Some of our most memorable travel experiences have included rubbing shoulders with indigenous cultures so a trip to the picturesque mountain town Silvia, Colombia was a must. This small town of a few thousand people at 8500 feet elevation located northeast of Popayan is the center of the Guambiano region. On Tuesday, market day, the Guambiano people descend from the surrounding mountain villages to Silvia to sell their fruit, vegetables and handicrafts. Considered one of the most traditional indigenous groups in Colombia, they speak their own language and practice the farming techniques of their ancestors.
Tuesdays are voyeur days because most of the Guambiano come to town in traditional dress. The women show off their hand woven garments and beaded necklaces and the men wear blue skirts with pink trim and bowler hats. Beginning at dawn they arrived wrapped in blankets to warm themselves in the cool high mountain temperatures and the whole scene was a photographer’s dream if not for the fact that they disdain cameras and would display obvious displeasure if they noticed us photographing them. We sleuthed among the fruits, veggies and raw meat displays hoping to document our day while attempting clandestine methods to get a few shots but I’m not so sure we fooled anybody.
The prices in southern Colombia are exceptionally low partly due to the favorable exchange rate of the Colombian peso to the US dollar. Our perfectly acceptable Silvia hotel room in which we watched The English Patient in Spanish on our flat screened TV was $15 and our fresh trucha (trout) dinner was $2.50. The large fish from the river running through town looked pinker than salmon and covered the entire oblong serving plate over the sides of rice, potatoes, plantain and salad with a fresh juice beverage to boot-simply delicious.