Buried under this coal
The Wayuu represent the largest indigenous group in Colombia and its existence is compromised because of the impact of large multinational groups in their ancestral territory. La Guajira abounds in coal, but is scarce in water. While the world's largest open-pit coal mine Cerrejon consumes 34.9 million liters of water per day, for the Wayuu access to drinking water is increasingly difficult. The great mining has canceled prospects of an agricultural economy in the peninsula, and built first hand to the degradation of the social fabric.Read more...
In 2011 the government funded the construction of El Cercado dam, on the Rancheria River, to help relieve the devastating effects of the drought seasons. However, the pipes built to funnel water to the municipalities in La Guajira, have never carried water and the reservoir provide enough water to make it past to Cerrejon coal mine and a few landowners who raise livestock. When the water reaches the Wayuu, it is a poisoned trickle.
The consequences are counted in thousands of children, pregnant mothers and adults affected by malnutrition, lung diseases, death and the lost of one of the most resistant indigenous cultures in the Americas. Buried in coal is an attempt to tell the current story of La Guajira and to contribute to a deeper discussion about the consequences of the exploitation of non-renewable resources for the production of energy in the world.
I heard about the humanitarian crisis affecting Wayuu while I was living in Bogotá, in 2015.
National chronicles from the newspaper El Espectador were denouncing the death of thousands of children and claiming the State and the giant of coal Cerrejon were responsible for it, leaving Wayuu displaced in La Guajira peninsula where their history dates back 3,000 years with little means to survive and over 37000 children suffering from malnutrition.
I travelled first to La Guajira in June 2015, when Wayuu were facing a severe drought since more then four years and I returned several times during 2016. The picking hit of La Guajira, the historical distrust of Wayuu towards the white man, called Alijuna (the man who brings the pain) and the connivance between State, NGOs and companies required time and efforts to gain confidence and access.