I was not born in Villa de Leyva, but I’ve been coming since I was very young. Perhaps when I was days of birth. Ever since, especially during my childhood and youth, the town was preserved in a state that could be called in ruins, but still standing ruins.
Those ruins were constructions made by the Europeans who came to America. They founded this population and built with the systems they had learned from the Muslim states, during Spain’s occupation for over 800 years. From them they took not only the construction system with adobe, but the stepped wall that we know, and that later was derived in the bahareque here in Colombia. But specially they brought and taught to make the brick and the tile to native Americans who weren’t familiar with them.
The Europeans built towns of great architectural value with Spanish tradition. Curiously, the centers of the great Colombian cities founded in the sixteenth century, such as Bogotá, Tunja and other towns near Villa de Leyva such as Chiquinquirá, were built with those systems.
Later came the tourist colonization of Villa de Leyva, and although General Rojas Pinilla in the year ’53 or ’58, decreed Villa de Leyva as a protected national monument so that there was no such destruction, the law was never applied. Then little by little they started destroying it, and currently Villa de Leyva has very few or no buildings like the ones I’m talking about, which were the originals of the main frame of the Plaza Mayor and some surrounding blocks.
As this destruction came, I was very sorry to see how these houses came to the ground, by the hands of new owners who began to buy and turn the village into what it is today. There are no longer peasant houses, built by them with their few economic resources, made with adobe or earth, the material that is their own, which is what we are. We are earth, water, we need air and we also need fire. But the four elements, raw, uncooked construction systems.
With the proximity of Villa de Leyva to Ráquira, which means village of potters, from remote times, previous to the Spanish colonization, the inhabitants of these valleys, survived making pieces of clay, such as pots, plates, pans. They are small pieces of “terracotta”, which means cooked earth, passed by fire, so that it resists water and the passage of time.