Living in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta leads us to discover the cosmovision of the ancestral cultures that inhabit and protect it.

Did you know that four different but related indigenous peoples live on the hills of Sierra Nevada? The Arhuacos (or Ikas), the Wiwa, the Kogis and the Kankuamos. They are descendants of the ancient Tayronas of pre-colonial times and together, they number more than 30,000 people.

Although the visits to the lands where they live are restricted in order to preserve the environmental and cultural integrity (and they are not easily accessible), during the last days two Mamos (spiritual authorities of indigenous peoples) visit us in our home in Minca, giving us the opportunity to learn a little about them.

Keep reading to enjoy an introduction to the fascinating way of understanding the world that this ancestral culture has.

“Here are the representations of all the contents of the Universe so that, we can connect spiritually and maintain the balance of all beings in nature”.

Representative of the Kogi people

For them, the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta (SNSM), which they call Gonawindúa, is considered the heart of the world. And not surprisingly, since it’s the highest mountainous system rising from the sea, and has all the thermal floors you can find in the world, from the warm dry to the perpetual snows over 5.700 meters. Not to mention the infinite biodiversity it has: is home to 35.5% of Colombia’s bird species and 7% of the world’s.

In fact, Mamos tell us that here are the fathers and mothers of all life we know today and we live in a time when the planet has already seen five mass extinctions and because of its characteristics, the SNSM has always been the rebirth and origin of the life.

The four native peoples of the SNSM live with the cultural duty to care and heal nature based on the principles of the Ley de Origen. The knowledge of this Law to regulate the order and function of the territory and natural systems but also the form of social, political, economic and cultural organization of their people, is found in the same ancestral territory (which they call Sénenuglan) and it’s bounded by the Línea Negra.

“In every sacred space, in the sound of the breeze, in the birdsong, in the water, in the animals, in the lands, with their arrangement and interconnections” they can read and listen to the spirits of all forms of life and from there they constitute their vision of the world.

Within the space of the Black Line, the territory is woven together by invisible threads that interconnect the sacred sites of SNSM. These spaces in turn are used to thank mother earth for all that she gives and the most common way of doing these rituals is through the pagamentos.

As they explain, the pagamentos are based on the fact that everything that exists in nature had an origin first in spirit and there everything that we see today existed as a person and when the materialization of the world took place they were organized as we see them today but in the world of (an invisible but present state) they continue to be people. Then, in order to keep balance and harmony in the world, communication with them must be maintained.

The native peoples who inhabit the SNSM are currently going through a moment marked by external threats such as mining megaprojects (whether legal or illegal) and poorly managed tourism. These threats have been occurring and evolving in different ways since colonial times, but it is time to put a permanent end to them for the preservation of the ancestral territory and the cultures that care for and protect it.

Finally, if you are interested in the subject and want to know more, I share some organizations that work for the wellbeing and defense of these communities: Organización Gonawindúa Tayrona (OGT), The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), and the Amazon Conservation Team.