A wooden house, surrounded by dogs, cats, turkeys and chickens, is built near a cocoa plantation and a garden of heliconias. Its owner, Luz Mery González, is the sister of Norberto and Cristóbal; these three brothers, who live in western Boyacá, today rely on community ecotourism as a livelihood.
Luz Mery is the oldest of the three; she is 55 years old. At the age of 18 she had to move to Bogotá because of displacement, due to the tensions and violence in her territory at the end of the century. She lived there for more than thirty years, always with the idea of returning to Otanche. A few years ago she managed to return and, on land left to her by her father in the Vereda Altazor, she built her house with her own hands, with the same hands with which she weaves iraca and plastic baskets, plants cocoa and paints the cocoa trees with drawings of birds of the Serranía de las Quinchas. Luz Mery is an artisan, farmer, cook, empirical architect: her hands know how to recreate the magic of the world.
Cristóbal is 45 years old and has known the farm’s trades since he was a child -as he says-, he has dedicated his whole life to farm work. Today he is mainly dedicated to the cultivation of cocoa. He knows about cocoa clones and their characteristics, he talks about the aromas and flavors with joy and ease and about the importance of taking advantage of all the parts of the plant. There is no road to his farm, you have to walk 1 hour in the bush to get there, of course there is no electricity; only Cristóbal, the cocoa trees and the immense biodiversity that surrounds him. He dreams of his house becoming a place for tourists and tastings of the cocoa he grows. He says that in the 1990s the economy was centered on timber exploitation until coca crops arrived; he sawed timber and then planted coca, “passing economies” – as he calls them – that never left long-term income, only fallen forest. In mid-2015 came cocoa, which “when you have it well tended is a very grateful crop”. Then came the idea of tourism. Friendly, smiling and eloquent, Cristóbal is the synthesis of what his territory has experienced. Now he finds in agroecological cocoa, conservation and ecotourism a more lasting opportunity.
Norberto is the youngest of the three. With a similar background to his older brother, today Norberto is one of the most active participants in the tourism project. He is training to be a guide and refers to himself as a “biodiversity guide.” Knowledgeable about trees because of his former job as a sawyer, today he is dedicated to talking about trees, “their shapes, their behavior, if they are food for some species.” A former hunter, he knows the forest, its paths, its animals, its mystery and says that “as a farmer, what you need is a certificate”. Now he is very interested in birds, he can name several and would like to have a camera and binoculars to birdwatch. He also likes extreme sports and speaks enthusiastically about community tourism because he sees an opportunity for many to benefit, not just him. Norberto is a young spirit who brings momentum to the community and reminds us of the value of knowing the bush and all its inhabitants.