- Lucho -
We weren't quite as good at the 'artisan' part of the workshop as we thought we might be, pero no worries, everything in a new land has the potential to be an aprendizaje. Eleven of us, "the lucky 11," as LoLo put it, sat around a table on plastic chairs in Lucho's casita slash studio on a rainy afternoon in Salento, while his bulldog ('LA GORDA,' obviously...) weaved in and out of our legs, snorting and snarfing away into the early evening.
The workshop with Lucho was part of the itinerary we designed for our collaboration with Alexandra Tracy, founder of TRAVEL LATINA , in an effort to support artisans in the region while exploring and learning about Colombia. While we travel, take photos, try new food, observe and inadvertently compare, etc., engaging with folks like Lucho offers an important perspective and account of lived experiences in the region that are central to our approach of learning while traveling. Over time, I have come to believe we have more to gain by listening and observing than in immediately putting ourselves front and center in our travel interactions. Sitting in Lucho's casita slash workshop, where he's worked for 30 years, taking cues and instruction from him and his creative partner and wife, offers an intimacy and a privilege that we believe is inherent to fruitful and mutually-beneficial interactions while traveling. Lucho's experience as an artist in a once quiet pueblo in the middle of Antioquia that is now a tourist destination offers the curious an opportunity to dig in and begin asking questions - How was it before? Why? Who lived here? Who made the rules? What does tourism mean for the community? And the way he worked while he talked, the way in which he opened his front door and received a group of 11 strangers, the way in which his wife simultaneously prepared us homemade cider in their kitchen - and much more - all offer up the potential to create shifts in previous perceptions that one might carry about Colombia or about "Colombians" in general, as gleaned through the media, through word-of-mouth, through travel blogs, and the like.
We spent 4 hours in Lucho's house, trying in vain to understand and execute the style of stitching and fashioning of leather bags his wife and he have employed as part of their daily practice and livelihood for several decades. And while not all of our travelers spoke Spanish, the atmosphere, the laughter, the rain outside, the snorting dog below, communicated enough to paint a picture of that day's Colombian reality.
We chose the beautiful eje cafetero region of Colombia (Salento) for this particular collaboration because we wanted to offer a chance for a peaceful, reflective travel experience. And quite literally, we saw these fertile grounds as a means to inspire ourselves and each other. The crux of the workshop was dedicated to personal and professional discovery, cultural growth and understanding via dynamic workshops, fun classes and immersion activities, dialogue, art making, and professional, peer-to-peer seminars. Ale was looking to take Travel Latina to another place and we were looking to figure out our 'angle' and how to 'stand out' in a saturated sea of niche travel companies.
In between hikes to Valle Cocora, the artisan workshop with Lucho, yoga, shared meals, solo time just exploring the pueblito, and a coffee finca experience, we built in opportunities for 11 women to come together and sit in a new space so that, at some point during the week, each might enter a new space internally and connect with another or with themselves in surprising ways.
By week's end, I found that we could have used another week dedicated solely to clearing our hearts and minds with one another. To breaking bread and finding out more about each other. The days went by fast. There was so much to see. We had, collectively, so many stories to share in such a short time.
Our lives are rich, we found out. We needed a place to pause and be. To share or not. To talk about old things in new places. Refreshingly, our anecdotes as women and daughters, sisters and friends, varied as much as our professions. Our experiences with our own LATINIDAD, as a word and perceived thing/entity varied, too, but, in engaging further, we found that our pasts overlapped and complemented each other in ways that supported and uplifted long-lasting traumas, fears, or doubts.
Please enjoy some photos below from our 4 days and 5 nights in Salento, Colombia. We are looking forward to collaborating with Travel Latina again, but thank you to these 11 intrepid women who, no doubt, helped shape collaborations of this kind for years to come.