Guatavita – The Changing of a Relationship

Michael and Chela at Guatavita

Michael and Graciela at Guatavita

Guatavita is a picturesque town in Colombia. A day trip there from Bogotá takes you through beautiful scenery as well as small towns. The pueblo, located on the banks of Lake Guatavita, is almost two color. This is in great contrast to the many other places found in Colombia expressing multitudes of color. Everything is white with red tile roofs. Most likely the result is from government construction. The town was built from scratch after they flooded the original town to make a lake for the production of electricity.

The look may have changed since my initial visit eight years ago. But I doubt there are many changes as things move very slow in that area.

Besides being listed as one of the spiritual places in Colombia it has a history dating back to the days before the invasion by the Spanish. Legend persists that on the original Lake Guatavita, located a few miles away, Chief Zipa of the Musicas would be covered in gold dust then rowed to the middle of the lake on a raft also covered in gold. Members of the tribe rowed their canoes into the lake and tossed gold items in as an offering. The Spanish hearing of the legend spent years trying to find the precious metal. Another legend has it that when the Indians heard of the Spanish coming they removed the gold from the lake themselves and hid it at the top of a spiritual mountain many miles away. Today that mountain is known as UFO Mountain for the great number of sightings there. I have even witnessed a couple of questionable events.

I first arrived to the pueblo of Guatavita on research for an article about the spiritual sites of Colombia. At the time it was one of the few such places in the country I could travel to with little fear of meeting either left-wing or right-wing terrorists. Upon arrival two boys of about 12 years offered, for a small fee, to not only guard our vehicle but tell us the story about the area, the lake and the town. Like reciting in front of a class, each put his hands behind his back. With eyes looking upward as if trying to remember something memorized, they took turns telling parts of the story.

We visited the limited number of shops in town selling the many colorful hand made items. But I sought more. I wanted stories, drawings and photos of the town now submerged. Eventually inquiries led us to an old man with stories and small black and white photos. The old guy was no fool and charged me gringo price for his help. The photos were impressive and saddening at the same time. It was difficult to believe they would bury such an impressive and beautiful 17th century church as that which dominated the photos.

The place holds more special memories for me though. My wife was at that time my guide and interpreter. A photo of us hugging at the lake’s edge shows how the place was spiritually a turning point in our relationship to becoming what it is today.

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