PALOMINO, Colombia- The Kogi are one of four indigenous groups in northeastern Colombia said to have descended from the ancient Tairona. Living in an area that stretches from the Caribbean sea up through the Santa Marta mountain range, the ecosystem of their range is perhaps the most diverse on the planet.
At the Zukla hostel the manager often shows documentaries on the Kogi and the other indigenous groups in the area. Often, these movies focus on the hardships the indigenous people here have been subjected to by other groups invading their area, how the White man is destroying the world, and how they feel it is their responsibility to save the planet. The films are very serious, and rather sad. They tend to be focused on environmental degradation, on the FARC killing indigenous people, about the Colombian military fighting in the area.
The ensemble of foreigners — mostly hippies and backpackers from Europe, Canadians, the USA, and Argentina — watch the movies with backs straight up, showing stiff respect for the films and their messages. But there is another group which gathers here to watch the films as well: the Kogi themselves. They are easy to identify as they dress in white robes, carry satchels, and speak in their own Chibcha language.
On one night, a group of Kogi teenagers are watching one of the documentaries with the backpackers. As the foreigners sit humbly and respectfully as a Kogi elder explains to them how their people are destroying the world, the Kogi themselves are laughing hysterically and chattering among themselves in their indigenous language.
Eventually, the hostel manager turns to the Kogi and asks them why they are laughing at the movie. In Spanish they answer:
“They all have boogers in their noses,” they replied.
Culture should never be taken that seriously. People are people everywhere.