The building which functioned in the Spanish colonial era as the Customs House (Casa de la Aduana) for the port of Santa Marta is today a museum (a branch of Bogotá’s famous Museo del Orocontaining objects made of gold, pottery and stone by the region’s inhabitants before the time of Columbus. This house also lets you explore stories of the past and present from this corner of Colombia’s Caribbean region.
This house was from El Libertador Simón Bolívar. The history goes back to 1670, when Pedro Valenzuela donated the lands in a place called Well of the Customs to the vault of Monserrate. In 1800, the Monserrate chaplain sold the property to the main bookkeeper of Santafé tobacco rental, José Antonio Portocarrero.
The new owner built a country house that he arranged to honor the viceroy Antonio Amar y Borbón on his wife’s birthday. The Portocarrero were the owners until June 16, 1820, when the Nueva Granada government granted it to El Libertador as a gesture of gratitude for its services to the cause of independence.
Bolívar was the owner of the quinta for ten years, but he did not live here long.
Five years later, on November 1826, Bolivar returned to Santafé after the campaign and took back the presidency of the republic. Since then, until his last departure in 1830, he lived irregularly in this place, and it became the withdrawal of his constant journeys and the tense political environment.
In 1828, when Bolívar went through critical moments, Manuelita arrived in the quinta. They had met each other years ago in Quito, Ecuador, her home country, and since then a great love has developed between them. Manuelita gave El Libertador and his friends unconditional and passionate support and became their political adviser. Her presence changed the quinta into a place of parties and meetings.
The quinta witnessed the celebration of major events:
– The creation of La Gran Colombia and the end of the Campaign of the South
On January 28, 1830, a few days before Bolivar left the capital, El Libertador transferred the property to his good friend José Ignacio París. While the París family owned it and later, when it was handed over to new owners, the quinta was adjusted to perform various functions. It served as the location for the Santa Ana school, a mental health home, a pita factory – a drink similar to beer – and a tannery.
It made countless changes that meant the partial destruction of the original architecture.
In 1918, the Bogotá Academy of History and Embellishment proposed that the State purchase the property and devote it to a Bolivarian museum. In 1922 the nation became the owner, turned it into a museum and entrusted the administration to the Bogotá Decoration Company. In 1968 the Ministerio de Obras Públicas took over the management of the quinta. In 1975 the quinta was declared a national monument.
In 1991, the national government asked Sociedad de Mejoras y Ornato de Bogotá to restore the quinta. Today the quinta has regained the character and appearance of a country house that had it when El Libertador lived in it.
Architectural restoration and restoration of the quinta
From the moment Bolívar received the quinta as a gift, the house began to be arranged as the residence of the president of the republic. Although El Libertador did not participate much in the design and decoration, he asked vice-president Francisco de Paula Santander to fix it, have a chimney built and apparently draw the plans of the “viewing platform”. Santander made the house habitable and ordered the construction of the Comedor (dining room).
The elegance exercised in this place reflects the French-style architecture and the decorative elements that were recovered after the current restoration (they were modified due to the various interventions the house had suffered). Traces of paintings were found: pistachio green decoration on the inside, and outside, plant-like figures. Representations calling for plant motifs were found in the Gran Salón (Large living room), while in Manuelita’s room geometric figures appeared in the form of repeated patterns. The lost wall painting has been partially reconstructed. Another significant discovery was the Cocina (kitchen) location. Remains of soot, oil, drain pipe, furnaces and a window that served as a source of light and space
Rather than the gold museum in Bogota , wich points out more the historie of the goldmining and the processing of gold , this museum gives a better view about the historical evolution of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the province of Magdalena. In four thematic galleries the Museo del Oro Tairona – Casa de la Aduana invites you to reflect on and talk about the lives and stories of people in the last 2000 years .
The Pre-Hispanic societies gallery
The Pre-Hispanic societies gallery describes the societies that inhabited the Sierra Nevada during the Nahuange (200 to 900 A.D.) and Tairona (900 to 1600 A.D.) Periods: their pottery and their metalwork, the way they lived and how they were buried, their ceremonies and rituals, as revealed by archaeological research.
The People of Magdalena gallery
The People of Magdalena gallery is a journey through present-day Magdalena province and its people. The visitor has an encounter with the Kogui, Wiwa, Wíntukua and Kankuamo indigenous groups of the Sierra Nevada, with the Ettes of the Ariguaní grasslands, and with the river and sea fishermen. It exalts the varied facets of life in Santa Marta, extols the Caiman Man festival in Plato and its Ciénaga Caiman counterpart, and revels in the flavours and wisdom of our cultural diversity.
The Stories from the Casa de la Aduana gallery
In the Stories from the Casa de la Aduana gallery, archaeological digs and searches through historical archives have enabled the biography of this house and aspects of the lives of all those people who have occupied it over the last 300 years to be unearthed. The gallery tells of the foundation of the city, of battles and pirates, of ‘castes’ and social customs, and of the recent times of the port, the railway, bananas, and tourism.
Bolívar was hereis the gallery devoted to Simón Bolivar, the Liberator of six nations, who died in Santa Marta in 1830 and a vigil was kept over him on the second floor of this house. A chronology traces his triumphs and his defeats, his loves and his disenchantments, while numerous voices bring his memory to life.
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