The Plug team got introduced to the mountain range of Sierra Nevada when working on a coffee project in Columbia. In this interesting project we were introduced to a divine place of nature. However, what was extremely unexpected and even more interesting were the tribes that we met and dealt with in the area.
I introduced the idea of the trip to my team as a way for us to contribute to the society of the country that we are working within. It also seemed like a good way to relax, strengthen the bond between the team while having some fun.
In spite of all that planning, it all changed when I started getting introduced to the people there and how they sustain their lives through both agricultural and handcrafting activities. I was able to observe them in their daily lives and I got struck with an idea of having a business partnership with them.
First to understand the nature of these tribes, we will have to explain the geography of the place, and the politics surrounding the living experience of these tribes. These tribes live in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, which is the highest coastal mountain range in the world, going to a height of 5,700 meters above sea level.
The holiness of this area is attributed to the fact that those who live in the Sierra Nevada range view it as a human body, where the snowy peaks represent the head; the lagoons of the moors the heart; rivers and streams veins; the layers of earth the muscles; and the grasslands the hair. With this base, the entire geography of the Sierra Nevada becomes a sacred space that is hurt if ever tampered with.
The plug team was not only able to get introduced to these tribes and deal with them, but after spending time with them and getting to know them as groups and as individuals; we were able to gain their trust. We were able to understand much more about their ethnicity and the hardships that they go through just to survive.
We found that people from these tribes are native owners of this mountain range, being from the indigenous community of Colombian lands. The sociocultural dynamics of the Tayrona National Natural Park and its zone of influence are part of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a broader and more complicated totality. The four indigenous groups that currently live in the Sierra (Kankuamo, Kogui, Wiwa, and Arhuaco) have communicated the existence of an ancestral territory bounded by a border that encompasses the entire geographical complex of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, as well as the coastal and lagoon zones outside of the indigenous reserves.
This means that, although the Tayrona National Natural Park is outside of indigenous reserves and has no indigenous inhabitants, it is still part of this ancestral land, and the sacred sites inside it must be conserved and respected as part of humanity’s cultural legacy. In addition to indigenous people, the Park’s environs are home to mestizo and Afro Colombians who make a living through tourism, fishing, agriculture, and livestock farming. As these tribes have different beliefs, their religion relates to the actual geography of the place and how it looks. Any changes or civilized additions to these lands will be counted as an attack on their holly lands.
As these lands are considered sacred and are not easily accessible by outsiders. Additionally, because of the unstable relationship between these tribes and the Colombian government; with problems like ethnic cleansing and historical violence, the tribes are not able to market their products correctly to the outside world. As a result, they live in an economically secluded zone.
This was where my idea of forming a partnership with them came in, we found that we have interest in many of their products, like their rich coffee, delicious cocoa, and high-grade vanilla among other agricultural products. This was because the area is very fertile for growing high grade crops and gives them the opportunity to grow in large quantities. While the females of the tribes work hard on making handcrafted products like purses to be sold to the outside world. Displaying a good and efficient relationship between men and women in this society to improve the livelihood of the whole tribe.
After spending a lot of time with the people of these tribes, we were able to gain their trust, and let them help us, building a reciprocal relationship both emotionally and economically. Moreover, because of our international connections, we were able to find buyers for their crops. These were buyers who were interested in their cause and their products.
Although the trip was supposed to be that of a relaxing nature for both myself and my team; my mind saw greenery and could not stop thinking about ways in which we could help these tribes improve their economic stability and help our clients reach larger quantities of products with a higher and more organic grade than their own expectations.
The Plug Co. team was able to make new friends, suppliers, and simultaneously understand more about a world that we merely heard about before. An accurate example, of how The Plug is passionate and why we infiltrate our projects with the eyes of an analyst, a humane heart, and a thinking mind.