Seeking Spiritual Guidance in Colombia

Against my better judgment I sought out spiritual guidance a week or so ago. I’m a strong believer in that we do pave the way for our own futures by our acceptance of and treatment of others and how we choose to manage our emotions, workload and so on. I realize that being here in Latin America I should be more respectful, but I just cannot abide anyone giving me the reason that their best made plans didn’t come about due to “el destino”. Destiny may well play a role but we, as individuals with free will, have the opportunity to manipulate destiny surely?

gargoyleMy intent is not to knock organized religion or any spiritual belief of any sort, far be it for me to cast an opinion on something so important to so many. As I routinely say in Spanish to my Catholic in-laws when they ask after my faith: “tengo mis problemas con el man,” and that’s how I leave it rather than to enter into the semantics of my problems with Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism…you name it, I’ve probably harbored some irritable feeling towards it.

Only the other day I snapped back – albeit lightly – at a colleague of mine when she spoke of the benefits of the Catholic confessional. We were actually discussing the paramilitaries in Colombia and atrocities committed by both sides in regions such as the Putumayo. For me, it was impossible to understand how a priest could maintain silence when a paraco or guerrillero asked for forgiveness in a confessional once he or she had admitted to absolutely brutal crimes. The crux of my argument rested on the basis that the church could potentially forgive this barbarism but the family of the deceased would have to deal with the loss in their own very real and painful fashion. I decided it was time to speak to someone.

Colombia is of course the pais del sagrado corazon and Catholicism runs deep here in the creole manifestation of Nueva Granada. But, by the same rationale, there is a very present, very obvious following of more indigenous and aboriginal beliefs here. Call it religious syncretism or bet hedging. All along the Avenida Caracas you can see various shamanic stores offering everything from the cure to erectile dysfunction to money making schemes. And people visit these frequently. Costeno friends will talk of their visits to the “Mamo” and in Mompós the house has been blessed both by the priest and by a shaman from the Guajira. Neither of these actions was of my doing, but, I maintain that I must respect the beliefs of my staff as they are the ones in the business all day every day.

At the santero's house in Cuba

At the santero’s house in Cuba

Anyway, the months of September and October are almost inevitably months of deep introspection and reflection for me and rather than swallowing more emotional distress, I decided to go and speak to a “wise woman”. I shall call her this since I cannot think of a better term. Why September, well it is my birthday month and why October, well, let’s just say that there are significant dates from my past here.

The last time I found myself visiting a “spiritual” advisor was on our trip to Cuba in 2012. Alba had wanted to visit a santero and after to chatting with our host family we were bundled into the back of a windowless van and driven out to a nondescript and decidedly non-touristy barrio of La Habana. She had her reading and then I decided that being here, I might as well make the most of it. It was of course most interesting and I reflect on this day a great deal, not least for the experience of visiting Papito, but also for seeing an altogether different face of the city.

In the back of the windowless van!

In the back of the windowless van!

What would be my experience in Bogota?

Originally, I had not wanted to visit the wise woman. My fear of the unknown stems from a vivid imagination and a truly profound concern about messing with or upsetting something or someone on “the other side”. I partook in a Ouija board ceremony once at school and that was enough to terrify me. I couldn’t see what she might be able to offer me. But, after about two hours with her, it was evident, she had helped. Not with solutions, but she had listened. My concerns about work, my emotional state and worries for the future all could be addressed in an informal setting and without the structure of needing a rosary or to become more pious. It was like being on the psychologist’s chaise longue but with tarot cards. Things I knew but perhaps was unable to identify clearly or to explain became easier to share.

Apparently I am in a rush to succeed. Perhaps this is a result of a distinctly protestant upbringing? In theory, everything is possibly and most excitingly, she did mention that my planned book, the Mompós Project, is a good idea…so that was most comforting. I need to relax more, take more time to myself and just knuckle down. Personally, I see this as great advice for anyone. Maybe she says it to all of those who visit her way out in the Barrio Colon in Bogota. But, for me, they were welcome words.

Perhaps I am not the most spiritual or religious person, but, I am prepared to listen.

