It all started because I selfishly wanted a cup of coffee. But not just any coffee. I saw a green Jeep Willy’s parked in the parque principal and a man serving tintico’s out of it. If you’re not familiar with tintico, it’s a tiny shot of coffee. At first I thought tintico was a shot of espresso, because it’s served like one. But it’s really just drip coffee in a tiny cup.
Anyway, we stopped for this delicious shot of coffee, just so I could take pictures and videos of it. Then something beautiful and wonderful happened. We sat down and started talking to the owner of the little coffee shop. Uriel, as it turns out has lived in just about every country in South America. As such, Adriana, our friend who’s been traveling with us for a month now, started asking questions about his favorite places in each country and where we should head in each. Suddenly it was like the flood gates opened and we were in a full blown conversation about the food and cultures of each and every country and why he settled back in Riosucio.
After talking to Uriel for about 30 minutes, he decided that the conversation wouldn’t cover what he felt we NEEDED to know about Riosucio. This encompassed the festival of Carnaval and why the symbol of the Devil is used and why this is the only town in all of Colombia to have TWO parque principales.
Riosucio as it turns out, used to be two different towns, Candelaria on one side and San Sebastian on the other. The founders realized that the townfolk were always fighting each other. As such, the founders got together and created Carnaval, using the Devil as a symbol to bring the townfolk together. They essentially portrayed this devil as the devil of fun, parties, drinking and just enjoying everything around him. They were trying to essentially make fun of the Devil in a way that would bring the townfolk closer together finding something in common.
After learning about this, Uriel took us to the Museum of Carnaval, where there are tons of Devil heads and some costumes on display. The museum is small, and didn’t charge a fee to enter. We were allowed to go behind the gated off area and have our pictures taken in front of the devil heads.
After we left the museum, Uriel took us to see his friend and local writer who has spent his entire life studying and teaching about Carnaval and Riosucio. His mother was the designer of the costumes for Carnaval and he’s somewhat of the town historian. Oscar Henao Carvajal is quite the character. He has so many stories to tell about the town. It would be such a treat to sit down and just listen to him tell the stories and legends of old. Oscar requested that we take a picture with him so that we never forget him.
From there, we visited the local library and the town museum which literally has the town deed on display in leather. That’s right, inscribed on a piece of leather and hung in the founders town museum. This museum contains artifacts from both of the town founders and busts of both of them. The curator of the museum reiterated how the town came to be, told me of its founders, Carnaval and why there are two parque principales. Then she asked if she could take our picture.
We then went to visit one of the two primary churches. The Iglesia de San Sebastian. Turns out, this church was completely restored over the course of 24 years. It had been covered in layers of concrete for many years, but internally, all of the wood is original. The doors are original and even the eagle that towers above the church was original to the building. Archaeologists completely restored the building, brick by brick to its original form.
From there, Uriel took us to his home to show us two more Jeep Willy’s and explained that way back in the 1950’s after the US had no more use for the Willy’s, each department was gifted a number of them as a way to help agriculture advance into the 20th century. Instead of using horses and donkeys, the campesinos were now furnished with vehicles to do the transporting of goods. As the Ag industry grew, Willy’s got phased out for larger, more economical vehicles like the Toyota Landcruiser and the Nissan Patrol. He has two more in addition to the one he has in the park and is converting both of them to be “sidewalk cafe’s.”
Somewhere in there, we visited one of the oldest theaters in the town. The sad story of the theater is that it used to be made of beautiful wood and was a place of gathering and social interactions. It was made of beautiful inlaid wood like the church. However, there were politicians in play who got greedy and began telling the town people that they needed more money to fund a project to cover the whole theater in concrete for unknown reasons. The politicians used the funds to line their pockets and basically had this project funded as a way to launder their money. Sad but true. Now the beautiful theater looks like a small, college auditorium.
He then took us to the Fire station, where we took a very in depth tour of the firehouse. This station has so many vehicles ranging in age anywhere from 5-70 years old and each and every vehicle is in perfect condition. We were able to get into a fire engine that was first used circa 1930’s. The engine runs perfectly as well as the old sounding siren and complete with a hand bell that is rung by whoever is standing on the back with the ladders. The firehouse is complete with a classroom, barracks, kitchen, commanders quarters, a 16 engine bay, extra turnouts and tons of equipment. All in pristine condition. They take great pride in their equipment.
While speaking to the firefighter, I asked to see inside the Ambulance. I was disappointed when I opened the door and saw very basic equipment. So, being the nosy person I am, I had to ask where all their medical equipment was. He explained that the local government had prohibited them from responding to any medical aids except vehicle accidents and heart attacks and their ambulances are used primarily for transport…. What????? So how do other medical emergencies get handled? By a private ambulance service…. I also had to ask why they have a sticker on the back that shows an automatic rifle crossed out to designate that they have no arms onboard. He said that they respond to areas that are rife with guerrillas. That they are only there to provide a medical service and transport someone to a hospital. This helps them to avoid conflict with the guerrillas when responding.
From there, Uriel took us to the central market where we had lunch. We stopped at Restaurante Ximena where we had Sancocho de pollo with Bandeja Posta and Limonada. We were able to share two plates and it completely filled us up. I tried Mondogo de lengua for the first time and was pleasantly surprised because I don’t like “organ” meats, I know, technically all meats are organs of some sort. But you probably know what I mean. No liver, no heart, no tripe, tongue, brain…. I’ve tried them all and I just don’t like them. By the time we were finishing with lunch, I was already nearing a food coma and we had a short walk up hill back to Uriel’s coffee car.
When we arrived back at the coffee car, Bronson had said something about his back hurting. Uriel then began calling friends to see if there was someone who could attend to Bronson and help alleviate some of the pain. Which naturally turned to healing energies and such. Which then turned to “Oh, you guy have to go to this place when you leave Riosucio.” Calls were made and a plan was hatched, so tomorrow we arrive in Aldea Sol de los Andes to see an energy healer.
All because I wanted a cup of coffee. You never know where that cup of coffee will send you, so drink up!