Award of Excellence
"THE HEART OF THE WORLD"
Kogis, Arhuacos, Wiwas and Kankuamos, the four indigenous communities that inhabit the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in northern Colombia, believe that the mountain range they call home is also the heart of the world. Through the spiritual work of their priests or mamos, the four ethnic groups, which are separated by language but share the same belief system, control the health of the Sierra Nevada and thus, that of the entire Earth. But their mission to protect their sacred mountain in order to keep the universe in balance has proven to be a very difficult one to fulfill. The Sierra Nevada has become in the past three decades a battleground for guerrillas, soldiers and paramilitary groups as well as the object of desire of marihuana and coca growers, drug dealers and multinational corporations. The violence brought upon them by these groups has resulted in the displacement of many of their communities, which are finding themselves at risk of extinction and fighting to preserve not only their lives, but the culture that binds them together.
The wiwa spiritual leader Jose Mohica bathes with his wife Rosana Rodríguez in the same stream they used as a escape route in 2003 when Colombian Army and paramilitary forces bombed their village of Potrerito. Six people died.