La Guajira: water that kills.

By: Juan David Naranjo- Rural Week

Photo: Rafael Sifones- Rural Week

“Erre win tamana”, the authorities of the Wayuu ranches of Media Guajira repeated insistently. This phrase in Wayuunaiki, the language of these indigenous communities, translates "If I had water..." and it was always accompanied by a conditional wish that they could fulfill if they only had that element. "If I had water, I would have crops." "If I had water, the children would not die." "If I had water, we could start a company."

La Guajira has suffered for centuries the ravages of its own arid and wild nature. But also the attacks of a State that has never been able to guarantee the minimum rights to this population, which sees its children die by dozens of people who suffer from hunger and thirst every day.

“We have to drink water from the same jagüey where the goats drink. It is muddy water and in the dry months it becomes scarce and we have to extract it from artisan wells that we have built ourselves”, says Wilson Ducand Epinayu, son of the Ishiin community authority, in the municipality of Manaure.

For Wilson, drinking water from these reservoirs in the middle of the desert is not strange, but he has always feared the construction of underground wells. “Some time ago we heard that some people were digging a well in another community and they got stuck down there,” she says with anguish.

But once they are built, the most common thing in this territory is to see small children approaching these wells to draw some water, fill buckets and take them home on walks that can even take several kilometers. With this yellowish and cloudy water they cook, clean and feed the animals.