Book reviews, Culture, Latin America

Richness of the Colombian indigenous languages

The competition “Poesía en Escena” (Poetry on Stage), which has taken place in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, for the last 18 years, will pay homage to the country’s indigenous culture through the activity “Poetics of the indigenous communities”, in which poets from the Embera and Wayúu nations will participate.

There are more than 1,300,000 indigenous people living in Colombia, accounting for around 3.5% of the population of the extensive Latin American country.  To celebrate their contribution to the multicultural nation, poets Lindantonella Solano Mendoza and Higinio Obispo González will be taking part in the Poetry on Stage competition, part of the programme of events run by the Gilberto Alzate Avendaño Foundation, Bogotá.  This will take place on 30 May, from 7.00 pm.

Solano Mendoza was born in Süchimma-Riohacha, La Guajira, Colombia.  She belongs to the Wayúu nation and is descended from the Epiayu of southern La Guajira. She studied Psychology and is a specialist in educational planning, and has taught at the University of La Guajira and the San Martin University Foundation.  During her teaching career, she also worked in state schools in La Guajira, and has contributed to the magazine Poesía Viva (Living Poetry) and the Fundación Atrapasueños (Dreamcatcher Foundation) in La Guajira.

She currently works as a psychologist at the Isabel María Cuestas Educational Centre in Riohacha, and is director of CREARTE, a literary training school, among other positions.  For three years, she delivered courses on literary criticism, creative writing and library studies at the International Poetry Festival of Medellín. In 2009, she published a book of poems entitled “Kashi de 7 eneros desde el vientre de Süchiimma”.

Aside from this book, much of her work remains unpublished, including the series of poems entitled “Acantilados del tiempo” and “Cuerda del Silencio”, as well as her narrative works “Kata’ou-Vida entre los Espejos Rotos”, “Breve compilación de relatos” and “Investigación Memoria de Artes y saberes locales”.  In addition to several literary awards, including third prize at the Rayo Museum competition in 2005, she recently spoke at the International Congress on “The Intellectual Experience of Women in the 21st Century”, which took place in Mexico City in March of this year.

Higinio Obispo González was born in Guangüí in the municipality of Timbiquí, located in Valle del Cauca on the Pacific coast.  He is of Embera descent.  Having obtained a degree in Ethno-education, majoring in Applied Anthropology, from the Pontifical Bolivarian University, Medellín, he has spent the last 17 years involved in organisational processes with indigenous peoples throughout the country.

As a member of ONIC (National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia), he has coordinated a cooperation project with AECID (Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation). Poetry on Stage was set up in 1993 by poet Mery Yolanda Sánchez, who currently manages the project.  Since its conception, it has grown to become a meeting place at which to gain knowledge of and to promote Colombian poetry.

Date and location:  30 May, 7.00 pm.  Fundación Gilberto Alzate Avendaño (Calle 10 No. 3-16), Bogotá, Colombia.

(Translated by Kelly Harrison – Email:

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