Sunday 3 March 2019

The Heart of the World’s on Fire: Arhuaco and Kogi Need Our Help!

Fires in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is a massive pyramid-shaped mountain in Colombia and home to the Kogi, Arhuaco, Wiwa and Kankuamo indigenous people. To these tribes, who represent all that is left of the ancient Tairona culture, it is “The Heart of the World.” At least 800 hectares have been ravaged by fires, family homes and livelihoods destroyed, as well as rare flora and fauna also destroyed in the blaze. Traditionally constructed houses and buildings used for the ceremonies of these people have been burned to the ground. The Arhuaco and Kogi communities have been devastated.
The village of Séynimin sustained terrible damage. It is located in the eastern part of the Arhuaco territory. In the foothills of the Guatapurí river, jurisdiction of the municipality of Valledupar. The village of Waniyaka is reported to have been razed to the ground as well. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta has in the past been declared as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and yet now that disaster has struck, the English media has been ominously silent, leaving only the Spanish press to get the story out to the world. I only know of one report in English!
As many as 80 families have been affected by the fires and 50 houses have been reported to have been destroyed. The Arhuaco and Kogi people are appealing for help. On 1 March  they declared themselves in a state of economic, social, cultural and ecological emergency, with fires still active in several points of the Sierra Nevada. Firefighters battling the blaze have had difficulty accessing the affected areas due to the location high on the mountain, 3,500 metres above sea level. Smoke has made a difficult situation worse.
Kogi Mamos
The leaders of the Kogis, who are known as Mamos or Mamas, came to the world’s attention back in 1990 in a ground-breaking BBC documentary entitled The Heart of the World: The Elder Brother’s Warning. It was directed by Alan Ereira and explained how the Kogis, who regard themselves as the “ Elder Brother” and call us the “Younger Brother” wanted to break their silence by issuing a warning to the world. They had seen more than enough signs in the ecosystem of their sacred mountain to know that we are in danger of destroying life on Earth. The top of the Sierra Nevada was no longer covered in ice and snow, the clouds had gone. These were signs we now recognise as being caused by Climate Change. It was this film that first enabled me to understand what was happening with regard to what was then called Global Warming. By the way the transcript for the film can be read and the documentary viewed HERE. I really recommend it to anyone who didn’t see it when it was first broadcast or who has not heard about the Kogis until now.
How to Help

I have known about this since 25 February after being alerted by my Arhuaco friend Iku de Gonawindua, who is an an ambassador for his people, and who had tweeted about the disaster. Since then I have been spreading the word on social media. I have been waiting in vain for the world media to report the story but, as already explained, the English language media have been silent. This is why I am blogging about it here. This is a copy of information I was given: “These families lost everything after saving their lives in fires that took 3 days, requesting support from the relevant entities and required from blankets, cooking utensils, food, work tools to rebuild the town ...In the city of Valledupar-Cesar will be the headquarters of aid to the Carrera 9 # 3-69 barrio los campanos headquarters indigenous house resguardo arhuaco, in Bogotá headquarters Redepaz Carrera 10 # 19-65 office 905.” Please help in any way you can! Sharing the news helps if you are not in a position to help with donations!