In addition to hearing amazing and inspiring stories in the countryside, I have also loved getting the opportunity to witness and share in the Christmas festivities.
Eastern Antioquia is a very, very Catholic region of Colombia. Some of the tiny, rural towns have two beautiful churches and have five different masses daily! People have told me that they attend one mass in the morning and then go to another one in the evening.
The vocabulary of the people where we are doing our research also reflects their religious beliefs. For example, instead of saying “Gracias” (Thank You), people regularly say “Que Dios le pague” (That God repay you) when they want to express gratitude. I have never heard this expression in any other Spanish speaking country I have visited. There are also numerous phrases that pepper conversation (and that I greatly enjoy) such as “Ave Maria!” or “Bendito!” (Blessed). These are used to express surprise. My favorite use of the second term is when people exaggerate it and draw it out like: – “Beeeeeeeeee…ndito.”
“Sancocho” is another tradition to celebrate Christmas and other community events. It is a huge stew made of chicken, yuca, potato, plantain, corn, and cilantro. Traditionally, everyone contributed something to the stew and everything was cooked in a huge pot. The woman on the right was making the Sancocho – I was distracted trying to capture the real life “Juan Valdez.”
Last night we joined the end of the year party for the town of San Rafael and sat through a two hour raffle, even though we didn’t have tickets to it. We implemented a survey about grassroots peacebuilding with community leaders during their party. We didn’t want to interrupt, but they only join together once a month in the town center, as many of them live in rural areas where they have to combine bus rides, horses or mules and long walks up to two hours long. The survey took 20 minutes, but we were at the party for seven hours and left when the third band took the stage.