There is a Guajira peninsula in the most northeastern part of Colombia bordering Venezuela. The climate here is arid, with very little rainfall, and it only falls from the sky between September and December. In such an environment, the Wayu people with a history of nearly 4,000 years live.
The Wayu people live in the depths of the Guajira Desert, living on the Rancheria River in Colombia and the Limon River in Venezuela. They are known as “the people of the sun, sand and wind”. They always adhere to the ancient customs, Conveying the spirit of the desert.
The unique geographical location has created the extraordinarily tough character of the Wayu people. When foreign enemies invaded, they also had the courage to resist with weapons and force. After learning how to tame horses and use guns, the brave Wayu people made the invaders even more daunting. It is worth mentioning that the Wayu tribe is one of the few matriarchal tribes in the world.
Colombia’s largest ethnic self-sufficient matriarchal tribe
In 150 AD, in order to escape the harsh environment and find a new home suitable for survival, the Wayu people came to the Guajira area from the Amazon rainforest and the Antilles. After countless generations of hard work and centuries of cultural inheritance, the Huayu people now cover a large desert area in Colombia and Venezuela, occupying an area of about 10,000 square kilometers. They are the largest ethnic group in Colombia and are protected by the government. .
Compared with integrating into the local area, the Wayu people are more willing to live in a small isolated community formed by their “own people”. There are about ten such communities in Colombia and Venezuela, each with its own leaders and common areas, somewhat similar to a village collective today.
In the past, the Wayuu formed such small communities to prevent the mixing of livestock such as cattle, sheep, mules, or crops, but now it is where they live. They call the huts they live in rancherías. The roofs of the huts are made of cacti or palm leaves unique to the Guajira region. The walls are made of mud, sugarcane, and haystacks. Some basic household items are placed in the house. , such as a small fire pit for cooking. The “bedroom” of the Wayuu people is very special. It is just a hammock in the house for sleeping.
Usually, there is a common area in a community: it is supported by a few strong logs, covered with a layer of thatch as a roof. It is a formal venue for entertaining guests or business meetings for the entire community, as well as a preferred venue for social gatherings.
In the Wayu tribe, the status of women is very unusual. They are respected as superior beings and the leaders of the whole Wayu tribe. Among the Wayu, as in many matrilineal clans, it is the women who hold socioeconomic, political, property rights and even child custody. The children of the Wayu nationality only inherit their mother’s surname, and many traditional customs are also passed on through respected women.
Not only that, these women will also record their dreams and try to interpret them with their own understanding. If a woman in the clan can dream of her ancestors, she will be regarded as able to communicate with her ancestors through dreams and become a pivotal existence in the entire clan.
The men of the Wayu nationality are engaged in farming, hunting or planting, and undertake most of the physical labor in life, complementing each other with the women to build a harmonious ethnic group.
Each community of the Wayu people has a fixed leader, usually these leaders are the direct descendants of the previous elders, in order to avoid disputes due to differences of opinion, this leader is usually responsible for major decision-making and has the supreme decision-making power right. The relationship between the leaders of each community is very good. They understand both Spanish and the Wayu language, which is a good communication bridge between the Wayu people and the outside world.
In the barren Guajira Desert, the Wayuu do not have many ways of making a living. In the past, according to different geographical conditions, some communities of the Wayuu people made a living by farming and weaving special handicrafts, and some coastal communities relied on the unique environment to make a living by diving and cultivating pearls.
Today’s Wayu people are also constantly following the progress of the times and seeking more possibilities. They promote tourism, allowing tourists from all over the world to enter the community, and also sell homemade, ornate and beautiful textiles and pottery to improve living conditions. At the same time, they also truly show their unique traditional culture and special festivals to the world.
Unique ancient ritual Yona dance and two funerals
The Wayuu people have their own unique traditions that have been passed down through the years. For every Vayu girl, one of the most important days in their lives, after their first menstrual period, goes through a special ritual: “locking” (el encierro).
The ritual involves bathing, eating a specific diet, and cutting long hair short. At that time, girls will be locked in the house and undergo retreats, which last for as long as a year at the longest. Because the Wayu people believe that only in this state can they meet the baptism of all the customs and traditions of the Wayu culture in the best state.
When they are about to leave the customs, the girls’ mothers or respectable women will tell the girls word by word: “The core of the family, there are grandmothers, mothers, uncles, nephews, and grandchildren, which are symbolized by five fingers. In this way, The Wayu people will never forget their roots. Where there is a family, there is dignity; where there is dignity, there is glory; where there is glory, there is a promise; where there is promise, there is peace.” The Wayu people have respected this tradition from generation to generation .
At the end of the ceremony, people will dance Yonna (also known as Chichamaya) to welcome the girls who have passed through and celebrate their new stage of life. A man who can match a Vayu girl in a lively dance has the potential to win a girl’s heart. But even so, there are still many restrictions if you want to marry a Vayu girl. In addition to needing herds of cattle and sheep, crystal clear bracelets as dowry gifts, more importantly, this man must respect the culture of the Wayu people.
The Yona dance is one of the traditional customs of the Wayu people, and it is not only performed at the end of the wayu girls’ retreat. They also often use this dance to express joy during harvest celebrations, or welcome ceremonies, and when showing respect to someone. For the Wayuu, dancing is not just a means of socializing, but also a special form of gratitude.
