SATURDAY, MAY 21, 2016
Eric Lee, A-SOCIATED PRESS
TOPICS: KOGI, TAIRONA, FROM THE WIRES, SUSTAINER CULTURE
TUCSON (A-P) — What follows is a transcript of "From the Heart of the World: The Elder Brothers' Warning," a 1990 documentary. Watch it (on YouTube or below), but to "think carefully" you need to read and reread the message while thinking about it. The Kogi use the word "think" 30 times in their warning. Examples: think about it, think clearly, think carefully, think...think...think, think about it very carefully, think very hard, think it through. They do not ask you to believe. Believers will not get their message.
0:03 Imagine a pyramid standing alone by the sea. Each side a hundred miles long. It’s a mountain, nearly four miles high. In its folds, imagine every different climate on earth. This is the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The people hidden here call the Sierra the Heart of the World. And themselves the Elder Brothers.
[Kogi] "The Great Mother created the world in water. She makes the future in it. This is how she speaks to us. We look after nature. We are the mámas and do this here. And we mámas see that you are killing it by what you do. We can no longer repair the world. You must. You are uprooting the earth. And we are divining to discover how to teach you to stop."
2:38 Santa Marta, on the Caribbean cost of Columbia, sits at the mountain's foot. It was founded by the Spanish in 1525. It became a great center of smuggling and contraband. A few years ago it was the heart of the marijuana trade. In recent years it has been a base for shipping cocaine to Miami. You can hire an assassin in Santa Marta for $100. Every sunrise reveals another murder. Like any city, Santa Marta is out to make money. Santa Marta would like to be Los Angeles or Miami, it belongs to our world.
3:23 Once there were Indians here who dressed in gold. They had orchards, fields and cities. The Tairona civilization vanished, like all Indian civilizations in South America, but it did not die. Four hundred years ago they withdrew for safety into the Heart of the World. The children of the Taironas still have their cities, their roads, their orchards, and from the hidden folds of the mountain they have watched our civilization in silence, but now the descendants of the Taironas have summoned us. This film is their first message for centuries.
4:27 Most people in Santa Marta have no idea that they are there at all. All they know are that there are some relics left by the Taironas. This is the Tairona National Park, a few mile along the coast. Ancient Indian cites here were abandoned long ago and reclaimed by the forest. It's supposed to be a protected archaeological area, but Indian graveyards here have been turned into open cart mines by looters. This man is a tomb robber, probing the ground for the feel and sound of pottery. He is called a guacheiro, "waqa" is an Indian word for a religious object. Perhaps once a year an experienced guacheiro strikes gold, and if he's exceptionally lucky, he can make 10,000 pounds for his years effort, which is more than he can earn any other way except through trading in drugs.
6:10 A few years ago the guacheiros formed a tomb robbers union with 10,000 members and asked the government to recognize them officially. They were turned down and today they protect their rights by more old fashioned methods. If you want to be shot dead in a hurry, dig a hole near Santa Marta. The law has no power here. These robbers are working in full view of the public.
6:47 [Robber] "This is an example of a jar that shows the pathway and the remains of the burial where the dead man lay. Probably with some stuff but perhaps he was too poor. Here is the path." The path is a finger that sometimes, very rarely, points to gold--we shall see.
7:23 In 1973 a lone guacheiro hacked a path into the dense rain forest. The area was called, "El Infierno," Hell, but there was a rumor that somewhere in Hell, was once a great city rich in gold. He found it. The guacheiro had found a monumental ceremonial city, but what was it? How did it die? Today it is simply known as "The Lost City." On the sides of the ridge there are huge terraces covering more than 2,000 acres. The wooden thatched houses have gone, but for three years tomb robbers pillaged their stone foundations.
8:48 Unbelievably it was only 15 miles from Santa Marta, but there were good reasons it had disappeared. [Frankie Rey, ex-tomb robber] "This was Hell because it was tough here. It was hard to get here, to sleep, to cook. It was a hard struggle to bring food here, to cook. People arrived to dig without food. The wood was too wet to make a fire." Eventually Frankie lead the archaeologists into the jungle, and they began to recognize that the civilization that had built the lost city was very advanced indeed.
9:48 [Alvaro Soto, Director of Excavation] "Archeology actually is just a translation, it's a translation to Western mind of what Indian mind wanted to express. Now the question is what the Indian mind wanted to express building this city. I'll say that they wanted to show that it is possible to have a good density of population in a very beautiful environment, like this one, without destroying it. There is also certain techniques of the Tairona, they were adapting the city purposely to the topographical conditions of the area. They were building this wall in a way that they were not as ordered at the top of the running water from the constant and very frequent rains of the area."
