Updated: Jan 5
Mamo Mayor Zäreymakú (Juan Marcos Pérez)
In the beginning of creation the mountain ranges were created: the hills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which are sacred. To me, they are gods who face each other like houses in a town. For the first thing to be engendered was the thought of the mountains, and then they came to have form. The first mountains to be born were the fathers of all —animals, peoples, plants, waters. In them, the universe is embodied. In the mountains, the different races, the different peoples were born. The Mamo began to think, and saw that it was going to be difficult for all of us to live here. For at that times whites were reproducing very rapidly, and there was not going to be place for all in the Sierra.
He appealed to Serankwa, Ñankwa, and Seukukuy, who are the creative forces of the world and who dwell here. Since we have to share the earth, the world was divided and Serankwa began to create more lands for them to live beyond the Black Line, and made them heed the advice of the Mamos who in unison directed them to go and settle in places outside our sacred territory. The animals, birds, waters, Chundwas (snowy peaks), and all what we see, were first born in the Sierra Nevada before they were born in other lands. Here, the food for the daily support was born. Here are the father and mother of the forests, of humankind, etc. Everything is embodied here in the sacred abode of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The lagoon is the female counterpart of the sacred mountain, and the original sites are four, and they are embodied in the four peoples: Kogi, Arzario, Arhuaco and Kankuamo, who are the pillars of the Sierra Nevada. In order to achieve this balance, the Mamos gathered in council and accorded how they were going to support the Sierra and the rest of the world.
Yoburu (poporo —the gourd in which chalk is kept)
For nourishment came from the energy of thought, from the emanation of wisdom. Pure thought, as we now inhale the air. After thousands of years of being merely thought, the poporo was born, and then the shell to make the chalk, and the food, the plants, the animals.
For millenia, there were no troubles in the Sierra, for all was harmony and balance. And this ended with the Spanish invasion, and the education they imposed on us, with ideas alien to the thought of the Mamos. At the time of the origin of all things, all was pure thought. Food was not eaten as we do today, but nourishment derived from the spirit of food. Neither the Yoburu (poporo —the gourd in which chalk is kept) was used, nor the lime and the áyu. For nourishment came from the energy of thought, from the emanation of wisdom. Pure thought, as we now inhale the air. After thousands of years of being merely thought, the poporo was born, and then the shell to make the chalk, and the food, the plants, the animals. All the time in which we did not feed the way we do today, everything was mist, there was no sun, no moon, and the stars had not been born. Only the morning star existed to tell us the beginning of the day. But it was gloom all over, for there was only thought. It was Tenunne, the speech in those days. Therefore we Mamos still today relate to Nature and talk to her, for we keep the origin in our memory; and that is the heritage we have been given, in order to maintain the balance in the world. At that time also, all the languages that are spoken in the world were imparted. That is why we all speak differently, because we all were given different speeches. Nunkutten and Avikun, the morning and evening stars, existed alone before the sun and the moon were born. And, as some did not like their comming into being, there was a great struggle between those who wanted the sun and moon to be, and those who did not. The first ones won —the ones who achieve their goal made a great feast where all traditional instruments were played and the dance lasted for many days. The masters of illness —known as Maku Yantaná— and the masters of summer, were also born at that time. With the appearance of illnesses, the Mamos gathered to discuss and study a way to control them; and they appointed Bunkwarwa Badillo as the "pagamento" site, so that illnesses would not destroy all peoples. Leaders were also born, and rulers, and the cabildos, and the sheriffs. They are embodied in the mountains as well, and that is why they still exist. For that is the spirituality that is in the Sierra. And if there were no more Mamos, the world would also vanish. Thereafter, Mamo Serankwa began to create the other continents. In them, there are more than 150 countries, which were inhabitted by people from other places. But all this was done in accordance with the Sierra Nevada, where the fathers and mothers of the continents, countries, and races are. In the Sierra are represented: the sun, Bunkuakukuy; Duia Arukukuy, father of the sun; Duia Aru Aviku, the mother of the sun. Yui Kinchukwa, the site were the sun was born, is represented in a stone, as well as Sey Kinchukwa, the flight taken by the sun to illuminate all and find his place in space. Timarwa and Timaka, father and mother of the moon, also have their dwelling in our sacred abode. But even before the apparition of the sun and the moon, the Mamo was already offering his "pagamentos" in the mountains that represented them in the Sierra. For there were some who did not want the dawn to be. And the Mamo had been working spiritually for the rising of the sun. And although he gives us light and life, we all have to work spiritually together with the Mamo who makes the "pagamento", in order to deter him from overheating and disrupting the weather and the seasons. Atankeros and Arhuacos gathered in Avintukwa, Shedukwa, and Surivaka, sites of power, to discuss the way to work together and to put in order the commitments contained in our laws.
The Ijka or Arhuaco, the first born in that place, were strong and great warriors, due to the wisdom they possessed. Mamos like Ñiankwa, and Yankwa —Mamo Serankwa Diwigumuka Kawiku's father, who is like a minister of the interior—, have the power and control over the "spirituals" of the lesser hills. The Mamo who lived in Surivaka has been fading away; but I am folk from that place. There lies my origins, and I am there to deal with the "spirituality" to balance the world and avoid calamities. I am looking after all the inhabitants of the world. I belong to Serankwa's and Ñiankwa's families, and have the thought to continually preserve the balance of the world, and share the knowledge with others. This thought is like a plant that grows for the benefit of us all, for the environment to be better, for the balance to become steadier. This thought is not for my or my family's private use. What I do now is to interact with Nature, and that is why I dedicate myself to the study of ancient wisdom, and I do my best to preserve Nature. That is why I have the thought: to study a better way to contribute to the balance of the world. Some may think that I am a weak Mamo, but my task is to search, to foretell in order to preserve. My father used to do the same work: to preserve the balance in Nature, to converse with her. That is the way my father was; he dealt with the spirituality of Makutama, site of the power to rule over the forces of Nature. Mamavi, with the power of the Tani —dances, rites, ceremonial costumes and feathers. He committed himself to this kind of works for Mother Earth. This works took place in a particular month, when people began to dance for the birds, the rain, and several kinds of food to be. And for pests not to fall upon the plants that serve us as food, and on all vegetation. That is why it is necessary to revive those Tani.
Text by: Universo Arhuaco Photos by: Jaguar Siembra, Calixto Suarez, Nasa & Ruperto Chaparro.
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