"Silvia - Department Of Cauca, Colombia" Silvia by George_Close

Silvia Travel Guide: 15 reviews and 54 photos

Gateway of the Guambiano Indians

Silvia is a small town about 60 Km from Popayán. It is the center of the Guambiano Indians and there is a market celebrated every Tuesday in the town square where they carry fruits, vegetable and handicrafts. They are located today in the municipality of Silvia. Before their independence they watched as landlords seized more than the half of the land that once belonged to them.

Much of Colombia's Andean highlands once belonged to the Guambiano Indians. Herded first onto reservations by the Conquistadors, and then thrown off those lands by ensuing governments, the story of the Guambianos is the story of a people and culture trying to survive.

In the Andes' central cordillera, in the southwestern corner of Colombia, live some seventeen thousand Guambiano Indians. Since the Spanish conquest they have been gradually pushed out of the best parts of their original land. Today they eke out a difficult existence in the colder, rainy, and more abrupt parts of Colombia's mountains.

SIlvia's Town Square

Guambianos weave their own clothes, grow their own food, and build their own adobe houses. Like most Andean Indians, they practice minga, an Incan custom of community support. They help each other plant, harvest, build houses, and create new rural paths. Guambianos are also very young: only 13 percent of their population is over fifty.

Though they have interacted with whites and mestizos for around five hundred years, Guambianos have retained their language, traditional customs, and typical dress. That attire consists, for men, of a knee-length blue anaco (a skirtlike wraparound garment), a short blue or gray poncho, a red scarf, and a narrow-brimmed felt hat. (To an outsider, the anaco contrasts almost comically with their army-type boots and bare legs.) Women dress similarly but wear a blue cape rather than the poncho, a true skirt, and heavy white bead necklaces instead of the scarf.

Traditional Dress Is Still Used By The Guambianos

Floro Tunubala, the Guambiano governor of Cauca State, goes about his official duties wearing the traditional dress. Before he took office, people asked the governor-elect if he was going to govern in a falda (skirt). He corrected them by explaining the Guambiano term: he would govern in an anaco.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Interesting to observe these people that have preserved their culture over generations.
  • Cons:Travel to Silvia can be dangerous due to Colombian leftist guerilla activity in the area at times.
  • In a nutshell:Like many Colombian pueblos SIlvia is like stepping back in time even without the Guambianos.
  • Last visit to Silvia: Dec 2004
  • Intro Updated Sep 15, 2005
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