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Laguna Colorada

Laguna Colorada is a small Sikuani village of 120 inhabitants, situated in the East of Colombia, close to the Venezuelan border. Laguna Colorada is a riverine village surrounded by dense rainforest. The Colombian guerrilla marks the village’s history, as they have had to move several times over the past 50 years until finally settling down in the current location, along the river Guaviare, in 1972. They need at least a 5 hours boat trip to reach the local commercial centre of Puerto Inírida. Thus, they mostly rely on their natural environment to produce their food and drinks, their medicine and some of their tools.

Since 1998, they are part of the Selva de Mataven, a protected area and indigenous reservation (resguardo) of nearly 2 million hectares. There are about 12000 people living there, within 232 communities, speaking 6 different indigenous languages: Sikuani, Piaroa, Piapoco, Puinave, Curripaco and Cubeo. The territory is divided into 5 zones and 17 sectors. The sectors correspond to old resguardos. When the communities realised they needed to protect the land that lies in the centre of all the communities, which they call the heart of health (Corazón de la Salud), they united into one big resguardo called the Selva de Mataven.

This region of Colombia was, and still is, an extremely marginalised territory. The level of investment from the national government is very low and communities are spread out on a very vast and sparsely populated territory. For most communities, a journey of several days by boat must be undertaken to reach their local administrative centres. As a consequence, they are facing two main challenges which are closely linked: governance and communication. They have currently no means of communicating from one community to the other, which is part of the reason why communities experience challenges to mobilise within their local association: ACATISEMA (Asociación de Cabildos y Autoridades Tradicionales Indígenas de la Selva de Mataven). This is why people from Laguna Colorada have decided to try and implement a community radio station, similar to Radio Paiwomak in the North Rupununi.

Laguna Colorada also has strengths which they are documenting within the project Cobra. By discussing with our Makushi colleagues from Guyana, they have come to acknowledge that their culture and traditions are still alive: young and old all speak Sikuani, they practice on an everyday basis their traditional handicraft, or they produce their food in a traditional way. But most of all they practice their traditional rituals and dances, with a pride that has never been noticed in other communities we are working with. Their pride in living their culture, and their ways of transmitting these practices to younger generations, will no doubt be a source of inspiration for other communities of the Guiana Shield.

 

QUICK DOWNLOAD: Check out the English version of the COBRA Handbook for Practitioners.