Happy International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

Posted on 09/08/2013


indigenous peoples day 2013

(photo from: http://www.une-sen.org/press/?p=1166)

So, to be honest, I had no idea that this day existed. BUT, I am so very glad that it does. A lot of the time, we forget to recognize the amazing diversity, history, and traditions of the indigenous groups around the world. And, some of us may even forget that these groups of people still exist, because we are so removed from their presence.

According to IWGIA, there are approximately 87 indigenous groups currently living within the boundaries of Colombia who speak approximately 65 languages (Banco de la República).

photo 1(mural recognizing the Wayuu tribe in the Uribia, la Guajira)

Here on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia (where I live), I’ve come into contact with two indigenous groups: the Wayuu and the Arhuaco. These are two of the largest indigenous groups in Colombia, and also happen to be some of the most widely recognized, especially the Wayuu.

In honor of the International Day for the World’s Indigenous Peoples, I’d like to share with you all 3 interesting facts about each one of these two coastal indigenous groups.

The Wayuu

  • The Wayuu were one of the few indigenous groups in Colombia who were never ruled nor conquered by the Spanish, even though they battled constantly.
  • The Wayuu make up THE largest indigenous group in Colombia, owing in part to their ability to stave off being conquered by the Spaniards.
  • They are famous all over Colombia for their beautiful mochilas–hand-woven crossbody bags.

photo 2(Wayuu mochilas)

The Arhuacos

  • The Arhuacos are an extremely peaceful indigenous group–they not only value peace with other humans, but also between humans and nature.
  • The name “Arhuaco” comes from a term the Spaniards used to describe all peaceful indigenous groups they encountered in the New World (i.e. Latin America). Nowadays, it’s used specifically for this Colombian group of indigenous people living in the Sierra Nevada, but before it was used to refer to indigenous groups as far away as Guiana and the Dutch Antilles (“La Mochila Arhuaca”).
  • The Arhuacos consider the Sierra Nevada of Colombia (the highest coastal mountain range in the world), the center of the universe (Parques Naturales Nacionales de Colombia).

photo(Arhuacos walking in Palomino, la Guajira)


Banco de la República:  http://www.banrepcultural.org/blaavirtual/antropologia/lengua/clas2.htm

IWGIA: http://www.iwgia.org/regions/latin-america/colombia

Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia:  http://www.parquesnacionales.gov.co/PNN/portel/libreria/php/decide.php?patron=01.170501

“La Mochila Arhuaca”:  http://www.lamochilaarhuaca.com/2010/11/15/qui%C3%A9nes-son-los-arhuacos/

Posted in: Colombia