11:01 If the city did not blend with the powerful forces of nature that shapes this jungle, it would have been broken apart by roots and washed away by rain, but it was abandoned 400 years ago and it's still there. The paths and stairways carry away the water without damage, and they also linked the city into a network of roads covering the whole mountain. The city was to large to support itself. It depended on supplies from other areas of the mountain. The Tairona treated the whole Sierra as a single system. [Cities, city-states, imply elite control of distant settlements through either military force, religion authority, or both. Elite demands tend to collapse the production system.]
12:00 The Sierra is a copy of the whole planet in miniature. At the edge of the sea it is in the tropics, it is very hot and very lush. Twenty-five miles from the beaches there are snow peaks. Here the climate is arctic, the temperature never raising to zero. Every range of temperature, and every range of rainfall. Parts of the Sierra are dessert. Other parts are tropical rain forest and mountain cloud forest. Almost every animal and every plant from any where in the world can find a home somewhere in the Sierra. Only the birds can leave, everything else is trapped in the pocket environment that suits it.
13:02 [Alvaro Soto, Director of Excavation] "They were using the Sierra, not going against the Sierra, they were using the Sierra by each climate level. So people that was located in the lower part of the Sierra were people that were fisherman and these fisherman were the people that were producing the proteins and the salt, and they sell it [or trade] the salt to the road people that were constructing with stone, these marvelous work, leave the Sierra where they were planting different crops So in the higher parts of the Sierra they were planting cotton and still higher they were planting corn (maize) and beans, basic proteins."
14:02 The whole Sierra was farmed and structured, almost every slope has been terraced for planting, and even what seems to be jungle turned out to have been shaped by humans. The balance of different kinds of plants and trees has been shown to be quite different from that of uninhabited jungle, in fact this is a huge overgrown Tairona garden.
14:35 By the roadside at the entrance to the lost city, is a carved stone. It seems to be a map of the complete system covering the whole mountain mastiff, but although there are many ancient roadways, they do not fit the map. The map stone is clearly important, but what is being mapped? There are people who know, the descendants of the Taironas, the Kogi, still live in cities higher in the Sierras. All of the civilizations that flourished in South America were demolished by conquest except this one. But they do not speak to us and no Columbian speaks their language. The Kogi do not like strangers walking their roads. They call us the Younger Brothers, children who do not understand how to take care of the world.
15:54 [Alvaro Soto, Director of Excavation] "Three hundred thousand people in the past were able to survive in the Sierra without creating an ecological mess and today much fewer settlers are really harming very badly the Sierra." The Columbian farmers who have invaded the base of the base of the Sierra are creating a spreading cancer of sterile dust. But neither the original conquerers nor the modern farmers have ever colonized the higher parts of the Sierra. Missionaries and officials who have tried to take control up here had a long difficult journey, and when they arrived they met a passive human wall of resistance. It worked. Even today, this jungle represents a barrier that separates the world of the Kogi from our world.
17:26 Here there are still towns without the wheel, farmers without the plow, educators without the written word, priests who have the power of government. To learn how the Tairona organize the life of the Heart of the World, we would have to go to the Kogi. Everyone said this was impossible. A government official who the Kogi trust climbed the mountain with my letter. A Spanish speaking Kogi went with her to interpret it, and eventually word came back the mámas wanted to speak. They said they had a message to give to the world. We would not be allowed to see everything or to learn every secret. We never learned anyone's real name. Everyone is know by a Spanish pseudo name. I was told that I should bring whoever I needed and whatever I needed. That's me, Allan Ereira, with the mule. The Kogi, naturally enough, called me the BBC. Whatever I was, I was there as a messenger for the Younger Brother.
18:57 [Kogi] "In the beginning, the Great Mother divided up the earth. She sent you [the Younger Brothers] far away, far away, far away, and in this place, this place she put us. Then the Younger Brother came back again to this side of the world, he came back again, and he started to destroy, and he started to kill us. So now you've reached here. The Younger Brother is at the gate of the Elder Brother. We would like guards to keep Younger Brother out like the beams that held our bridge. Each of these wooden supports is like one of the nine worlds; they should keep us apart, apart, apart, yes, yes they should. We want you blocked from crossing over. We do. Younger Brother climbs and we retreat before him. He has taken our lands below. But the lands above are closed to him. It was said long ago to the Younger Brother that he should stay in his place over there, but he never listens. Still he keeps on coming and trying to get in here. So now he must stop right here. Isn't that what the Brother said? Just once, he will come through the gate.
21:14 [BBC] "This is my third successive January in the Sierra, but it is the first time I've been allowed up this far. Up to now I've been kept in fronter regions, and all our filming so far has been in a fronter region, but up here, now we've crossed that bridge, we are in Kogi territory and are about to enter city, a large town at any rate, which has been occupied continuously since before the conquest which is built on Tairona foundations, which is a functioning Tairona city. We are now entering the last functioning civilization of Pre-Columbian America."
