A visit to San Pedro de Milagros

Yesterday we took a day trip to San Pedro de Milagros, a small town on the altiplano north of the Medellin area.  San Pedro is embedded in a large agricultural area primarily dedicated to dairy production. The countryside is GREEN, colored by extensive pastures of kikuyu grass. Scattered among the pastures are homes of various descriptions but mostly built using traditional rammed earth walls and tile roofs.  There is a nice video showing many aspects of the area at the towns website.  It is in Spanish but provides a nice visual, if a bit frantic tour illustrating many of the things I cover below. On the San Pedro website, scroll down a bit to find it.

The importance of the dairy industry is emphasized by the large, modern milk processing plant on the east side of town. A multitude of dairy cows graze in well managed pastures. The near by Via Lacteca (Milky Way) theme park also provides a clue.

The town itself is small and retains a lot of typical architecture. It is friendly and relaxed with an energetic feel which complements its relatively slow pace. As it is a regional economic center there are a lot of people who come in from the surrounding area to do business and buy supplies. Some of them maintain very typical dress with ruanas and traditional hats. The majority dress in “city” cloths, especially the young folks. The contrast is interesting and speaks to the rapid changes that the Colombian countryside is experiencing.

The traditional stands next to the modern. Walking along the streets you will find very narrow sidewalks, people on horseback, and beautiful old homes with hanging baskets of geraniums and other well tended flowers. Next door you may find an Internet salon and shops sell the the latest electronic gadgets.

The basilica is beautiful and well worth a visit. The massive wooden doors are weathered and carved. The ceiling is decorated with many good paintings along both sides of the sanctuary and stained glass windows glow in the long walls. There is fairly good reproduction of Michaelangelo’s Pietà near the alter.

The short walk up to the Calvario provides the best view of the area. It is located on the east side of town several blocks up from the plaza. The entry passes through a garden with Dahlias, Agapanthus, and other flowering shrubs and perennials.

While walking around we came across a beautiful old home which piqued our interest. Looking in through an open window we saw that it is a classic traditional town house. Being Antioquians, my wife and friends had no compunctions about knocking on the door and asking if we could have look inside. The lady of the house was pleased to show us around. We had a very pleasant chat and learned a lot about the town.

We also came across a school talent show in progress and stopped in to enjoy it. Although we were obviously tourists the people made us feel very welcome. The performances were charming and taught me something about life in a small Colombian town. The number we walked in on featured young ladies performing a choreography based on Middle Eastern dance with costumes of harem pants and midriff tops. This is a Catholic School. The drapery behind the stage says “Educate your children in love, respect and tolerance.” I would say they are practicing what they preach. I guess I had stereotyped these towns and did not expect to find such an open attitude. Based on the friendly, helpful manner of just about everyone we met I would say that people take these values seriously.

There are lots of restaurants in San Pedro. We found some of the best pan de queso (cheese bread) we have ever eaten at a small shop on the walk from the terminal to the plaza. It is located about 2/3 of the way along this short walk. These goodies are displayed in the door way and I would not pass them up. There also is a Bancolombia ATM on the east side of the plaza in case you need to grab some cash.

Getting there is easy. One can take the Metro to the Caribe station and walk across the pedestrian bridge to the North Bus Terminal. Go down to the bottom floor and look for the company that has routes to San Pedro, Entrerrios and Santa Rosa de Osos. The ticket is 5000 pesos or about US$2.75 (at an exchange rate of 1800 pesos per dollar). You also can go to the Niquia station and pick up the green Metro bus to San Felix. An integrated ticket is available for this carrier that includes both Metro and bus fare. Check at the Metro station where you enter the system. This costs just 2800 pesos. San Pedro is a few kilometers down the road from where you get off the bus at el Tambo.. You can take another bus from there or grab a taxi for around 6000 pesos. If there are several people in your group this is quite inexpensive.

The weather in San Pedro is cool so take a sweater or jacket and an umbrella.

When the heat and bustle of Medellin gets on your nerves, take a day and make the trip up to San Pedro. I think you you will find a cool relaxing destination with friendly people waiting to greet you. You also will see a bit of the real Colombia you may not have known.

