February 25, 2016

The Wayuu culture: A legacy passed down from generation to generation

La Guajira is an extensive territory filled with history, wisdom, and culture. It hosts the largest indigenous group of Colombia, comprising 45% of the department’s population. The Wayuu’s world view permanently interweaves their economic activities, clans, and ancestral culture and comprises a significant part of our country’s history. With the weave of their dreams, handwoven bags, and roofs, they work on a daily basis to strengthen and preserve their traditions and customs.

Since 2012, Cerrejón’s program Strengthening of Wayuu Traditions and Customs has promoted the preservation of cultural practices such as dance, music, sports, and artisanal work typical of their culture by training and supporting indigenous teachers for over 1,000 children and youths from 15 communities in Maicao, Uribia, Albania, Barrancas, Hatonuevo, and Manaure. “It’s very important for us to have these types of programs because they contribute to promoting and preserving our traditions and customs as well as the transmission of knowledge and wisdom from generation to generation. We thus prepare the youngest to fulfil the roles they will have later on in Wayuu society, safeguarding our culture,” stated Joaquín Prince, a program teacher and leader.

Understanding and spreading the knowledge of the lifestyle, beliefs, dreams, and traditions of this community is crucial to preserving this ancestral culture. “In our society, the roles of men and women are completely defined, and they focus on the roles they will play in the community when they are adults. Women are associated with the earth as the protector and creator of life. Men represent Juyá, the rain father. That is why, from the time they are young, we orient them towards what they will be in our culture later,” stated Wayuu teacher Yadira Martínez Epinayú.

In addition, children and youths are working on a pedagogical development model to design and make native musical instruments that can be adapted to the local Institutional Educational Projects. They also held the first Saberes meeting, in which indigenous and non-indigenous people share knowledge and formative wealth. At Cerrejón, we are partners for culture and strengthening the traditions and customs of the communities neighbouring our operations. New generations

“I feel very satisfied and happy with the program. I have learned many things about my culture, such as how to play traditional musical instruments and how to dance the yonna. It is important to continue so we can learn more from our elders.” Adail Darío Moreno Epinayú, a fifth-grade student from the community of Palentu. “I feel very satisfied and proud about all the Wayuu folk dances I have learned in the program. I have been practicing it for four years already, and I want to continue doing it because when I am older I want to be the queen of the Wayuu Culture Festival.” María del Carmen Aguilar, fourth-grade student from the community of Palentu.