"Wayuu" redirects here.
For other uses, see Wayuu (disambiguation).
|Regions with significant populations|
|Related ethnic groups|
Two major rivers flow through this mostly harsh environment: the Rancheria River in Colombia and the El Limón River in Venezuela representing the main source of water, along with artificial ponds designed to hold rain water during the rain season.
The territory has equatorial weather seasons: a rainy season from September to December, which they call Juyapu; a dry season, known by them as Jemial, from December to April; a second rainy season called Iwa from April to May; and a long second dry season from May to September.
Although the Wayuu were never subjugated by the Spanish, the two groups were in a more or less permanent state of war.
There were rebellions in 1701 (when they destroyed a Capuchin mission), 1727 (when more than 2,000 natives attacked the Spanish), 1741, 1757, 1761 and 1768.
In 1718, Governor Soto de Herrera called them "barbarians, horse thieves, worthy of death, without God, without law and without a king".
Of all the Indigenous peoples in the territory of Colombia, they were unique in having learned the use of firearms and horses.
In 1769, the Spanish captured 22 Wayuus in order to put them to work building the fortifications of Cartagena.
The reaction of the natives was unexpected.
On May 2, 1769, at El Rincón, near Río de la Hacha, they set their village afire, burning the church and two Spaniards who had taken refuge in it.
They also captured the priest.
The Spanish immediately dispatched an expedition from El Rincón to capture the Wayuu.
This force was led by José Antonio de Sierra, a mestizo who had also headed the party that captured the 22 Guajiro.
They recognized him and forced his party to take refuge in the house of the curate, which they then set afire.
Sierra and eight of his men were killed.
This success was soon known in other Guajiro areas, and more men joined the revolt.
According to Messía, at the peak there were 20,000 Wayuu under arms.
Many had firearms acquired from English and Dutch smugglers, sometimes even from the Spanish.
These enabled the rebels to take nearly all the settlements of the region, which they burned.
According to the authorities, more than 100 Spaniards were killed and many others taken prisoner.
Many cattle were also taken by the rebels.
The Spaniards who could took refuge in Río de la Hacha and sent urgent messages to Maracaibo, Valle de Upar, Santa Marta and Cartagena.
Cartagena sent 100 troops.
The rebels themselves were not unified.
Sierra's relatives among the Wayuu took up arms against the rebels to avenge his death.
The two groups of natives fought at La Soledad.
That and the arrival of Spanish reinforcements caused the rebellion to fade, but not before the Guajiro had regained much territory.
The friars then created the orphanages for Wayuu children beginning with the La Sierrita orphanage, built in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains in 1903, followed by the San Antonio orphanage, located by the Calancala River, in 1910, and the Nazareth orphanage in the Serrania de Macuira mountains in 1913, creating a direct influence over the Rancherias of Guarrachal, El Pájaro, Carazúa, Guaraguao, Murumana, Garra patamana and Karraipía, with Nazareth exerting some control over the rancherias of Taroa, Maguaipa, Guaseipá and Alpanapause.
The friars constantly visited the settlements inviting the Wayuu to attend mass.
Wayuu children in the orphanage were educated with traditional European customs.
Conflicts between the Wayuu people and the Colombian government decreased since then.
According to a 1997 census in Colombia, the Wayuu population numbered approximately 144,003 – representing 20% of Colombia's total Amerindian population and 48% of the population of the Department of La Guajira.
The Wayuu occupy a total area of 4,171 square miles (10,800 km) within approximately ten Indian reservations, eight of which are located south of the Department (including a major one called Carraipia).
In Venezuela, the Wayuu population is estimated at 293,777, according to the 2001 census, with some 60,000 living in the city of Maracaibo.
This makes the Wayuu the largest indigenous group in Venezuela, representing 57.5% of the Amerindian population.
Wayuu communities are not uniformly distributed within these territories, as their population is concentrated primarily in the outskirts of such settlements as Nazareth and Jala'ala, on the plains of Wopu'muin and Uribia, and within the municipalities of Maicao and Manaure, where population densities are some of the highest in the peninsula.
This irregular distribution is intimately related to seasonal changes in weather – during the dry season, a significant proportion of the population crosses the border into Venezuela to work in the city of Maracaibo and its nearby settlements; once the rainy season begins, these Wayuu tend to return to their homes on the Colombian side.
The Wayuu people refer to themselves simply as "Wayuu" and do not acknowledge the term "Indian", preferring instead the term "people".
They use the terms Kusina or "Indian" to refer to other ethnic indigenous groups, while using the term Alijuna (essentially meaning "the one who damages") to refer to outsiders or persons of European ancestry.