The Wayu people still retain some unique ancient rituals. The picture on the top of this page shows the little girls of the Wayu tribe. Their growth process needs to go through the “locking” ceremony; the two small pictures on the bottom show the local old women selling delicious Wayu food, and the Wayu girls and men are dancing cheerfully. Jona dance. The picture on the right page is the cemetery of the Wayuu people.
In addition to the special “coming-of-age ceremony” for girls, the Wayu people will hold a grand ceremony from June 12th to 14th every year to celebrate the Wayu Culture Festival.
The Wayu Cultural Festival is the most representative festival in the whole Wayu culture, and its importance is comparable to that of the Chinese Spring Festival. In this traditional festival, women will use colorful weaving products, special food, melodious percussion music, and traditional dances with local mystery to gather the tribesmen, making it worthwhile for tourists to come here.
In the Wayu culture, where death is equally valued, there are two funerals: one at the time of death and another 15 years after death. In the Wayu people’s view, the first death does not mean an eternal farewell. After 15 years after a person leaves, the soul of this person reaches the gate of the land of the dead, so after 15 years, they will still mourn for the person who passed away. Have a funeral. This may also be the unique romance of the Wayu people. In this way, the dead will live longer in everyone’s memory.
During the daytime funeral, people will watch over the dead person and mourn his passing; during the burial, relatives will shoot the sky, which represents the earth saying goodbye to the dead person. At night, the Wayuu people gather in hammocks to chat, and even chat and laugh and drink coffee, just like a “small party”.
The center of the Wayuu’s hut is the most important, often with the kitchen, where they spend most of their time sharing stories with each other, telling their dreams, and showing off their faces with those around them. In such a jubilant atmosphere, their dishes are also extraordinarily delicious.
Compared with our current cooking methods such as natural gas or electric heating, the Wayu people only choose to create food on burning wood. It is worth mentioning that in the huts of the Wayu people, firewood needs to be kept burning all the time, because this endless flame is synonymous with life in their eyes.
Weaving and pottery wayu culture passed down through generations
If we say that the unique ritual inheritance, food and dance full of love and emotion are the symbols of the Wayu people’s love of life, then weaving techniques and pottery making are the key to passing the Wayu culture from generation to generation.
Vayu girls are taught this important skill from their mothers at a young age. The backpacks they weave are called “susu” by the locals, which means “walk with me”. It is worth mentioning that the Vayu girls put their hopes for life and curiosity about the outside world on the bags in their hands. One package with one pattern, each pattern is their yearning. It is said that among these mysterious patterns, there is an original map, which tells a distant story… In
the Age of Discovery, after the discovery of the New World, the Spanish colonists plundered the Colombian area in an attempt to occupy the territory of the local primitive tribes through war . The Wayu people living in this area suffered greatly, but because of the rugged terrain and harsh environment where they lived, the invaders could not invade the most core holy place of Wayu. At that time, the women of the tribe weaved the most secret map on the Vayu bag skillfully and secretly, but the Spanish never discovered it. As a result, the Wayu people escaped the catastrophe of genocide.
The hands of the Wayuu people seem to have the power to turn decay into magic. They are not only good at weaving bags, but also making all kinds of complicated handicrafts, such as daily fishing nets, blankets, hammocks, etc. In addition to these everyday items, the Wayu hat, used to protect the Wayu from direct sunlight, was an everyday accessory and later even a fashion item.
Of course, the objects weaved are different, and the tools used by the Wayu are not consistent. For small items like bags, Wayu women often use crochet techniques to weave. A bag with Wayu’s characteristics takes about 20 days to make. Hats and hats are made of Mavisa palm fiber and twill weaving technology. Each such hat requires at least 72 1-meter-long threads and 144 45-centimeter threads to make. Larger weaves, such as blankets and hammocks, are made with the help of a simple loom assembled from tree trunks.
Vayu women have a unique weaving technique and are very dexterous with their hands. In the picture on the left page, you can see the versatile items such as hats and bags woven by them; on the right page, there are pottery made by the Wayu people hanging on the wood.
The weaving products, large and small, not only condense the efforts of the Wayu people, but also inherit the Wayu culture and customs.
More importantly, the important weaving skills in the entire Wayu culture are related to the status of women in the whole family. The stronger the weaving skills, the higher the prestige in the whole family. Weaving is more than a hobby in the hearts of the Wayuu, it is part of their cultural heritage. However, the Wayuu will not pass this technology on to other people outside the tribe, but will only teach it to their own family members, which can be described as quite mysterious.
Because it grows in the desert, the Wayu people face the problem of water shortage for a long period of time every year. At this time, Wayu pottery, which can help people store water and ensure the clarity of water resources, is particularly important.
The Wayuu often use two types of clay to make pottery, one is ordinary clay and the other is white stone that softens in water. They use a pair of skillful hands to shape pots, pots, cups, bowls, etc., and put them in the sun for four hours. After the soil is formed, they use smooth stones to polish it to remove impurities on the surface, and finally get what they want. Shaped pottery.
Wayu people always express life with a positive and vivid image color. In order to highlight the characteristics of the Wayu culture, they will engrave various Wayu patterns on the pottery, such as the horns representing the power of the Wayu culture, the spiral representing the way of the Wayu after death, or the road of life. patterns and more.
Such a unique and mysterious paradise bears the hope of hundreds of thousands of Wayyu people for generations. They inherit by themselves and guard the ancient mysterious legends; they break through themselves and seek a better life. The closer you get to the Wayu tribe, the more you can feel the charm of Wayu culture.