Who are the Wayuu?
The Wayúu are a traditional, historical, indegenous community who are known as the people of the sun , sand and wind, They live in the La Guajira peninsula, a desert area in the northeast of Colombia. This tribe has battled with Spanish, Government and mother nature to keep their traditions alive.
This region has lacked access to basic public services and economic resources, displaying high levels of social inequality, extreme poverty which has led them to have an undignified life. The Wayuu ethnic group is a matriarchal society which greatly depends on the trade of traditional craftwork for their economic sustainability, facing unfair local trade dynamics, where their work is undervalued, and leaves them with no profits for economic growth. However weaving is more than a cultural practice and inheritance from their ancestors because through this activity they express how they feel life.
Furthermore 84% of this population is poor. 6 out of 10 indegenous is illiterate and some kids have to walk up to 3 hours to reach to the school. The infant mortality rate is the highest in the country with 34 children for every 1,000 births. The absence support from the State makes it difficult to eliminate this social gap.The lack of job opportunities is perhaps the greatest of its limitations, added to the lack of education and the global warming have affected the tribés ability to create sustainable farming, with droughts threatening crops and animals dying of desertion as a result
The Wayuu tribe has a number of ancient traditions and rituals they keep alive, living in small, isolated communities. They live predominantly in huts called rancherías made from cactus or palm-leaf-thatched roofs, yotojoro (mud, hay or dried cane) walls with basic furniture which includes hammocks for sleeping and a small fire pit for cooking.
The girls and her first menstruation
One of the traditions of these people is the initiation rite of adolescent confinement: this event prepares the girl to have good behavior in society. This translates: majayut (young lady). They believe that if they follow the instructions of the confinement, the woman will never have fertility or menstruation problems.The girl talks to her mother or grandmother when the time has come, at night they give her a bitter drink and put her in a high hammock, they separate her with a sheet in an empty room putting her in "the confinement". This rite lasts between a month or a year, in this period nobody can see her. Her mother or grandmother accompany her and teach her the art of weaving which, according to the Wayúu belief, is the inheritance of Waleker (the spider) on the first menstruation days, they also teach her how to cook, how to behave in public, when to talk or keep quiet, the role of the wife and mother and traditional medicine.
At this time, they bathe her in the cold of the early morning to remove impurities and bad thoughts, they also look for a woman with a prosperous life to bathe her and cut her hair.
At the end of “the confinement”, the grandmother or the mother notifies the father of the departure of his girl, he prepares a great party and gives her a blanket, necklaces and earrings. The ritual happens in order to present the importance of a change in life because she begins a new stage, her behavior changes completely and she is now recognized as a woman.
Besides, when a girl is born, a big party is held in the community because they consider that the great gods blessed them. When the grandparents die, that little girl who will later become a woman will be in charge of collecting her remains, this happens in the second funeral. Women are directors of the clans and play important political roles, they are an independent figure and actively participate; their main function is to organize their community to regulate political and economic activities, also they are in charge of preserving and extending their roots. In other words, The Wayuu tribe is unique in the fact that the women of the household own the houses and run the families, while the fathers work with the animals and land.
“When a woman gets married we don't use a ring to represent us or a symbol. We marry through the word. Our commitment is verbal and everything we Wayuu do, we do it through words ”- Graciela Cotes, Wayuu community leader. (Miguel A. Cortés, Radio Nacional, 2017) In the Wayuu community, women play a more important role than men, since their social order is called matrilineal and matrixcentric. Women also assume the role of shamans in society because having the gift of offspring is believed to have a special connection with spirits.