February 28, 2021

"Bicientenario", a bicycle tour of the liberating route of Colombia

Forgotten territories, isolation, state abandonment and the idea that the State has only arrived in the form of monuments was what two adventurers found that traveled the path of the liberating campaign that 200 years ago allowed the birth of Colombia as an independent nation.

The experiences collected over more than 800 kilometers of bicycle travel have been presented by the anthropologist María Johana Cadavid and the photographer Nelson Cárdenas in the book "Bicientenario: the pending freedom".

"In many of the territories where we were, the State has only arrived in the form of a monument, a commemorative plaque, but there is no serious process of appropriation of history or cultural transformation in the light of a national imaginary," Cadavid said. an interview with Efe.

And she and Cárdenas were given the task of traveling the same route that 200 years ago the troops of Simón Bolívar, Francisco de Paula Santander and José Antonio Anzoátegui made during the Liberating campaign of the New Granada of 1819.

The experiences of that journey made not on the back of a mule, as the armies of the time did, but on a bicycle, was reflected in a travel book that the authors say is a "two-voice story".

"Bolívar would be frozen in the Páramo de Pisba (center) if it had not been for the people, that today as at that time, would have helped him," remembered Cadavid, who explained that the two adventurers traveled 800 kilometers in 20 days.

They did this in a country where there is a great tradition and cycling passion, where in cities like Bogotá and Medellín hundreds of people climb the mountains that surround them by bicycle.

The adventurers' journey began on April 7 in Arauca, capital of the department of the same name, on the border with Venezuela, and ended on April 25 at the Boyacá Bridge, where this Bicentennial of the Independence.

"We started in Arauca because although the liberating route began in the Venezuelan population of Mantecal, we could not get out of there because the border is closed by order of the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro," said the anthropologist.

The border with Venezuela has been closed since February 23 when Maduro broke ties with Colombia and blocked border crossings after the frustrated attempt of the interim president of that country, Juan Guaidó, to carry humanitarian aid, an initiative that ended in an outbreak of violence .

As the adventurers approached the mountain range, the march on the bicycle became heavier, demanded greater efforts, and to travel about 120 kilometers daily there were several days in which they only advanced 6.

"Like us, Bolívar and his armies encountered climatic and topographic conditions that have not changed at present, because in some areas there are trails that can only be passed by mule," he said.

He explained that they chose the bicycle to do the tour because it is the closest to a beast of burden and that they also wanted to “live in their own flesh” what was that “tortuous trip” of Bolívar, Santander and a handful of native neogranadinos and troops foreigners who dreamed of liberating this part of the continent from Spanish rule.

Although in some routes the bicycle became somewhat uncomfortable, it served them to approach and savor those aspects that from a car can not perceive: ups, downs, cobblestones, trails and "peasant wisdom", best of all according to Cadavid

Among the many things that travelers found is the fact that "before as now people have different versions of the history of the independence movement" that has been generated since the centralism of Bogotá.

The locals of the route have similar problems to those who had 200 years ago who lived in these parts of the country and who try to solve in the best possible way.

"On the trip we find many territorial, social and socio-environmental conflicts between different actors … that have not been resolved and do not allow that idea of ​​a nation to be consolidated," Cadavid warned from his anthropological point of view.

He stressed that despite everything in the region there are processes in which groups of indigenous women and peasants come together to develop tasks to empower themselves and help build the region.

"I find it very interesting how weave in the past, the present and obviously the future," he added and stressed that "there is a clash of narratives between the story that you want to tell from the center and the stories you build in the regions."

"The book is written in two voices, raised as a conversation between two points of view that, although they lived the same experience, they did it very differently," he added.

In addition to the texts, Cadavid explained, about half of the book are photographs taken by Cárdenas during the trip and that makes the publication propose a dialogue between the visual and the written that complement each other and give greater amplitude for the reader to take his own conclusions of what have been this Bicentennial of Independence.

Ovid Castro Medina

. (tagsToTranslate) Bicientenario (t) route (t) bike (t) liberator (t) Colombia

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