Bogotá is home to 87 indigenous communities who fight to maintain their ancestral customs based on Good Living.
About 20,000 indigenous people live in Bogotá, the Colombian capital with 7.4 million inhabitants. Muisca, Kichwa, Ambika Pijao, and Inga people are organized in five cabildos — semiautonomous administrative units recognized by the city government. There are also indigenous communities or parcialidades. These include Yanacona, Pasto, Tubú, Kankuamo, Iká, Wayuu, Huitoto, Munane, Páez Nasa, Emberá Katío, Waunaan, Kamsá, and Curripaco people, among others.
The Muisca, or Chibcha, people make up 38 percent of the indigenous population living in Bogotá and are concentrated in the Suba and Bosa cabildos. The other three indigenous cabildos are the Kichwa, Ambika Pijao, and Inga. These are all grouped in the Association of Indigenous Cabildos of Bogotá (ASCAI).
According to information from the Mayor’s Office of Bogotá, the indigenous cabildos are special public entities. “Their members belong to an indigenous community and are elected and recognized [by that community]. The traditional socio-political organization’s role is to legally represent the community, exercise authority, and maintain the activities assigned by law. These are its habits, customs, and the internal regulations of each community.”
The indigenous community, or parcialidad, on its part, is the group of families “who are identity-conscious and share values, characteristics, habits or customs of their culture as well as forms of government, administration, and social control or [their] own legal systems. These distinguish them from other communities: whether [they] may or may not own property titles or titles they cannot legally accredit, or whose reserves were dissolved, divided, or declared vacant,” states the web page of the Mayor’s Office of Bogotá.
In 2007, to ensure that the language, identity, and customs of these peoples are not lost, the capital’s municipal government, together with the national government, launched the Initial Education Project for Indigenous Peoples. Five kindergartens were set up for 500 indigenous boys and girls between the ages of 14 months and 5 years.
The indigenous kindergartens offer an integral and differentiated service to boys and girls. Their education creates a dialogue between ancestral and western knowledge. The kindergartens are: Wawita Kunapa Wasi (Children’s Home) of the Inga people, in Candelaria; Uba Rhua (Spirit of the Seed) of the Muisca people of Bosa; Makade Tinikana (To Walk Walking) of the Huitoto people in Santa Fe; Semillas Ambika Pijao of the Pijao people, in Usme; and Gue Atÿqíb (House of Thought) of the Muisca people of Suba.
The schools, called malocas in reference to the communal indigenous houses, are based on the realities of their own indigenous peoples. These include chagras (crop fields) and rooms of thought. There also are traditional resources like hammocks, clay pots, baskets, ovens, and seeds. There are other elements that allow the children to relate to the world through the habits and customs of their people, thus recreating the places where the communities build knowledge.
In addition, the habits, customs, and ways of thinking of the indigenous peoples are present in these schools through the teachings of agriculture, knitting, ceramics, metalwork, music, dance, traditional medicine, and language. Only about 700 Muisca families survive in what used to be their territory, today’s Bogotá. (P.S.)