Handbags, new shoes and Monserrate: Navigating a nation’s superstitions

We are terrifyingly close to June now, which means we are terrifyingly close to being half way through 2012 (which, as it turns out, might not be our last year to live after all… who knew?)

I remember New Year’s Eve very clearly, because I posted my 10 Things I Wish I’d Done in Bogotá and now, here I am once again, slowly working through the list (Drunk a spirit-laced coffee in JV? Tick. Avoided drowning in the boating lake in Simon Bolivar park? Tick. But more on those adventures later…)

This long weekend seemed the ideal opportunity to continue doing away with mañana so I persuaded my boyfriend that, while he had Saturday and Sunday to do whatever he pleased, Monday would be the perfect day to continue – with a trip to Simon Bolivar’s old house.

And, while we were so close to Monserrate, we might as well jump into the cable car to the top… and, while we were so close to Plaza Bolivar we might as well have an ajiaco lunch and, we may as well pop into the July 20th museum too. The perfect touristy day.

I was merrily telling two Colombian friends about my plans, when both their faces dropped.

“You’re going to Monserrate?” one ventured, aghast.

“You’re going with your boyfriend?” the other continued sadly.

“You can’t go there with him. It’s a really bad idea.”

It turns out that Colombians, whom I’ve generally found to be as superstitious as I am, believe that couples who visit Monserrate together will break up. I asked a few more friends and universally found this to be the case – not one had dared ascend the church-topped mountain with their husband or boyfriend.

This is hardly as life-governing, though, as the other famous Colombian superstition – that if you put your handbag on the floor “all your money will run away”. We women need to put our handbags on the floor more often that you might think.

A friend once invited me to her office Christmas party, where an older woman approached me. “I remember you coming to the office to have lunch with Andrea once,” she began. “You put your handbag on the floor in her office and I really didn’t know what to do about it.”

That’s something I understand.

I come from a superstitious family who would probably never admit how superstitious they are. My mother once chased me out of the house as a child because I unknowingly brought her some lilac from the garden. New shoes on the table emit shrieks of horror. The dog is taught to chase the universally loathed magpies. My father would never allow my mother to drive a green car. We should all have splinters for the frequency with which we touch wood.

I feel uncomfortable if I go against superstitions, so I don’t. I avoid ladders without thinking and put boxes of new shoes on the floor out of habit. I joke every time I flick spilled salt over my shoulder, but I do it anyway. It hardly governs my life.

You have to be careful though. Superstitions creep up on you.

I didn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable, so I stopped putting my bag on the floor. It meant nothing to me. Now, two years later, I’ve realised it does mean something to me. I have to stick to the damned superstition, because I am the one who feels uncomfortable (I tried on a jacket in an empty shop yesterday and had nowhere to put my bag. I looked around anxiously for a chair before the assistant, equally anxious, took it from me. Ridiculous)

Will my boyfriend and I be ascending Monserrate together tomorrow?

What do you think?

Go with your boyfriend and put your handbag on the floor (Don’t! I’m joking!)


  1. Robero Kilo

    The Monserrate myth is interesting. I went there in 2002 with a GIRLFRIEND and yes, we broke up 2 months later. Then in 2004, I got married to a different woman. WE went up to Monserrate about six months AFTER our marriage. We are still married eight years later and very happy. I had heard this myth before however with a different twist, that it applied be UNMARRIED couples. If this is in fact true, then I am a victim of this demonic curse.

    1. bananaskinflipflops

      One of my friends said something similar too – she believed a visit to Monserrate meant a couple would never marry. She never dared go with her boyfriend, now husband, but said the only reason they don’t go now they are married is laziness. Seems like it all worked out for you though 🙂

  2. lablogotana

    About the superstition – whatever (although I’d heard you break up with *or marry* the partner you go up with, not that you always break up). What shocks me is that you’re planning on getting the cable car! Have you not checked your profile picture recently? 😛

  3. Jorge

    My track record on the Monserrate superstition is 50/50 (or 75/25 against the curse depending on whether you want to tally per visit or per person). I did go to Monserrate with university-years girlfried and we did eventually break up and, of course, never married each other. On the other hand, I went up to Monserrate with the woman to whom I have been happily married for 10 years both ~1y before marrying and after about 3y of marriage. Besides, what is the point of having an excellent and romantic restaurant atop Monserrate if you cannot go with your significant other!

    1. bananaskinflipflops

      True! To be honest, just writing about Monserrate jinxed my day anyway – it’s pouring with rain here so no chance or desire to go anywhere, let alone ascending the mountain… oh well… maybe tomorrow..

  4. uncovercolombia

    Hello there. We actually wrote a biog recently about this same topic. This superstition about Monserrate is actually quite funny because, at the same time, there is a traditional Colombian song that invites you to visit Monserrate with your boyfriend/girlfriend. Name of the song: “Los Cucaracheros”. Extract from the Lyrics: “…El que en Bogotá no ha ido con su novia a Monserrate, no sabe lo que es canela, ni tamal con chocolate….”….
    so, your choice!

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