23:05 The ordinary citizens were described to me as vassals, their lives are ordered and directed by Cabos, the city guards. They control what comes in from the outside. Iron tools are useful, but shoes would break the contact between people and the earth. Cabos are drawn from the vassals. They are appointed by the priests, the mámas. They take their orders from a Commissioner, also appointed by the mámas. All, mámas, Commissioners and Cabos are confirmed by divination.
24:14 This rigid society, in which every man must work when he is told to work, maintains the paths of its ancestors. "máma" means the sun, the mámas are the enlightened ones, they watch over the community and maintain its purity. In each town there is a large house that only men can enter. This is the nuhue, the World house. The thatched roof and palm walls are replaced every few years. But a nuhue has stood here for more than a thousand years.
25:40 [Máma] "I'm here, we all are here, to give a warning. I am speaking on behalf of us all to send out a message to all the Younger Brothers (and I'm going to have to say it in a way they can understand). Not just a message for the men who have come, and whatever place they've come from, not just for the men who've come, I want the whole world to listen to the warning that we speak to you. She taught, the Great Mother taught, she taught us right and wrong, and still we have not given up living in the way, and knowing right from wrong as she taught us. We remember a teaching and live by it. The Great Mother taught and taught. The Great Mother gave us what we needed to live and her teaching has not been forgotten right up to this day. We all still live by it. But now they are taking out the Mother's heart, they are digging up the ground and cutting out her liver and her guts. The Mother is being cut to pieces and stripped of everything. From their first landing they have been doing this. The Great Mother too has a mouth, eyes, and ears. They are cutting out her eyes and ears. If we lost an eye we would be sad. So the Mother too is sad, and she'll end, and the world ends if you do not stop digging and digging." [The digging refers both to mining and to the rampant robbery of Tairona tombs].
27:20 "Younger Brother, we know that the water down below has started drying up. Don't think that we are responsible. It's you. We are doing our work properly, and neither you nor I know when the world will end, isn't it so? Stop digging in the earth and stealing the gold. If you go on the world will end. You are bringing the world to an end. Now I'm sending this message and I ask can they think, listening to this, that it must be us, the Elder Brothers, who have destroyed everything? I know they won't think that. I want to give some advise, to tell the real truth to the Younger Brother, that if they go on like this and if they don't change their ways at once, that they will see what will happen, they will see what will happen. I don't know when the world will end, but their looting will destroy it. They've taken so much. They've taken the Guardians of the sun and stars, the world will go black. The Earth! What would they think if all we mámas died? Would they think, so what? What would they think? If that happened and all we mámas died, and there was no one doing our work [as Earth Agents], well the rain wouldn't fall from the sky [as expected, that's what 'change' means as in climate change], it would get hotter and hotter from the sky, and the trees wouldn't grow and the crops wouldn't grow.... Or am I wrong and they would grow anyway? [I don't want to seem dogmatic, but think about it...]
29:00 Are we really meant to believe that the Kogi have been secretly taking care of the world for centuries? They believe it. [They have been preserving the 'we are the environment' meme for centuries, which alone can save us.] They are the Elder Brothers, that's why they live as they do.
29:23 This boy of 18 is being initiated as a man. Dried leaves of the coca bush, tended and picked only by women, eaten only by adult men, will numb his mouth. There is powdered lime on the stick. He eats it and does not feel its burning heat. The lime activates chemicals in the leaf. They believe that natural coca civilizes men [women, being naturally civilized, don't need it]. The toasted leaf they chew is as far from refined cocaine as rye bread is from rye whiskey. It has been a food for thousands of years for Native Americans, giving them important vitamins and enabling them to endure long periods without food and sleep. Adult Kogis reckon their normal life expectancy at 90 [for those reaching adulthood].
31:19 The lime is kept in a poporo [bottle gourd], the symbol of manhood. This gourd may look like a penis, but it represents the womb. They refer to it as both a safeguard and a woman. The lime covered stick representing the male part [penis] is wiped [rubbed] on the top building up a disk of hardened lime on the rim. Unbalanced masculinity, without this image of both sexes working together, would be dangerous. The poporo is the mark of civilization. Eating from it reminds a man of what he is and keeps him in harmony with the Great Mother.
32:00 [Máma to initiate] "Slowly, bring it [the stick] out and suck it. And think, think, think of the Great Mother. Ask for your poporo in spirit, concentrate, think about it, ask for it, ask with your mind. Are the spirit Guardians to grant these the guardian of the poporo and of the stick the guardian of the goods."
