Polinizaciones began in 2007, with many expectations for its purpose to support the development of independent media and training in media for Wayuu youth in the city of Riohacha in La Guajira, Colombia, that organized as a result of the violence in Bahia Portete in 2004. Since then we've returned many times to La Guajira, accompanied by different people and groups from the Wayuu community. A diversity of experiences have taught us a lot along our flight path as pollinators, and with time have helped us improve our work of sharing, learning, articulating and strengthening diverse experiences of territorial defense through art, culture, communication, and play.
On this visit we wanted to return to a community in the south of La Guajira that we were able to visit once a few years back, but due to threats against community members who are speaking out against coal mining, we couldn't visit them this time around. Being able to return will have to wait. On this occasion we were able to meet with the organization Yanama and get to know their work a little more, which has a long history of developing bilingual and intercultural education (Spanish-Wayunnaiki) for the Wayuu children and youth throughout the department of La Guajira. The Yanama Indigenous Organization of La Guajira was founded in 1975 with the idea of collectively building a political, social, educational, and cultural model that would awaken and promote the development of indigenous communities in the department of La Guajira.
In the field of education, Yanama designed and implemented its Bilingual Intercultural Education program in the 1980s, one of the first examples in the country of building and implementing educational processes relevant to indigenous peoples. Today, with their Training Plan for teachers and traditional authorities, they are working on strengthening pedagogy and facilitation in the classroom, with these fundamental areas: research, autonomous pedagogy, and Wayuu culture and language. Yanama also works in the area of Communications within the Wayuu and the Intercultural context, and were part of the first Wayuu Communications School along with Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu (Strength of the Wayuu Women), along with other organizations that make up the Pütchimaajana Communication Network of the Wayuu People.
This time we were able to visit the Indigenous Boarding School Akua´ipa in the town of Albania, which is led by Yanama. This school was built by the mega coal mine of Cerrejón, and supposedly should have certain infrastructure as an educational center, but although the teachers and administration of the high school do the best work they can, it is a constant struggle to get the company to help with things like transportation or food, and currently the school doesn't have internet. We did a presentation with the 11th grade students and shared the Mesoamérica Resiste graphics and also briefly the True Cost of Coal. Since the school has Wayuu students from all over La Guajira, and is close to the railroad line that exports coal, the great majority of students know very well the problems that come with coal mining, and also related to other concepts in the graphics like the tourism scene.
Although they all listened attentively to the explanation of the graphics, some were inspired to speak up and eloquently share their own experiences, about how they are living these realities in their own territory. During the workshop many students helped us learn the names of some of the animals in Wayuunaiki, for example: erü is dog, musa is cat, puulikü is donkey, uyaala is deer, and we already knew that jeyuu is ant and wunuu’ain is bee.
Some things happen when they are ready to happen. We've been pollinating and getting to know La Guajira for years, and although people from all over the world come to this territory specifically to go to places like el Cabo de la Vela, las salinas de Manaure, el Santuario de Flamencos y la Serranía de Macuira, we had never really taken the time or found the right moment to visit these places, which are sacred sites and not just tourist destinations. Well, finally, this time around we had the opportunity to visit el Cabo de la Vela. More well known as Jepira, el Cabo de la Vela according to Wayuu cosmovision is where the spirits of the dead travel, to go to what awaits humans after death. Jepira is “the house of the Wayuu dead.” 25 or 30 years ago, Jepira wasn't a tourist attraction. No one from away came there, few Wayuu families lived there, there wasn't fresh water and the few people who lived there lived off of their goats and fishing. Even the people from the clans that this land belongs to, most of them lived in Bahía Portete, since there was work there loading and unloading the ships that brought and took away goods, especially in the neoliberal economic opening of the 1990s.
Nowadays el Cabo de la Vela is a big tourist attraction in La Guajira that is being overrun by huge numbers of tourists, who often times care little about how this place, with its own culture and sensitive ecosystem, might be harmed by their presence. This place has become a tourist destination for all kinds of people, Wayuu and non-Wayuu, and many people who aren't from there have arrived to open hotels and businesses. Since Jepira is part of the Wayuu territory, it is land that belongs to certain clans and families, and these territorial rights are not only stepped on by other people who want to generate their own income, but are completely ignored by hotel owners and public functionaries who promote big tourism development in these zones and carry out the forced displacement of indigenous communities. A great number of people are bringing in a lot of trash to these vulnerable zones, make lots of noise, have to bring in all the water that they consume, and their presence destroys the habitats of animals and plants as well as increases erosion of the soil.
During our stay in Jepira, we had the privilege of staying at the Utta Rancheria, a hotel run by a family from one of the original clans of Jepira. The Utta Rancheria is the result of years of work and effort to create an alternative of ethno-tourism, guided by the voices of the elders that mark the path. Utta is a completely indigenous project, everyone who works there is native and conserves their language, culture, and customs. In the whole area of Utta and in the tours they offer visitors, they ask that you respect rules such as: no throwing trash, and take trash with you when you can; don't buy or consume local animal products, especially ones that are in danger of extinction, like the sea turtle; and don't camp in the hills above Kaimachi (Pilón de Azúcar), the Lojou (ojo de agua) and the lighthouse that are scared sites and sensitive ecosystems.
One wouldn't think that showing the Mesoamérica Resiste banners with their strong critiques of tourism in a space full of tourists would be the most appropriate thing to do, but with the permission of our friends from Utta, we risked it. The result was really wonderful, talking to a mix of people from all over who were visiting this important land, along with the original inhabitants of this land listening, sharing, valuing and supporting the work. Everyone had a lot of sensitivity and reflected together on the themes, and it generated really interesting conversation that kept us all up talking late into the night.
La Guajira is a large territory of a people, a nation, the Wayuu, however the diversity of people, experiences, ecosystems, and landscapes make it so that each time we wunuu’ain (bees) visit this area, we leave with new experiences and knowledge, reflections and transformations. As always, the time is too short and we leave with the promise to return and share more with all of our friends that we've made in this territory on this visit and other visits. It's been seven years now since we little bees began these travels, and the Wayuu people, this land, and its non-human inhabitants, keep being an inspiration for us pollinators. Until next time.