To 1.923 meters above sea level in the department of Quindio, Colombia, just in the heart of the country; Filandia is located. A place of frosty and misty mornings but you feel it warm with the friendliness of its people. Also known as the “Illuminated Hill of Quindio”, it is one of the smallest municipalities of the department, has only three main streets running through the village from one side to another and no more than 12,500 inhabitants, but is a place full of beauty, tradition, and is surrounded by beautiful coffee landscapes that characterize this part of the country, located in central mountain range of Andes.
View of the Nevado del Tolima in the background and coffee plantations to the front
Besides being a wonderful place is my hometown, this is where I grew up, there were born my values, my beliefs and my earliest memories. I left this place five years ago but constantly return to visit the part of me that is still there. I know this place like the back of my hand and its people, my first good and bad memories belong to this place, to mention any of these; I always lived on the street that goes to the cemetery and in each funeral, the families loaded coffins on their shoulders in a procession to the cemetery. I remember when I was very little, was said that in a village nearby, a man had killed his family by hammering, including his wife and two children, and later ended his life. It says it was all because of debt and despair. I still remember like it was yesterday how the people carried the four coffins one by one on their shoulders from the smallest to the largest. I remember many stories like these, as the day an old man hanged himself with his belt behind the door of the room where he lived in leasing, because it would be evicted for nonpayment. Faced with events like these, people like my family had the omen that many others would follow, also hanged, and surprisingly actually happened, the first one was followed by others, it was as if they were a source of inspiration and example of decision, a contrast between courage and cowardice. In this town however small the event were, everyone found out. There everyone knows everyone’s life, as the popular saying “small town, big hell”
Filandia is a place of noble and traditional people, everything here revolves around the main square, is where everyday people socialize, mostly elderly, you can see in them typical elements of clothing from this region like the hat, poncho and plastic boots. It is also common to see people walking around this place for long periods, going round and round, while talking. This square is also common to see a small wooden carts where children ride and are taken around the park, alluding to the traditional transport in the region, the Willys Jeep. Around the main square and streets in general can be observed in detail the beauty of its colonial architecture, houses built in bamboo, clay tile and colorful paintings, some still retain their original plastering made with cow dung and covered with lime, others have been restored but still retain the touch of the Paisa emblematic architecture. The preservation of the architecture of this municipality is due to the effort, dedication and sense of belonging of many local families that make an effort every day to make this tradition lasts over time.
In some way, I consider that this place is losing its identity because of a phenomenon that grows product of the declared “Coffee Cultural Landscape”, I am speaking of tourism. In 2011 this part of the country was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, because for over a century the culture and tradition of this area have been forged around the cultivation of coffee. Creating wealth in such diverse fields as folklore, gastronomy, customs and architecture, which also has been preserved and has been passed down from generation to generation. From this what is considered the “Coffee Triangle” area between Risaralda, Quindio, Caldas and North of Valle, formerly called “coffee belt” becomes cultural and intangible heritage of humanity, with the concept of being a region with unique characteristics in the world that deserve to be preserved over time, known and admired by humanity. In my opinion I would question the idea of preservation, as I believe that this is not just one of the results or consequences of tourism.
Coffee drying in the sun Ripe coffee
Colonial Architecture, traditional of this area
Willys Jeep, transport traditional in the region Jeep made of wood for Children
Until two or three years ago, Filandia was a quiet place, receiving visitors but not too much, less think in people camping around, it was something I never saw before and which is now normal. There arrive visitors but only on special occasions like during Holy Week as it is live performed, and during the Festival of Canasto celebrated during midyear. Currently the village is becoming an attractive place to invest especially for foreigners, for example now you can get Argentinean grill with a native chef included, among other places. Until recently, there was only a shop selling handicrafts, its owner being a local citizen and she was criticized by people, saying she looks like a “hippie” and now many other such shops have opened and many other people want to look like her, product of the traveling wave that reaches the place.
