Public Land On Display

Photo by: USAID Colombia Land and Rural Development

How strengthening the capacity of local officials to formalize land opens doors to investment and rural development.

Originally appeared on Exposure.


The small town of Puerto Santander anxiously awaited the installation of its first sewage system when city workers unearthed quite the surprise. Calcified human bones, ceramic shards, and urns turned up in a layer of sediment less than a meter below the surface. It turns out the town, which borders the Ariari River in Meta, sits on land that was once a burial ground for the ancient Guayupe people.

Following the discovery, residents began digging up their yards, yielding fascinating pieces like bowls, tools, and funeral urns with ornate designs depicting bats with human characteristics. At first, they stored all these pieces in a room behind the police station. Eventually, they converted this room into a makeshift museum. But due to humidity and a lack of protection, some of the pieces began falling apart.

Oscar Ortiz, who lives in the area, began to worry about losing what up until that point was arguably the most important archeological discovery in the region of Meta.

In 2001, the Fuentedeoro municipal government spent its own money to convert the police stand into a small museum. However, the land on which the police station stands had never been formalized, and this lack of a registered property title made it difficult for the municipality to mobilize funds from regional and national government agencies to invest in the museum.