Seconded By: Ioannis Galanopoulos Papavasileiou,
For over ten thousand years, in the suburban and marginal areas, between Colombia and Venezuela, it survives the indigenous Wayúu tribe, the soul of the desert. Today this population is crippled by hunger and it has been undergoing a silent extinction in institutional indifference. About 45% of the department of Guajira is considered indigenous territory. In this difficult, dry and fiery land, the rain hardly ever falls and the few water sources have been contaminated by the multinationals companies of the mining industry. The State has facilitated the exploitation of the territory considering it necessary for the economic development of the area.
But the reality is another. The population of Guajira has been confined, stripped, displaced, threatened, intimidated, deceived and evicted under the promise of “development”. The only thing left is a humanitarian crisis due to lack of water, food sovereignty and environmental contamination
I tell the story of the exemplary struggle of some indigenous women environmental activists and leaders who, despite the death threats and terrorist attacks received because of their fight, they continue to denounce the violation of human rights and the slow death that mining extractivism has caused in their territory.
I decided to show you in this selection the powerful gazes of these woman, however the wide editing of this work includes a complete glimpse into the guajiros realities, from a deeper understanding of their cosmo vision with rituals and dances to social and family life in an indigenous territory shared with a toxic and dangerous neighbor.
The mining activity of Cerrejón is irreparably affecting the life of the nearby communities who have been breathing for more than 20 years the carbon that remains in the air and which is deposited in their lungs and who use and drink the waters of the contaminated rivers.
Those, as well as, the streams, lagoons, and in general the water sources of the middle and lower Guajira, have been intervened and affected by the company Cerrejón in order to allow the mining advance and, thus, maintain and/or increase the level of coal production.
For the Wayúu indigenous people, water represents an axis of gravity, it is the navel of their social fabric.
Their spirituality, harvests, rituals, deities, dreams and culture are connected with water under a strong bond that they have valued and protected from ancient times. In the midst of this relationship, the woman emerges as the one in charge of connecting the human and the spiritual, they are the bridge through which communication flows between the water deities and the community. The Wayúu have placed immense trust in this connection, on which their protection, the harmony of the territory and the ability to build their future are based. In this sense, affecting, destroying or appropriating water means ripping out the heart of an entire culture from within and it is a direct attack against the Wayúu woman.
portrait of Yulibeth who lives in the Provincial s reserve in front of the Patilla s dump with the entire family who is affected by the mine s contamination Her sister lost a baby at nine months due to a pneumonia Her second child is now under treatment for chronic asthma Yulibet 20 year s old suffering from a rare skin disease that started spreading to her mouth and nose after birth She needs a nose reconstruction to avoid the daily unbearable pain caused by the inhalation of the chemicals emitted by the mine She dreams to become an environmental engineer and succeed to obstacolate and stop the mine s contamination of El Cerrejon
Monica Lopez Pushaina 31 years old is one of the Wayuu leaders and environmental activists fighting to preserve the natural course of the Bruno Arroyo river She and her husband Misael Sucarays Ipauan were forced to leave their home following a series of terrorist attacks in retaliation to their on-going activism agains the mine El Cerrejon and it s environmental exploitation br In the picture Monica inside the Rancher a river a vein bleeding out of the mine now contaminated with high levels of heavy metals
The social structure of wayuu s community is based on a matrilineal society Women represent the backbone of their own people It s said that the earth is like a woman remains and she is the core of the clan on the other hand man is like the rain he comes and goes by fertilizing the earth and wombs br The Wayuu consider themselves children of women carrying the name of the flesh of their mothers Man is therefore a creation of the feminine world born to do what women could not achieve br The importance of women derives from their responsibility to generate offspring to teach their children the stories customs and the culture s knowledge to grow up their descendants through moral integrity This gift creates a special connection with the spirits It s believed that through their dreams women can predict the future For this connection the highest spiritual authority Ouuts is therefore represented by a woman a spiritual guide who shows the value and the respect of the nature The earth is considered a sacred place inhabited by the gods and spirits of their ancestors In the picture a portrait of a member of Epinayu clan
A portrait of the women of the collective Women Wayuu leaders of the territory in their indigenous reserve Provincial In the centre LUZ NGELA URIANA Way u indigenous leader who in the 2021 in Hatonuevo La Guajira was victim of a terroristic attack Two men on a motorcycle launched six shots fired at the home of the Way u indigenous leader who was inside with her minor children and her husband She has spent years denouncing the effects on the health of children produced by the mining exploitation of the foreign multinational Carbones del Cerrej n owned by the Swiss multinational GLENCORE recognized violations by the Constitutional Court in Judgment T 614 of 2019
A portrait of Gabi Florer Epinayu s sister a teenager of 17 years that has been run over by the train on 12 october 1987 and died Since then the family is demanding justice and compensation by those responsible for her death According to Under Wayuu law death must be compensated for by a dowry which corresponds to a thousand goats a hundred cows two donkeys ten gold necklaces and a T UMMA a valuable stone adding up to a total value of 450 million COP In case of death caused by homicide the weapon must be given to the family of the victim How can the representatives of the mine return the train as weapon of crime After 35 years this wound still remains open
Monica Lopez Pushaina in front of the rio Rancheria steam The mining operation uses 24 million liters of water per day which is enough to sustain 150 million people The river can t be used as before anymore due to its high levels of contamination produced by mining It has been shown to contain high levels of bacteria and heavy metals such as arsenic barium cadmium manganese lead selenium estronium zinc and uranium resulting from the residues of industrial water which discharges in the river s bed As a consequence it is no longer suitable for consumption by humans or animals alike Serious health conditions have arisen such as abortions and birth defects