Colombia’s indigenous Wayuu fight coronavirus with herbs, masks

By Irene Escuder

Jepimana, Colombia, Aug 23 (EFE).- When the coronavirus started to spread in Colombia, an old woman from La Guajira town dreamed that the virus had spread to indigenous communities and killed many people.

In the dream, the spirits told the old woman it was necessary for the indigenous Wayuu people to dance their traditional yonna dance, bathe in natural herbs such as bija and wear red bracelets, a color that symbolizes the first menstrual bleeding, in order to survive the virus.

The Wayuu have combined these traditions with the standard practices of wearing face masks and washing hands.

Covid-19 went almost unnoticed in La Guajira until March of this year when the infection rate started to rise.

“When the pandemic arrived, we were not prepared in any way,” Maria Cristina Epieyuu from the Jepimana community authority told Efe.

People reduced contact between each other and many of them stopped going to populated areas to sell artisanal handicrafts.

Out of the 880,000 people living there, 41,849 infections were registered, with 1,317 deaths linked to coronavirus.

“They do not consult the hospital or the IPS (Health Provider Institution) where they are affiliated because they are afraid, because they have seen many cases where patients are taken, intubated in the hospital and they say they return dead,” Oxfam’s Ana Flor Ipuana explains.

The NGO, which has carried out campaigns in dozens of communities, says that the level of awareness in the communities is high, but they keep quiet when they experience the first symptoms.

“In the Wayuu community, there were people who died, but we do not know exactly if it was from Covid because no tests were carried out,” stresses Epieyuu.

In Jepimana, almost everyone is vaccinated, although “it has been quite a complex issue.”

“There have been many myths about the vaccine and there are other minds that are very weak that say no because the vaccine is what is going to kill them,” explains Virtue Epieyuu, Jepimana’s leader.EFE


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