Jericó is a place that's not yet in the guide books. It's a small rural town in Antioquia province about a four hour bus journey from Medellin. Arriving in the town on a Sunday afternoon you are greeted with local life playing out in full swing. The main square buzzing with a celebratory atmosphere from the small Sunday market and street food stalls.
The resturants, bars and cafes lining the square were all full with life as the locals took a day off to unwind and socialise while the visitors from surrounding areas stop by to soak up the town's laid back atmosphere. It was a refreshing welcome after the bussle of Medellin. Spending five days taking in the town gave me time to meet the local characters and admire the surrounding countryside, although I could have easily stayed much longer.
Walking around Jericó you can sense the pride that the people take in their town, from the friendly atmosphere to the colourful streets. An agreement among the residents is that all of the buildings should painted at least two or three colours, with each household taking part and maintaining their own buildings. Walking the streets, it is as if the personalities of the residents are painted on their houses.
After weaving through the streets and arriving at the town's plaza you'll likely be greeted by the friendly locals that are hanging out in the shade and the curious cowboys that have rode in from their rincos (farms).
Although the town has a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, Jericó is a town well known among Colombians for its hand made leather bag called a "Carriel", which you can see the men proudly wearing below.
The town's second claim to fame is that it is the brith palce of Colombia's first saint, Sister Laura Montoya. You'll find her portraits proudly hanging in the homes, restaurants, bars and cafes all over town, giving religion a presence around the town, with 17 churches for the town's 8000 residents.
Evenings in the town are relaxed. Shops close down after sunset, with just a few cafes and bars remaining open later into the evening. Walking through the town at night you can not help but stop by at "Tango ... y algo mas" for a beer. You can hear the bar before you can see it. The friendly owner, Edgar Garcias, is a huge fan of the Argentinian musician Carlos Gardel and proudly plays his music all-day for the whole street to enjoy.
Once the final cafes and bars empty the locals fill up the plaza one last time to enjoy the last few street snacks that are still available before going home.
After five days in the town you start to contemplate its future. I had learned from a local student that a south-african company is set to start drilling the suronding hills for copper within the next two years against the wishes of the town. The activism of the town, which is present in the anti-mining billboards at the entrance to the town and the small flags "no to mining, yes to our water" hanging above the residents doorways, was silenced by the Colombian government's passing of a law that prevents the town from having a say in the mining.
I also wondered if the town will face any pressure from tourism. There was the 'first' hostal being set up in the town and new roads being built (which I suspect is primarily to allow the transport of heavy machinery and copper) that will make it easier for tourists to visit the town. It will be interesting to see how the town navigates these potential changes.