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102 Indigenous Communities of Colombia


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These are just a few of the 102 indigenous communities that make up Colombia’s cultural tapestry. Credit: Luis Ospino/Colombia One

Colombia, with its ethnic and cultural diversity, is home to 102 indigenous communities, true cultural treasures which often go unnoticed. Ayuda en Accion, a non-governmental organization committed to the well-being of these communities, believes it is vital to make their cultural richness, and the challenges they face, more widely known.

The recognition of Colombia’s ethnic diversity and the participation of indigenous communities in the country’s public and political life was formalized with the ratification of the Political Constitution of Colombia in 1991. However, despite these legal advances, indigenous communities in Colombia are still marginalized and continue to struggle for full social inclusion.

Colombia faces three fundamental challenges in relation to indigenous communities

Cultural Exchange: Striking a balance between total integration and the recognition, respect, and defense of the ethnic and cultural diversity of these communities.

Access to Services: Services are often focused on urban areas, leaving rural communities in need of support under-served.

Violence and Exploitation: Indigenous communities face violence, looting, and exploitation by illegal armed groups, exacerbated by the lack of state control in their territories.

Additionally, calculating the indigenous population in Colombia is a challenge, as many indigenous people who migrate to cities in search of better opportunities are not included in official figures. Censuses tend to underestimate the size of indigenous populations, supporting the thesis of “ladinization,” which refers to the process of assimilation of an indigenous person into the dominant culture.

The defense of indigenous communities in Colombia

Colombia has embarked on a journey to defend its most representative indigenous communities, striving to preserve the cultural aspects of the Wayu, Arhuaco, Embera, and many others. Below is a brief description of some of these communities:

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Wayuu Woman. Credit: Mario Carvajal/Wikipedia/CC BY 2.0

Wayu: The Wayu are a community that mainly inhabits the La Guajira region in northern Colombia. They are known for their craftsmanship, especially their colorful weavings and backpacks. Wayu culture is based on oral tradition and respect for nature.

Arhuaco: The Arhuaco are part of the Kogi peoples’ family, descendants of the ancient Tairona civilization. They live in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and are considered “The Guardians of the Earth.” Their worldview revolves around harmony with nature and spirituality.

Embera: The Embera are a community primarily located in the Choco region. They are known for their skill in basketry and canoe crafting. Their culture is deeply rooted in their relationship with rivers and the jungle.

Nasa: The Nasa, also known as Paeces, originate from Cauca and Valle del Cauca. They are recognized for their constant struggle for land and social justice. Their culture is rich in traditions, dances, and music.

Yukpa: The Yukpa are an indigenous community located in the La Guajira region. They are known for their deep connection to the land and strong spirituality.

These are just a few of the 102 indigenous communities that make up Colombia’s cultural tapestry. Each of them contributes its unique identity and traditions to the nation’s cultural richness. The preservation and respect of these communities are essential for Colombia’s cultural and ethnic diversity. Ayuda en Accion, along with other efforts, works tirelessly to ensure a better and more inclusive future for these indigenous communities, protecting their rights and cultural heritage.

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