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> Best Souvenirs from Colombia?
moinmotion
post May 19 2008, 07:59 PM
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Does anyone have suggestions for nice souvenirs to bring home from Colombia? Beyond the coffee, of course!?
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mmbcross
post May 20 2008, 09:51 AM
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Obviously whehn you get to Colombia, you are going to find extensive choices in the souvenir shops, but don't stop there. Locals also buy handicrafts, and you will find stores selling these in regular shopping malls, in these cases more targeted to the resident rather than the tourist.

Here are some sites that show typical products from Colombia.

For contemporary and stylish: http://www.notasinc.com/ and http://www.artesandinos.com/

Official Government site (in Spanish): http://www.artesaniasdecolombia.gov.co/

Here is an interesting article from the New York Times. The prices may be a bit out of date:

THE HANDICRAFTS OF COLOMBIA
By JAN SHANNON; JAN SHANNON IS A CONSULTANT FOR A.F.S. INTERNATIONAL/INTERCULTURAL PROGRAMS.
Published: May 26, 1985

When one goes looking for folk art and handicrafts in Colombia, shopping can become an adventure: poking into hidden corners and dusty shops, trying to talk to people in a mixture of English and Spanish and looking through piles of plaster and plastic souvenirs. But good-quality handicrafts are plentiful for those willing to undertake the search. Bargaining for good prices, a tradition in Colombia, can add to the adventure.

Colombian artisans still use traditional methods to produce baskets, pottery, leather goods, weavings and needlework, which are for sale in large cities and tiny villages throughout the country.

Colombian weavers work with three types of material: fique (a fine hemp fiber), wool and cotton. The single most popular woven item is the wool ruana (the Colombian name for poncho), worn by people throughout the three cordilleras of the Andes, the mountain chains that dominate western Colombia.

Indians wear waist-length ruanas that give them freedom on horseback. Bogota women wear stylish ruanas over their designer dresses, while some businessmen wear simple ones over their business suits. Bright-red, hooded ruanas make children look like Little Red Riding Hood.

Ruanas are made in many weights, from very light for the cool climate of the foothills to very heavy for the coldest heights of the Andes. Well-made ruanas run from $7 for a child's size to $50 for stylish ones sold in designer shops.

Shawls come in two types: those woven in wool and those woven of rayon ribbon. The wool shawls are worn instead of a ruana, usually during the day when the weather is a bit warmer. Woolen shawls - in rough natural weaves or smooth refined ones - begin at about $8. In hot parts of the country such as the Caribbean coast, women wear panolones, the rayon-ribbon shawls, for evening. Open and lacy, panolones come in beige, white or gold and sell for around $20.

Hammocks and blankets are made to be decorative as well as for sleeping. While woven clothing often comes in natural colors, the hammocks and blankets tend to be pink, turquoise, purple or green, in a bold plaid or with a bright border. Hammocks are woven of cotton or wool with a few in natural-colored fique. Woolen blankets thick enough for the coldest New York night sell for $20 to $30.

Nearly every student carries a mochila, a woven bag made of cotton, wool or fique. These deep, round shoulder bags are usually striped in bright colors, although some are woven with traditional Indian motifs. Wool mochilas cost $20 to $30, cotton ones around $7 and fique bags as low as $1.

Fine needlework can also be found in the handicraft shops. The finest are almost certainly the molas made by Cuna Indians from the San Blas Islands. These reverse-applique panels were originally made for blouses but now are sold as wall hangings. Two to four pieces of cotton are laid on top of each other. A design is cut out and the edges turned under and sewn to the layer beneath with fine, nearly invisible stitches. Sometimes rickrack trimming or simple running stitches are used decoratively.

Because molas have become popular with tourists, the quality and the prices vary tremendously. Beware: higher prices do not necessarily mean better quality. Look at the molas carefully. Inspect the stitching and the cloth layers. Then bargain on the price. Although they sell in the shops at the luxury hotels for $25, good quality molas can be purchased for as little as $5.

The Caribbean port city of Cartagena is a good place to purchase molas. Amid the tacky souvenirs in the tourist shops of Plaza de Bovedas are piles of molas of varying quality. A thorough search can produce a well-made mola that a good bargainer can carry off for $5.

Primitivos, appliqued wall hangings illustrating the rural life of Colombia, are another kind of needlework found in the shops. Bright cotton pieces are cut and arranged in a primitive-style picture showing people at work in the fields, trees heavy with fruit, woolly sheep or spotted cattle grazing beside a stream. Primitivos come in many sizes, from six inches square to six feet square. The size of the applique pieces remains the same, however, no matter the size of the primitivo, so the larger ones are simply busier. They appear to be priced according to size and the status of the shop. Here, too, you should not forget to bargain. Prices range from $2 to $75. A few shops carry tote bags, aprons, blouses and dresses made in the primitivo style.

