Colombian Women Create Bilingual Folklore Calendar To Celebrate Culture

A calendar rooted in Colombian culture was debuted for 2017, last December. Beginning with the title Aguapaneleando – a popular Colombian drink made from hardened sugar cane juice and boiled water – the bilingual calendar is host to 12 popular Colombia folk stories. Vanessa Andrea Urbina Bermúdez and Maria Angelica Ramirez Barrera spoke with Latina on Friday (June 2) about their shared interest in creating a bilingual calendar that tells a different Colombian folklore tale each month.

The co-creators are both from Colombia, and made the move to the United States while they were still in their teens.

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For Ramirez Barrera, the calendar represents a generational sentiment to be passed down through generations. She begins, “I have a son, and it’s very important for me to pass this information onto him and the generations to come.” The mother then begins to highlight the lack of representation in mainstream culture, “It’s important that they grow up learning about all these fantastic creatures and heroes, these stories of bravery, liberation and some that are just funny. These are amazing stories we don’t often, or ever, hear about in popular culture, so for me, it’s crucial that it’s passed on.”

Urbina Bermúdez expresses the hope that Aguapaneleando will “make people proud of their land and ancestors.” She states, “Colonialism wants us to deny the parts of ourselves that are indigenous or Black. We want our people to be able to learn about the beauty and power they come from.”

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The tales featured throughout the calendar include Urbina Bermúdez’s favorite, María Varilla. She recounts the fandango dancer and domestic worker as a “badass feminist,” due to her activism for women’s rights and domestic laborers. The connection runs as deep as lifestyle representation for the co-creator.

Ella es María Varilla. Personaje histórico de la Costa #Colombiana, cuyo poder la hizo leyenda. #Activista trabajadora del hogar, #bailarina de #porro y #fandango, y #feminista. Ejemplo de #fuerza, #pasión y #dignidad. Que el espíritu de esta inspiradora #mujer camine con nosotros <3 She is Maria Varilla. Historic character from the Colombian Coast, whose power made her a legend. Domestic worker activist, porro and fandango dancer, and feminist. An example of strength, passion and dignity. May the spirit of this inspiring woman walk with us <3 #aguapaneleando #Colombia #folktales #myths #legends #domesticworker #trabajadoradoméstica #strongwomen #mujeresfuertes #mariavarilla #ColombianCoast #CostaColombiana

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“I’m a folkloric dancer, so I have a strong relationship with music and dance, but when I came to the U.S. and started doing activism, I noticed that this wasn’t really connected to the culture So when I learned about María Varilla, a dancer and activist, it was inspiration for me; it showed me that I can do both.”

Illustrator, Ramirez Barrera, chooses popular character and warrior for the wildlife and greenery of the Amazon jungles, Curupira, as her top choice. The mother admits that she thinks stories like Curupira will give modern-day Colombians pride in the resistance that oozes from their heritage and lineage.

The transference of culture doesn’t end there. Ramirez Barrera shares that every element of the illustrations have meaning. Even the flora and fauna detailed are native to the home lands of the tales, while the patterns of the mythic characters’ clothing resonates with the tribe from which their stories are indigenous.

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The calendar also acts as a reminder for the various dates of fiestas populares, which are celebrations for music, regions, fruits and folklore.

While a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, Ramirez Bermuda explains that the calendar is a way for her to travel back to the home that she has been deprived of returning to.

“I haven’t been able to return to my country for 16 years, and I feel there is so much that I have lost, partially taken away from me, like my right to return, my right to savor my food and my right to go back to my family,” she said. “But through this project, learning about myths and legends, through culture, no one is going to take this from me. It’s in me, and that is very powerful.”

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