I took this photo while exploring Uribia, a small city in the La Guajira department of Colombia. Stacked high in the bowl on the woman’s head are "Cocadas," sugary coconut treats. We chatted about life, shared some laughs, I bought some coconut and then she meandered down the street. It’s these small uplifting interactions that take my mind off the bigger problems that surround us.
Upon arrival to Uribia, you’ll see a sign welcoming you to the “Capital Indigena de Colombia,” which means the Indigenous Capital of Colombia. I was excited to be in a city with a strong indigenous presence, something I had yearned to experience in Colombia as it added such richness to my time in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. I’m not going to front, I had a very different -somewhat naive- picture of the city. What I saw instead was the eye-opening realities of many indigenous folks worldwide; a serious lack of infrastructure, there was garbage everywhere, crumbling roads, and buildings half standing. The contrasting opulence of the museums and government buildings in Bogotá and Medellín came to mind. Yet seeing this actually didn’t surprise me, after all, these are the modern day symptoms of years of colonial history followed by violent civil wars and the uneven development of a globalizing world.
The Wuyúu people of the Department of La Guajira were in a permanent state of war with the Spanish in the 1700s. Their resourcefulness aided their resistance; they were the only indigenous group in Colombia to learn how to use firearms and horses. After the rebellion was defeated they were forced onto reservations. The similarities in treatment of indigenous people worldwide are shocking. Of course, feelings of resentment and negligence of Department of La Gaujira has persisted to modern times. Today, the Wayúu represent roughly 20% of Colombia’s total Indigenous population and 48% of the population in the Department. Unemployment in La Guajira was running at 47% in 2015, 300% higher than the national average in Colombia. Continued in comments...