Colombia is one of the countries in Latin America with the highest number of indigenous communities. If we consider statistics, Colombia´s indigenous population (1.2 million) is far from that of Mexico (4.4 million) and Peru (3.2 million) and is closest to Bolivia (1.5 million). Colombia´s indigenous groups are considered to be the least known within the continent.
It wasn´t until the approval of Colombia´s Political Constitution of 1991 when the diversity in ethnicity was recognized in the country, that the indigenous groups were allowed to participate in public duties and were allowed to enter Congress.
Today, Colombia is carrying a serious issue of negligence toward the indigenous groups, and which still needs years of work to be able to come to a solution against marginalization and in favor of social inclusion. The government today is not including in the census the indigenous people that have migrated to the cities in search of a better livelihood.
Nevertheless, Colombia has begun a journey towards the defense of the most representative tribes, and are trying to preserve their cultural aspects, such as the Wayuu, Arhuaco, among others; many of whom we work with and collaborate today on our mochila bags.
The Wayuu Community
The Wayuu people live in the peninsula of La Guajira, one of the northern zones of South America, and represent 20% of the indigenous population in Colombia, taking into consideration that over 50% of their population lives in Venezuela. The Wayuu or Guajiros speak wayuunaiki as their mother tongue and 32% also speak Spanish. Their roots can be found in the towns of Arawak which arrived in the region circa 150 BCE. They practice polygamy and enforce arranged political and economic marriages amongst families.
Amongst the vastest indigenous communities in Colombia are the Pastos (55.739 people), who don´t preserve their original dialects today due to continuous cultural changes. The Pastos were the most numerous communities within the Andean region of Nariño. They were an agrarian society with an earth-focused spirituality. Amongst the main rituals that continue today in the community is the guayusa chapil, a tradition that allows them to maintain more direct contact with mother nature.
The most scattered communities are the Emberá or Chocó. They have been able to preserve a population of over 68.000 in between Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador.
The Emberá in Colombia, live in built parcels along the Curiche river, although many families of the community also inhabit mountainous areas, jungle, and ocean. They have been able to structure their own social organizations centered around hunting and fishing and have preserved their mother tongue: the Waunaan.
Other Indigenous Communities
Although the government of Colombia already recognizes 87 different indigenous groups, the ONIC (National Indigenous Organization of Colombia) states that there are 102 different indigenous groups. In 2005, 1.4 million people were counted, representing 3.5% of the country´s population. Other highlighted groups are the Arhuacos, who have abandoned most of the agricultural jobs for coffee production, the Uitotos or the Amazon populations of Ticuna and Nukak Maku.
Along our journey, you will get to learn about many different indigenous groups that we have had the great opportunity of connecting with to learn more about their culture and trades. All our products are handcrafted by women of these different groups, using different natural resources and techniques, which are predominant to each region. The different communities focus on different areas of agriculture, medicine, goldsmith, and weaving. More to come…