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Beautiful Colombia

Santa Helen del Opon: Town on Top of the Mountain

 By Judi McLeod  Monday, December 6, 2010

imageThere are plenty of towns straight out of the American Old West in Colombia.  To the rest of the world,  the days of cowboys and horses are found on the silver screen.  Horses and donkeys tethered to posts in front of the general store and local cafes in Colombian towns is an everyday sight. 

But there are dozens of attributes that make none of the towns quite as beautiful as Santa Helena del Opon, and municipal Mayor Alvaro Clavijo Nieves can rhyme off each and every one. 

It’s the crystal rivers and streams, the wine-like mountain air, the flowers and verdant valleys.

It’s the kind of beauty that makes you glad to be able to live there he says.

Bogota Free Planet (BFP) publisher Jorge Pardo begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting was able to show Canada Free Press (CFP) the breathtaking beauty of town-on-the mountain Santa Helena, courtesy of Skype and cell phone pictures, yesterday morning.

Mayor Clavijo is the town’s biggest cheerleader.  Serving out the third year of a three-year term, the cattleman businessman is father to two boys and two girls, Mercy Carolina, Karina Tatiana, Alvaro Javier and Andrey Nixon.
Mayor Clavijo, who is a no-weekends off kind of Mayor with lots to be done,  intends to run again in next December’s election.

There are some who would say that time has forgotten towns like Santa Helena.

To Clavijo, small and out-of-the-way is not only beautiful, it’s pristine and pristine.

Among his myriad agenda of maintenance of school funding and improving housing, one of his prime goals is to expand and improve all roads leading into town, and that’s not even counting the necessary paving and repair of public streets within the town.  The only way (besides helicopter) into Santa Helena del Opon after being let off at the last bus stop is a three-hour ride on the back of a motorcycle.

Touted as “The heart of Santander”, Santa Helena is literally a town on top of the hill, the hill being Colombian’s east mountain range.

It was only in December of 1974 that Santa Helena gained official status as a municipality bring the farmers and townsfolk into one community pulling together.

St. Helena is in the heart of the country’s cattle industry.  A cow and the cacoa bean are the main symbols on the town’s official emblem. 

The tiny town on the hill is home to roughly 4,000 souls and Mayor Clavijo’s life goal is to improve the lifestyle of every one of them.

Julieth Blanco Murillo, lawyer for the government of Santa Helena and the small town of Cachira, interviewed by CFP on Skype through a translator this morning is one of those who comes into the town and leaves it as the passenger on the back of a motorcycle. 

“The first time I came here to work, I was wearing high heels, but no more,” she chuckled.

Fourteen hours one way is a long commute.

Mayor Clavijo, who visited Virginia, USA, once worked in North Carolina planting trees, and considers the state “one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.”

Having seen the outside world, the mayor works tirelessly to make Santa Helena more accessible to the outside world. 

“Everyone who sees our town would want to come back.  There are few places like Santa Helena left anywhere on earth.”

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Judi McLeod  Bio
Judi McLeod Most recent columns

Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years experience in the print media. A former Toronto Sun columnist, she also worked for the Kingston Whig Standard. Her work has appeared on Rush Limbaugh, Newsmax.com, Drudge Report, Foxnews.com, and Glenn Beck.

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