Big Picture: United by Mochilas and a Sacred Mountain


Photo by: Fransisco Duque

In April, the National Council of Cultural Heritage (CNPC) announced that the Ancestral knowledge of the Koguí, Wiwa, Arhuaco and Kankuamo peoples of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta will be included in the country’s official list of Intangible Cultural Patrimony. “It was a work supported by the Ministry of Culture that now unites a large part of the community of four indigenous tribes that inhabit the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Gathering these four indigenous communities […] reffirms the importance of valuing and preserving the immaterial cultural diversity of the country,” said the minister.

Cayetano Torres, a member of the Arhuaco tribe and coordinator of the special plan for safeguarding the Ancestral Knowledge System of the towns of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, claims there are 100,000 indigenous people living in this mountainous region of the country. “This recognition ensures the positioning and continuity of our indigenous ways of thinking in a pluralistic society,” said Torres.

The elaboration of the plan for special safeguarding was organized by the village councillors of the Sierra Nevada, the Directorate of Heritage of the Ministry of Culture and received the support of the spiritual leaders – mamos – as well as the elected majors of four towns. Some 600 people participated in the project to safeguard the ancestral ways, knowledge of the natural world, and oral traditions of the peoples who inhabit the highest coastal mountain in the world.

In this picture, two Arhuacos from the community of Dunawa, César, sit enjoying a moment of mambeo – the traditional act of chewing coca leaves – united by their mochilas in the shadow of a sacred mountain.