Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Return to El Dorado

Gold is one of the reasons why the Spaniards were drawn to South America. The pre-Columbian inhabitants of the region were renowned goldsmiths and the metal was abundant in the mountains. If you are ever in Bogota, be sure to check out the Gold Museum http://www.banrepcultural.org/gold-museum. The Gold Museum in Cartagena is also very good.

Laguna de Guatavita, a volcanic crater near Sequilé, in the high plains of Cundinamarca in the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes, was reputedly one of the sacred lakes of the Muisca tribe, and is widely thought to be the basis for the legend of El Dorado. According to the legend, this lake is where the Muiscas celebrated a ritual in which the tribal chief, the Zipa (named "El Dorado" by the Conquistadores), would make offerings of gold, silver, and precious stones, covering himself in gold dust and diving into the lake. The lake has been repeatedly combed by treasure-hunters, and a few artefacts of gold and silver have been found, which appear to substantiate the story although mythological quantities have never been discovered. The depths of the crater, however, have never been reached.

In January 2005, as I was riding my bike to gym, I encountered three people walking side by side on the bike path. I swung out to avoid them but swerved too far, hit the street light with my handlebar, and fell off my bike. I was shaken but okay. I picked myself up and kept going. It was not until later that I noticed that my gold wedding band was completely crushed. The ring had taken the impact of the crash and had prevented my finger from being crushed between the handlebar and the street light. The ring was now a narrow oval, just barely the width of my finger bone. At the local hardware store they put my hand into the vice, and carefully tightened it to press the ring open enough to slip it off my finger. I meant to have it repaired, but the crushed ring sat in my jewellery box for weeks. It was then that I knew that my marriage was over. Two months later I separated from my husband.

The ring remained in my jewellery box. Nine years later I am back in Colombia, signing the divorce papers.

It was clear and cold last night. The pre-dawn mist was hanging over the grass and the lake in Parque Simón Bolívar this morning. On the outcropping where I used to practice tai chi, I took the ring from my pocket, stretched back my arm, and threw it as far as I could into the lake. The ring entered the water with barely a splash, sinking to rest forever in the cold depths. It is fitting that the token of my love should be buried there. I lived in Colombia for 23 years, most of my adult life. Part of me will always belong to that country where I lived and loved. As I walked away, the sun was coming up over the mountains and the mist was starting to dissipate.

1 comment:

MidCenturyMike said...

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