32:30 Máma Bernardo [pseudonym, Mamo, if used, is Latinized form of máma] comes from a long line of ancient priests. His father died in 1987, a hundred and two years old [public sanitation and lack of exposure to infectious disease likely]. You mustn't give up using your poporo and eating the coca now or in the future, otherwise you are not a man and can't be married. You should think about always about the poporo and what it means. It's a woman, now that you can use it, you can take a wife, you can take a wife, but you've got to think carefully. When you are married, when you have a woman, you have to look after her, you have to work for her [not the other way around]. You mustn't ever hit her or mistreat her. At night, before you sleep, chew the leaf, chew four times at least, to help you think clearly, and think what you're going to do the next day. What things need to be done and how you're going to do them. Think it through.
34:04 Now he will be admitted for the first time to the nuhue, the World House, where only men may gather. He will sit for four days and nights with his face to the wall. He will neither sleep nor eat. He must listen to the teachings of the town officials and elders. "Now you're going to have pay attention and to think carefully to everything the mámas say. You must listen to their words and must remember what they tell you. And you must think about it very carefully, and that way you will behave well. You can't just cut banana trees, you can't cut them because banana trees are like your father, like your mother, you have to respect them as much as any person, as you respect them. You shouldn't cut down mango trees, or avocado trees, or guava trees. Any growing tree is like a human being and they hurt too just like you were cutting off your own leg.
35:40 Ramon Hill is the person the Kogi are using to explain their teachings to the world outside, a full Indian but only half Kogi, he can read and write Spanish. The mámas taught Ramon for 14 months and then sent him to communicate with us.
35:58 [Kogi] Humans need water, they have to have water to live. The earth is the same. It was perfect like Taranka, but now it is weak and diseased. Animals die, the trees dry up, its te
37:09 [Kogi] "In the beginning there was blackness, only the sea. In the beginning there was no sun, no moon, no people. In the beginning there were no animals, no plants, only the sea. The sea was the mother. The mother was not people, she was not anything. Nothing at all. She was when she was. Spirit. She was memory and possibility. She was Aluna.
37:56 We must explain these things. We shouldn't threaten or insult, but it's good that we speak. We must show them how we work and how we offer our tribute to the Great Mother, so that they know that we are here working for the the Younger Brother too. The mámas work not only for the Kogis but for all the people in the world. The máma stands up. The máma is not angry, not even with Younger Brother although he did harm. The máma must look after Younger Brother and Elder Brother, the animals, the plants, and all that is natural, because the máma has a duty to care for the future of all kinds of creatures and all kinds of people. We had gold spindles before - before the Younger Brother took them. The spindle is the oldest machine."
39:14 The mámas want to teach us how the world was made. They say that we mutilate the world because we do not remember the Great Mother. She is not a distant god, she is the Mind inside Nature. [Kogi] "Where does the idea of Earth come from? Where do we get the idea of water? Why do we have a word for it? These things were conceived in the beginning, before the dawning, these were ideas, water and earth. We can only have ideas of things that have already been conceived in Aluna. Before the dawning, before there was anything, we were conceived in the water of Aluna. So were the trees, the mountains, everything.
40:14 And then the Mother began to spin out her thoughts. She heaped up a spindle before the dawning, and the Mother spun nine new worlds. She gave birth to nine daughters. Each world had its own color. And she gave birth to sons, the lords of creation. One was Seranque. And then she wondered, how would we create a living thing? It was hard to understand how to make a human. The mother and her children had to think very hard. How does an eye work? How does a foot work? And when she was done, the ninth world was peopled. But this was before the dawning,. There were still no people, no plants, no animals, no sun. Only the Mother. Only Aluna."
41:36 At the foot of the mountain tomb robbers are plundering the graves of the Kogis ancestors, the Taironas. "A bone of the dead man." The jar is a womb of clay for the dead. This jar is over a thousand years old. Even if it contains no grave goods, it will still be worth a lot of money. "A shell? Yes, a shell." The shattered jar is of no interest at all. These men are not academic researchers. A tomb like this exceptionally deep with stone walls like a well will be torn to pieces, the smell of gold has become so strong. A year's hunting is coming to its climax
44:30 The Mother bled. She had her period. She was fertile. And the world was fertile. Her blood is gold. It remains in the earth. It is fertility. Gold and water, blood and water, are necessary for the life of all things. And then human beings were made, to care for the living things. The plants. The animals. This is why people were made.
