The Wayuu (pronounced “Wah-You”) are known as the people of the sun, sand, and wind. They are located in the arid Guajira Peninsula in northern Colombia and northwest Venezuela. The Wayuu language is part of the Arawak family and is called Wayuunaiki. The Wayuu live in small settlements called “rancherias” which consist of five or six houses. Within these rancherias, the Wayuu people are able to preserve a way of life that has been passed down through the generations and remains unscathed by modern culture. Organized in matrilineal clans, the Wayuu children carry their mother’s last name, making the Wayuu women not only the center of the family but cultural leaders as well. She is taught since young ages such skills as weaving, cooking, and how to “be” with her husband. Her existence is the leader of the society.
The women are shamans and politicians. The Wayuu want their women to be full of wisdom and maturity. But One of the most significant aspects of culture that the Wayuu women practice is the art of weaving Mochilas Wayuu bags and bracelets. Each Wayuu mother teaches her daughter how to weave and crochet, keeping the tradition as alive and vibrant as ever. To the Wayuu, weaving is a symbol of wisdom, intelligence, and creativity. As young Wayuu women come of age, they learn to create Mochilas Wayuu bags. According to legend, the tradition comes from “Wale´kerü”, a spider that taught the women how to weave their creative drawings into the Wayuu bags. Each design incorporated into every Mochila wayuu bag is unique to the weaver, telling a story through the bag’s colors, patterns and shapes. The weaver takes careful precision in her storytelling, making sure that the Mochila bag and bracelete is a strong representation of Wayuu culture.
Wayuu women work full days while weaving their Wayuu bags and can take up to a full month to complete one single bag. In more recent times, the Wayúu have faced tremendous discrimination and exclusion, particularly in Colombia. For instance,Wayúu (Guajiro) lands on the border with Venezuela have been granted to mining interests without regard for the Wayuu. The Colombian constitution recognizes the right of the indigenous to manage the resources found on their territories, however, the government allows private concessions to extract salt on Wayúu land (which is their biggest resource) while the Wayúu themselves have been denied the right to do the same. Today, Wayuu bags and bracelets has become a means of financial support for the Wayuu people, which enables them to preserve their way of life, culture and survive as an ethnic group.