Paeces Chapels of Tierradentro
The Paeces Chapels of Tierradentro dot the foothills of Colombia’s central mountain range, within the buffer zone of the Tierradentro National Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After the Spaniards arrived in the region in the sixteenth century, the chapels were built to introduce Christianity to the Paeces people. Their construction combined colonial design with local craftsmanship and materials, including adobe, timber, and stone. Of the nine chapels recognized as national heritage, three have been demolished and the remaining six suffer from deterioration and damage. Earthquakes and landslides have threatened the structural stability of the buildings. The loss of knowledge of traditional techniques, as well as the remote location of the chapels, has made them difficult to maintain. The surviving chapels remain an important part of the daily and religious life of the Paeces people. Emergency stabilization, structural reinforcement, and seismic retrofitting are needed in order to preserve the integrity of the chapels and ensure their continued use by local communities. Revitalization of traditional construction and maintenance practices through training initiatives could ensure the survival of the chapels and provide benefits to the local populations. Sustainable tourism initiatives could likewise increase local and national awareness of the historic significance of the chapels, reinforce their cultural value, and provide opportunities for economic growth in the region.
Since the Watch
In March 2013, the chapel of San Andrés de Pisimbalá was burned in an arson fire, which destroyed the roof. According to reports, resources have been allocated for the reconstruction of the chapel, which has suffered from fire and flooding before. December 2013
Watch Day 2012
In the Páez Municipality, children between the ages of 4 and 11 participated in Watch Day art workshops, held at a local school. The kids drew and painted the Paeces Chapels, and took turns expressing what the religious structures mean to them and their communities.