Most visitors to Colombia return home with armfuls of coffee and clinking bottles of aguardiente, not to mention a cuddly donkey and the odd framed photograph of Cartagena. If you’re looking for a more original gift, try some of these.
The colorful town of Raquira is Colombia’s pottery capital (its name even means “City of Pots” in the native Chibcha language) and it’s easy to see why – every shop is full of traditional north Andean pottery, produced by local artisans, vying for custom with their pretty facades and painted doorways. Many have workshops, where the pottery is made, tucked at the back of the store. The best day to search for gifts is Sunday when the town, close to Villa de Leyva in Boyaca, fills with farmers bringing their goods to market.
Ceramics: Carmen de Viboral
Carmen de Viboral may be a tiny rural town, near the city of Medellin, but its ceramics have been enjoyed by everyone from Queen Elizabeth II of England to US President Barack Obama. It all started back in the 1800s when artisan Eliseo Pareja discovered feldspar and quartz (the essential ingredients for clay pottery) in the nearby fields and founded Carmen’s first factory. Nowadays the town’s beautiful ceramics have their own Denomination of Origin status and are the go-to gift for visiting dignitaries.
Weaving: Wayúu, Arhuaco, Zenú and San Jacinto
Colombians are master weavers and it’s an ancient art. The Wayúu from La Guajira take up to four months to hand-weave their intricate chinchorro hammocks and a month to weave their colorful mochila bags. The mochilas woven by the nearby Arhuaco people depict revered indigenous animals including frogs, snakes and vultures and the striped hammocks woven in San Jacinto, Bolivar, are famous across the country. And who could forget the Zenú, from Cordoba and Sucre, who weave the Caribbean’s famed sombrero vueltiao, or “turned hat”? All make excellent gifts.
Guacamayas is a Boyaca town and its name means “macaws”, which tells you everything you need to know about the wonderful colors of its basketwork. Local artisans weave laundry baskets, fruit baskets, place mats, bags, bowls and more in every color under the sun. The technique, from the Lache and Tunebo peoples, involves rolls of straw fastened by fique (a natural plant fiber) that are then dyed with natural materials.
Filigree jewelry: Mompos
The magical town of Mompos, on the banks of the Magdalena River in Bolivar, was once a flourishing trading port, famous for minting coins and producing stunning gold and silver work. Traces of that history still exist today with the much sought after filigrana momposina. This colonial town is full of small workshops, where gold and silver are painstakingly coiled into shape for rings, necklaces, earrings, brooches and bracelets.
Gifts that will last a lifetime? The answer is Colombia. If you liked this article please feel free to share it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or any of your social networks.