About Richard

Anglo-Canadian resident in Colombia. Journalist, Writer, Hotelier, Expedition Guide
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7 Responses to Seeking Spiritual Guidance in Colombia

  1. cathy mccoll dobbin says:

    Liked it. Very inciteful. : )

  2. Richard, I have been reading your post for a couple years, sometimes to imagine I was there to enjoy the beautiful scenery and the fundalmental joy & happiness I find myself mimes shed in each visit I make mostly the the Santander area of Bucaramange! And my fovorite spot of Heaven on Earth, Mesa de Los Santos. I am 64, in good health, not rich, but could manage a nice cabana in condo with a full time armed guard on duty. I would like your heartfelt advice. My Colombian wife is 26, one semester from completing het 6 semester technical certificate of marketing fro a Tech University in Buca. We have been married for 5 years in NW Florida where she currently works at WalMart, teaches Spanish lessons and has started to perfect her command of the English language.
    I am retired with just my SS check + some rental/mortgage totaling about $3000US dollars / month to live on. My Spanish is awful, but I try. I have no famile to keep me here ( sister & 2 nieces I rarely see) I am closer to my wife's family. I am genuially concerned about an economis collapse I the US. Granted, it the US sneezes the whole world catches a cold. So I am fully aware thing could get real ugly here, with the FARC, ELN, motor cycle bandits, etc. but my reasoning is South America is the most insulated continent, and the only one that might survive a total global collapse. 1, the have the natural resources: precious & utile minerals 2. vast amounts of food 3. A population that is used to hard times & hard work 4. Almost a zero population of fundamental radical Muslims who want a world wide caliphate – the whole continent is basically Roman Catholic, last place on earth there would ever be a jihad.
    We have a pretty nice crib here in NW Florida semi-rural, between Pensacola & Ft Walton Beach/Destin. 13/4 acres with a river full of fish. Lots of military and good old rednecks all armed to the teeth, so we would be low on the looter gangs target list. But they would eventually get here. My question to you, and I really would appreciate a reply, although I'm fully aware a non-Spanish speaking gringo would stick out like a sore thumb. Since I am retired my mingling would be extremely low profile. Mesa de Los Santos is a perfect retirement community(in my mind), perfect weather and a growing tourist industry considering nearby Panache Park & San Gil. They have Direct TV & Internet. I do some gardening, get some indoor exercise equipment and live out my retirement in fabulous comfort. Meanwhile I'd be protecting my wife from the almost certain collapse & danger I fear is about to hit the US with a swift blow of a sledge hammer. Please let me know if you see any real pitfalls with my expatriating plans. This is a huge step and I know very few English speaking English or Americans down there. Last thing I need to do is jump from the frying pan right into the fire. But as each day passes, I think this is the best decision we can make. Please share your thoughts. For instance is all this doomsday rhetoric we here in the US as prevalent in Colombia as it is here. You don't foresee a Chavez-like regime taking over Colombia. That sort of stuff?


    • Richard says:

      Ron, there's a great deal in your message, but firstly thank you for getting in touch. You might like my "Colombia Calling" podcasts you can find on this site where I talk to expats living here in Colombia, all of whom are incredibly positive about living here. Colombia has her fair share of problems but is a country in transition and is likely to remain this way for some time. That said, living here and in particular somewhere like Mesa de los Santos presents a very enviable lifestyle that most of us can only dream of. You would need to look around there as your income is roughly 6 million pesos and I believe rent can amount to 2 million a month without utilities. As you mention being close to San Gil, Barichara and Chicamocha is a plus and tourism is only going to grow, There are Americans in Buca, I don't know how many but, if you check out you can see if there's an expat community group…as it's always good to be in touch. Frankly, I think you can manage a very comfortable lifestyle and live out your days with your wife in a most pleasant fashion. I don't see any risk of a Chavez style regime here ever, at least not at the moment. I'll give your email further thought and if I come up with anything in the future I'll send you an email. Thank you again for getting in touch.

  3. Here is some of my music you might enjoy, with further contact methods.. I really could use your input, Richard

    This is a brand new Patriot Protest Song, with emphasis on The Economic Collapse. I made a long version & a shorter version for “air play”. I made this You Tube Wednesday night July24, 2013:

    Mouse Trap by The Whistleblowers
    We are from Florida where the Stand Your Ground law is under attack. This is going viral in Tallahassee and soon the entire State & Country.
    This is original material all copyrighted and written by me. It is fresh off the grill. I’m giving you permission to use this song anyway you choose. My intent is to share & spread the truth. Below is the Cloud link that contains the audio of the short & long version:
    Please give this a listen. It will be worth your time.
    Thank you,
    Ron E Bowman (newest)
    850 939-1788
    Navarre, FL

  4. camille says:

    hello, is there any way I can get in touch with that woman :)? thank you!!

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