Families in the Wayuu culture are divided into clans, some of which are:
Jasauwo´u Kanakantui Matuwolu´u Sipano´u Ushuwo´u watchulepu Wolu´u Watkasainru´u Polumolu´u Shooliyuu-kanejeruu
|Sour with something
Land of the beach Intercalated Forgotten Land of si´iya Land of pans Away from the pulp round object Inside the heart of the Wolunka house Axe on the ground Hideouts
where sleepiness is felt
|Close to the eyes
For the birds
Aralietu´u Uraichein Mekijanao
to herd Little "curarire" Eyes without head
|Beware of the Axe
On top of the land
Arrive at the sea
Chawaisu Anuapa´a Pusichipa´a Kaijawou´u Sekuolu´u Uchaispa´a Pulashu´ulia Soulawo´u
|All come together
One on top of the other When it turns into a boat When it turns into a bat The teeth of our eyes Coming here Going there I have more power than you The one that saws
My eyes are of sticks
There are small differences in dialect within the region of La Guajira: the northern, central or southern zones.
Most of the younger generation speak Spanish fluently but understand the importance of preserving their traditional language.
To promote cultural integration and bilingual education among Wayuus and other Colombians, the Kamusuchiwo'u Ethno-educative Center, or Centro Etnoeducativo Kamusuchiwo'u, started an initiative to create the first illustrated Wayuunaiki-Spanish, Spanish-Wayuunaiki dictionary.
Religion and society
Music and dances
Traditional Wayuu music is closely tied to economy and social life.
For example, they sing to their cattle.
They also use music for meetings and celebrations, as well as mourning rituals during funerals.
La Yonna is a traditional dance use to honor guests.
Girls are taught a dance that is at the heart of the Majayura, the ritual passage of the "young Wayuu virgin."
She must dance in a courtship dance (baile de cortejo) with prospective suitors.
With her head covered and wearing a fabric shawl and dress, the girl dances forward with small steps and arms outstretched, swooping like a bird, within a circle made up of people from the village.
The male dances backward before her, coming close and yielding as they circle around, until he finally falls to the ground.
The adult men play traditional drums and musical instruments in their ring around the dancers.
If a male is respected in his clan and accepted, he must pay a dowry to the girl's mother and male relatives.
This used to be in the form of goats and sheep for the support of the clan.
Traditional musical instruments include kashi, sawawa (a type of flute), ma'asi, totoy and the taliraai (tubular flute), wootoroyoi (a type of clarinet), among others.
Wayuu artisan industry
Wayuu women learn how to weave at a very early age.
The Wayuu are descendants of the Caribs and Arawak peoples, largely known for their strong weaving tradition.
The Wayuu carry on this traditional weaving.
It is said the Wayuu learned to weave thanks to .
This spider would create magical pieces using thread from her mouth.
She is the one that taught all Wayuu women to crochet, crocheting hammocks to sleep in, belts for men, shoes, bracelets and Wayuu bags of all different sizes and crochet methods to be used for different purposes.
Today, the skill of crocheting has become the main source of income for the Wayuu community.
Traditionally, Wayuu bags were not as bright and colorful as they are now.
Cotton used to be able to grow in the region of La Guajira .
They were dyed using plants and elements of the natural surrounding, thus took on shades of brown, red and other natural hues.
Today, there is a common misconception that Wayuu bags are made of cotton.
But all crochet pieces from the Wayuu community are made of acrylic threads from companies like Miratex, providing bright hues that won't wash out easily with time as opposed to natural fibers.
Weaving and crocheting make up a large part of their daily life, especially for women.
Most of the women presently weave or will do it at some point through their lives.
The men participate in the industry as well; they make the straps, provide the materials, and transport the goods to the city centers.
The tribe produces millions of high-quality artisan products every year.
This artisan weaving industry plays a vital role in the local economy, and the people are known most for the mochila Wayuu or Wayuu Bag.
Today, Wayuu bags are the most exported handicraft in all of Colombia.
The Wayuu have resented the way that foreigners have profited more from their work than do the artisans.
Representation in other media
- The feature film Pájaros de verano (Birds of Passage, 2019) is set on the Guajira peninsula and among the Wayuu in the 1970s. Directed by Cristina Gallegos and Ciro Guerra, it stars José Acosta and Carmiña Martínez. In addition, many non-actor Wayuu are included in the film, which is primarily in the Wayuu language. It explores the disruption of traditional clan culture after members of the tribe enter the drug trade, and are affected by great wealth and violence.
- The film "la Buena Vida " by the German filmmaker Jens Schanze  is about the forced displacement of Wayuu people from the town of Tamaquito. The Swiss-based company Glencore with its Colombian subsidiary el Cerrejon needs their land for coal-mining.
Notable Wayúu people
- Noeli Pocaterra Indigenous leader and social - political activist. Coordinator of National Council of Indigenous Peoples of Venezuela (CONIVE)
- Patricia Velásquez (b. 1971), actress/model and founder of the Wayúu Tayá Foundation
- Lido Pimienta, musician/artist and winner of the 2017 Polaris Music Prize. Pimienta is of mixed Afro-Colombian and Wayúu descent
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayuu people.