The Caribbean coastal municipality of Manaure in the Alta Guajira appears in many of Gabriel García Márquez’s novels. Mentioned in One Hundred Years of Solitude (visited by Rebeca Buendía and troubadour Francisco El Hombre, to whom a festival of folk music is still dedicated), Manaure is also the town where Chronicle of a Death Foretold is set. In the book, it is called “the village baked by Caribbean salt,” and indeed sea-salt extraction was once a thriving industry in the area.
The predominant ethnic group is the Wayuu, an indigenous people who have preserved their own language (Wayuunaiki), traditions and customs and who make a living from hunting, fishing, goat farming, wild fruit gathering and craft-making. The hot, dry climate and semi-desert environment makes agriculture extremely difficult, though small plots called yujas are cultivated.
The most common of the traditional crops is the guajiro cowpea (known locally as kapeshuna), actually several bean varieties, all with a high protein content but with different colors (gray, white, blue or brown with small white speckles). The beans are sown before the rainy season, which lasts from March to October. The men dig furrows in the earth with a long pointed stake while the women and children follow behind scattering three to five seeds in each furrow. It tends to be the women who save the seeds, selecting them and storing them in gourds from the new moon until the rainy season.
The origin of beans features in the Wayuu cosmogony, linked specifically to two mythological figures, Juyakai (the male personification of rain) and Pulowi (a female representative of drought). According to various legends, the union of these two sacred beings gave rise to the seeds and the plants. The beans are a key ingredient in many of the Wayuu community’s traditional recipes, like poy, a soup dense with kapeshuna cooked with lamb fat and yellow corn, traditionally served to young women after their first menstrual cycle.
Six indigenous Wayuu communities, Manaure municipality, La Guajira department
Presidium supported by
DPS – Colombian Department for Social Prosperity
In collaboration with
RIMISP – Latin American Center for Rural Development
Diversidad y Desarrollo