Guardians of the Heart of the Sierra Nevada: The Indigenous Peoples of Santa Marta

Subject: Ethnotourism
December 11, 2023

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a majestic mountain range located on the northern coast of Colombia, is a magical place that harbors cultural treasures and a rich ancestral heritage.

In this article, we will explore the cosmovision, ways of life and cultural heritage of the indigenous people that inhabit this land, preserving millenary knowledge and traditions.

The indigenous peoples of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta maintain a close connection with nature. Their worldview is based on harmony with the environment and an understanding of the interdependence of all living beings. For them, every river, mountain and tree.

Their way of life is governed by respect for their ancestors, their territory and the wisdom passed down from generation to generation. Through rituals, dances and ceremonies, they honor the spirits of nature and seek to maintain a balance between the physical and spiritual worlds.

The ancient Tayrona Indians

The ancient Tayrona Indians were the first inhabitants of the region. This civilization flourished more than a thousand years ago and left an impressive archaeological legacy, including the famous Lost City. His knowledge of agriculture, architecture and astronomy was advanced for his time.

Although the Tayrona civilization no longer exists as such, its legacy has been preserved by the indigenous descendants who inhabit the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta today.

Descendants of the Tayrona

The Koguis: The Koguis are known as the "guardians of the mountain" and consider themselves to be the direct heirs of the Tayrona culture. They live in isolated communities and maintain a simple lifestyle, in profound balance with nature.
The Wiwas: The Wiwas are known for their knowledge of ceramics and weaving. They live in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and are mainly engaged in agriculture and cattle raising.
The Arhuacos: The Arhuacos are experts in water preservation and have a strong connection to the land. They consider the Sierra Nevada to be the heart of the world and their territory is sacred.
The Kankuamos: The Kankuamos are expert connoisseurs of medicinal plants and their wisdom in traditional medicine is respected and valued by their community.

Cultural and Intangible Heritage of Humanity

In 2018, the ancestral knowledge and practices of the four indigenous peoples of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta were declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. This recognition highlights the importance of their cultural legacy and the need to preserve their rich heritage for future generations.

The ancestral knowledge system of the indigenous peoples of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta encompasses a wide range of knowledge in areas such as medicine, astronomy, agriculture, art and spirituality. This knowledge is transmitted orally from parents to children, preserving the essence of their culture and keeping alive the connection with their roots.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is much more than a spectacular landscape; it is home to indigenous communities that carry in their blood the legacy of an ancient culture. Their cosmovision, ways of life and ancestral knowledge invite us to reflect on our relationship with nature and to value the cultural richness that enriches our world.

Respecting and preserving the heritage of the indigenous people of the Sierra Nevada is a commitment we can all make, honoring the treasure they represent in our history and society today.

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