WAYUU BAG ORIGINS
THE WAYUU TRIBE
Located deep in the La Guajira desert, close to the Colombian and Venezuelan border, is a traditional, historical, indigenous community who are known as the people of the sun, sand and wind – the Wayúu tribe. Arriving in La Guajira from the Amazon rainforest and Antilles in 150A.D. to escape the hostile environments and find a new home, the Wayúu people have battled – the Spanish, the Government and, currently, mother nature – to keep their traditions alive.
The Wayúu people have faced discrimination and exclusion from both the Colombian and Venezuelan governments, each taking away their rights, and raw materials from their land. In turn each community has their own government and is free from both Colombia’s and Venezuela’s laws.
As the Wayúu saying goes, “To be a woman is to know how to weave.” The tradition of weaving is highly respected within their matriarchal culture and is a symbol of wisdom, creativity, intelligence and status. Every clan can be distinguished by a particular woven pattern.
A Wayúu girl learns the ancient craft from her female relatives during her sacred coming of age ritual that begins with her first menstruation.
As the Wayúu are staunch matriarchs, this rite of passage prepares women for their leadership role. During the “confinement,” as it’s called, girls live in isolation for up to several years and are taught the customs and beliefs of the Wayúu, how to take care of a home, how to cook, how to mediate conflicts and how to weave.
La Guajira is a dry and windy peninsular desert region between Northeast Colombia and Northwest Venezuela. The striking landscape has been harsh and borderline uninhabitable for many thousands of years.
The southernmost parts of the peninsula border the slopes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range, where the principal waterway of La Guajira is born, the Rancheria river. Here in southern La Guajira the montane ecosystems of the Sierra connect to the extensive Cesar river basin further south, and there is substantial moisture, vegetation and fertility for agriculture.
To the north the lush greenery of the Sierra transitions into vast tracts of parched land and solitude. These more emblematic desert regions of the central and northern Guajira peninsula (known locally as “Media” and “Alta” Guajira) are much drier and windier, receiving the northern trade winds and infrequent precipitation.