45:16 "You going to film me weaving again?" "Yes, I've come to learn." "Let me explain. There are nine threads - nine threads. To make a blouse it takes us almost a month. We don't ask them how to weave, do we? We don't go over there and say, "show us." If the cameraman breaks my shuttle I'll hit him" [smiles]. The diplomatic gentleman in the hammock, persuading a reluctant weaver to cooperate in filming is Máma Juan Haciento, a hereditary lord of the Kogis. The mámas are completely convinced that they have to make this film, but the vassals have been brought up to be suspicious of outsiders. [Máma to a weaver]: When you start to weave, you should concentrate on what you are doing and not let yourself be distracted by other things, so settle down. Think hard. Think about the cloth because you are making the clothes that we wear. The cloth you make is an offering, and it says a great deal about what kind of man you are. Clothes speak to the paths of the world, so you have to weave them well and carefully, thinking only of what they mean. The cross of the loom shows the beams linking the corners of the world. It is the cross which sustains the earth. The Mother gave us a copy of this in the loom so that we would remember it.
47:14 "The Great Mother told us what to put in to poporo. To put [lime] in here we must go all the way to the sea and fetch shells for this gourd. We must never give this up." Máma Fitzgal is preparing to burn seashells to make lime. The mámas make occasional journeys to the beaches near Santa Marta to collect the shells. The uprights are call "Cabos" or guards. They defend the order of things. All Kogi life is enclosed by this order.
48:00 The floor of the nuhue, the men's house, is the ninth world, the material world. The wooden guards in the house supporting men's hammocks, suspend them between this world and others. These other worlds are seen in rings around the roof. At the center everything descends from the cross beams on which the universe was built. This order is built into the fire, nine shells for the nine worlds, the nine children of the Great Mother.
49:35 Once the shells have been burnt, Máma Fitzgal and his wife, who is also a máma, prepare them for the poporo. "My wife and I now bless the shells while putting them into the gourd and pouring water into it. When you are doing this work, preparing the shells you, shouldn't be using the poporo, and you shouldn't be thinking about anything else at all. A Great Mother told us we should never quarrel with women and we must always treat them well, because women, the Mother, taught us this. Now put it in the pot, and when it's gone in, you can add the water to it." [woman máma] "We've explained everything. You should be thinking how the Mother gave it to us in the beginning. The Mother gave these things to me too, I still know, I haven't forgotten what the Mother taught, and the Younger Brother shouldn't think that women don't know. I'm a máma. I know how to give a boy his poporo."
51:05 The water reacts with the calcified shells. "The Mother says that in our history, máma says that here in this land, there was only and everywhere through out the land the Elder Brother all following the work the the máma knowing all that a payment must be made for whatever we take from the land. This applies to everything. Not even the air we breath, or the water we drink, but all of it of nature or machine, when you take you make a payment."
51:49 "But then Seranque created the Younger Brother. He didn't listen. He did not understand. He would dig in the earth, tear at the earth, wound the Mother. Seranque said, "We will send him away, we will make a division - the sea. The Elder Brother here, in the Heart of the World, the Younger Brother there across the sea where he will not harm the Heart of the World. And he was given knowledge of machines and sent away."
52:53 The sugar press, like the sugar cane they grow, and the horses and cattle they keep, had no place in the world of their ancestors. For these things came when Younger Brother crossed the ocean to return (the Kogis believe) to this original Eden. The sea, which the Indians believe gave birth to all life, had kept them apart from Europe's Iron Kingdom. But the sea carried ships. They landed in 1514, and their commander had a document read out on the beach: "I assure you that with the help of God I will enter powerfully against you, and I will make war on you in every place and in every way that I can, and I will subject you to the yoke and obedience of the church and their highnesses, and I will take your persons and your women and your children, and I will make them slaves, and as such I will sell them, and dispose of them as their highnesses command: I will take your goods, and I will do you all the evils and harms which I can, just as to vassals who do not obey and do not want to receive their lord, resist him and contradict him. And I declare that the deaths and harms which arise from this will be your fault, and not that of their highnesses, nor mine, nor of the gentlemen who have come with me here."
54:07 They found a well paved road leading to a city. Today the ruins of this coastal city are called Pueblito. Máma Valencia is the máma who remembers history. "People used to live in peace, all over this land. We the Elder Brother had no problems with the Younger Brother [who were overseas] at all, always in peace, in peace, in peace [among Taironas], that's how it was. And then he arrived, Younger Brother arrived and he started to kill us, and to destroy. They set dogs on us, and we were terrified and the people panicked and didn't know what to do, and just ran wherever they could. That's how it was. We had our bags as we ran and scattered everywhere. Falling....scattered, our finest things and when we stopped and looked, hey, everything was gone, nothing left."
55:33 Máma Valencia's account of what happened here when the Spanish first came is fully backed up by the chronicals. In fact, the five thousand or so people that lived here continued to live here after the Spanish arrived and it wasn't until the end of 16th century that relations finally broke down to such a point that the city was wiped out. The Spanish settled on the coast and used Indians to work their farms [plantations]. They demanded gold, and the Indians gave it. And when the Indians ran away and went up to the mámas in the mountain to escape, the mámas gave them more gold and said give it to the Spanish and go back to work because without the fish and salt that you send from the coast the rest of the Sierra cannot live.
