The Guambiano do not actually live in Silvia, but just use its central location for selling purposes. They come down from higher elevations in towns like Pueblito, La Campana, Gumbia, and Caciques where they live in self-made homes made of dried brick. They also speak their own language rather than the Spanish their conquerors brought with them....more
Silvia would not likely warrant much attention from tourists if not for the Guambianos that descend on the town on market day. That said, it is a serviceable enough place with a few places to eat and stay if you decide to check out what is certainly a very authentic mountain town in Colombia. Colombian tourists do come here, particularly from Cali,...more
The market is held weekly on tuesdays. On this day many of the indigenous Guambiano peoples who live in the surrounding areas come to town to sell various goods. Mainly they sell fruits and vegetables, which they farm in the surrounding areas, but there is also a covered area where there are handycrafts and hand-woven clothes and the likes.Many of...more
We arrived in Silvia fairly early and with no other gringos in sight felt a bit out-of-place in a town overrun with Guambianos. So, to escape scrutiny and also have breakfast, we ducked into Surtihogar. This very local and basic restaurant on the main square served up all meals including the desayuno compleato or set breakfast. We both took the...more
Getting to Silvia from Popayán is not a problem. In fact, the travel time has been by a third from its previous 90 minutes so it only takes an hour to get there now. Direct buses leave frequently with a few plying the route. Though timetables change from time to time, a basic guide is: Tax Belacauca runs at 6, 7 and 10 AM and Sotracauca runs every...more
If you are comming from Popayan, it is a strait forward affair. There are direct mini-buses leaving from the Popayan bus station.Leaving Silvia, there are direct buses to Popayan and Cali. If, as I was, you are heading to Tierradentro or other points east such as Neiva, it may be faster to catch a colective jeep along gravel roads south to Totoro,...more
The market is a sprawling mass to say the least. Guambianos seem to be set up everywhere selling everything. The inside floor area of the main market is reserved for produce and is the most colorful and photogenic. Upper areas inside sell all sorts of things, a lot of which is household items like cookery and such.
What to buy: This is not a tourist market and does not sell much that tourists would be looking for. There are some clothing items but no one is selling traditional Guambiano outfits though they just might sell some of it to gringos if on offer. I guess the most interesting item was fruit for us. We bought a kilo of ushuva, an orange-colored fruit with a tart flavor, for 1000 COP (50 cents) which would cost a small fortune back home. In contrast, we picked up a very small travel size tube of toothpaste for 1500 (75 cents) which seemed cheap at the time but was less at Exito, a chain mega-supermarket in Popayán. So, not all things are cheaper and I think we even haggled her down from 2000 on it too!
Mostly what gringos are looking for here are photos and there is no shortage of opportunities for that despite the Guambianos not being particularly into having their photo taken.
The Guambiano are a bit of a curiosity but their history is a proud one and they stand as the most dynamic and thriving of all traditional Colombian indigenous groups. Estimates put their numbers at between 12 and 20,000 and this is even more impressive when you take into consideration that at the beginning of the century, they had dwindled down to a mere 1500. This of course was due to the Spanish conquest and their being pushed from their homelands to less favorable plots of land. Though the Guambianos are slowly but steadily infiltrating their previous range, they are still largely relegated to high elevation areas where their livelihood of farming is difficult at best. Besides farming, the Guambianos are renowned weavers and their traditional clothing is all self-produced and quite impressive.
Luggage and bags:
There is little reason to spend the night in Silvia and bringing a lot of luggage on the mini-bus might not be the easiest thing to do.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Silvia is much cooler than Popayán from which you most likely have come so bring something warm to wear, especially in the morning.
Photo Equipment: A wide angle is nice for panoramic shots of the market but one thing you will want for capturing photos of the Guambianos is a good zoom, preferably one with image stabilization as in the market you will be shooting in low light situations. The last thing you want to do is break out a tripod. I think that would be going way too far.
Miscellaneous: Thanks to D for being a partner in crime on this one. I don't think I could bear to do this alone.
We left the market and headed back over to the park to take a break but there was no break to be had. The park was crawling with Guambianos and these were even more colorfully-clad than the ones in the market. Besides, the light was better outside. The only problem was it was more obvious if you took them out here. I knew this was really pushing...more
We had taken one of the earlier buses so when we arrived there were no gringos in sight. It was certainly a scenario where we were the ones that stood out and were being watched so we took refuge in a small restaurant to eat breakfast and wait for the cavalry to arrive. It wasn't like I was going to bust out the zoomie with such an imbalance of...more
There's not much reason to go to Silvia aside from the weekly Guambiano market and if you choose to do that and are looking for a colorful indigenous tribe, you will not be disappointed. There are times when you just know you shouldn't but you do it anyway. You know deep down that you certainly shouldn't take photos of people when they are known...more