, Spanish style churches and stunning vista’s of the Tenza valley.
Our first stop was the town of Tenza, where we popped into the local library for a Historypin session and some filming. My immediate impressions were of a close knit community with a rich history – a consistent theme in the rural libraries we visited.
These communities connection with place, the past and their families is their strength.
This idea of remembered pasts came through again in an interview with Luis Alfredo Pérez in the town of La Capilla:
‘Because it recalls what we used to be, and what was important in the community…….look at this, see how beautiful it is – look, here is my grandparent to remember once again …’
Cat’s in Space
Our final stop was the town of Sutatenza a township with a long History of education and self determination.
In 1947 a priest by the name of Jose Joaquín Salcedo, set up Radio Sutatenza a project focussed on schooling the locals through educational radio programs.
This DIY ethic came through in an account of an annual event held in the Sutatenza valley.
Once a year a rocket would be launched with a cat on board – this ‘Gatonaut’ would parachute back to earth, with a prize given to the first person who could find it.
With facilitation from the State Library of Colombia, Comparte Tu Rollo has given communities the opportunity to re-engage with their rich histories
Stories told by the people for the people are what binds us together, they add colour and meaning to our lives and help inform our future.
Finally I would like to thank Diego, Jonathan and Julia our wonderful hosts – Mucho Gracias