Colombia. Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Kogi Indian sits outside his straw hut. He is holding a gourd with a stick in it. He uses the stick to grind coca leaves, a mild narcotic, and mix them with lime. One of his cheeks is inflated by a ball of that combination.
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is a unique pyramid-shaped mountain on the northern tip of the Andes in northern Colombia. On its slopes live four separate but related peoples: the Arhuaco (or Ika), Wiwa, Kogi, and Kankuamo. Together they number more than 30,000. To the Indians, the Sierra Nevada is the heart of the world. It is surrounded by an invisible ‘black-line’ that encompasses the sacred sites of their ancestors and demarcates their territory.