By Ovidio Castro Medina
San José del Guaviare (Colombia), Oct 18 (EFE).- Hidden behind years of conflict, the natural beauty of the Colombian department of Guaviare has finally come back to surface, attracting tourists to the area and giving the region an opportunity to recover from the violence.
From its fascinating biodiversity, majestic waterfalls, crystal clear water wells and colorful rivers, it is hard to imagine the area was once a danger zone dominated by the largest rebel group in Colombia, the Revolutionary Armed Forces, known as the FARC.
But after the Colombian government signed a peace treaty with the FARC in 2016, local residents finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel and started pushing for the development of tourism.
Peace in the region attracted businessmen like César Arredondo, who had moved to Bogota during the conflict, to return to Guaviare and support the tourism project.
“Guaviare lived through difficult times because of the conflict but the situation has changed a lot since peace was signed. Before people were ashamed to say they were from Guaviare because they thought they were related to the guerrillas but now it is different, people are saying without fear that they are from Guaviare,” Arredondo told Efe.
According to Arrendondo, the southern central region experienced three waves of “wealth,” none of which brought any good to the people nor its reputation.
The first was the cultivation of marijuana, next the hunting of wild animals to be exported to Europe for fashion and finally, the cultivation of cocaine.
Abraham Daza is a 70-year-old farmer who came to Guaviare 40 years ago in search of better opportunities.
But despite the fact that Las Delicias waterfall, today a popular tourist attraction, is located on his farm, he was never able to make use of its beauty.
“I planted coca, just a little, because it was the only way to earn some money to live on. You couldn’t have cattle because they were stolen and the yucca and avocado crops were lost because you couldn’t sell them, and when you could, they paid very badly,” Daza said.
Today, Daza charges tourists 10,000 pesos (US$2.7) each to visit the waterfall and plans on opening up a restaurant and camping area on his farm.
“Tourism is something that has allowed us to have other sources of income and that is why I am not going back to planting coca, which only brings harm,” he says.
Guaviare has some 40 tourist spots, among them the Serranía de la Lindosa with its millenary cave paintings, the Puerta de Orión, the Las Delicias waterfall and the Ciudad de Piedra. EFE