Origami Convention, Boyaca, Colombia
2 years, 6 months ago Posted in: Blog 0
Origami Convention, Boyaca, Colombia

During the middle of August I had the good fortune of being a guest at the Second Origami Convention in the State of Boyacá, Colombia. The gathering of approximately 70 folders was organized by Jaime Niño Bernal. Jaime is a mathematics professor in a secondary school near his home town in Chiquinquirá. Here is his website:
The convention took place at the University in Tunja (Universidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica de Colombia), the capital city of Boyacá. Roman Diaz, who was the guest at the previous Boyaca convention suggested that I be asked. Many thanks to both Roman and Jaime for this wonderful opportunity to learn about the many talented designers of origami models in Colombia, and the country which is a great place to visit.

Prior to arriving in Bogota on August 10th I noticed only one comment on the website advertising the convention. It said that I must be a gringo, and the commentator did not like them. I didn’t blame him. Still, it left me with some apprehension about what I might encounter and offer in return. Several hours before boarding a plane for Miami I felt I was losing my voice. I expressed my concerns to my wife Susanne who countered “mine too”; not what I wanted to hear. All my “inquietudes” vanished on arrival in Bogota from Miami. Juan Fernando Aguilera and Maria Mercedes Acosta whisked me away for a two day stay with them in their apartment.

I had met them two months prior during their honeymoon at the OUSA convention in New York! They organized for me a trip the next morning with Alejandro Oliveros, an origami designer and naturalist: Alexander and I had such a good time talking that we forgot to get off a bus that took us through the entire city. We did get off to visit a paper company (Parra Hermanos) that makes 75 gram weight duo paper, 50 by 70 cm in size, and in saturated colors. Jaime had bought packets of this paper cut to different size squares for the convention. It was ideal.

Juan and Maria also introduced me to Jorge Jaramillo, who had been to OUSA conventions in New York while he consulted for Chubb Insurance Company. Jorge took me to the Botanical Garden. While we admired the floral diversity Colombia is famous for, Jorge filled me in on the origami scene in South America. Origami has been organized in Colombia for some time. For example. this year Cali was hosting its 15th annual convention. On a continent scale, The 2nd Latin American Origami Congress was held in Santiago at the end of August: There are a number of very talented origami designers, who are not well known outside of Latin America. Lack of funds prevent them from traveling to conventions, particularly foreign ones outside of South America. Jorge sent me links of some of the most well known designers, some of whom I had heard of:

Daniel Naranjo:
Fabian Correa:
Juan Sebastian Landeta (he just published a book):

Nicolas Gajardo:

That afternoon I gave a talk at the University of Javeriana on conservation, followed by a dinner with folder/designer Andrés Sánchez. The next day I gave another talk at a secondary school where Juan works as a psychologist. By now my voice was shot. Fortunately I didn’t have to say anything during the three hour drive from Bogota to Tunja in Juan and Maria’s car. The province of Boyaca is cattle country and where most of the dairy products are produced in Colombia. In the dark I saw several hours of barbed wire fencing zip by on rolling grasslands. If you hadn’t seen the quiet squares and quaint restaurants of the higher parts of Tunja, you would think the city was under siege from noisy trucks. It took us some time to find the university where I meekly entered an auditorium for the address by the president and Jaime Niño. There I met my friend José Tomas Buitrago, who warned me about “hacer el oso”. The comment’s literal translation is “making the bear”. It means making an embarrassing comment, something I was quite capable of with my second rate Spanish language abilities. After a quick dinner I retired to a corner hotel room overlooking two inclined streets with belching gear grinding trucks. I had four models to teach the next day on less than 4 hours sleep.

Notwithstanding, the first day of the convention was very pleasant. I met Antonio José Vargas who was about to publish his second book on origami designs, and Fabiàn Correa Gómez, mentioned above. Fabiàn not only designs exquisite models, but also makes his own paper (50 by 50 cm) in rich colors. He confided that he had great difficulty making contacts and becoming known outside of Colombia, something perhaps this blog will help.

The folders present at this convention tended to like geometric and ornamental designs that they could display on shelves in their houses. Too bad for them because I don’t do ornamental or many geometric designs. My favorite fold is the crimp that goes “right about there”. By the time everyone had done four of these crimps in my classes, the diversity of results was extraordinary.

On the 14th after only two days of convention, Jaime drove me, José Arley Moreno Ortiz, and Yara Prates to Chiquinquirá, his home town. Chiquinquirá is known for its cathedral. We spent some time trying to find a hotel with vacancies due to the number of devout Catholics who make the pilgrimage to worship here. Jaime said he wanted the third Boyaca convention to take place two years from now in the school next to the cathedral

The following day we spent sight seeing in the picturesque villages of Villa de Leyva and Raquira. I was surprised not to see more foreign tourists in both these towns. Perhaps it was the impression foreigners have of Colombia as being a dangerous place. I have never felt more safe. I was impressed by how friendly and inviting people were. Even the stray dogs were friendly and cared for, something I can’t say for other countries in South America or my country.
I vowed to come back in a few year’s time to enjoy more of some of the best hospitality on the planet.

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