We admire, over the sand, the geological eccentricity of that lush setting.
While on our shores, the waves break with Caribbean smoothness, onward, the overgrown mountains rise steeply above the clouds.
Although the fog does not allow us to glimpse its final peaks – Cristobal Cólon and Simón Bolívar – it amazes us to know that, in less than 42 km, the Sierra Nevada rises from sea level to an altitude of 5.700 meters that justifies its baptism.
And even more the awareness that the sacred world of the Tayrona civilization is located there, represented and defended today by 45.000 individuals belonging to three esoteric peoples: the Kogi, the Wiwa, the Arhuaco. And to another one much more integrated into the modern reality of Colombia, the Kancuamo.
Until the beginning of the XNUMXth century, the Tayrona occupied the entire vast tropical area nestled between the coast and the summits.
They grew demographically and prospered. They were also masters in the art of working gold and creating precious objects that they used for spiritual purposes.
To their unexpected detriment, when the Spaniards arrived in that part of the world, both gold and these artifacts abounded.
Tayrona's Tragedy of the Disembarkation of the Spaniards
In 1525, the conqueror Rodrigo de Bastidas he had already realized the riches he could steal from the natives. In order to facilitate your diversion to the spanish crown, founded the city of Santa Marta, at the entrance of the homonymous mountain range.
The indigenous resistance proved to be fierce. At the end of the XNUMXth century, the Tayrona civilization was defeated and “pushed” by the invaders almost to the snowy heights of the mountain range.
There, he took refuge from the attacks and illnesses of the Europeans and, until today, he protected his “cosmic” knowledge, based on a balance between the potential of the mind and spirit with the natural forces.
When we leave the beach, the power of those same forces assaults us. We are in the middle of the rainy season in the Colombian Caribbean. Without any warning, pitch-black clouds take over the sky and release a flood of water that reduces visibility to almost nothing.
Lacking shelter to protect us, we continued to walk through the jungle, soaking wet, amid slipping and stumbling on the protruding roots of trees and bushes.
As quickly as it had arrived, the storm is exhausted. The clouds open up to a scorching sun that dries us up in three stages.
Reheated, we continue to climb towards Chairama, one of the largest Tayrona settlements at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards with more than two hundred and fifty terraces erected over the jungle and a population of 3000 natives.
The settlers got used to calling it El Pueblito.
The Long Colombian Chaos That Threatened the Survival of the Tayrona Indigenous
The proximity of the coast and vulnerability to Spanish attacks, dictated the early withdrawal of the population of Chairama and abandonment to plunder and nature. Such abandonment has only been stopped recently by the alleviation of the political-military situation in this area of Colombia and because the government has finally begun to value the country's unique historical and ethnic heritage.
Thanks to its greater isolation, today the most emblematic Tayrona village is Teyuna, the mysterious Ciudad Perdida, located three days' walk from Chairama.
From its discovery in 1975, Teyuna gave rise to what became known as Infierno Verde, an authentic war between groups of artifact thieves (the guaqueros) which lasted for several years.
Despite looting and many other traumas, the descendants of their builders survived. They returned to inhabit the area and descend the Chairama and the Colombian villages on the side of the road where they interact with the Colombian “invaders”.
Serra Cima, on the way to Chairama, El Pueblito
The climb to Chairama proves steeper than expected. Even demanding, dozens of different people walk that path every day, dedicated to their tasks.
Among other passersby, we come across a Creole farmer carrying a huge sack of passion fruit. And for casa straddled by a peasant family in which three restless brothers are at war.
Further up the mountain, we come across the first Kogi and Arhuaco Indians, whom we easily identify by their white clothes and their long dark hair.
We exchanged a few casual words in Castilian but these peoples are known for saying only what is strictly necessary and for the justified suspicion with which they approach the contacts of outsiders.
Stephen Ferry, a National Geographic reporter who visited their high Sierra Nevada retreats and attended the ceremonies of the Mamas (priests) describes some more concrete examples: “…when Mamas communicate, you immediately realize that their references don't belong to our world western.
A Pure Conception of the World. And Tayrona's Duty of Defending the Unconscious of Whites
They mention the Spanish conquest as if it had just happened. They speak openly of the force of creation, or Se, the spiritual center of all existence. It's from student, the thought, soul and imagination of men …”
Also according to Ferry's description, the Kogi, the Arhuaco, and the Wiwa consider that the really valuable things are underlying the meanings and connections that can be drawn from the palpable realities of the world.
His cosmology contemplates, for example, a universe made up of nine layers. The temple in which they meet also has nine steps, as there are nine months in the gestation of a child.
For them, a hill can be seen as a house, the hair on the human body as the trees in the forest. Men's white hats arhuaco they represent the snowfields of the summits in which they live while the whole of their mountains form the Cosmos.
The Sierra Nevada Indians consider themselves the elder brothers, genuine guardians of the planet and their mountain the “Heart of the World”. They also see the foreign settlers as the younger brothers.
In a rare BBC documentary in which they agreed to participate “The Elder Brothers' Warning”, the Mamas warn that they will not maintain the condescending attitude they have defended forever: “Until now we have ignored the Younger Brother. We didn't even deign to spank him. But we can't continue to take care of the world alone… “
The Colombian Civil War, Cocaine and All the Devastation They Generated
Until a few decades ago, the descendants of the Tayrona ethnic groups saw their mission of spiritual protection in the world increasingly complicated.
Cocaine producers, guerrillas, paramilitaries and the Colombian army seized their lands or trespassed on them and confronted each other and disturbed the natural harmony of things.
In the late 90s, the Colombian government began to control the situation. It gradually defeated the private armies, fumigated the coca plantations and granted pardons and support for conversion. Many cocaine producers took advantage of this offer.
The success of military operations nullified the guerrilla and provided new opportunities. Like the one used by Luís and Richard Velázquez, who joined Plan Colombia and joined “their” dear Asociación Posadas Ecoturísticas.
As Richard Velazquez told us, “These are cambios muy chéveres” adjective that can be interpreted as “in the way”.
Nevertheless, among many others, the peoples of Tayrona descendants continue to feel the pressure of conventional farmers who seek their land to cultivate bananas and oil palms. It is also known, beforehand, that the cocaine issue is never really resolved.
On our way back from Pueblito, we once again met indigenous people. Blas is the second and most mysterious. We exchanged greetings and a short dialogue. Soon, the three of us were resting by a stream.
When we questioned him about the fatigue of the trips to and from Chairama, routes he takes to sell handicrafts to the few visitors to the village, we extract an elementary and apparently alienated explanation from him.
As soon as he can, Blas indulges in a fresh refill of coca leaves and crushed shells. Fill your poporo (gourd) and return us to the sounds of the jungle.
We feel the energy of nature and the absolute peace of mind of the native.
And we cannot help but think about who will save the Tayrona Indians from the unconsciousness of their younger brothers.