Colombia, which is third in cattle production in South America, produces leather that is used by many artisans who make shoulder bags called bolsas, yellow-tan duffel bags called tulas, suitcases, boots, belts, wallets and vests. Fine handbags sell for about half the price of the equivalent item in New York. If you have time, you can have boots or sandals handmade to fit. Tulas are popular among young travelers from Europe and the United States because they hold a lot and sell for only $15.

Probably the best buys in Colombian handicrafts are also the most difficult to get home. Baskets are everywhere, in every size and shape, for every use. Those in a simple, open weave sell for as little as 50 cents, while intricately woven baskets large enough for a potted ficus tree in the corner of the living room cost only $8.

Pottery is another good buy. Most shops sell beautiful, simple bowls, pitchers and platters glazed in black or terra cotta. A 12-inch black pitcher costs $2.50. For pennies one can buy smaller round-bottomed bowls used for the traditional dish of beans, rice, pork and egg from the region called Antioquia. Unglazed pottery is used for hanging bells that have a clear ring and for the potato-shaped ocarina, a musical pipe once popular in the United States. With careful packing, some of the smaller ceramic pieces can be brought home in one piece; with the large pieces there is a greater risk of breakage.

For anyone who has ever ridden a bus through the Andes or gone to an Indian market, the ceramic busetas made in the area around San Agustin and Pitalito are a delight. These little buses, like the real ones, are piled high with bananas, baskets of vegetables, chickens, bundles of wood, boxes and - only incidentally - people.

Prices seem to vary wildly for little apparent reason. A bus that was 12 inches long was selling in Cartagena for $30 and in Cali for $90, so shop around and bargain. Miniature versions of the bus sell for around $10. No matter the size, the buseta will always bring a laugh and fond memories of your trip to Colombia. A browser's guide to the markets Government Shops Artesanias de Colombia is a government agency encouraging the production of traditional handicrafts and operating shops in every major city in the country. You can be sure of finding a variety of traditional crafts and good quality (at set rather than bargained prices) in these shops.

Cartagena: Centro Commercial, Avenida San Martin, Bocagrande. Cali: Calle 12 No. 1-20. Medellin: Carrera 50 No. 52-21 Bogota: Monastery of San Diego, Carrera 7 and Calle 26, across from Hotel Tequendama. Museums, Markets In Bogota, the Museo de Arte y Tradiciones Populares, Carrera 8 No. 7-21, is devoted to traditional handicrafts. This museum, in an old monastery, has a shop selling high quality crafts, often more cheaply than in the government shop.

In Cartegena, the Plaza de Bovedas is in the seawall of the old city where 23 dungeons dating from 1799 have been turned into shops. These have a definite atmosphere of the tourist trap with tacky souvenirs and aggressive salespeople. If you take time, examine the merchandise and bargain, however, high quality crafts can be found at good prices.

Indian markets in large cities as well as villages often sell excellent quality handicrafts. The market in Silvia, in a high valley about an hour outside of Popoyan, is especially known for beautiful weavings, but this market is held only on Tuesday mornings. It begins around 6 A.M. and by noon the Indians have packed up their buses and headed back up the mountains.J. S.



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starlagurl
post May 20 2008, 01:17 PM
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Wow, I guess bring a couple collapsible backpacks when you go, so that you can bring all that stuff home!


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moinmotion
post Jun 5 2008, 09:33 PM
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Wow, thanks for the excellent info - you rock!
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mmbcross
post Jun 5 2008, 11:47 PM
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Thanks for the compliment.

Now we hope you are going to open your own travel blog so you can tell the world about your visit to Colombia, and what you brought back home with you.

Keep in touch and enjoy you trip
Martin


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nixsboys
post Jan 31 2009, 04:40 PM
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Favourite souvenirs that I purchased were a typical Colombian Sombrero and naturally jewellery

IPB Image

They use the same material (cane) to make bags too (which are of course easier to fold up and put at the bottom of your backpack)

If you do land up buying coffee it is cheaper to buy the hessen bag with 'Colombian Coffee' at the souvenir shops and the coffee at the supermarket.


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felics
post Feb 3 2009, 10:07 PM
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[font=Arial][size=7]Attached ImageLa Casona del Museo located a few steps from Gold Museum is a very nice place for exhibitions of colombian handicrafts. You can buy there a replica of original gold pieces you watched during your tour to the Gold Museum. Additionally you can taste delicious colombian coffe with special artistic design on the top of your coffe cup. Visit this old house declared cultural patrimony of Bogotá City (230 years old)
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