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March 8: ‘Identity can never be silenced’

Reflections of a Misak journalist two and a half years after the femicide of the Indigenous leader Nazaria Calambas. By Angélica Almazán, Tracy L. Barnett and Diana Mery Jembuel Morales. It’s been two and a half years since Nazaria Calambas, an Indigenous Misak leader in Colombia, was shot to death before the helpless gaze of […]

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Colombia's Call of the Mountain: Restoring the Heart of Sumapaz

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 […]

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Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta: Reversing a Century of Colombian Tragedy

Can science and tradition heal the world's most productive estuarine ecosystem?

When I visited the floating palafito fishing village of Nueva Venecia in early 2021, I found myself staring out across the calm, reflective expanse of the coastal lagoon complex known as the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta. Looking back at that moment, I understand why Ernesto Mancera has spent the past 35 years studying the region’s mangroves […]

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Traditional fishers defend Colombia’s largest wetland ecosystem

Protecting the vital Mompós Depression Wetlands and its traditional fishing communities

In November, a group of traditional fishers met on the banks of the Cascaloa Ciénaga. Nilton Chacon, a leader of a local association of artisanal fishers, stood to speak.

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The Arhuacos: A Message from the Mamos, the Prophets of the Sierra Nevada

The Arhuacos have warned of this crisis for generations. Now their spiritual guides say Covid is only the first of four pandemics.

When news of Covid-19 came to the enigmatic white-clad peoples of the high Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, nobody was very surprised. Trained since birth in the ways of looking to Nature for guidance, these spiritual guides of the Sierra Nevada predicted this pandemic and other current crises decades ago.

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The Kamëntšá Biyá: Land Use Planning in Defense of the Sacred

Territorial planning and protection of sacred sites is integrally connected with public health for the Kamentsá

Territorial planning is sacred work for the Kamëntsá Biyá people of the Upper Putumayo region in Colombia. Their approach reflects a radically different view of land use — one that is integrally connected with their view of public health.

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Protecting the páramos in Colombia

Biodiversity hotspots face interconnected threats

On a recent, pre-pandemic journey to the High Andes of Colombia, I found myself surrounded by one of the region’s emblematic species, the flowering shrubs known locally as frailejones or “big monks.” These giant plants, relatives of sunflowers from the Espeletia genus, mesmerized me, their yellow buds and silvery hairs glistening in the intense, ephemeral sunlight. Looking out over […]

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Turning the Tide on Megadams

Colombian activists and scientists boost resistance to large-scale hydropower by showing their destructive impacts

Miller Dussán is one of those rare people who can just as comfortably traverse the traditional fishing villages and small farms of the countryside as he can the halls of research and policy-making institutions. In Colombia, a dynamic, water-rich country that is highly dependent on increasingly controversial hydropower, Dussán plays a vital role in these two spaces. In […]

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Colombia's resilient Wayuu resist global and local threats

Colombia's largest Indigenous ethnic group preserves vibrant traditions in the face of a potentially desolate future

La Guajira is a dry and windy peninsular desert region between Northeast Colombia and Northwest Venezuela. The striking landscape has been harsh and borderline uninhabitable for many thousands of years.   The southernmost parts of the peninsula border the slopes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range, where the principal waterway of La Guajira is born, […]

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Caring for Colombia's Dynamic Rivers

Indigenous Perspectives, Integrated Science and the Rights of Nature

From the emblematic Magdalena River, which begins high in the Andes as a Sacred Source and descends into the industrial valleys to a overused and contaminated course, to the groundbreaking case of the Atrato River, which gained international attention in 2017 when it was granted the rights of personhood under Colombia’s Rights of Nature law, Colombia’s rivers have much to teach us.

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Mamos of Colombia Issue Call for Help

Kogi, Arhuaca communities in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada pick up the pieces after devastating wildfire

An unprecedented wave of wildfires has devastated communities in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Three deaths have been reported, two victims from the Kogi and one from the Wiwa communities. Many animals have died, especially the sheep that produce wool used to make traditional bags, several mules, and horses. The costs of the damages […]

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Giving Thanks, Making Peace

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Thanksgiving day – I awoke this morning far from home and family but filled with a profound sense of gratitude. Grateful for the sun that was just beginning to brighten the sky outside my window; grateful for the dear friends who have given me a home in this city of cities. […]

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Colombians changing the world with color and style

My time in Colombia was so full of amazing people and organizations that it didn’t leave me time to write as much as I would have liked. This roundup gives a little information about each of them, with hopes to come back to each of them with more information later. Perhaps more than any country […]

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Making memories in Medellin

By Tracy L. Barnett Nov. 6, 2010 MEDELLIN, Colombia – I arrived just after dawn after a nine-hour bus ride from Cali, but a fresh breeze from the mountains awakened my excitement at being here in this legendary city at last. Known as the City of Eternal Spring, its descent into war and drug-related violence […]

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El Hatico cattle ranch: The problem is the solution

VALLE DE CAUCA, Colombia – When Alicia Calle, an environmental scientist with Yale’s Environmental Leadership and Training Initiative, first told me of El Hatico Nature Reserve, her face lit up for the first time since I’d met her an hour ago. We’d been talking about the state of the environment in Colombia, a subject with […]

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