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Muzo Emeralds

Muzo is a vibrant town located in Boyaca, Colombia. Muzo is known for its beautiful emeralds, and its economy thrives from this industry. Back in the day, the Aztec and Inca peoples used emeralds in trade, ornamental and religious purposes and the Muzo mines were in use for about 500 years before the Spaniards settlers came. Though initially seeking gold, they fell in love with the emeralds and began exploiting the land to bring back the riches to the court. The emeralds were sold by the Spaniards to England who would bring them back to the court, and to the Portuguese who would bring them back to one of their colonies in India.

Growing up in Colombia, I remember associating emeralds with conflict, violence, poor and unregulated working conditions, and for Colombians emeralds were a cursed stone. However, a lot has changed in the past three decades, with government intervention and locals wanting lasting peace. Rafael Romero, a miner that built his wealth in Muzo, made a monument at the top of a mountain that reads " PAZ DIOS VE TODO" ("Peace God Sees everything) and this monument commemorates the beginning of peace for Muzo and so a renaissance began. It's been 30 years since and, with the community actively working towards safety, peace, and harmony, Muzo has become a peaceful and thriving town filled with a beautiful youthful community that loves to play sports, dance, and socialize. I could sense this in the air during my visit. In Colombia, not many people talk or know about Muzo, and so I was expecting to find a desolate sleepy town, inhabited by miners and their families. I found something else. My visit was such a treat. Of course, without disregarding the realities of adversity that small towns face in Colombia, but despite it all I saw tranquility, safety, and joy.

Mining is a labor-intensive, hard, and not very well remunerated job. But it's the main economic source in Muzo, therefore it's what people have known to do for generations and what they will continue to do. The cocoa industry has started to pick up and big cocoa exports are going to Switzerland, and I was very happy to learn that, but the biggest industry is still emerald mining. I would love to see the mining industry be more rewarding to its workers, and with my work, I will strive towards that. 



We source our Emeralds from Guaqueros. Guaqueros are independent, operate on their own and are not associated with a mine, and I sympathize with the hard work they do. They are called Guaqueros because they find emeralds by the banks of Quebrada Las Animas (Las Animas Stream), or El Rio Minero (Miners River), where corporate mines dispose the rock and gravel dug out from the mines. Many precious emeralds end up here, believe it or not, despite dozens of eyes trying to spot them out back at the mines. Guaqueros seize this opportunity to open up pits and find treasures. It's no easy fit, and not every day is a lucky one, but when they find one stone, it can feed the whole family for a month or two. It's rewarding in that sense, and the reason why they keep coming back. 

Guaqueros often form alliances with family members or friends to perform the entire operation, because it requires many processes to open up the pits, and when one emerald is found, they split the earnings. Although this may seem like a simple operation, Muzo is blessed with a lot of rain, and this rain comes at a cost when torrents of water come flowing down the mountain and the pits that have taken them days to dig, get completely covered up. They have to start all over again. Guaqueros work under heat, humidity, and sun, and it's a very physical strenuous job, but they prefer to operate independently because It's less risky than working inside a mine, and when they find a stone, they earn more than if they were working at a mine. They also operate at their own schedule, allowing them more flexibility. 

One of the things I gathered from locals during my visit is that they would like to have a medical point close to the stream. Currently, they have none. They would also love to see updated technology in schools, so their kids can learn up to speed. I believe that if we are benefiting from the natural resources from a place, we must give back to their communities in some way, and I dream of creating a foundation that serves the community in Muzo. Updated technology for schools, subsidized lunches and a medical facility for adults working by the stream is my starting goal. Although I could also donate funds, I dream of my own foundation, so I can see all the moving pieces. 



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