Jim Harris

Seven Days in Colombia, A Beautiful Land With Beautiful People and A Rich History

      All of my life has been filled with good luck, and just a couple of weeks ago I had the extremely good fortune to spend seven days in Colombia.

      That’s the country of Colombia in South America.

      My invigorating and enjoyable days in Colombia turned out to be one of the great journeys in a life of many trips and passings, even though my wife Mary was not able to accompany me.

      The trip to Colombia was long in the making, but it took place on the spur of the moment.  My late Hobbs friend Henry DeVilliers and I had talked about visiting Colombia for a couple of decades.

      Henry’s wife Maria and several of their children were born in Colombia.  He taught school there, and after we met at New Mexico Junior College and became good buddies, we talked many times about him giving me a tour of the country that had become a major part of his life.

      We never made the trip to Bogota or the small mountain town of Fusagasuga where Maria’s family lived, but just a few months ago when my son was married in Lovington, Henry’s son Henry Junior came to the wedding.  Junior, who has a home and businesses in Colombia, and I started talking about him giving me the tour that his father and I never made.

      Then in a conversation Junior and I had last month, we both decided it was time that I finally made the trip.

      It became the tour Junior’s father and I never took because of my friend’s untimely, accidental death. In some ways it was a tribute tour to our friendship and a memorial to my grand amigo. 

      Colombia is a magnificent country because of its beautiful land, its stunning people, and its rich history.

      This is a nation named for the traveling and adventurous man who first brought to the attention of Europeans and the rest of the world the two continents that would be named the Americas, that is North America and South America, as they are called today.

      Colombia is located in the northwestern corner of South America.  Clockwise around its borders are Panama, the Caribbean Sea, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and the Pacific Ocean.

      It contains three branches of the Andes Mountains within its borders. The Andes run north and south down the western side of the continent.

      Colombia has a variety of topographies.  In addition to the mountains, it has coastal land, tropical rain forests, and a plains region called “El Llano.”

      Colombia’s borders form a diamond with four points.  Those boundaries have been shaped by geographic configurations, such as rivers and mountains, and by political and social conflicts and agreements with its surrounding neighbors.

      Most Americans are aware of Colombia because of the production and distribution of drugs found from within its borders.  In addition, Colombia has been in a civil war with guerrilla rebels.  Fortunately, with the ending of that conflict, peace has come to the country, and the hopes for prosperity and a better life for its people are much greater than they were a few years ago.

      The rebel forces, FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, have laid down their weapons, a not insignificant factor in my decision to visit Colombia.

      I traveled on United Airlines from Hobbs to Houston, then on to Bogota.  That morning I woke up in Lea County and the night I went to sleep in Colombia’s capital city of Bogota.  That night in the big city, I dreamed about what a small world we live in.

      I spent the one night in Bogota, and the next morning I visited several museums and walked the up-and-down streets of a city located high in the mountains.  Bogota has a beautiful central plaza that contains a presidential palace, their White House, and a beautiful Catholic Church.  The city has nine million residents.

      From Bogota I traveled south and west to the much smaller town of Fusagasuga which has around 100,000 residents.  Also located in the mountains, the town of Fusa has a beautiful church on its central plaza. I happened to arrive there on Good Friday, and the town had several processions that took place in celebration of Easter.

      I spent several days and three nights in Fusa visiting historic sites and meeting many individuals who are friends and relatives of Henry Junior.

      With Junior and a man who works for him, Diego Sanchez, and Diego’s fiancé, we traveled back to Bogota and rode a bus for over seven hours during the night to arrive at a small town at the edge of the Amazonia jungle.

      We stayed two days in Guaviare, located on a huge river, the Rio Guaviare.  One of those days we drove a few miles into the jungle to visit the village of a native tribe.

      On other trips out from Guaviare we visited a beautiful and smaller river, which contains several pools in which resident swim in relief from the heat and humidity and heat of the jungle.

      From Guaviare, we traveled six hours north to a resort city, which serves as a portal to the plains of Colombia.  Villavicencio is located six hours to the east and over a mountain range from Bogota. We stayed a night in the Hotel del Llano, a beautiful hotel in the middle of the city where we ate Peruvian food and traditional food from the plains.

      On the fertile and lush Colombian plains fruits and vegetables are grown in abundance—including, corn, peppers, pineapples, oranges, rice, and grapes.  The plains are also home to cowboys and ranchers who raise massive herds of Brahma cattle.  I ate a considerable amount of beef on this trip.

      From Villavicencio, I traveled back over the Andes, with peaks over 13,000 feet to spend one more night in Bogota.  Early the next morning, a Thursday, I flew from Bogota to Houston and then back to Hobbs.

      I will remember my trip to Colombia for the rest of my life.  It was a moving experience because of the land, the people, and the history of the country I learned by visiting museums and talking with its residents.

      There will be future History Notebook columns about what I saw and what I learned in Colombia.  

      The history of Colombia is tied closely to the history of America, and Colombian history speaks to Southwestern and Lea County history.