Sasha Cagen on Experiences in Colombia

This story closely parallels many of my experiences in Colombia.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sasha-cagen/the-kindness-of-south-ame_b_683496.html

Initiation Concert for The Restored Organ At the Metropolitan Cathedral

Yesterday’s initiation concert featuring the restored Walcker Organ in Medellin’s Metropolitan Cathedral filled this beautiful building with music. The grand instrument features 3,478 pipes and is said to be the largest and best pipe organ in South America. Originally constructed during 1932 and 1933, it was restored once around 1972 and again during the last year.

The musical program included:

  • An improvisation by Wolfgang Seifen with prelude, adagio and fugue in the old German style.
  • Mendelssohn’s Organ Sonata Number 2 in C minor, opus 65, Thorsten Mader organ.
  • Giovanni Battista Pergolesi “Sabat Mater” with the Colegio Aleman Choir and Thorsten Mader organ.
  • An improvisation by Wolfgang Seifen with symphonic fantasy and fugue in the German Romantic style.
  • Schumann’s Four Sketches for pedal piano, Opus 58, Thorsten Mader organ.
  • Mozart’s “Ave Verum” with the Colegio Aleman Choir and Thorsten Mader organ.
  • Symphonic Triptych with Colombian themes, improvised by Wolfgang Seifen.

The restoration was conducted with significant participation by the Department of Antioquia, the City of Medellin, the German Government and Comfenalco. We anticipate hearing many more secular concerts as well as organ music during the regular services at the cathedral.

The Estadio Atanasio Giradot Sports Complex

Yesterday evening we went over to the Estadio Atanasio Giradot sports complex to see an exposition of Urban Garden design. That was an interesting event but I came away deeply impressed by the sports complex itself. After viewing the garden/landscape displays we happened to go into the gymnastics facility just to see what it was like.

What we found was a space for young people to learn and engage in gymnastics as sport. There were kids ranging from around 6 to teens and perhaps a bit beyond all learning and practicing. I kept thinking that with this kind of opportunity, in not to many years a lot more Colombians will be taking medals in the Olympic games.

The complex was remodeled for the 2010 South American Games at a significant cost. The work was well done and the result is a beautiful and very functional venue for future large scale events. This in its self will contribute to Medellin’s position as a destination in South America. More importantly; the use of the facility to provide spaces for human scale, day-to-day activities that fulfill needs for personal satisfaction and growth, expand and deepen the quality of life in this growing metropolis.

Our future depends on our ability to find meaning and satisfaction in activities such as athletics, dance, gardening, service to others and a vast range of other human capacities that do not require significant material inputs. A day is coming when the human race will face the sobering fact that the growth of our physical economies must stop. There are only so many resources and so may places to put our wastes. The implementation of a steady state economy will occur and it can be done smoothly by design or we can just blindly walk into the limits to growth inherent in life on a finite planet. The latter option is likely to be similar to walking into a buzz saw. What I saw at the  sports complex is a clue to how we can organize our lives to fit the dimensions of our environment. It also is an indication of how government can facilitate the move toward a rational economy.

Metropolitan Theater Offerings in August

If you would like to download the Teatro Metropolitanos offering each month to get more details than I generally provide here please visit their program page. At this site you can download the current months offerings and sign up to receive email program notifications.To download the program .jpg  just click the button near the bottom of the page which says “Descarga Aquí Nuestro Programación.” This will be in Spanish. Please note that the prices are given under the subheadings: “Boleteria.”

2010 is the bicentennial year of Colombian independence and the theater is participating in the celebration with the following offering:

Bolívar: Fragmentos de un Sueño: This is based on texts by William Ospina and is directed by Omar Porras. It is described as an echo of contemporary history reflected from events in the life of Simón Bolívar. Performances are scheduled for the 13th, 14th and 15th.

On the 4th there is an homage to Jaime Llanos Gonzales a composer and performer of bambucos, pasillos and songs in other Colombian musical styles. The bambucos and pasillos are very traditional forms and include some of Colombia’s most beautiful music.This composer sang from roots here in Antioquia to all of Colombia.

On the 5th the Czech Trio will perform music by Suk, Mendelssohn and Dvorak.

On the 22ed A kids version of the Magic Flute is offered.

On the 23rd the British Carducci Quartet will perform works by Mozart, Glass and Schumann.

On the 20th, 26th and 27th the opera Lucia di Lammermor by Donizetti is on tap.