More about the Mamos

Mamos of the Sierra nevada de Santa Marta are visiting Hostos Community College on September 13th at 3:30 pm.

There is a place in South America where the pre-Columbian voice is still direct and pure, where the slow passage of the world continuous unfettered of any kind. Since five hundred- years or more, after the Spanish conquest, an ancestral cosmology, which includes knowledge of philosophy and sacred ethics, continues defining and promoting the social coexistence, linking the living with the dead and the past with the future as the Tayronas their ancestors did in pre-Columbian times of Incas and Mayans


SNSM is a living place, magical and sacred at the same time. The Tayrona, the indigenous caretakers who consider it as the Universal Great Mother whose fate is under the responsibility and care of their Mamos or spiritual priests or guides.


The indigenous culture of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta was never really conquered by the Spaniards. At some point, almost on the verge of its extinction, the descendants of the ancient civilization called Tayrona escaped protected by the intricate and rugged jungles of the Sierra Nevada, and today their surviving descendants are part of the Arhuaco, Kogi, Wiwa and Kankuamo communities.


Since then, the Indians of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, deliberately chose to transform their civilization into a culture of devotion to PEACE and ECOLOGICAL HARMONY. They have remained there for centuries, inspiring the dreaming of a protective and maternal land. Revelation that affirms the existence of eternal laws that balance the malignant potential of the human mind and protect the spirit through a dialogue and an agreement with all the forces of nature.


We have the privilege of having Mamo Dwawiku and Mamo Menjawin visiting Hostos on Tuesday, Septemnber 13th at 2016.


Mamos are the spiritual leaders of the Indigenous community of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Their religious training is intense and dedicated. The young acolytes (Mamos in training) are engendered according to a careful and wise ritual, and separated from their families at a young age and then are kept in a dark world within the kankurua or Temple of Men, or secret places of the surroundings, where they initiate a learning of the sacred that lasts between nine and eighteen years. A time that explicitly represents the nine months of gestation in the womb of a mother and the nine bastions of knowledge and ancestral wisdom of the Arhuaco.


It can be seen that throughout their gestation, initiation and education, the acolytes (or Mamos in potential) remain in the mother’s womb, that during that period exists only as an abstraction. In those years, they learn to know that their rituals and prayers are the only ones capable of maintaining the cosmic and ecological balance of the world. They learn to make Pagamentos (offerings) in the sacred lakes of the heights where the wind is the breath of the Great Mother and where the keepers of the spirit dwell

Mamos will talk about

  • Tradition and wisdom of the Arhuaca culture
  • Arhuacos as a culture of Peace and Harmony
  • The Education of the Mamo (the priest and community leader)
  • Arhuaca Cosmology
  • Traditional health and spiritual beliefs.


Additional information

Their walk guide the Mamos from the highest peaks to the sea where they collect herbs, leaves the mountain trees and algae, that carry together with cotton from lowland, peels and seeds of tropical plants, for use in their offerings, which have as aim to preserve life in all its manifestations, and especially to offer them to the universe with a pure thought, to serve as spiritual seed and material for a continuous rebirth of the world.


The Mamos of today, remain faithful to their ancient laws, ethics, ecology and spiritual dictates of Kaku Serankwa and of the Great Mother. They believe, recognize and act as the guardians of the world, ensuring that their rituals maintain balance and fertility of life. When Mamos speak, instantly they reveal that their benchmarks are different from our “civilized world”. When referring to Columbus, they talk as it if his arrival in America was an event of yesterday. They speak as the Great Mother (the Sierra, Earth Mother) as if it were alive and manifest in every moment in his concept of “ALUNA “. A sacred word translated as water, earth, matter, spirit and generative life force. Where what matters is not what can be measured and see, but what is in it, an abstract dimension of meaning and significants.


For the Mamos , the universe has nine layers, the temple has nine levels, and nine are also the months a child spends in the mother’s womb before birth. All of them are reflections of the divine creation, and each it is interconnected informing and dialoguing with the others.


The mountains are a model of the cosmos, a liana is a snake, the body hairs are representation of the natural forest covering the flanks of the mountain and the cone of their white hats represents the sacred snowcapped peaks and wisdom as the gray hair in the heads of the elder.


Each element of nature is imbued with a much larger meaning than it has for us (nonindigenous younger brothers), so that even the most modest of the creatures can be seen as a teacher, and the smallest grain sand as a mirror of the universe.