56:25 The Spanish squeezed the Indians ever harder. But in 1600, after nearly a century of coexistence [tolerable servitude], a new governor in Santa Marta provoked a major uprising [exact same business-as-usual pattern as with Pueblo Indians who were forced to revolt in 1680 with only some Hopi surviving culturally as the Kogi survived their onslaught]. He presented the destruction of the Tairona as a moral crusade [repeating what the Conquistador had read on the beach in 1514 (see 54:07)] with the utterly bizarre conviction that they were all homosexual.
56:48 Spanish men spent a lot of time together whether they were soldiers, sailors, or members of one of the many religious orders. It was commonly assumed in Spain that men who spent nights together would do abominable things if it was not for the restrain of Christian morals. The nuhue, where men talk and sleep in the city was called in Spanish "The House of the Devil." Earlier Conquistadors had Indians thrown to the dogs for supposed acts of sodomy. The new governor said that it justified war on the whole Tairona culture.
57:33 The balanced pattern of light in the Sierras collapsed as tens of thousands of refugees fled up the mountain. Most died of starvation. [Máma oral historian:] "We lived in peace over this whole land, and I ask myself now, how could they have come here, how could they have done these terrible things. They made us run away and hide, we ran into the mountains, we were so terrified of their dogs and their guns, and they chased us and chased us and chased us, and stole our land. And when I think that they came here only to kill us, to destroy,...no, no, no, no it's unbelievable. They stole from us, they took our lands so that they could live here....wasn't that how it was?"
58:53 The refugees fled to smaller cities high in the mountains [most to die quietly by starvation]. These were the sacred cities of the mámas and gradually the mámas established a new way of life [for themselves and] for the survivors. The Indians had learned from the Spanish to grow new crops and to keep farm animals. This meant that they could create a stable self-sufficient refuge [by maximizing carrying capacity within sustainable limits], and they have kept control here ever since.
59:17 Behind me is a triangular building which missionaries put up for the church, and here in the middle of the town square is a cross. It is not a museum. It has been changed by the outside world, but what's remarkable about the Kogi is they've decided what to accept and what to reject. They allowed the missionaries to come, but there has never been a single Christian convert. They accept iron tools, machetes, spades, but they refuse to ware our kind of clothing, and they refuse to accept writing. They refuse to accept anything which would damage the organization and the spiritual and intellectual ideas that control their world.
1:00:00 The Kogi are farmers like their ancestors. Husband, wife, and children maintain a number of farms [plots] in different zones [climatic] on the mountain growing a variety of different crops. Most of the time the towns [the city-like villages] are deserted. Everyone is on their farm. The mámas do not permit fields of a single crop. Farms must be carefully balanced plots. The family is clearing the undergrowth for new planting under the trees. [Kogi children] "Careful, you'll split the camera with your machete [laughter]."
1:00:46 Beans are being planted close to the farm house. Only women may do this. It is part of the relationship between the mother of a family and and the Mother Earth. They insist that the secret of fertility does not simpling lie in knowing how to plant and harvest. [Kogi] "Every thing they plant must be blessed to help to grow. The beans, corn, they all have Guardians, fruit trees too, they all have Guardians. They all have Guardians. We must ask the Guardians for permission. If we didn't do that, then, if crops aren't blessed, how can they grow properly? They dry up and rot without it. That's how it is." [If the pointy hat indicates a máma, the speaker is a believer. Younger Brother has mámas of a sort who would suggest a Latin square test plot where plots are randomly blessed or not without the farmer knowing which. The Younger Brother máma rigidly determines the experimental protocol, data collect, and interpretation, and if the unblessed plots dry up and rot, then that would be a tremendously interesting result, but Younger Brother, using fossil-fuel inputs, routinely produces 200 bushels corn per acre without a single ear being blessed.]
1:01:53 A family farm always has two houses, one for the man [singular?], and a separate one where the women [extended family women or multiple wives?] and children live. Children are conceived in the fields, never in a house. [Kogi child:] "Hey, you [to a dog] shouldn't be there! Get out, go on. Out! He's gone, now everyone will think that Kogi live with dogs in their houses [no, they are not savages who would have a dog in their house]. Oh, that looks like a dogskin [referring to the sound man's cover on his microphone] Mummy." [Mummy] "Yes, that's a dead dog on his stick." [Child] "I know - it's a dead goat! [smiling, laughter].
1:02:41 We will take the children to the máma so he blesses them, then we look after them. We take care of their health and fitness and when the children get sick you have to take them to be healed. You bring them to the mámas so they concentrate, and cure the children, make them better. That way all the children get to know the mámas. We take the them to the mámas to get cured, and sometimes they're not cured and they die, and then we cry and cry.
