Universe in danger
The Caño Mochuelo Indigenous Reserve is a territory located in the heart of the Orinoquia's flooded savannas. This area, located in the eastern extreme of Colombia where the Meta and Casanare rivers meet, hosts ten ancestral indigenous ethinicities. The Amorúa, Maibén-Masiware, Piapoco, Sáliba, Sikuani, Tsiripu, Wámonae, Waüpijiwi, Yamalero, and Yaruro are cultures closely linked to the complex network of life and natural cycles of this ecosystem, one of the most threatened in Colombia. Here they root their cosmogony and rituals, their laws and customs, their modes of production, and their land management practices.
These indigenous peoples, many of them nomads and semi-nomads, crossed a territory of more than 3 million hectares through important biological and cultural corridors. Today, they only have 94,670 hectares, and at least four indigenous ethnicities are at risk of physical and cultural disappearance. These savannas, which become an immense wetland for eight months a year, have witnessed the open wounds of a history of extermination, dispossession, and confinement. Initially constituted as a reserve in 1974, it was declared as an indigenous reserve in 1986 as an emergency measure to prevent the complete disappearance of the indigenous peoples of the region. Up until a few decades ago, indigenous people were still being massacred by foreign settlers - the infamous Guahibiada and Cuibiadas-.
Although it may sound extensive, the reserve area is less than 14 percent of what is required for the support of the 803 families that inhabit it today, according to data from the official Family Agricultural Unit (UAF). This situation has affected the natural resources on which the communities depend, generating internal and external conflicts under the protection.
The history and current situation of the indigenous peoples confined in Caño Mochuelo questions the integrity of a nation that today is recognized as multiethnic and multicultural. It is also a serious threat to strategic ecosystems and rich biodiversity of this region, whose care depends critically on that cultural diversity at risk of disappearing.
This exhibition is a tribute to the ten indigenous communities whose existence many Colombians are not aware of. It is also a wake-up call to public institutions and civil society groups to protect the cultures and biodiversity of a territory with a unique wealth. It is an opportunity for diverse actors to unite in the recovery of the biocultural corridors necessary for the environmental and social sustainability of this territory and of future indigenous generations.
Finally, it is an invitation to contribute to the strengthening of the internal management of the reserve, dignifying the elderly - the last guardians of ancient knowledge -, and revitalizing their cultures thus guaranteeing the quality of life of these communities, especially of all the children who today face the threat of hunger and disease.