As a tourist or traveller in Colombia, you are bound to come across both informal street vendors as well as organized and established markets full of individual booths where both artisans as well as small companies display and sell their handicrafts. Today, I am going to tell you about a few of the most popular hand-made souvenirs you’ll come across in Colombia.
1. Jewellery made from “Caña flecha”
Caña flecha is a plant native to Colombia, normally found around swamps and marshes. It has been used for centuries, and is one of the most traditional prime materials used in handmade jewellery. Caña flecha is used both in its natural colour (a tan/beige colour) as well as in dyed colours (red, pink, green, blue, yellow, orange, etc…) to create an array of bright coloured creations. You’ll find earrings, bracelets in all sizes and widths, necklaces, and rings made from this material. Be careful, though–there are also more modern versions of “caña flecha” jewellery that are made with plastic or cotton. While these pieces are also nice souvenirs, if it’s pure caña flecha you’re after, make sure you get the real thing!
2. Sombrero vueltiao
Perhaps one of the best-known national symbols and souvenir items is the famous sombrero vueltiao. The sombrero vueltiao is a traditional hat made on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia. It is made from natural and black-painted caña flecha that is woven together into the form of a sombrero. While you’ll find actual sombrero vueltiaos being sold, you’ll also find key chains, bracelets, earrings, necklaces, table coasters, paintings, and more with mini versions of sombrero vueltiaos.
3. Jewellery and kitchenware made from coconut
While coconuts are generally associated with coastal regions, coconut trees grow all over Colombia, and Colombians don’t just eat the coconut–they use it to make jewellery as well as kitchenware and other accessories. You’ll see spoons, bowls, coasters, and placemats as well as bracelets, bangles, rings, earrings, and key chains among other things, made from coconut.
Mochilas may be the most widespread and visible handmade “souvenir.” Not only will you see these extremely traditional bags being sold by artisans, but you’ll also see them being carried by Colombians, especially university-age Colombians. There are two main types of mochilas, both made by indigenous groups on the Caribbean Coast. The first type of mochilas is colourful and has tassels. They are made by the Wayuus, an indigenous tribe mainly living in the northern Colombian department of la Guajira. The second type of mochilas is more earth-toned and lacks tassels. They are made by the Arhuacos, another indigenous group inhabiting the Sierra Nevada mountain range and surrounding area in the Colombian departments of Magdalena and la Guajira.
5. Carnaval inspired items
The Carnaval celebrations in Barranquilla, Colombia are extremely famous, as are the traditional Carnaval mascots. The mascots include a zebra, a bull, la negrita Puloy (an Afro-Colombian woman in a red and white polka-dot outfit), the monocuco (a masked and robed figure), el rey momo (the king of Carnaval), and the marimonda. In Colombia, you’ll find magnets, table coasters, wooden masks, wooden pens, placemats, painted shirts, headbands, jewellery, letter openers, jewellery boxes and other hand-made items with these figures on them.
While I’ve given you a taste of some popular artisan goods you’ll find during your travels in Colombia, there are many more handmade goods you’ll want to check out!
Hasta la próxima,
About the author:
“Paige M. Poole is an Alabamian and traveler at heart who has settled, for now, in Barranquilla, Colombia, and earns her living as an English professor at the Instituto de Idiomas (Language Institute) at la Universidad del Norte (University of the North). When not teaching English, she enjoys blogging, traveling, relaxing on the beach, and spending time with her partner and two cats, Milo and Sophie. You can see more of Paige’s traveling experiences in her personal blog www.trotamunda.wordpress.com
- The vueltiao hat and its not-so-flattering imitation (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- La Guajira: A truly off the beaten track destination in Colombia (uncovercolombia.wordpress.com)
- Uncover Colombia with us (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- Bogota’s Flea Markets (www.uncovercolombia.com)