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Foundation El Batan

Hacienda El Batan is a three hundred-year-old homestead in San Agustin, Colombia. It is a National Historic Landmark of Heritage Architecture located in the Northern Andes of South America.

Finca El Batan is one of the oldest coffee farms in southern Colombia although it is better known for its museum and library. The main focus of the Fundacion El Batan has been to document the prehistoric culture that flourished in this remote highland valley some three thousand years ago. With the help of professional archaeologists, preservation and cataloging of hundreds of priceless artifacts have been performed at the highest academic level. All pieces are registered with the Colombian National Museum and the National University Department of Archaeology.

The museum holdings of about seven hundred pieces span the several classical periods of continuous habitation that was partly contemporary with the great cultures of Mesoamerica and the Incas. For reasons yet unknown, the San Agustin culture was in decline by the time of the Spanish Conquest.

The name, “Finca El Batan” translates to “Farm of the Grinding Stone.” Batan is an archaic Spanish term for the familiar hollowed-out stones used by Native Americans to grind maize, grains, nuts and other foodstuffs. In Central America, the term “matate” is more common today. Many of these stones were found while cultivating the land. When the ancients relocated around the valley over the many centuries, they abandoned their heavy grinding stones and made new ones at their new village sites. The museum collection of these stones now numbers seventy-five.

In 1980 after a five-year restoration of the hacienda was completed, the curators of Museo El Batan were appalled by the wholesale disappearance of cultural treasure and began collecting important pieces to prevent their loss by sales to tourists. Today the museum occupies half the hacienda. In 1995 the valley was recognized by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site and Colombia deemed it Patrimonio de la Humanidad.

The municipality of San Agustin is a community of some thirty thousand people that heavily depend on coffee production for income. Tourism had been a secondary source for sustainability before the insurrection by rebel forces in Colombia caused a decline in visitors. In the past, the El Batan Museum enjoyed some revenues from tourists and was partially funded by its café. It has been used by a number of researchers from Europe and it is a regular destination for students from Colombia’s National University.

This article and photographs have been provided by our resident coffee expert Mr. Robert Barker. Please take the time to read his interesting articles on coffee located on this site.

Mr. Barker has over 35 years of experience in all fields of Commercial and Specialty Coffee. Starting in 1976 as a coffee producer in Colombia, green buyer for several roasting companies, green coffee importer and trader and most recently coffee production consultant and QA manager in Papua, New Guinea. Mr. Barker has contributed essays to trade journals on the subjects of coffee grading, cupping and roasting. He has served for a number of years on the arbitration panel for the Specialty Coffee Association of America and on the cupping panel of The Coffee Review.


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