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SALT

COLOMBIA

SALT

The perfect complement to a summer tomato, the first step to getting splattered olive oil out of your freshly pressed shorts and the reason why our monthly paycheck is called a salary. What I did not know is that cathedrals could be carved out of it…

The Catedral De Sal is often called a must-see by guide books and locals alike so we decided to give it a look. It is situated about an hour away from Bogotá, if you don’t hit mid-morning traffic like we did, in which case it takes about 2 and a half. But we were happy we did because the story seemed incredible…

It has always been common for miners of salt, as well as of other spices, to build small chapels or alters somewhere in the mine so that the workers may pray for their safe day and return, and from what we know of tragedies due to shaft collapses, the request doesn’t seem unreasonable. These particular Colombians, however, felt that they could do more to all but guarantee that their toil would be watched over by their guardian angel, the patron saint of miners, Our Lady of Rosary.

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And so, during their free time, they endeavored to design and build the 14 stations of the cross in stunning carved metaphors within the halls of the gigantic salt mine, the largest of its kind in the country. Stunning to me in particular because, perhaps coming from a set of prejudices unknown to me until this moment, I did not think of miners as creative types. My apologies are sincere because the interpretations of each step, and misstep, of Jesus’ stroll up to Golgotha absolutely blew me away, just look…

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After such an effort of mind, spirit and muscle, let me reiterate in their free time, it was decided that this was no act of mere worship but most certainly a suggestion from above that there should exist, 160 meters below the ground, a place of communion, a place of peace, a place reminding all that enter that we are, indeed, very small. And so, for the next 3 years and this time with the help of architects and engineers, those same miners built the Catedral De Salt…

Now, I am not a believer, not in anything… There are those few things I know, and those I do not know, which are most things, with no room left in between for magic. I do know this though: the people who carved millions of tons of rock out of the mountain were doing work that would be impossible to spring from ego alone, from pride or satisfaction alone, these people were animated by a fervor, like their Spanish cousins before them, that was larger than them, and us, as you can plainly see in a the main nave…

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These people, if you pardon me for a second, were worth their salt…

And peppered throughout, there’s no guessing who you might meet, a new angel…

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…or a frozen waterfall of salt…

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Most unfortunately, the only regret we felt upon exciting our 4-hour visit of subterranean holiness was pretty major, the guided tour was terrible. So unhelpful at synthesizing and analyzing the information and wonder before us were our appointed nannies that they actually managed to diminish the place, if that is possible. They repeated what was written on plaques all over, with few details about the men and women who wished and fulfilled the heretofore impossible, it was such a disappointment! if you find yourself there, I highly recommend you wander, getting somewhat lost among the labyrinthine alleys and finding yourself at the foot of a cross, any cross to witness inspiration of the purest kind. However, if you find yourself at the mall, you have walked too far. That’s right, adding insult to mild injury, the people in charge have thought it most efficient to strike when the knees are weakest and put a veritable mall all the way down into the shafts, literally, a tourist trap…

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We even took that longer, salt mine tour, on which we expected to be regaled with details of salt refinery but it was all mostly walking in the dark and pickaxing…

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We did get to take home whatever we could carved out of the mountain so High Blood Pressure Win! Ok, it wasn’t all bad, peeing in a mine is pretty cool…

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And of course, when you let my kids loose in such a place of peace, reflection and spirituality, you’re bound to eventually find this around a corner…

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All in all, a wonderful, if tiring, experience. Go it alone and imagine what it must have been like…

1 Comment Leave a reply

  1. Gary
    Permalink to comment#

    Stunning!!!

    Reply

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