Thoughts and Practices of the Wiwa culture.

The Wiwa culture belongs to the Chibcha Linguistic Family. This culture is descendant of the culture “Tayronas” that settled approximately in the first centuries of our era in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, north of Colombia. Since the arrival of the Spaniards, the Wiwa culture has been protected, in part, by the geography of the Sierra Nevada, by mountains far from Western civilization. Currently, there are approximately 13,000 inhabitants divided into three (3) departments in the north of the country, Guajira, Cesar and Magdalena, being the department Cesar the one that covers this culture the most.

The Wiwa culture, as a thousand-year-old culture, with its own language, self-described Damana, is used by approximately 60% of the population in total. Due to its condition and geographical location of the Sierra Nevada, it is the culture that has more contact with the western world, converting the culture of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta that a large part of its population are bilingual or trilingual (Damana, Kogui, Spanish ), and positioned by the Ministry of Culture of Colombia as one of the leagues in danger of extinction

Comunidad indígena descendiente de los tayrona


The Wiwa culture as such, broadly speaking, there are some variants when specifying its particular characteristics by regions, for this, it must be taken into account that culture has had great cultural and geographical changes due to factors such as the time of the arrival of the colonists from the interior of the country to take advantage of the fertile land of the sierra for the “bonanza de la marihuana” and later, such as the cocaine season and the arrival of the groups outside the law, and the Self-Defense of Colombia and the Farc.

Wiwa thinking

Wiwa thinking or like any other thought of each culture, are own and autonomous characteristics that make them a particular way of seeing the world, whether philosophical, religious, individual and collective practices and others such as life after life earthly, the outside, the universe, as well as ethics and morals, as the truth, the own good, and the communal good. There are other types of thought and knowledge such as those related to spirituality-practice, the sacred-place, and nature as the central axis of thought and balance of man.

Niños indígenas wiwa


In the Western world, I specify the “Western” as that culture that is not typical of thought and practices that belong to the Wiwa world, because there is no specificity when defining the “Western” because this culture has its varied characteristics and in some different cases.

With this, I want to differentiate as some characteristic thoughts of the “white” world or the younger brothers (in Wiwa thought), such as those dualistic thinking, good and evil, truth and lies, backwardness and progress, God and the devil, believer and nonbeliever and that this allows us to think a little of the fine line that simply includes or excludes generating certain limits or borders as a result of a construction that is either insulating or inclusive at the same time. Also thoughts such as “private property” linked to capitalism, development and backwardness.

Under these observations, I want to make an analysis about what the Wiwas think as an autonomous culture in their thoughts. It should be noted that in some cases there are some other thoughts that are white or of the younger brothers within the indigenous peoples, in this case, the Wiwas, then we will return to this topic and try to develop.

poporo cultura indigena


To begin and indigenous way, belonging to millenary cultures as it is the Wiwa culture, there are thoughts linked to social practices that in some way give back to nature, and feel that the environment that surrounds this town, is so part of the individual that At the end and end, the medium is what constitutes man to think, to current for the particular benefit and community. There is, as an example, “the payments”, in this practice, where the mamos (spiritual leader) is the medium between the people and the spirituality that in some way, seeks the balance between man and nature, to reach that balance, The mammo is the only authorized and recognized person to carry out the message between the spiritual-natural and the man. The mammo consults the mother (abu) by means of practices taught by the ancestors, and then, it puts the people to deposit their evil thoughts in a file of thought for the evil, then this thought is deposited in a physical matter that then It will be given to the mother and he will give it to the mother (abu) and at the same time, the spiritual will be satisfied. These practices, their purposes will always be for the benefit of the people and nature, for this, those who in their thoughts pick up the bad slopes or what the mammo for the medre consultation gives the indications, will be subjecting the body to be in mourning, tasting little food, or not sleeping frequently, or in what nature surrounds you.

