I’ve been called a lot of things in my time but never a shopaholic, so I was very proud of myself for lasting a full two hours before I caved and headed for the nearest cafe to restore my fading powers. I had two especially interesting conversations with shopkeepers. One was a jeweller who used natural stones in her work. Quindío apparently has some emerald mines, a fact of which I was grossly ignorant, so the jeweller showed me a piece of matrix from one of the working mines with a small emerald embedded in it. They’re tiny things, not like the stones from Brazil that sometimes reach the size of eggs. Very clear, very beautiful stones that seemed to me difficult to set to good advantage because of their small size. The other stones in the jeweller’s work come from other Latin American countries — Brazil primarily, of course, because it has precious and semi-precious stones coming out the wazoo. I liked both the jewller and her work — there were some lovely pieces among what I saw.
The second chat was with a young woman who was the spit and image of the kind of person I’d seen in the many craft shops of Cannon Beach, Oregon barely a month earlier. Baggy sleeveless Indian gauze dress, Birckenstocks, tattoos on both arms, a braid down her back, sweet as the day is long and anxious to explain in great detail the mystical significance of Quimbaya ceremonial practices and iconography. I learned a lot from her and bought one of her talismans that’s supposed to put your luck in tip-top shape when you rub it between the palms of your hands. We could all use a bit of help in the luck department now and again, right? So for a tidy $3 I got fixed up with exactly the right tool to keep my luck at the top of its game.
If you’ve read more than one of my travel posts you’ll know without my telling you that any special plant friend that turns up in the proceedings is going to get a pic and some gushing. In the course of my boutique wanderings I came across a delicious Mexican Trumpet Vine in vibrant yellow. I got all tingly up and down the spine, which was the only appropriate response before such a handsome specimen. It happened to be positioned in front a striking mural so art receives its due as well as botany. There’s the magic of synergy for you . 🙂
In addition to the Casa de la Cultura there’s a museum in town, just off the southwest end of the main plaza, dedicated to the art of basketry. In the old days coffee cultivation required the use of several different kinds of baskets – some for harvest, some for processing, some for transport. The fine art of making these baskets in their many sizes is all but extinct, so the museum is a look into the past, not a reflection of the present. It’s a beautifully done museum, to the point that its creation must have been contracted out to somebody in the national Department of Tourism responsible for museum development. Everything looked top-drawer professional and state-of-the-art with regard to exhibition structure and presentation. Such a display in the little town of Filandia leads me to suspect that somebody in the mayor’s office is very deft at writing grants. Good on ya, boys (or gals, as the case may be). The result is excellent.
I mentioned our guide earlier — he of the blonde highlights, the two earrings and the I Heart New York T-shirt. He talked a mile a minute but I got it all. To be perfectly honest, the rapid-fire explanation of the different sizes of basket and their uses was a bit much of a muchness. We all know what a basket is and that it can be used for a variety of things. What fascinated me most was learning what plants were used as raw material. One of them is the selfsame philodendron we grow so happily as a houseplant in the States. Another one is in the grass family (Poaceae). The one that made my eyebrows shoot up is a woody shrub in the nettle family (Urticaceae), of all things. Whoda thunk that the botanical family that produces something to be avoided in my neck of the woods (stinging nettles) would provide a basic material for an entire handicraft tradition in another part of the world? Let it remind us of the wondrous variety in Nature. It’s always got a punch line up its sleeve, as I discovered wandering among the baskets in Filandia. Here are a few pics: