I’ve been doing mini circles around the heart of Colombia’s coffee country for a little while now. The past week I’ve been in Manizales, which is one of the bigger cities in this area and home to a ton of universities.
My first day here, I got really lucky. I was wandering around downtown and came across an indigenous type of ceremony giving thanks to nature and all of her elements. It reminded me of a Mayan ceremony I participated in in Quetzaltenango. I sat on the steps near the massive church, trying to catch bits and pieces and to soak up the good energy coming from the participants. The combination of the Andean flutes and the drumming gave me goose bumps. Wandering further, I caught a few songs of a band playing traditional Andean music called Tierra Nuestra.
One of the reasons I came to Manizales was to take a tour of a coffee finca called Hacienda Guayabal to learn about how my favorite drink is made. I definitely have a new respect for that steaming goodness and I will probably never look at a cup of tinto (black coffee) the same again. My tour guide told me how the campesinos who work on the farm make 300 pesos for each kilogram of beans they collect – that’s about 17 U.S. cents. On a normal day, they would collect about 100 kilos of coffee beans working 11 hours a day, though they can collect more (or less). That’s about $16 a day. On the weekends, they get paid, and spend all their money in the local bars getting absolutely borracho. This explains why both Andes and Salamina were full of drunk farmers when I was passing through on the weekends – not a great scene for a solo female traveler.
The city of Manizales itself is a lot cooler than I thought. There’s a bit of culture here – it’s kind of like a mix between Bogota and Medellin. The city has some really interesting art installations of wildly colored bulls and other figures in strange places. It also seemed to me that there was a number of younger homeless people in Manizales (younger being in their 20s) who appeared to be drug addicts.
Next stop: Salento, rumored to be the most beautiful pueblo in the coffee region