The Law of the Mother: The Kogi Mamas of Colombia speak to us

Summary Biocultural Diversity

The Law of the Mother

The time has come to respect our differences, to respect the realities of other cultures and to respect the sanctity of all life, over and above the development processes that are threatening the very future of Creation.

LYING BACK IN his hammock, inside the great ceremonial temple of Seiyua, Mama Valencio gently taps his poporo with the stick he uses for extracting the lime from burnt sea shells to add to the coca leaves he quietly chews. Mama Valencio is the eldest Mama, the main spiritual leader of the Kogi, one of the tribes that are descendants of the Tayrona of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the sacred mountain of Colombia.

With a deep sadness, he asks over and again about the reasons for this latest cultural aggression by the “younger brother” – those of us from the ‘developed’ world. This time one of the sacred sites, Jukulwa, is being destroyed; a site that from time immemorial has served as a reference and memory for keeping the Law of Origin, and a place for carrying out traditional practices. He knows that the permit issued by the Ministry for Environment, Housing and Territorial Development, for the construction of a coal port on the sacred site, was given without any prior consultation with the Indigenous community – violating one of their fundamental rights within the Colombian Constitution.

Resurgence 250 Sept/Oct 2008

Juan Mayr Maldonado has spent his life working to protect the biocultural diversity of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. He has taken on many government and non-government roles, including Minister for the Environment for Colombia, President of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), President of the Biosafety Protocol negotiations and Vice-President of the World Conservation Union (IUCN).