Indigenous communities:

The Kogui, Wiwa, Arhuaco and Kankuamo indigenous peoples inhabit the Sierra Nevada. In 1973, the Ministry of Interior declared the perimeter of the Sierra as the “black line” symbolically separating the sacred sights of these indigenous groups and it ordered that the sacred ritual sights be respected.

The indigenous villages are generally located along the rivers from the lower areas where cocoa, coffee, plantains and sugar cane is grown all the way to the higher páramo areas where the main crop is potatoes. Some groups have cattle and almost all of them have small herds of sheep from which they get wool for their clothes and to make their distinctive mochilas or shoulder bags.

Peasant farmers:

There is a significant population of peasant farmers dedicated to agriculture inside the protected area mainly in the middle and lower areas of the Sierra.

Wiwa Ethnic Group

The name “Wiwa” comes from the root ‘wi’ which means warm, from the lower warmer lands and also “to beget” or “to give birth to”. They are also known as Sanjá (Sanha or Sanká), which means natives or indigenous people, in opposition to sentalo, foreign or not indigenous. Other denominations are related to Wiwa villages: guamacas (from Guamaka), marocaseros (from Marokaso), arsarios (from El Rosario). The Wiwa are farmers that grow cassava, yams, malanga, plantains, corn, beans, coca and sugar cane for home consumption and coffee to sell.

Illustration by Laura Pérez

Kogui Ethnic Group

The Kogui, directly related to the Tayrona culture, which flourished in the period of the Spanish Conquest, survived thanks to generations of isolation. Their mythology explains that they are the “older brothers” of humanity living in the “center of the world”, and that foreigners or “younger brothers” were banished a long time ago. As punishment for the infractions committed in their native land, the younger brothers must now make the return journey reaping all that they sowed in the form of self-destruction.

Illustration by Laura Pérez

Kankuamo Ethnic Group

From the XIXth century, the Kankuamo people began loosing their cultural values, and their language, thanks to racial segregation and the systematic attempt to incorporate indigenous communities into “civilization”. Even if the language is critically endangered, contemporary populations have been making great efforts to keep it alive along with other cultural traditions of the group. The geographic areas of influence of the Kankuamo are the towns of Atánquez, Chemesquemena, Guatapuri and La Mina.

Illustration by José Mario Betancourt

Arhuaco Ethnic Group

This group inhabits the higher river basins on the western slopes of the Sierra. The snow peaks are considered the center of the world for each of the groups that inhabits the Sierra Nevada. The first humans come from the original groups of the Sierra and are thus considered the “older brothers” while those who arrived later are known as the “younger brothers”. The difference between these two is the knowledge about nature that they have. The “older brothers” are the keepers and protectors of the world and they must ensure that the cosmic cycle continues to develop properly.

Illustration by Andrés Urquina