After hearing rave reviews from my coworkers, Seth and I finally decided to spend a Saturday visiting Bogotá’s Museo del Oro (the Gold Museum). Located in the city’s historic center at the intersection of Carrera 5 and Calle 16, the museum displays the world’s largest collection of pre-Hispanic gold work. It contains close to 34,000 gold pieces, plus 20,000 bone, stone, ceramic, and textile articles belonging to 13 Pre-Hispanic societies: Tumaco, Nariño, Cauca, Calima, San Agustín, Tierradentro, Tolima, Quimbaya, Muisca, Urabá and Chocó, Malagana, Zenú, and Tairona. It was a unique experience to visit a museum that houses a permanent indigenous exhibition. It certainly embodies the sense of pride Colombians have in their country’s history.
Unlike some cities in the United States, Bogotá seems to think of museums more as educational institutions than as tourist destinations. Most are free on Saturdays, Sundays, or both, which makes it possible for families to spend at least an entire day together enjoying their city. (Meanwhile, Seattle’s Art Museum offers free admission one day a month—on a Thursday, when most people are working—and I think Philadelphia’s Art Museum is free to the public only one day a year—on International Museum Day.) I appreciate the investment, as I believe it contributes to a more knowledgeable and civic-minded population. It also promotes a collective ownership of culture and memory, one that its citizens feel obligated to protect and preserve.
After our tour of the museum, we walked along Avenida Jimenez and grabbed a quick bite to eat: chicharrón and jugo de mandarina (fried pork rinds and mandarine juice). Served in a paper bag with chunks of ground corn dough and fried plantains, the greasy, salty snack paired perfectly with the fresh, sweet juice.