Direct descendants of the Arawaks, the Wayúu settled in the Guajira Peninsula between Colombia and Venezuela around 150 b.c. The Wayúu stood strong against the Spanish Conquista and today, most of their culture and language, Wayúunaiki, are preserved and their territory is autonomous. The Wayúu represent the largest indigenous group in South America, with a population of 600 000 approximately.
“Wayúu” means the people of the sand and the sea. Tanned skins and beautiful dark gazes are the defining features of a Wayúu. They are the guardians of La Guajira and fiercely protect their cultural heritage and territory. The Wayúu are polytheistic and their gods represent varied aspects of their society: good and evil, procreation and the forces of nature. Their creator and founder of their society is Maleiwa. Wayúu gods feature heavily in important life milestones such as: birth, death, puberty in girls. The Wayúu do not conclude the cycle of life with death, but instead believe they go to Jeripa, the equivalent of Paradise.
The Wayúu represent their lives, stories and beliefs through their art. The most representative piece of art of the Wayúu tribe is their “mochila” — Susú in native language. Legend tells that the spider Walekérü taught the Wayúu how to sew different patterns. Each bag represents the world’s vision of each individual weaver. Women usually weave the bag and men the shoulder straps. Depending on the pattern and the technique, a bag can take up to two months to be finished.