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”.
The Arhuaco are indeed the older and wiser brothers on Earth and we are honored to stand up with them and empower them on their chosen path.
To the Arhuaco, the world is inhabited by spirits and natural balance is achieved by respecting the guardian spirits through ritual offerings, songs, meditations and everyday deeds. Such ceremonial customs – and wisdom – have been passed down for many generations of Mamos, their spiritual leaders. Each tree embodies a spirit – something to respect, something sacred, something to take from and give back to, a mother or father, a guardian. So to the Arhuaco, every act – such as to cut or plant a tree – affects the health of the heart and all that flows from it. If they ever have to cut a tree, the Arhuaco plant a new one – and they never cut a tree nearby a spring.
The Arhuaco live peacefully together with two other tribes in the ‘heart of the world’, the Kogi and the Wiva, with whom they share the guardians’ responsibility. The tribes are descendants of the great Tairona civilization, famous for their gold work and architecture.
“Our guardianship means that we on our part – and the Kogi and the Wiwa on their part – have to protect the environment and recuperate it where it has been destroyed. Therefore we follow the callings of our Mamos. The Mamos meet regularly to supervise the ongoing activities and changes in our lifestyle, so we can realize things we are failing on just in time. To change the world, the Mamos meet on sacred places to get in contact with the spirits, where they are able to reflect on their actions in front of the universe.”