Who Are the Wayuu Tribes?
The Wayuu are an indigenous group of people who live on the Caribbean Coast of the Guajira Peninsula, straddling the border of northern Venezuela and northern Colombia where the climate is rather harsh, including a largely arid climate.
Today, there are more than 400,000 Wayuu tribal members. In fact, they represent the largest indigenous ethnic group in both Colombia and Venezuela. The Wayuu boast a unique history and culture that adds a compelling dimension to the countries they live in today.
According to historians, Wayuu tribes arrived in the Guajira Peninsula around 150 A.D. They left their earlier homelands in the Amazon rainforest and Antilles to search for a less hostile climate as well as to escape Spanish invaders.
The Wayuu had a long-standing conflict with the Spanish; they were determined not to fall under Spanish dominion. By living in the remote Guajira region, they were able to largely retain their cultural identity and way of life.
Today, many Wayuu people know Spanish as well as their ancestral Wayuunaiki language, which is a derivative of the Maipuran language. The Wayuu live primarily by subsistence farming and raising livestock; however, climate change has affected them substantially and the governments of their respective homelands have been requested to provide food to combat periods of drought and famine.
The Wayuu people are among the poorest in Latin America, but they are immensely proud of their heritage and culture. While men focus their efforts on farming and caring for livestock, women contribute monetarily by selling their handiwork such as their traditional weaving and crochet bags known as mochila bags.
Many of the Wayuu traditional weavings are brightly colored. The tribe is known for various types of patterns and designs that adorn their woven basketry, for example. Tribal women learn to weave at an early age even today just as their ancestors of the Arawak and Carib tribes did.
Although the skilled artisans of the Wayuu people help support the tribes, these peoples are still quite vulnerable owing to their extreme poverty and remote location in the world.
We are thrilled here at Wayu Accessories to celebrate Wayuu designs by carrying Wayuu-inspired products. Visit our shop to explore our selection of wayuu bags and variety of handmade accessories made by artisans in South América.