Dossier: Wayuu Literature
Works by and about Wayuu writers in LALT No. 7:
The Wayuu community is politically organized into e’irüku, or clans. The word can be literally translated as “flesh,” and the members of a clan normally see each other as family. Clan affiliation is defined by the maternal line, and women have a very important place in this community. Taking this into account, it should be no surprise that two of the three writers invited to participate in this dossier are women.
The desert is a place as magical as it is hostile. In the Colombian Guajira your gaze gets lost in the infinite horizon and the heat makes distant figures grow blurred and unreal. There, in the midst of the heat and the wind, lives the Wayuu community. The indigenous women wear comfortable blankets, loose-fitting blankets and long dresses, which allow them to overcome the intense climate of a land that is fantastic, but mortally dry. In this place of contrasts, the writer Estercilia Simanca was born and lives.
A territory of light and thirst, Woumain issues a welcome with its own laws. Here, the poem is an instruction to begin the exchange, the smuggling. In a conversational tone, Apüshana creates a bridge toward the reader; in a descriptive tone, he invents a sort of poetic self-ethnography. In verses about dreams, stones, the spring, his grandparents, the poet paints a picture of his culture for those who do not know the desert of Colombia and Venezuela on the Caribbean coast.
I’m not in a process of opposition to the re-establishment of Abya Yala; nor is it my intention for you to interpret this essay in any way as a defense of colonialism. I want to start by telling you that I never believed my grandfather about his secret conversations with the devil, until I heard him talking to him; it was nighttime and I couldn’t get to sleep, which was evasive to me, mostly because it was many hours before dawn and the adventure of going to the cow corral made sleep irreconcilable with my anxiousness.
Pretty, pretty pretty, my grandmother would call me. The lady who sold milk called me pretty and the lady who passed by every day on her donkey called me pretty. Any man who saw me said it, pretty, and I smiled and wondered inside if I was as beautiful as the fields of cactus covered in iguaraya fruit or as lovely as the dawn when all the birds in the world sang.
On the way to Palaausain, nearing Porshiina / rabbits dance a secret dance / with snakes that hunt kashiiwano ‘u… / and the shepherd children cup their hands / to whistle out ¡Waawai! ¡waawai! / and the desert finds itself in a hundred paths: / of rock and dust / of water and shadow / of dream and laughter / of trickery and fear / of the woman and the fiesta. // On the way to Palaausain, close to Ouutüsumana / the wanülüü drink chicha / in ranches long abandoned / silence brings forth the secret / dialogue of the dead.