the people we met in la guajira

We were drawn to remote La Guajira by a stunning black and white portrait, so it is of little surprise that it was the people, rather than the landscapes, which we truly enjoyed having in front of our lens.

Here are some of the people we met. 

wayuu children la guajira colombia

the toll-booth trio

The desert track from Cabo de la Vela to Puntas Gallinas is scattered with small Wayuu communities. It is here that you will find bands of kids standing with rope across the road so your vehicle will stop and pay a toll of a few hundred pesos.

boy in puntas gallinas la guajira colombia

the desert guide

There are no road signs in the Guajira desert. In two hours, our driver to Puntas Gallinas got lost so many times that we started to worry what would happen if we got stranded.

His solution was to pick up this little guy from a house in the middle of nowhere to sit with us in the backseat and guide us along the dusty roads. 

wayuu girl cabo de la vela
wayuu girl la guajira colombia
wayuu girls la guajira colombia

the tyre girls

The town of Cabo de la Vela has two streets. The first runs parallel to the sea and is peppered with restaurants and hostels. The second is set back around 40 metres and is home to the families who make up this little town.

With a pocket full of lollipops we happened upon these two sisters, passing the hours with a tyre and barefeet. 

wayuu girl la guajira cabo de la vela

the bracelet seller

The main job for young girls in Cabo de la Vela is trying to sell the iconic Wayuu bags and jewellery to tourists. They have beautiful smiles and colourful outfits, but it's a sad existence for them.

When they age and their childlike beauty hardens into something less conducive to sales, they become the women you see here in the background, sitting on the street all day under the hot sun making the products to sell. 

wayuu girl la guajira
wayuu girl la guajira colombia

the negotiator

In the vast expanse of desert that these children call home, making enough money to feed your family is difficult. But it's their job.

So, when our jeep passed yet another homemade toll - the fifth in 150m - with all our change spent, those that rely on your hand-outs have some tricks to get you to cough up.

Sometimes no simply isn't the correct answer. Neither is 'we have given all our change to other children'.

The negotiator - this beautiful girl in red - had a smile that easily eeked out the last pesos our group could muster.

wayuu man la guajira colombia

the general

This old man joined us in the back of the pick-up truck to Cuatro Vias, but he was on his way to Venezuela. 

As with many that live so close to the border, he compounds the problems faced by his struggling neighbours - the little that Venezuelan's have, is exported out of the country. 

wayuu woman la guajira colombia

the woman who has lived forever

The harsh desert sun means that every line, memory and emotion is etched on the faces of the older generation of La Guajira. 

This lady sold us some jewellery - a bracelet that we'll probably never even wear - but it meant we got this photo. 

As with 'the negotiator' above, she showed uncanny skills to charge us a little extra for the privilege. 

la guajira colombia

the girl by the sea

This is not a rich community. The waters may be calm and clear, the beaches empty and the blue skies endless but the Wayuu are living in poverty.

Toys are sticks, tyres and deflating balls.

This pretty little girl was playing with an old trike that was passed between all the children we saw.

children pilon de azucar

the day the boat washed up

Over the last year, we have taken some pretty bad boat rides but never come close to capsizing. A group of tourists here were not so lucky. A few days later, the wreckage washed up.

As some guys battled with winches, ropes and trucks, what felt like half the village turned up to watch the show.

people cabo de la vela

wayuu boy colombia la guajira

waiting and watching

We are covert street photographers, observers, not used to having our presence acknowledged.

In a place where so few tourists venture, this boy just stood and watched us, as we stood and watched through the camera.


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The people we met in La Guajira

find out how to visit la guajira without a tour