Lets think of what will happen to this place around the not too distance time, perhaps be another Salento, all tourist in the country have listened about this place of the region and is probably the most visited until now, full of drugs, prostitution, local displaced by foreigners in a way, loss of identity, among other things, but in this case without the Cocora Valley. I’m not a negative person, or anti-globalization, nothing quite like it; I know that somehow tourism is good for those who already had their business, these cafes that have been a lifetime in the main park and open places that provide employment to locals. But what about in the case of the places that bring their employees from elsewhere or are foreigners, none of it is left in the village.
Filandia has been a place known for its artisans, as a people of baskets and woven wicker, in these born the culture of this place. If you visit the San Jose neighbor, road to the cemetery and the viewpoint that is observed in the top of a hill. This place is also called the Craftsmen neighborhood, you can see outside of the houses, drying the wicker before being transformed into baskets of different shapes and sizes. All the people who depend on this activity, are benefit from the influx of new visitors and is a good thing, however, they used to be craftsmen by culture and tradition, but now they are just part of the attractions of this park called “Coffee Cultural Landscape”. Also, there is the viewpoint called “Illuminated Hill”, personally I think that was more useful before the building, at that time was only the hill where the village families were in the months of wind to fly a kite and at night it was the love nest for many, perhaps even some of my uncles had their romantic days there. Maybe before was a place of the people and for the people, is now a very large wooden structure of twenty meters high, spending more time closed than in operation and also due to the cost of entry many of the local people only know him from afar. However, if you do not know this place and sometime find it open, go and visit it and enjoy the beautiful view of almost all the municipalities of Quindio, also Pereira and northern Valle del Cauca and if is weekend you can enjoy a cup of coffee at “Café Seagull” offering a local made coffee.
Overall I think and feel Filandia is the cutest village of Quindio, as the board in the main park says, however, has changed and is becoming a place aimed to weekend tourists and neglects the local people. Before, there were no security problems, they came to be considered one of the safest places in Colombia and the municipality with less violent deaths, if you asked people how dangerous it was, they responded phrases like “Here you can fall asleep on the street and instead of steal, you’ll wake with blanket and pillow”. Today talk about this issue to a local and see what they respond, there are now rumors of thefts and other situations not previously lived.
Filandia is every day more beautiful, with its colorful houses, friendly people and more consumers for businesses, but now there are news in the newspapers talking about dealers of illegal substances, prostitution of minors has increased, now the elderly ask to foreigners where they come from, and feel the need to know where that country is, many do not know, however, say that it is close to Spain where many sons, daughters, parents who belong here reside.
If you visit Filandia, I invite you to give something different from you, if you want some gastronomy of the place, come where the lady selling bananas and cheese in a corner of the park and is there every day, eat “cuca” (kind of black cookie) with “kumis” (fermented milk drink) in the bakeries, -do not let dazzled by the decor and false culture of foreigners restaurants-, asks where is JJ Pizza and eat the best eggplant pizza you can try, and also spring pizza with its fresh and crocantica vegetables, visit the photo file located in the Artisan’s House and so know some history of this place and its people, values the work of artisans and do not treat them as “prostitutes” calling for discounts, do not bargain the price of their work. Enjoy the beauty of its architecture, its church, but do not compare it with Salento, leaves something positive to this place and not be another entity of tourism with the weekend benefits and the permanent damage.
Solteritas and forcha seller, opposite the church in the main square
"Welcome to the prettiest village of Quindio, Filandia"
María Inmaculada church Inside part of the church
So I say that yes, Filandia is the prettiest village of Quindio, but rather than landscapes, the beauty is on its people, who always give their best to everyone. Make real the ideal of preservation of the “Coffee Cultural Landscape” by UNESCO, so this beautiful culture can continue being inherited, but it also depends on you.
Versión en Español: FILANDIA, EL PUEBLO MÁS LINDO DEL QUINDÍO – COLOMBIA