1:03:35 The mámas tune themselves to Aluna, the inter reality of the world and they have a very different upbringing from infancy. They are elected by divination and taken away. Máma Bernardo started his education late. "I'll tell you what it's like. When I began my education I was only a boy, up to here [height of man seated on floor]. I was just a child and they brought me up and trained me to be a máma. Nine years, that's how long it took, my training. Nine years, and at the end of that it was done. I was ready. But really to tell you the truth, to pass on the teaching really properly and do it really well, to do it in the right way, you take a baby, and that's a baby from the moment it is born, and you take it away and you keep it in a nuhue. To make a máma like they used to you have to take the child as soon as it is born and from then on you keep it shut away."
1:04:50 The child is sometimes educated in a specially built house, sometimes in a cave. It learns to meditate on the Great Mother and on other spirits who come from the Mother, the Guardians of all living things. These must be helped and cared for because they nurture the world. They must be given nourishment, represented by offerings of fragments of thread and leaf and stone. "Think hard. Guardians of trees, birds and waters, Guardians of all things, consider them and offer them your gifts. Put your offerings there. The Mother takes them."
1:05:45 You have to take the [titil they tea] and you wash it in a stone grinding kof, swirling the water, making it pure, to wash the baby. And when it's washed, then you have to shut it way where it is in the dark, completely in the dark, dark, that means you shouldn't even light a fire, no light. It should see nothing in the dark all alone and in a house nearby lives it's mother, and she feeds it, she gives it milk, but at night, she can't come in the light and then she feeds it with milk from her breast, then she goes away again. The mother mustn't eat any food with the blood of an animal and that means she mustn't eat any chicken or thing that comes from pigs, no beef, her food must all be white, white beans, white potatoes, white snails, right, it must all be white, white, white. "We make - really you make - this offering because - the Guardians are sick. They have fevers, cramps and pains. Will Younger Brother understand this? Will he say "Yes", and realize that he has mutilated them? We'll see. Imagine them all lying there, give them water. The Guardians need help, they need help. Now think very hard...."
1;07:29 In a sense the student máma has been kept in a second womb. To nine months has been added nine years. Old wise men came into the dark speaking of mountains and birds and animals which could only be imagined. What must it be like to emerge into the light? For all his life the child has known the world only as an idea. His physical senses have been kept alive, but only just. Just enough light to avoid blindness, just enough food to avoid starvation. No meat, not salt, only lukewarm water to drink. And now, in place of the world he has imagined, he sees the world created by the Great Mother. He could not have imagined the grandeur or the detail.
1:09:42 What a power there is in the Mind of the Great Mother to conceive all this. And this power has been shaped in so may ways, so many forces, a vibrant powerful dance has been shaped, the Dance of Life. He has been told of it, but he must be dazed by it for the rest of his life.
1:10:23 The máma has to work in a world visible only to the mind's eye, the world of Aluna. The offerings he learned to make in the dark are now made in the light of day, creating harmony in the spirit world and in this one. The stone paths of the ancestors are traces of the spirit paths which the mámas walk in a space we do not understand. These are the paths on the map stone. They do not match the material pathways, they are lines of thought, not lines on the ground. But there are points where the two worlds used to meet. At these sacred places, gold was hung from the trees. Immortal gold carried the mystery of life from Aluna into matter. Humans could make this journey by meditating on the gold, and dancing with it. And body ornaments of gold helped humans play their part in the dance of life.
1:12:36 Today these objects sit in museum displays without meaning and without function. We know nothing about them. [We grave robbers just dig, dig, dig..., consuming our planet for the taking, following the contingencies of short-term gain.]
1:13:17 Down below by the sea there was a gold Guardian, the Guardians of yuka, of the trees, all the trees and all the birds were there in the ground, they cut the earth, cut the earth, cut them out, dug them out. They must stop doing it. Must stop doing it.
1:14:05 We once had golden bowls for divination. Gold images, gold oracle, all these things. We prophesied with gold. We had many things. Younger Brother took it all, somehow we serof, we weak. The earth is decaying, loosing its strength because of your greed. You take gold and all the minerals out of the earth.
1:14:53 In London or New York it [a gold Kogi figure] is worth at least $20,000 dollars. It's an investment. The fingers that dig are Columbian, but they are powered by the market forces that drive us all. The Kogi believe that the sacred network that keeps the earth in balance is being torn to sheds. In desperation they had to find a way to warn us. That was why Ramon was told to learn Spanish.
