The Tayrona citadel of Teyuna

The Lost City, called Teyuna by the actual indigenous communities of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, are the remains of an ancient city that sits between 900 – 1,200 m (2,952 – 3,937 ft) above the sea level. The oldest structures date back to the 6th century CE, but lay under the visible ones, that date back to a more recent time (11th or 12th century)1. The Tayrona people, who constructed this citadel, demised after the Spanish conquest, leaving this site uninhabited. As a result, the public did not know it until its discovery in the second half of the 20th century.

Lost City Teyuna
The Lost City “Teyuna” was covered by vegetation during its 400 years of abandonment.

By the 16th century, what we know as the Lost City, was part of an urban complex very well connected to other villages and towns throughout the Sierra Nevada. The different sectors of the Lost City were gathering places, residential areas, quarries, and the surroundings, croplands. Due to the wars and diseases brought by the colonisers, this civilization dissappeared. All what we know about the Tayrona people is from some conquistadors’ chronicles and modern archaelogical studies.

The “Teyuna” Lost City, a sacred place for the local indigenous communities

The native people do not apply the concept of “Lost” to these ruins. Their oral tradition states that they have known this site from time immemorial. They claim the place is key in their worldview and is mentioned by the spiritual leaders during some rituals.

According to the oral tradition, the city takes its name after a mythical hero, Teyuna. He crafted some human figures of mud and gold. After that, he buried them in Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) to create the fathers of the nature elements. Now the places where he buried these figures are sacred, and consequently, places where to do offerings to their gods and guardian spirits. The intention of the offerings is to keep the balance of the Sierra Nevada and so, the balance of the whole world.

The “heart of the world”

For the indigenous tribes, the Sierra Nevada is like the heart of the world (the concept is quite more complex, but this idea helps us understand it in a simple way). Therefore, it is so important to keep the balance of the natural forces and elements of the Sierra Nevada or it will affect the balance of the entire planet. They consider the extraction of their ancestors’ objects, the destruction of their sacred places and the lack of offering rituals as factors that contribute to the loss of balance of the environment.2

Indigenous communities of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

There are four native tribes in the Sierra Nevada: Kogi, Arhuaco, Wiwa and Kankuamo. Each community has its own language and traditions but they share a common point of view about the Sierra Nevada. All of them consider the Sierra Nevada is a sacred territory and they have to take care of it, by respecting it and doing the required spiritual work.

The indigenous groups you can find doing the Lost City trek

Kogui indigenous getting fique (raw fiber) from maguey leaves
The traditional way of getting fique, the raw fibers for their bags (mochilas). Demonstration during the tour.

The Teyuna – Lost City trail has two sections depending on who owns the land: Peasants and indigenous. When you are doing the Lost City trek you enter into an indigenous reserve the second day. In this area the campsites belongs to natives: Wiwa (Wiwa), Mumake (Kogi) both used for accommodation the third night. Paraíso (Kogi) where you will stay the second night. Finally, the house you will find in the Lost City belongs to Romualdo, the mamo (spiritual leader) of the Kogi of the region.

Kogi village of Mutanyi
Mutanyi is a Kogi village that can be seen from the trail.

As you can see, there are two local native tribes in the Lost City area: Wiwa and Kogi. The Ciudad Perdida tour will let you know more about the Wiwa or the Kogi people, it all depends on the campsite you will stay the third night (Your tour guide chooses where to stay). Generally, there is an activity during that evening, where you can listen about their lifestyle, traditions and craftmanships, told by a native. Knowing a totally different point of view from the one you already have will expand your mind to new ways of seeing life and understanding other human beings. So, what are you waiting for having a new and unique experience!

References:

  1. Los secretos arqueológicos que revela Ciudad Perdida – El Heraldo
  2. Santiago Castro Gómez, Eduardo Restrepo. Genealogías de la colombianidad: formaciones discursivas y tecnologías de gobierno en el siglo XIX y XX. Pag. 88.