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The Providencian Culture

The Providencian culture stems from a complex mixture of inhabitants who came to the region over a period of three turbulent centuries. Most of today’s native population, which numbers approximately 5,000 people, share a blended ancestry derived from the people who made their homes here over those three centuries – the Mosquito Indian; the English; the Spanish and French, as well as African and Colombian descendants. 

 catalina_home_and_manThe islanders are characteristically described by most visitors as being laid back, unassuming, generous and kind.  Many who travel to this region and get to know the people here find that they develop lifelong friendships.  Upon your arrival, the islanders you meet will encourage you to enjoy the less frenzied pace of life found in this island paradise; to forget about time; and to relax in the calm and inviting atmosphere.  

scools_outIn Old Providence, as in the rest of Colombia, there is freedom of religion, with many houses of worship available to the visitor.  The dominant creeds among the islanders are Catholic, Baptist and Adventist.

The official language of the country is Spanish, but a Puritan Creole English (Caribbean English), is the traditional native language, and is the predominant spoken language.

The traditional music and dances stem from an eclectic mixture of influences, including European, polka, mazurka, and waltz, combined with a strong Afro-Caribbean influence, now mixed with reggae, socca and vallenato.

land_crabThe choice of diet is as varied as the choice of music: seafood appears in all possible meals, especially the rondon, minced fish, fish balls, fish soup and stew crab. This is not the ocean crab most of us are used to. Here they serve land crab, which are the large black beasts seen in abundance all over the island. They burrow deep holes in the mountain, leaving networks of underground passages everywhere.

teh_days_catchOne of the most predominant traditional activities of the natives here is fishing, which is also enjoyed by many tourists.  The locals have taken fishing to the level of a fine art, negotiating the most difficult reefs with equipment that ranges from the simplest of a hand spear to the more complex trapping systems. It is not uncommon to see children free diving the 30 foot reefs for food with a handmade pointed stick. 

The islanders love horseracing, tombolas, carnivals and all the fun and festivity of national and religious holidays. The locals are very enthusiastic about their domino games, which surprisingly draws a large crowd of spectators.  Many visitors find that especially after a big day of diving, there is a surreal pleasure found in standing in the cool evening air, under a street lamp, watching Caribbean men smacking small ivory tiles onto a rickety card table. Surreal, but quintessentially Old Providence.

The residents take great pride in the natural beauty of this island paradise, and are resolute in their determination that it be lovingly cared for and left unchanged. As such, the idea of ‘traditional’ resort development is not a popular concept, in that the people feel strongly that these enchanted islands are best enjoyed exactly as they are.

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