VILLA DE LEYVA: HEROES AND ECCENTRICS

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THE PLAZA MAYOR, VILLA DE LEYVA

Founded in 1572, Villa de Leyva is one of those places you roll into, breathe a sigh of relief, hang up the car keys and pull out the hammock. You plan on staying only a couple of nights, and then…”Ooh! Now where did I put those car keys?”…and by the time you’ve found them suddenly a week has flashed by. The town was named after Andres Diaz Venero de Leyva, the first president of the new Kingdom of Granada and from being a retreat for military officers, ministers of the church and high society, Villa de Leyva has blossomed into a tourist resort and a location for holiday homes for the well-heeled of Bogota. A wander in the Saturday market is a feast for the eyes. For anyone craving a croissant, a pain au chocolat, a quiche, or just a decent loaf of bread, in Pasteleria Francesa you uncover the all-important French bakery. Here’s the town in pictures:

Casa Museo de Antonio Ricaurte:

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“DUTY BEFORE LIFE.” ANTONIO RICAURTE WAS BORN IN VILLA DE LEYVA IN 1786. RICAURTE WAS AN ACTIVE REBEL DURING THE INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT AGAINST THE SPANISH REGIME. DURING THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE HE WAS RECRUITED INTO THE ARMY OF NEW GRANADA, UNDER BRIGADIER SIMON BOLIVAR, PARTICIPATING IN SEVERAL BATTLES DURING 1813.
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RICAURTE’S COW-HIDE BED AND A FEW WEAPONS CLOSE TO HAND. IN 1814 A SERIES OF BATTLES OCCURRED BETWEEN THE PATRIOTS AND THE ROYALISTS IN THE VALLEYS OF ARAGUA. DURING THE BATTLE OF SAN MATEO RICAURTE WAS PLACED IN CHARGE OF BOLIVAR’S SAN MATEO ESTATE, WHICH HOUSED A SIGNIFICANT SUPPLY OF AMMUNITION. THE ESTATE WAS OVERRUN BY ROYALISTS TROOPS. SEEING VICTORY IN THE BALANCE RICAURTE DISMISSED HIS TROOPS AND ENTICED THE ENEMY INTO THE MAIN HOUSE, WHERE HE IGNITED SEVERAL BARRELS OF GUNPOWDER, KILLING HIMSELF AND MANY ROYALIST TROOPS. HE WAS 28 YEARS OF AGE WHEN HE DIED, THOUGH THE BATTLE OF SAN MATEO MARKED A GREAT VICTORY IN THE STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE.
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RICAURTE IS THE HEROIC SON OF VILLA DE LEYVA AND IS REMEMBERED IN THE LAST VERSE OF THE COLOMBIAN NATIONAL ANTHEM: “FROM MEN THE RIGHTS NARINO’S PREACHING, THE SOUL OF STRUGGLE WAS PROPHETICALLY TAUGHT. WHEN RICAURTE IN SAN MATEO, IN ATOMS FLYING, ‘DUTY BEFORE LIFE,’ WITH FLAMES HE WROTE”.

Casa Museo de Luis Alberto Acuna:

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LUIS ALBERTO ACUNA (1904-1994) IS SAID TO BE AN ARTIST WITH A LONG HISTORY OF ABUNDANT AND VARIED PRODUCTION. HE IS CELEBRATED AS COLOMBIA’S MOST INFLUENTIAL PAINTER, SCULPTOR AND WRITER. THE HOUSE IN WHICH HE SPENT THE LAST FIFTEEN YEARS OF HIS LIFE IS ON THE PLAZA MAYOR. THE INTERNAL COURTYARD IS A SPACE HE GAVE FREE REIGN TO HIS ECLECTIC WORK.

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The Saturday market:

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WE HAVEN’T CLAPPED EYES ON SUCH A WIDE RANGE OF FRUIT AND VEG FOR A LONG TIME.
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A MEAT ORGY – ARGUABLY THE MOST EXCITING OF ALL THE FOOD STALLS IN THE MARKET.
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SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE. ANYONE FOR A BANANA?…
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…OR A SAUSAGE?
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A CAMPESINO MIGHT LOOK PRETTY TOUGH WHEN HE STEPS DOWN FROM HIS TRUCK, BUT TAKE A CLOSER LOOK…IS THAT A FURRY TIGER BEHIND THE WINDSCREEN…AND A TEDDY BEAR ??

A stroll in the streets:

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THE PLAZA MAYOR. AT 120 METRES BY 120 METRES THIS IS ONE OF THE LARGEST TOWN SQUARES IN THE AMERICAS. FOR FOUR HUNDRED YEARS THE FOUNTAIN IN THE MIDDLE PROVIDED WATER FOR THE TOWN’S PEOPLE. WITH NO TREES YOU FEEL QUITE EXPOSED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PLAZA. IT’S A GREAT SETTING FOR A GUNFIGHT.

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Renacer Guesthouse:

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PARKED IN THE GARDEN OF THE VERY ACCOMMODATING RENACER GUESTHOUSE (www.colombianhighlands.com). WIM (www.losersinalexus.nl) IS TINKERING WITH HIS LEXUS BEFORE HE AND ANJA HEAD FURTHER SOUTH.
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2 thoughts on “VILLA DE LEYVA: HEROES AND ECCENTRICS

    1. Hey, what’s with all the insults? Why the hell did you have to put an .nl on the end of it when all us normal guys put a .com?? I suppose you expect me to put it right, uh?

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