The Wayuu are known as the people of the sun, sand, and wind. They are located in the arid Guajira Peninsula in northern Colombia and northwest Venezuela.
According to Wayuu culture, families are divided up into clans based on their mother’s last name. Traditional Wayuu families live together on rancherias, a family settlement, where they herd goats and sew Wayuu mochilas.
From a very early age, the Wayuu learn to knit bags or “mochilas” to preserve their traditions and history. They have been hand weaving these bags for generations and they are an essential part of their cultural identity. The inspiration to make a mochila is based on their everyday life and surroundings. Men and boys weave the long straps for the bags while women and their daughters weave the body of the bag. It takes a family anywhere from 1-3 weeks to complete a mochila.
The Guajira region is the second poorest region in the Americas just behind Haiti. Every year 500+ Wayuu children die of starvation and dehydration.
Illiteracy is one of the biggest challenges for the Wayuu people. 66% of their population do not know how to read or write. Wayuu children are often discouraged by their inabilities to keep up with their peers in the classroom. Many of them drop out believing that an education is worthless.
The Wayuu population of around 600,000 still remains largely unreached.