Dec 12th 2015
I WAS A WAYUU. That was how we said person in my tongue. We were called “the godless,” the children of the rain, people of the sun. Some might say that we too were worthy of death, and although I'd died more than once, that was not what my story was about.
I was born during a downpour that opened cracks in the ground while other members of my clan danced the yonna to thank Mareygua, the Creator of the world and the bringer of juya, our word for rain. I belonged to the Epieyu caste, symbolized by the vulture—not only Mareygua's messenger, but also the carrier of the essence of the dead to the afterlife.
My mom, like any good piache, could unravel dreams. She could also walk in and out of the dead's world, heal diseases, and remain grateful through it all. Everyone danced the yonna to express gratitude for the rain. Since the dance symbolized the power struggle between men and women, my mother decided to call me Yonna.
My grandmother smelled like lemongrass and was a piache, my piache. She taught me how to knit, long before the seclusion at puberty. She once told me that when I was only three years old, I started weaving. “Little child! Walekerü tells you its secrets,” she exclaimed at the sight of me playing with the needles and fabric, as her sunburned face transformed into the shell of a wrinkled passion fruit. I felt more Wayuu with each praise.
In my clan, the women wove, cooked, cared for the children, and washed the dead. The men fished and herded the goats. To us, the Wayuu people, nothing was more important than the burials and the seclusion.
To the Wayuu people, when a girl bled for the first time, she was ready to start a family, so she stayed in a dark room with her granny, who sang songs and told her stories; to take away bad habits, her granny also cut the girl's hair until it was fully shaved. The girl learned to weave during this time, and her granny washed her body at dawn with water from juya while the rest of the family was asleep.