“It’s like walking into a scene from National Geographic,” said my mom, as we stood in the middle of the bustling market in downtown Silvia, Colombia.
The items for sale were nothing too out of the ordinary, but what stood out were the hundreds of Guambino people, in their distinct traditional clothing, who had come down from the hillsides for the weekly Tuesday market in Silvia.
Although the people have their own language, they also speak Spanish, and I was extremely grateful that I could engage them in conversation. After warming up with some market talk they were more than happy to let me snap a few photos.
My mom and I were just about the only foreigners there, so we were as interesting to them as they were to us.
We walked around the marketplace for hours, trying different exotic fruits and local fried snacks, and conversing with the vendors.
People started to recognize us, and on more than one occasion we were solicited for pictures as well.
The Tuesday-only market in Silvia doesn’t have too much in the way of artisan goods, but there are several stands selling their traditional clothing and jewelry. You can find the black dome-shaped hats, and the knee length skirts; the knit shoulder bags and wool scarves; the stacks of white beaded necklaces and the pink or teal-edged blanket shawls; and the beautifully embroidered straps which the women use for a variety of things, from holding up their skirts, to strapping their babies to their backs.
We happened to compliment one woman on her spectacular beaded necklace and she took it off and sold it to us on the spot, then found us a few minutes later and sold us her sister’s necklace as well! You can bargain if you want, but their crafts are so beautifully made and high in quality I figure it’s worth it to pay a bit more than the locals and invest your money in their community.
Before we left we sat down at one of the food stations in the “restaurant” corridor. The meals all appeared to be the same but different, serving either sancocho soup, with big chunks of potato and yucca, or a traditional rice, beans, salad and protein plate. Coffee and juice were flowing, and sweet treats could be found for sale in the main market. We opted for some cookies made from panela, which is a block of sugar derived from sugarcane. They reminded us of molasses.
By the time we left the market and the surrounding square, we were beaming from ear to ear. The experience was so traditional yet so exotic. We knew we had experienced something special, and that it would live on in our memories for years to come.
As we set off through the mountains, on our way to Tierradentro, we didn’t know if the day could get any more interesting…but boy oh boy did it ever. If you want to read about Tierradentro and the exciting drive there, click here.