Home > Event > Formation workshop about indigenous cultures in the state of Zulia.
27 June, 2018
12:00 pm

Venezuela/Press Wayuu Taya.- Marinelly Fuenmayor.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) carried out a workshop about indigenous cultures, specifically the Barí, Yukpa and Wayuu at the Red Cross headquarters in Zulia.

     As contribution to interculturality’s knowledge and strength, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) carried out a formation workshop about culture within the indigenous populations, particularly the Barí, Yukpa and Wayuu cultures; this last one presented by the intercultural education coordinator, Mgs. Aritina Fernández. The activity took place at the Red Cross installations, Zulia sectional.

The barís or motilones-barí are an Amerindian community that lives in huts, malokas or communal houses, located in the jungle of the Catatumbo river, to both sides of the Colombia-Venezuela frontier and speak barí, a language that forms part of the Chibcha linguistic family. Lcda. Lucely Achibatri, a barí representative, explained to everyone in attendance everything related to the Barí culture, the deep and huge respect they have for nature and how they consider themselves protectors of their habitat, since it’s a gift from God.

Something that characterizes the Barí is that it does not ask for the origin of the world itself, rather for who organizes nature and people, who organizes the sky for every element to occupy its corresponding place. Their economic activity is based around hunting, fishing, bow and arrow. Fishing is an important food source for them and to multiply it, they build temporary dams and use barbasco. Amongst the produce they collect, they highlight the fruits from the palma milpesos. They practice commerce since age-old times to obtain salt and currently to obtain metallic tools, radio receptors, batteries and other articles.

On his part, Lcdo. Carlos Armato, Yukpa representative, explained the cosmogonic vision of his culture, which makes him appreciate nature and the life emanated from it; mythology and belief are proof of it, a yukpa conceives existence only in freedom, hence them not interfering with their habitat’s processes but interpreting them.

The Yukpa are geographically located to the west of the state of Zulia, specifically at the Sierra de Perijá. Thanks to their adaptability to diverse ecosystems, they have been able to carry out the situation which has been quite important regarding their fight to maintain their culture and habitat. Their organization is comprised of two classes of shamans: the tomaira and tuano, each with functions and relations specific to the community, for example: the tomaira is the religious leader and the middleman between its people and the supernatural world, leading each of the ceremonies, while the tuano is responsible of healing with herbs, being the person capable of making diagnosis on diseases, treatments and who has the ability to provide magical powers to every substance.

They practice wood chopping and burning, being this their main sustenance activity, complimented by hunting, fishing, recollecting and basic farming. During the last three decades, throughout the community, coffee harvesting has become a practice which they currently commercialize from their cooperative in Machiques. They hunt with different size bows; they fish with harpoons or hooks; they recollect shellfish, insects and fruits. Men dedicate time to fabricate their hunting and fishing instruments as well as doing pottery. Women take care of harvests and their groves and knitting.

All these beliefs have allowed the barí to maintain its cultural traditions, such as dancing, chanting and most of all, the oral transmission of their values and customs. In comparison with the yukpa, they have not taken a strong step towards acculturation. Regardless of introducing to their daily routines electric artifacts amongst other things from the modern world; all it takes is to talk to a barí to know how much they are immersed in their ethnicity.

Aritina Fernández, Wayuu Taya’s intercultural education coordinator was the presenter responsible of highlighting the Wayuu culture, culture of the indigenous located to the northeast of Colombia and northwest of Venezuela. These indigenous groups are also known as Guajiros since they inhabit the Guajira peninsula. Their official language is wayuunaiki.

The Wayuu woman is independent and actively participates in politics. They have the role of organizing their clan, regulating both political and economic activities. The Wayuu are divided in clans. Each of these clans has its territory and totem (animal or object which identifies the group).

Fernández indicated that the center of the Wayuu economy is pottery. Their main industry is textile and is mainly practiced by women. They generally knit hammocks, bags, cloths and blankets among other things. These items are so attractive that they are sold as souvenirs to tourists.

The Wayuu economy is based to a smaller degree on agricultural activities: agriculture, fishing and hunting. These three activities generate internal consumption products. The transformation period between the teenage years to adulthood is considered a rebirth, amongst their typical dancing they have the Yonna, which is carried out when a young person reaches adolescence, since it is considered that they are ready to get married.

The educational contribution done by the Wayuu Taya Foundation in 2011, when they released a technological wayuunaiki dictionary was also highlighted.

Representatives from important organizations were also present during the encounter, such as:

Dr. Carlos Montiel, president of the Red Cross – Zulia Sectional and Claudia Olago – Migrations director.

Dr. Aristóteles, “Defensor del pueblo” for the state of Zulia.

UNHRC directive

Lcdo. Jesús Materan and Lcdo. Renato Montiel, representatives for the Secretaria de Cultura for the state of Zulia.

Dr. Edixa Montiel and Dr. Librada Pocaterra, members of the Dirección de Cultura de Universidad del Zulia.

Azul positivo foundation.

Lcda. Glenys Jerez, representative for the Aliadas en Cadena organization.


Tsu. Asmiria Semprun, Mgs. Raiza Cambar, Mgs. Marinelly Fuenmayor, Lcdo. José Luis Molero, members of the Wayuu Taya Foundation.

An event of significant importance which contributes to the teaching and strengthening of interculturality, where the assisting people were able to learn about three important cultures in the state of Zulia. Moreover, another one of these encounters will be carried out, focusing on the Añu and Japreria cultures.

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