People are vital in this cosmic scheme, because only through the human heart, imagination and spirit, it is possible to perceive the manifestation of the Great Mother. This primordial act of creation that has never been forgotten, as it is present in the looms and in the act of spinning. It is the notion of a community as real presence of the universal fabric, in which life is woven on the fabric of the landscape. Alive and vital metaphors for the inhabitants of the Sierra, that consciously guide and direct their life.


For the Indians of the Sierra Nevada, people are not a problem, they are the solution. For that reason, they call themselves the Elder Brothers and consider their mountains as the “heart of the world”. So we, the outsiders are threatening the earth by ignorance of the Sacred Law, the Law of Origin and are recognized as the “Younger Brothers”.


Thus in many ways the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, home of the Arhuaco, Kogi, Wiwa and Kankuamos, is indeed the microcosm of the universe and metaphorically its symbolic heart.


When the Indians, led by their Mamus, establish a “garden” (as they call their kitchen-garden and orchards). Women, sow the southern half in parallel rows on the sides of the plot lines. The men responsible for the other half, the northern half, set rows perpendicular to those established by women, so that if the two halves bent one over the other, will produce a fabric, the landscape.


When people pray, they close their hands and rotates between them small pieces of white cotton the symbols of the great mother who taught them to spin. The circular movement of their hands during prayer reminds them of the time when the Great Mother turned the universe to the creation of our existence. She made the command to protect everything she had woven. That is the law, the Law of Origin, The Ancestral Law of Mother Earth, the law that applies in its heart The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.


Since Columbus arrival, people of the SNSM, has watched in horror how foreigners violate the Great Mother (the Sierra), destroying forests, injuring her skin and her body, to establish plantations of foreign crops, bananas and sugar cane, marijuana and coca (not for sacred rituals and customs, but for the illicit production of cocaine). Drug traffickers, guerrillas and paramilitaries blinded by profits from the cocaine trade, have persecuted and whipped indigenous communities with their unwelcome presence, invading indigenous communities as a pest and causing an overreaction by the military and police Colombian government, who in turn also, as a natural reaction, run over the communities. This situation that has been echoed in the elder Mamos who have seen this danger rises into the blue sky and observe the threat that descends from the heights, as snowdrifts and glaciers of the Sierra are receding at an alarming rate, transforming the ecology of the mountain, in a process that may seem to us little related to our behavior, but for Mamos, is inextricably linked to the madness of younger brothers.


That is why Mamos have become the harbingers and augur the end of the world, stating emphatically and permanently that the Spiritual World of the Sierra, “the world of Mamos” and the world of weapons and violence, can not go together.
In conclusion, in 1996, communities Arhuaco, Kogi, Wiwa and Kankuamos, issued a joint statement:

“If we disappear who will pay to the universal mother for the air we breathe, the water flowing and gives us life and sunlight? Everything that exists has a spirit that is sacred and must be respected. Our law, it is the law of origin, the law of life. We invite all younger brothers to become the guardians of life. We affirm our commitment to Mother Earth and we issued a call for solidarity and unity for all peoples and all Nations Earth.”


“Before the materialization of all things that we see and touch today, existed in spiritual thought. Everything was darkness in the universe and the rules of life had not been defined yet. Therefore, there were no wrongdoings and all that was thought was fulfilled. When the world transformed, all activities were distributed by the Creator Spirit according to the lifestyle, climate and custom. In such a way, that when daylight became, the world began to spin in its orbit, animals, plants and stones announced the arrival of man and all activity began to develop as the Creator Spirit had ordered “


Arhuaca oral tradition.

Our thought is universal, because it encompasses all that exists. In other words, all that is the visible and the invisible, the great mysteries that nature encloses and that so far, unknown for man, because everything he knows lead to chemistry and science, but he ignores that all things have their own spirit, including plants, stones. Everything forms a thought that goes into the universe, united all as a one respite, as a breath. This is a thought that I have not invented it, but it has thousands of years. “


Mamo Zeukukuy (Norberto Torres) Kankurwa Manchukua

As a descendant of maternal line of Mamos I share with everyone a better way of to live, respecting the difference because we can all be different but for Mother Earth we are just one. Therefore, there should be no doubts whatsoever, so we work united in defense of the mother earth, the holy mother of all. Mamos said that words and projects sound nice when things are done well but it is much nicer when it is reflected with facts as the Mamos’contribution. Mamus are men who preach and observe harmony and balance with the universe .”


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