TAll people recognized as Wiwa have to practice this natural law to contribute to balance, accompanied by reflections, where animals, nature come to life and review those stories where those material things were living beings, the same as each one. of us, with weaknesses, strengths, with errors and knowledge. But that in its purpose, we are part of the natural and as brothers, we have to help us. Those stories are intended to make you reflect on the aspect of life that each one has, on the importance of walking on this life and the one that comes (in the Wiwa culture, when a person dies, he takes a spiritual journey). These teachings, while you submit to your body itself to reflect, your mind, your spirit, the mammo transmits the law of origin and gives back to man his pollution of the earth and society.

It is clear that these practices are very millenary, like today’s extinct cultures, such as the “Tayronas”, collected gold to make symbols that represented the spiritual deities, then the mamo dressed in gold to resemble the sun ( mama in kogui) and with that dress, represent the sun. The sun, as a being, is what allows life on earth, because it does not discriminate, as well as warms and gives food to people with good intentions and bad, gives them light to work, and warmth to live. When the Spaniards arrived, these objects that for the culture does not mean wealth, but a spiritual wealth and knowledge, plundered sacrificing many indigenous lives.

Social division for own education

Comunidad indigena wiwa sierra nevada de santa marta


In the collective practices, the Wiwas, at the moment of the own teachings that is through oral-practical education. This is done in the two houses built for men (Unguma) and for women (Ushui). The lessons are taught every weekend after the sun goes down. Children, young men, adults have the obligation to bring each one a rod to make a bonfire in Unguma (ceremonial house of men), there, the eldest and the authorities will teach the whole male community, about the meaning of life, the law of origin, ethics and morals, the behavior of men in the face of society and responsibilities. Unguma is the second house after the family, not to say that it is the most important house, in this place, young people, when they are old enough to marry, celebrate the ceremonies to become “coming of age”. Where the mammo and the authorities will teach them to be a man in front of the Wiwa society and in front of nature. This ceremony is mainly led by the mamos, but is also accompanied by the father, who will also have to do spiritual work, those practices of reflection and consultation with the mother (abu) where all mental, emotional, physical and hereditary illnesses will be cured. . The father, in this process, will bring those spiritual records since the young man was a fetus in the mother, those thoughts of wanting a child, those desires that became that young newly converted man.

In the case of women, and the ceremonial house of women, Ushui, is the second house, where the same ceremonies will be performed as men. In this house men can not enter, and in the same way, women can not enter the ceremonial houses of men, Unguma.

Social organization

This characteristic of social and practical organization is central in each town. For fulfillment of these ceremonies and the law of origin, there must be in each town, a mammo, as the most important person, then there are the Níkumas, who are like governors, who make that the law of origin issued by the mammo is fulfilled , and at the same time, the Níkuma has two or several collaborators called Kabumzhia. Then there is the general town, which includes those people studied (zhinzhoma tuka) “people of leaves”, also found, artisans, builders, growers, etc.

Education concept

Educación indigenas wiwa


For the Wiwa culture, education is done since there is the thought and desire to have a child. You should consult the mother to have children, then, when the child is already in the mother’s womb, you should refuel at the breast to to spiritually heal this new life in being part of the community, you must perform several glue practices mentioned above, for the child born and this is part of the formation of the new person to be part of the family. While the mother, she will have to choose to be what she wants her son to be, so that the child is already training that person from the womb. When he is born, he is made a spiritual record to be part of this world, as long as he is a person and in a human condition, he is a man who contributes to balance. This ceremony will be held with the mammo where he will give a name in honor of his ancestors or in representation of a representation of nature. Then you will have a kind of amulet that will identify the new man on earth. Only with this amulet will be recorded spiritually all the activities of the child until he is of age, where in the ceremony, the mom and dad will reflect the whole life of the child to deliver healthy and clean to the new family that he created.

It is clear that many of the practices may resemble or actually very different from the so-called Western world, but on these practices, many people have died in the influence of the Capuchins in the Sierra Nevada, or those who considered the ceremonial house an issue of prostitution and cataloging of the demon’s house, they were burned.

It is time to reflect on whether these practices are inhuman practices and that they deserve to disappear or that there are some things that we must learn and respect the millenary cultures while not violating human rights.

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Lorenzo Gil
Lorenzo Gil


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