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Solidarity with the Wounaan People of Colombia



Globalmother.org calls on the Government of Colombia to provide safeguards and protection for the Wounaan People of the San Juan River community.

In the Field

Occupying small thatched huts stilted on posts hovering up to eight feet high along the clearings on the riverbanks, the Wounaan kept to their subsistence livelihoods of hunting, fishing, Werregue Palm basket-weaving, and small-scale agriculture of bananas, pineapples, and yucca. That is until November 2014 when the Wounaan People was forced to leave their village of Unión Aguas Claras along the San Juan river of the Cauca Valley and take up a 12-month residence in El Cristal Sports Arena in Buenaventura, Colombia. 

According to Wounaan spokesman Crelo Obispo, “Paramilitaries kicked us out of land” and for twelve months they worked diligently to “find a peaceful way to recover our own indigenous land.” The Wounaan turned their occupation into a form of civil disobedience and refused to return to their lands without adequate protection and security from warring factions. Although on November 29, 2015, they returned home along the San Juan River, their cultural survival signals a critical humanitarian and environmental emergency in which indigenous people living sustainable lives have been caught in a resource war for coca cultivation, gold mining and control of key river tributaries. 

Since the 1990s, the San Juan River’s fluvial systems have been become reconfigured spaces in which flows of capital, commodities and contraband have brought in a host of nonlocal actors vying for spatial control of its strategic geographies. These vital commercial river networks, which connect the Colombian interior with the Pacific Coast are needed for the production and transportation of gold mining excavation and cocoa cultivation turning the once-peaceful rhizomic ecosystem into a bloody battleground between narco traffickers, gold minders, the FARC, the ELN, the Urabeños, the Rastrojos, and other left wing, right wing, and neo-paramilitary forces. 

The result is not only the displacement of indigenous peoples and the disruption of the natural equilibrium of the Wounaan subsistent lifestyle, but the destruction of the biodiverse habitat in which its diverse resources have been transformed to commercial assets and mobilized for monocrop and gold production of surplus value.

Globalmother.org advocates for the rights of the Wounaan People to live on their ancestral lands along the San Juan River.


The Wounaan People of Northwestern Colombia’s San Juan River is the latest casualty of a violent 25 year reign of terror hastened by the convergence of coca growers, gold miners, paramilitaries, guerillas, and government troops—all vying for control of the waterways and resources along the ancestral stretch of traditional Wounaan territories. Until the arrival of mono-crop production for export, Wounaan’s steadfast strategies have thwarted the bloodied battlefields of Spanish colonial impositions, nationalist armies, and Marxist guerrillas.

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