Among nacumas, herbs and mushrooms: Adolfina Medina and Hernán Mendieta

Adolfina’s kitchen smells of cocoa honey and corn wrappers. A long, thick braid hangs down her back. Her voice is sweet and lively. Adolfina is 57 years old and has lived all her life in Nazareth, a small village with colorful houses in western Boyacá.

Since she was a child, Adolfina learned to walk in the bush. With her mother and sister they collected ears, wild mushrooms, which were not well regarded because wild food was synonymous with having low resources and, therefore, of being “a bush animal”, says Adolfina. However, she learned to feed herself this way and also learned to cook, even though she didn’t like it as a child, but now she says it is what she enjoys most. Her knowledge of wild cooking is amazing, Adolfina’s food is a taste of the bush: nacumas, iguacayes, milindres, sápiras. Adolfina’s knowledge safeguards the tradition and biodiversity of her territory. A pampering, tender and kind woman, her cooking bears the particular stamp of the forest. She has five children and none of them live in Nazareth, several left to look for work in the cities. She stayed and met Hernán, her current partner. A younger man than her, serene, not very talkative and very studious, an intellectual of the countryside. His presence in the mushroom courses, within the framework of the project of the Tourist Routes through the Forests and Peace, has been very important. With a leisurely gait and attentive eyes, Hernán Mendieta discovers small mushrooms with ease and takes note of them in his jealously guarded field notebook.

Today Adolfina and Hernán dream of making some changes to their farm house to turn it into a place for lodging and a restaurant. They have laid out walking trails, built a wood-burning oven, despite having a gas stove, and fixed up some rooms. They still need to fix a few things, but they are convinced that little by little tourism will become a sustainable livelihood in the long term.

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