1:15:25 [Ramon] "You understand we always had our own organization here. Comisarios, Máma, Cabo, but the Elder Brother, to themselves or to present our problems before the government and to get them to help the community of indigenous Kogi, that needed a new organization. We set up the organization Gonavindua Tairona so that we could be heard by the Younger Brother and so that he would respect us because before, in the conquest, he did not respect us."
1:16:09 One of their messages was that they should be given back control of their ancient sites and that archaeologists too should stop digging up the Lost City. Ramon came down from the mountain and gave the mámas' message to the Columbian government, and they obeyed. Today the Kogi are moving back into the cities of their ancestors.
1:16:33 [Martin von Hilderbrand, Director of Indian Affairs] They considered it as the center of the world and it is, what we might call, a whole integrated organism and each side is part of this organism, and it is the interrelation of these two sides that keeps the world in harmony, and it is the duty of the máma to see that that world remains in harmony. This is the way that they consider they are responsible for the harmony of the world. Now if you take out one of these sites, or you excavate and take out what is buried in the site you are taking out the fundamental energy. And by taking out the fundamental energy you are taking a part out of a whole, out of the system and therefore the Kobi cannot be responsible, cannot handle the harmony of the world any more and that is why they consider it fundamental each part be integrated into the whole. Now it is interesting that when the Kogi explained it to the government that the people that insisted most were the special office in the president, and especially by the president for the peace process in Columbia. Those that were dealing with the guerrillas were the head of the peace process that said look, if we are looking for peace in the country, and they are looking for harmony we must listen to their way of finding harmony, and therefore the site must be returned to them.
1:18:00 Pueblito is new growing, and it ought to grow so that everyone in the world, both internationally and here in this nation, will show respect for the organization Gonavindua Tairona, and will not disturb anymore the native máma Kogi, because when the máma is concentrating deeply, deeply, he doesn't like to hear the sound of airplanes. He doesn't like to look up because he has to concentrate for nine days without eating anything, but nowadays this sort of thing can't be done.
1:19:00 This was the site of a sacred freshwater lake. It was drained to build a power station, and here the Kogi have come to try to restore harmony to a shattered world, the struggle to give back its balance. They have to restore harmony over the whole Sierra, the Heart of the World. While offerings are made down at the sea, others are making them on the cold peaks above.
1:19:54 As they approach the ocean, they turn [spin], recalling the spindle original thread was spun and to which they still cling. [Ramon] "Because you take out so much gasoline and minerals the earth is becoming steadily weaker, and so the máma have been thinking what can we do to make sure the Younger Brother fully understands because the máma says that it if very difficult for the Younger Brother to listen well and to hear, but it will be even harder to give things up. He's going to have to learn. Younger Brother must listen carefully to the history of the máma, the law of the máma, to the beliefs of the máma.
1:21:21 Why are the Kogi so sure that the earth is in danger. The answer is high on the mountain peaks. This is the most sacred land of all. The mámas did not forbid me to go, but they did advert their eyes. But I had to come because here is the source of their terror. [BBC] "This is our last day in the Sierra and it is the highest point that we are going to reach. This is the tundra, what they call the paramo. To the Kogi this is the most sacred place of all because this is what fertility depends on. The most important payments they make to the soil are the ones that are carried down from here to the sea, and from the sea back up here. They mirror a natural exchange cycle upon which the whole fertility of the Sierra depends. This is where the rivers are born as melt water from the snow and glaciers flow down to the sea through the forest and jungle, and that water comes back in the form of clouds, water is deposited here again. The whole life of the Sierra depends on this region. Around here it's yellow, it should be green. These little bushes once covered the whole area. Now, they are perishing. The water has gone. The paramo is drying out, snow is retreating very rapidly. When the Kogi talk about the Heart of the World dying, what's frightened them is the death of this area, the paramo, because when this dies, everything below, that depends on it, will have to die [change, transition]. That's what the mean when they say that they know that unless we do something, the world [we are used to] is coming to an end [changing adversely for the maladapted]."
1:23:18 [Kogi] "It is the mountains which makes the waters, the rivers, and the clouds. If their trees are feld they will not produce anymore water." The Sierra is a model of the world. Global warming does not stop here. We are changing the air and the sky and the balance of life. [Kogi] "They have taken the clouds from the paramo, they stole the clouds, we know what is happening, we're all in agreement the world does not have to end. If we act well the world can go on."
1:24:13 "We are going to close the bridge now, but we want Younger Brother to know that he can't come here again, he can't come back. We are putting a barrier here so that he respects us. Understand, we don't want him coming up here and interfering with us. He has destroyed so much, do they see? No. Understand..., no. Start to understand or what will happen? Right, that's it."
Note: April 2009: The Mámas’ New Message.
Over twenty years pass since first film made. The mámas decided to offer Younger Brother one last warning, and invited BBC back to make another film, this time using a largely Kogi film crew. Aluna (2012).