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Colombia's Call of the Mountain: Restoring the Heart of Sumapaz
By Esperanza Project Posted in Colombia, Social Change, Vision Council on February 19, 2024
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The Kunagua Network in the mountains south of Bogotá hosted the 17th edition of this gathering, a Colombian version of the Vision Council, this time with the purpose of preserving and regenerating the Colombian paramos.

Text by José Aristizábal G. with editions from Tracy Barnett and Angélica Almazán.

SUMAPAZ, COLOMBIA — On the cool, rolling slopes descending from the Sumapaz páramo, or moorland, to the municipality of Silvania lies the Kunagua network. There, about 150 km south of Bogotá, thirty families are regenerating a cloud forest connected with the world’s largest páramo ecosystem. The Páramo, or Andean Moorland, is a mountain ecosystem known for its rich biodiversity and crucial role in water regulation, making it vital for downstream communities. Sumapaz, a sacred territory for the Muisca people whose name means “profound peace,” is the main source of water for the most densely populated area of the country, the Bogotá savannah.

Unfortunately, this unique ecosystem is endangered by deforestation, overgrazing, unsustainable economic activities, and climate change. Agricultural expansion, mining, as well as burnings, inadequate water management and urban expansion, also threaten this ecosystem’s survival. It is estimated that less than 70% of the original forests of the Colombian Andes have been lost.

Para leer esta historia en Español ir a El Llamado de la Montaña 2024: Restaurando el Corazón de Sumapaz.

Juan Andrés León sharing his knowledge about syntropic agriculture. (Photo: Marituly Mejia).

The Kunagua Reserves Network is a collection of reserves consisting of 30 properties spanning over 80 hectares, located in the Victoria River watershed south of Bogotá. They share the common goal of preserving water and the unique flora and fauna inhabiting this region.

This is the place where the 17th Call of the Mountain was held, an event that brings together each year the international movement of eco-villages, eco-neighborhoods, sustainable settlements, territory defending communities, and other rural and urban processes of sustainability, transition, and eco-social regeneration.

Longko Clementina, a Mapuche leader from Chile, embraces Nana Marcela at the Mayan Fire Ceremony. (Photo: Marituly Mejia).

The Call of the Mountain, initiated by the Colombian Network of Ecovillages (RENACE) in 2006 and currently organized by CASA Colombia (Council of Sustainable Settlements of the Americas), brings together a diverse range of participants, including ecovillagers, professionals, representatives from social movements, peasant communities, indigenous groups, scientists, philosophers, educators, social innovators, entrepreneurs, and global experts. 

During this event, which lasts between 4 and 7 days, participants have the opportunity to explore alternative forms of social organization, decision-making, coexistence, and meeting basic needs such as food, health, housing, and entertainment. Appropriate and social technologies are employed, such as the Vision Council, adapted to the reality of the meeting in Colombia, providing a living laboratory to experiment and develop ideas for a future society.

Remembering and commemorating the memory of Alberto Coyote Ruz, co-founder of the Vision Council – Guardians of the Earth. (Photo: Marituly Mejia).

This year the event was carried out from Jan. 11 to 14.  For those who were there, the gathering was experienced in many ways: as an explosion of fraternity, music, joy, and connection with Mother Earth, a laboratory of social transformation experiences, a diversity of alternatives to change the world… a living experience of community and peace with other living beings and with nature, an intermingling mixture of ancestries, modernity, and post-modernity; a convergence of neo-rural inhabitants, some of whom call themselves “world changers”, a nursery of paradigms, evidence that other worlds exist, a warp of weavers and pollinators of new hopes, a discharge, a burst of emotions and energy.

Dance, biodance, permaculture, bioarchitecture, music therapy, words of elders and grandparents, nonviolent communication, sociocracy, food sovereignty, other spiritualities, learning by doing, healing of the heart, collaborative systems, care of the Earth, sanctuaries of life and peace, living well, were the key words most pronounced by the 260 people who were there.

A costumed carnival troupe of the Kunagua Caravan, which displayed a multitude of actors dancing in multicolored costumes and animal masks singing to the Sumapaz the rights of Mother Earth. (Photo: Iván Sawyer).

The Call of the Mountain, or Llamado de la Montaña, the Colombian manifestation of the Vision Council, is a process that has sprung up in various territories throughout the world. The Vision Council began in Mexico in 1991 and has expanded to different countries under different names; one is currently being planned in the Canary Islands. The Call of the Mountain in Colombia has been one of the most constant and organized. Since its beginnings in 2006 it has been carried out year after year.

The Vision Council is uneven and diverse; it is mainly woven at the local level and has its articulations at the national, Latin American, and global levels. Each group and each experience are autonomous; they self-organize and self-manage. In the gathering, the insubordinations of feminisms, environmentalism, and youth come together and learn from ancestry and indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples. They are harvesting achievements and emerging as an alternative to the environmental, climatic, humanitarian, energy, and spiritual crises that the planet is experiencing.

Mindful eating meeting with Indigenous peoples and the African-American community. (Photo: Iván Sawyer).

One of the qualities of these groups and experiences is their intergenerational work: in daily life and in their own schools, mothers and fathers educate their daughters and sons, as happens in the Kunagua Forest-School. A childhood and youth are formed, seeds that guarantee the renewal and continuity of these networks and communities. Examples of this were the parallel programming for young people, the children’s guard, and their participation in dances and other artistic activities.

Since this movement is expressed in several regions throughout the country, it was agreed to hold a series of bioregional meetings during the year before the next national gathering to consolidate its presence and advance in the ecological and social transition towards another humanity. 

The Call that concluded last Jan. 14 had a special touch because of the place where it was held. The people of Kunagua have woven a spiritual relationship with the visible and invisible energies of that fertile land, which they have renamed in the feminine: the Suma-Paz. They sing and dance to her, it’s their way of being; they exude music, celebration, and revelry, so the event was full of their art and cultural and symbolic expressions, as the Vision Council gatherings have always been since their origins. 

Beatriz Arjona and Lina Echavarria receiving an offering of gratitude from the Longko Clementina on behalf of the Kunagua Network. (Photo: Marituly Mejia).

One of the most memorable moments of the gathering was the Kunagua Caravan parade, featuring number of actors dancing with multicolored costumes and animal masks singing to Suma-Paz the rights of Mother Earth. A display of the highest aesthetic quality, worthy of being presented on other prestigious stages in the country.

With music and dance the Kunagua troupe recognizes and honors the Sumapaz Páramo. (Photo: Iván Sawyer).

Listen, blessed Sumapaz,
descend from the mountain
your water is pure joy
and my heart bathes…

I want you to flow, Sumapaz…
Listen, Sumapaz, I want
a forest in my heart,
plant oaks, spectacled bears,
Andean princess flower and frailejón.

Kunagua, mirror of water
droplet of the daytime,
droplet of the night
you carry in your skin the water
that feeds the soul to be able to be
and thus be able to be.

…From the misty forest
we have come to remember
the memory of the moor.
We are beings of Sumapaz…
…In a drop of water, I go, I go, I go.

Andean Moorland Call of the Mountain Kunagua Muisca people Sumapaz

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