Indigenous literature of Colombia characteristics and themes

Abraham McLaughlin

The indigenous literature of Colombia It is an artistic expression in which the impressions, customs, expressions commonly used by its authors and the description of the nature where the original communities are settled are collected..

Literature is an art that allows to capture contents related to the culture of a region and specific times, in writing, through the use of expressive resources such as metaphor, hyperbole, personification, onomatopoeia, among others..

Yurupary, an example of indigenous literature from Colombia

It can be found in various departments such as Amazonas, La Guajira, Cesar, Chocó, Guaviare and is written in their respective languages ​​(Quechuas, Camentsá, Wayuu) and in Spanish..

Its theme is based on narrating the customs of the past and present, their dances and oral traditions. The poems arise from the result of listening to older people of different ethnicities.

Topics and characteristics of Colombian indigenous literature

There is the false conception that indigenous literature is of a low category, when in reality it is a type of writing not widely disseminated, which expresses the most abundant diversity among indigenous peoples and those who have come from colonial times to the present to Colombia.

The myths that arose in indigenous cultures speak of the beginning of the World by supreme beings, who created the day, the night, the water, the mud, the animal species and in the end, man is created.

It has similarities with the book of Genesis of the Bible, where the World was created gradually, with creatures (fauna and flora) ending with man. Also the stages of creation are similar to those of the Popol Vuh.


Nature is the main subject for which Colombian indigenous people show admiration and respect.

The oral tradition is being documented in order to keep in force the customs that are threatened by technological advances and uncontrolled economic exploitation.

Life forms

The main writers of indigenous or aboriginal literature want to show the way in which their ancestors lived in the stages of the colony and the beginnings of the Republic.

They require the support of the State to be able to disseminate this literature not only in the field of university academics, but also in education programs at the primary and secondary levels. Among the most recognized authors are Hugo Jamioy, Wiñay Mallki, Fredy Chikangana.

Documenting the orality of traditions is an activity of great sacrifice for writers, who seek to leave material that reflects the diverse indigenous art, through the transcription, elaboration of poems and explanation of cave painting..

In this way, it seeks to provide material in which the roots of Colombia and its interaction with the non-indigenous population are made known..

The investigations carried out by the Academy put into context what have been the difficulties that have passed and the contributions provided by indigenous populations within the history of Colombia.

Yukpa ethnic group

The Yukpa ethnic group has sought to maintain their customs and care for nature for walkers who pass through the Sierra de Perijá, on both sides of the Colombian-Venezuelan border. The Wayuu ethnic group lives in unfavorable conditions, such as high temperatures and arid areas in the aforementioned border.

It has been written about the way in which some indigenous peoples see images in the sky and on the earth, attributed to magical powers, but in reality it is about the consumption of plants, prepared in potions, that work as hallucinogens, such as coca and others.

These potions generated distortions of reality. Through metaphors this characteristic is evidenced


The eighty-four indigenous peoples in New Granada have organized to be recognized as citizens with rights, since in the past they were marginalized from public policies, lacking the inclusion of indigenous people in the Education system.

In 1991, the Constituent Assembly collected the proposals of the Wayuu and other indigenous peoples. Here are some examples:

- From the Uitoto ethnic group, the grandparents are the ones who pass on the stories to the little ones about the origin of the World from their own vision, of heroic characters who provide solutions, rituals. All these aspects have more details added with the passing of one generation to another..

- Of the Wayuu ethnic group, it is explained how the origin of the World was realized, through the elements air, earth and water, heat and cold, light and darkness. Metaphors help explain how the real becomes an evoked action or image. In his dances the woman takes a predominant role over the man.

- From the Catmensá ethnic group, there is an oral tradition on how to make medicines, cook, perform rituals, human feelings and the importance of nature is documented through poems, in their language and in Spanish. This provides the opportunity for non-indigenous readers to get to know this culture of this ethnic group..


The content of indigenous or aboriginal literature does not seek to change the world, but rather to present the ways in which each ethnic group has seen its day to day, generation after generation..

The authors agree that the actions must be conscious and they make possible the necessary changes within the respective realities of the communities, whether they are remote or close to the cities of decisive influence..

At an editorial level, there are interesting opportunities to attract talented talent for the elaboration of texts, in Spanish and the different languages, which can be distributed in all the departments of the Republic of Colombia..

With the support of indigenous communities, projection would be given not only to them but to the areas where they live.

Colombian public institutions are interested in disseminating everything related to the work of indigenous writers: their lives, the way they live today, taking into account that Colombia is a diverse country, with different cultures and creeds that enrich history..

The Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of the Interior, the Mayor's Office of Bogotá, together with the universities, are committed to this important objective of generating information on indigenous peoples..


  1. Browning, P. (2014). The Problem of Defining 'Indigenous Literacy:' Lessons from the Andes. Medellín, Íkala Magazine of Language and Culture.
  2. Castro, O. (1982). Colombian literature seen by Colombian writers. Medellin, UNAL.
  3. Myths of Origin of Indigenous Peoples of Colombia. Recovered from:
  4. Annual Report on Colombia. Recovered from:
  5. Rocha, M. (2010). Book in the wind. Bogotá, Mayor's Office of Bogotá.
  6. Sánchez, E., et al (2010). Introductory Manual and Reading Encouragement Guide. Bogotá, Ministry of Culture.

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