Salento in the “zona cafetera” and the sculptures of San Agustin

Hello my dear friends! I’m in San Agustin, almost on the border with Ecuador, where I should arrive in the next days. Heading south I crossed the “zone Cafetera” , where the coffee is grown. In fact, Colombia is the third world coffee producer after Brazil and Vietnam, the very famous Vietnamese coffee.
There I stayed 5 days in Salento, the name comes from a southern Italian zone (located on the heel of the boot) because for some reason in the “zone Cafetera” the cities took the names from around the world, as I realized with some fear on the bus when, after waking up, I saw signs as: Jerico … Damascus … Palestine and I thought fuck, I must have missed some stops!

Salento is a small town between the mountains and in those days there was a paradox: despite drinking constantly coffee because I always found it around, I could not stop sleeping! It did the opposite effect. I mean, I didn’t wake up late, but after there was always a nap after lunch and at night, a couple of hours after dinner, I went again to bed. Maybe one of the reasons was also the “April sweet sleeping” as we say in Italy, but anyway those mountains made me lazy. To be precise: it is not that elsewhere I grab a pickaxe to run down in the mines to dig, but there I was feeling particularly lazy. Maybe I needed a little ‘rest, and probably also influenced the change in temperature and climate in general. It’s only been a few days, but it seems so far the warm sun of the Caribbean coast. Salento and St. Agustine are at almost 2000 meters. They are chilly, humid and it is raining a lot.

The mountains and valleys around here are particularly spectacular , with canyons and waterfalls. Until a few years ago, the tourists could not come because of the high risk of being kidnapped by guerrillas.
Perhaps for this reason there are many roadblocks of the police and once in the stretch between Armenia and Popayan, they stopped and searched all the people on the mini-bus where I was, and especially me, perhaps because foreigner, Italian and friend of the nephew of Escobar.
They found 4 or 5 secret pockets in my photographic backpack which I didn’t know existed but they didn’t check the two main pockets, those in front, where I had 3 kilos of cocaine! Joke of course :-)

On the coaches and in the streets there are posters that invite to denounce, in exchange of money, guerrillas guys or suspected and some of these posters are, rightly, riddled with bullets.

Now I’m in San Agustin , where there are beautiful and mysterious stone carvings of a civilization of which we ignore almost everything. We know that they lived in these parts since at least 3300 BC, and then vanished a little before the arrival of the Spaniards.
I’ve seen a hundred of statues and they don’t have anything to envy to other extraordinary pre-Columbian most famous art as the Incas or the Mayans.
Their discovery is fairly recent, and many of them have come to light only in the last century. Even the fact that, as I said, these areas have been until recently off-limit due the guerrilla, it has probably slowed down their knowledge in the rest of the world.
The sculptures represent sometimes men and women, sometimes animals, and often a mixture. They were usually in front of the tombs, as a guard, and were covered with them under the earth.
It ‘s really difficult know the society that created them because it seems as they had no contacts with other civilizations and apart from these sculptures, around 500, were found just a few tools, jewelry and the usual broken pots (after many travels I have come to the conclusion that the main hobby of the ancient people of all the world was doing pots, breaking them and inserting them in graves :-) )
As always, the grave robbers over the years have done a lot of damage, destroying and taking away valuables.


Coffee plantation in Salento.




Pool table saloon.


People in Salento.


Salento street.


Pool players.


Football in tv on the street.


Big coffee machine.




Salento by night.




Cow nose.


San Ibrahimovic, the patron of all the Champions League eliminated teams! :-)


Friday before Easter procession.


Night before Easter fire.


Strange tree.


San Agustin.




Grave near the Magdalena river, maybe of a guerrilla.


San Agustin sculpture.


As I said, often they were as guarding the tombs, covered with them under the ground.


And often have traits both human and animal….


“And indeed, they care more to make and decorate the grave where they put the dead then the house in which they must live.” – From “The Chronicle of Peru”, 1550. Text written at the entrance of the museum of the archaeological park of San Agustin.


From the images on the sculptures it has been possible to trace some of their characteristics: clothes, ornaments, weapons and some food, but for all the rest, there are just guesses.


Ok, that’s all for now! And please put some comment, don’t be shy. Shyness is not good. :-)

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