Documenting the Llaneros of Colombia’s Eastern Plains

Hay-Doc releases a documentary on Llaneros.
Hay-Doc releases a documentary on Llaneros.

Talia Osorio Cardona, daughter of film director and producer, Jaime Osorio, has worked hard to forge her audio-visual career in Visual Anthropology. With her partner Francisca Reyes Díaz, she launched Hay-Doc in 2013, a company which produces documentaries supported by sound and which places a high value on the power of visual storytelling.

The company’s first project ‘Enlazando Querencias’, a documentary on the Llanero criollo (traditional cattle herder of the Llano region), is an ambitious project carried out by the two women as they inhabited simultaneously the roles of director, producer, screenwriter, photographer, and sound engineer.

The idea was inspired and based on the research Francisca herself carried out on llanero culture for her final thesis at Los Andes in 2004, and where both women completed an undergraduate degree in Anthropology. Francisca, having grown up in the Llanos, close to the culture in question, facilitated Talia’s entry to the unknown community. However, the project entailed many other challenges. As Talia points out: “We were faced with the task of simultaneously learning to film horses and ride them at the same time.” As their relationship with the subjects of the documentary developed, they were able to teach some of the llaneros to film, which helped solved the issue of filming horseback and a high speed. The result of overcoming these challenges is a vivid documentary which presents a vision of a changing cultural landscape, and one confronting by the arrival of oil drilling, money and increased access to modern commodities.

The full-feature documentary, ‘Enlazando Querencias’ portrays the lives of 40 llaneros criollos as they embark on the immense process of herding thousands of cattle within 30 to 40 days and across wide open plains which often have no clearly-defined man made boundaries. The documentary not only captures this epic process, but also the less dramatic but also inherently connected daily cultural practices of the llanero criollo. Theirs is a world intricately tied to the land, and conformed of deep connections to the skills, which allow them to survive.

The llanero “completo” (as one subject of the documentary elaborates) is the man who knows how to do everything in order to endure in the natural environment, which is both brutal and harsh. These skills are impressive: from creating a horse bridle from scratch (including killing and skinning a cow for the leather), to breaking in wild horses, and herding as many as 40 cattle with no more than a rope, a horse, and some fellow ranchers.

Llaneros refer to three strong identifying visual aspects, strongly symbolic of their work and their relationship to the land: walking barefoot, holding a knife at the belt and donning the traditional llanero hat. Perhaps one of the strongest features of this culture is the llaneros’ relationship to his horse, which is built from necessity, deeply emotional, and at once tender and brutal. Their horses carry a name but are seldom spoilt or caressed. Instead, the llaneros’ attachment is expressed through dutiful physical care and respect.

The arrival of oil drilling, African palm oil and rice cultivation, alongside access to salaries previously unimagined, has led to a transformation of this cul- tural manifestation. Less and less, does the llanero criollo need to rely on his tra- ditional work to survive. On top of this, more and more members of the community are following new dreams and ambitions to live in the city, become a “professionals” and gain access to an education far removed from their parents’. There is also a worrisome rejection of the llanero’s traditional way of life by the younger generation. From Talia’s perspective this type of rejection is a worldwide phenomena: “Increasingly, we are given the message that we should leave behind our own cultural traditions and heritage to embrace one that is not our own.” Enlazando Querencias, not only aims to shine the spotlight on a culture little known in many parts of Colombia, but also aims to reflect back to its own people and an identity to be proud of.

While Talia admits that the documentary transmits a certain degree of nostalgia, she points to the danger of over- romantizing and prematurely relegating cultures to the status of folklore. Unlike the Argentine equivalent, the Gaucho, now mostly a caricatured shadow of its original existence, staged for tourists, the llanero criollo and associated way of life are far from a lost remnant of our past.

Since producing ‘Enlazando Querencias’ Hay-Doc has created a number of documentaries and has diversified its products to include a soon to be released web services. The documentary, ‘Con los Pies en la Tierra’ is currently showing in various Cine Colombia venues.

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