Guardians of ‘the Heart of the World’
The Arhuaco have chosen to live in their own world, which they believe is ‘the heart of the world’. Their world is a world of dense rainforest, snow-clad mountains, wild rivers, cozy water streams, deserted Caribbean shores and ancient cacao trees, all of which are sacred to them. The Arhuaco tribe is genuinely protective of its cultural and ecological heritage: the vast rainforests of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in northern Colombia, stretching from the snow-clad Pico Simon Bolivar at the northern fingertip of the Andes to the cloud forests on its slopes and down to the deserted Caribbean shoreline of La Lengüete.
To the Arhuaco, the Sierra Nevada is the world’s fragile, beating heart, since the mountains are the source of the enormous rivers that intersect their land, flowing into more than 700 streams in the lowlands. ‘The heart’ also bestows our Earth with breathable air from its vast cloud forests and an outstanding diversity of life. Viewing themselves as ‘the older brothers of the world’, the Arhuaco wholeheartedly believe that it is their responsibility to nourish ‘the heart of the world’ and thereby sustain our Earth’s balance. Dressed in their woven white clothing, always with their charismatic conical hats and beautifully woven mochilas, they gather for days without sleep to contemplate on the status of their land and the world beyond. What an unbelievably heavy and complex burden, they have chosen to carry.
“The Sierra Nevada feeds the whole surrounding area with water, in all four cardinal points – that's why we call it the heart of the world. It's a source of fresh water and fresh air for the whole world – and it’s our responsibility to preserve it and keep it alive”.