The Day of the Cotton-Top brings together a community in a day of celebrating the little monkey that shares their Colombian forest home.
By Joyce Wang, WCN Program Manager
I’ll never forget the moment I first glimpsed the vivid black-and-white colors of a cotton-top tamarin in the Ceibal forest of Colombia. Together with my co-worker Kelly (and both of our dads!) I had the privilege of traveling to Colombia and Proyecto Tití, which works to save the cotton-top, this year. We visited forest sites to see cotton-top tamarins in the wild and also got to check out PT’s community programs, which include education and women’s employment. It was so inspiring to see conservation work in action!
Day of the Cotton-top
At the end of our week, it was time for the 2013 Day of the Cotton-top, a Colombian national holiday. We arrived in the town of Los Limites, a center of PT’s work, at 8am and the 90-degree sun was already blazing as buses from nearby schools dropped off excited kids, who ran past groups of local moms making fresh arepas to sell for lunch.
The hot, tropical August day was packed full of pageants, costume contests, music, dancing, and food — and the entire town of Los Limites showed up to celebrate! The spirit in the air was so festive, especially during the dancing and costume contests. Everyone from babies to adults strutted their stuff on stage, competing for the prize of best costume made from recycled materials. Each contestant also explained how their costume delivered a conservation message and why it is important to conserve the forest and the cotton-tops. Colombians are really proud of their national heritage!
My most vivid memory of the day was during a sudden rainstorm that came out of nowhere around 2pm. As buckets of rain started pouring down, a mad scramble began to cover everything with tarps and find shelter. I ducked into the nearby Proyecto Tití office about a block away. A few minutes later, I decided to look for my dad. I stepped outside and there he was — soaking wet, dancing alone in the middle of the road, waving a towel in circles above his head — singing, “I’m the only one in the street!” What a sight! All of the Los Limites folks and kids got a huge kick out of this crazy American guy dancing in the rain, and everyone was in stitches laughing. Thinking about it still makes me smile!
The Day of the Cotton-Top ended with some fun (and very competitive!) relay races. The winning families took home GIANT gift baskets – which took two people to carry – full of food, supplies, and toys.
Supporting Communities for Conservation
Proyecto Tití really makes a big effort to support and give back to the community because these local families are such a critical part of conservation efforts. In return it’s clear that these communities have begun to understand the real value of the nearby forests and wildlife — and that’s what grassroots conservation is all about.
Image: Joyce and Kelly of WCN meet Nelson Alvarez (age 15), one of the Tití Leaders in the Tití Clubs program for students. Nelson spent weeks making a WCN sign out of papier mache and wrote us a long letter about how much he loves conserving cotton-tops and appreciates WCN’s support of PT.