Original: Natalie Berdugo
Traduction: Ana Carolina Tapias
The Sierra Nevada is a paradise located in the Caribbean Coast in Colombia. It is the home of wild species, ancient trees, magnificent beaches and indigenous communities. In the past years, it has become a desired location for people all around the world.
This tourism boom has allowed an economic growth for the nearby communities. Nevertheless, it is no secret that the “Heart of the Earth”, as it is popularly known, is continuously suffering due to the uninterrupted activity of hotel companies, infrastructure projects and activities that damage the environment.
Ten years ago, a group of indigenous people of the Sierra Nevada decided to work together in order to develop projects for the recovery of their sacred lands, the wellness of their community and to find a way of sharing the true indigenous cosmovision, which led to the creation of the Wiwa Foundation and Wiwa Tours travel agency.
The Director of the Foundation, Lorenzo Gill Gill, a member of the wiwa people, is also a poet and a sociology student in Externado University in Bogotá. As leader of the Foundation, he supports sustainable projects for schools and households of wiwa community.
“The Government has never been in the territory. I am a clear example of that. I studied in indigenous territories with really poor academic quality, because no teacher was professional and there’s not educational infrastructure, such as desks and basic things...we create initiative and raise awareness in people. We can’t expect that all the institutions do their job...it is also about the collective social sense; we should concern about society”, says Gill.
The initiative of becoming tour guides of the territory came from the need to give the visitors the right information, and the belief that the best source of that information were the natives themselves. “The foreign companies that came into our territory without permission...gave visitors wrong information about the indigenous concept, of our territory and, most importantly, they didn’t speak about cosmovision”.
Thirty natives were qualified, thanks to an alliance with the National Learning System - SENA, and now belong to Wiwa Tours travel agency. They work as tour guides in popular places among travellers, such as Ciudad Perdida, and transfer the true values of their culture to visitors.
The team is formed by teachers, lawyers and social leaders, with the support of museums and foreigners. They have also organized activities such as photography exhibitions to raise funds, audiovisual workshops for children, household improvement and training, in order to empower communities.
During these days, the Wiwa Foundation is collecting school kits for 30 children of Tucurinca School, who don’t have enough tools for the education they need, like desks, notebooks, books or paper sheets. These items can be taken to Wiwa Tours office in the historic centre of Santa Marta, in Externado University in Bogotá and in Barranquilla.