Wednesday, February 25, 2009

montañas venezolanas variadas

the coolest place i´ve visited in venezuela so far has been mount sorte.
sorte is the santería epicenter of venezuela, where people come from all around, carribean islands, small indigenous venezuelan pueblos, or wherever, to practice magic.

the first time i went was with my host brothers, jean carlos and johan, and our friends jhonatan and frangert.

the mountain is only about a 20 minute ride from chivacoa, so i was able to go a couple times. the first time was kind of a bust because i didn´t know what to expect and i felt like an invader tourist.

this is the altar for María Lionza at the base of the mountain. you pray to this altar at the base to ask for permission to cross the bridge over the magic river. the first time i went, johan was denied permission, not only for him, but for all of us. all of us except for johan eventually decided to go anyway, and during the whole trip i felt really bad juju

maría lionza is the queen to the shamans and priests of this religion, and her main altar is at the very top of the mountain along with an altar for guaicaipuro, the strongest indigenous warrior who fought against the conquistadores, and one for el negro felipe.
unfortunately i never made it up to the top of the mountain because i was warned over and over again to leave before dark, because it´s so dangerous.

there are a lot of stories about her, and i´m not sure which is the right one, but her statues picture her riding naked on top of a tapir, and she was rumored to have been a beautiful woman who was lost forever in the mountain and then was raised by or became the ruler of the animals of the forest.

people bathe in this river while making prayers or wishes, and this allows the prayers to be granted and to enter your body. or, instead, you can wash necklaces in the river and the prayers will enter the necklaces.

people also make drawings with ash or colored powder on the ground to cast spells. when you walk around you have to be really careful not to step on any of the symbols, because they practice a lot of black magic here, and if you accidentally cross its path you might get cursed.

we climbed up the river, and there were lit candles burning on rocks with no one around and altars hidden everywhere along the edges.

i went back on a thursday with my friends anna and pancho, because i wanted to come more prepared and with a group of people who were interested in really exploring and letting it all sink in.

climbing up and down the rocks was also a great chance to use our deer instinct

we made a prayer and lit candles at the altar for el negro felipe,
and then made a few more along our climb.
we found a cool spell for domination in love lying on the ground...

this is an altar for el chamo juan, and he is the saint of the thieves. malandros have a place here to come and pray for success in delinquency

then, on another day, anna and i went up to monte carmelo, which is the mountain town where our classmates basil, jorie, and sarah were working on a farm.

it was really beautiful, the air was really fresh and cool, and it was basically the opposite of barquisimeto, where we had been spending all of our time.

the walk up the mountain was really intense, but jorie played the cuatro the whole time, which made it a lot more bearable.

this is the dorm that we slept in. it felt a lot like summer camp, except colder and dirtier and you have to work a lot harder.
the farm is small and organic, and everyday people kind of searched for random ways to be useful. they were in the process of building a new greenhouse and there was a lot of harvesting and weeding going on. normal farm stuff.

anna and i were going to work for the morning shift the next day, but the mountain had been swallowed up by a cloud and all the fields were really wet.

and finally,
this past weekend we went to a town called mucuchies. it was also incredibly beautiful, and it is a really active center for independent or government sponsored cooperatives and other social programs.
we went to a trout cooperative that works not only to farm trout, but to make the trout food, provide wheelchairs and crutches for disabled people in their town with the profits, and a lot of other great things. but i fell asleep during the presentation because i couldn´t breathe the night before.

we road horses up to the top of this mountain, the highest town in all of venezuela, to see the farm.

this cooperative is a product of the cubazuela union and it is also organic.

the next day we went to a humus cooperative. humus is a fertilizer produced by worms working the soil. they recycle local compost and cardboard to create compost tea and humus for local farmers in an effort to keep from polluting the river. since they are at the top of the mountain, all of their runoff spreads to the rest of the country, including lake maracaibo, which is six hours away.
so despite lots of things happening here that are really detrimental to the environment, there are large amounts of creative and dedicated people working together to be sustainable and green, which is great to see. but we´re all doomed anyway, right?