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Wayuu People

The Wayuu People

The Wayuu are an indigenous group located in the Guajira Península in Northern Colombia. There are also many members of this community that live in Venezuela, but for the Wayuu, the Guajira is a single place without borders. The Wayuu language, or Goajiro (Wayuu: wayuunaiki), is spoken by an estimated 305,000 indigenous Wayuu people.

The Wayuu maintain and defend their origin and connection to the Guajiro territory through their oral and ancestral traditions. They consider themselves children of Ma’leiwa (Supreme Being), Mma (the Earth) and Juya (he who rains), among other supernatural beings. The Wayuu had contact with the Spanish conquistadors from very early times. However, due to their isolation in the Guajira Peninsula they were able to avoid being subject to Spanish rule (but not Colombian and Venezuelan governments at the end of the 19th century).

The Wayuu have managed to stay unaffected by outside influences and kept the essence of their culture alive and still practice the same customs and rituals.  Today, Wayuu people still live in the same way they were living before the Europeans ever reached the Americas.  For instance, Wayuu live in small settlements called ‘rancherias’, made up of five or six houses.  These Rancherias are kept isolated from one another to prevent the mixing of goat herds.

The Wayuu People have traditionally subsisted thanks to grazing, hunting, fishing and agriculture in places where the arid climate of the Guajira permits. However, the subjugation of the Wayuu has resulted in a significant loss of land used for agriculture and other economic activities. Because of this, many Wayuu have been forced to live in shelters and have seen their ancestral territory reduced due to mining.

The Wayuu are considered one of the largest indigenous groups in Colombia, totaling about 20% of the indigenous population of Colombia. The Wayuu’s are organized into Mother clans and not their fathers. This means that the children of a couple must be raised by the mothers family. Actually, the women of this community are in charge of educating and transmitting the ancestral culture to their children using their native language.