The small town of Belén de Umbría is my home in Colombia. It is a coffee growing town that sits up in the mountains surrounded by a beautiful green landscape and part of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia. The people are very friendly and welcoming and it didn’t take long for me to feel like a local after moving here. I came here to teach English but quickly realized t’s a great place to live.
Belén is a farming community that sits on the side of a mountain. The streets can be very steep. It might be difficult to walk up and down some of the streets, but the views are stunning and at least it keeps me in shape.
Residents of Belén can find almost anything they need in town. There is a hospital, shops selling all kinds of household goods, and some very good schools. Other than coffee, farmers grow plantains, avocado, and some local fruits in the nearby mountains.
The weather in Belén is a bit cooler than many nearby towns because it is at a higher altitude. The mornings are nice and comfortable, the afternoons can get very hot, but once the sun sets behind the mountain, the nights become crisp and cool. The weather can change in an instant. Sometimes clouds roll over the mountains quickly and heavy rains pass through, but they typically don’t last very long.
Life in Belén revolves around the main plaza. Here, you can find several shops, restaurants, bars, clubs, and cafés. Locals love to drink coffee and aguardiente, dance, and listen to music. Music plays loudly past 1am on most nights. On weekends, the plaza is jam packed with people loading up jeeps and coming in from rural areas to go shopping.
On the plaza is a church, Santa Rosa de Lima. It’s not very impressive inside but it’s an important symbol of the town.
One common sight in the plaza is the jeeps with sacks full of coffee beans and plantains packed on top, and people hanging off the sides and back. Jeeps are also used for transportation to more rural areas, and sometimes to other towns.
There are a few smaller plazas in town. One of them has the fireman’s church and a few sculptures in the middle. Another plaza has places to play basketball and football and a playground. It’s in front of one of the biggest schools in town.
Culture is also important to the town. Belén’s small museum is excellent and the Casa de la Cultura often puts on plays, dance performances, and more.
Overall, it’s a great place to live and I feel lucky to have been placed here.