Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Guajiro are an indigenous people living in Colombia and Venezuela. Their traditional homeland consists of a peninsula called “La Guajira” located in the Caribbean Sea along the Colombia-Venezuela border. Pre-contact Guajiro society was probably egalitarian, based on an economy of horticulture, gathering, hunting, and fishing, depending on the region. By mid-1990s, the Guajiro were strongly hierarchical with subsistence based primarily on pastoralism.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


South America --Northwestern South America




OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

In addition to this culture summary, the Guajiro collection consists of documents covering a variety of cultural, economic and environmental information, mostly on Guajiro communities in the La Guajira Peninsula in northern Colombia , based on fieldwork conducted in different times in 1920-1987.

The basic and most comprehensive sources are the works of Virginia Gutierrez de Pineda and Roberto Pineda Giraldo, both of them Colombian ethnologists, who conducted fieldwork among the Guajiro in 1947. The first provides detailed description of social organization including family system, life cycles, clan structure, social control and property system (Gutierrez de Pineda 1948, no. 1). The second deals with religious believers and practices including major ceremonies and rituals, beliefs about rains, diseases and spirits, and divination, magic and related shamanistic practices (Pineda Giraldo 1947, no. 2).

The collection also includes an account by a Swedish traveler who visited Guajiro in three separate trips made in 1920, 1930s and 1955 (Bolider 1957, no. 7). Although written for popular consumption, this book contains much valuable ethnographic data on aspects of Guajiro culture including names and naming practices, clothing, herding practices, property rights, social control and inter-clan feuds, life cycles and major ceremonials.

The information in the above mentioned anthropological and historical accounts is supplemented and updated by other works in the collection. Santa Cruz discusses the workings of the avunculate (Santa Cruz 1941, no. 6) and culturally accepted strategies of improving social status (Santa Cruz 1960, no. 9). Other themes include social groups and hierarchies (Watson 1967, no. 11), Shamanistic practices and symbols (Perrin 1987, no. 12), gender, marriage and sexuality (Watson-Franke 1987, no. 13; Watson 1973, no. 14), effects of urbanization on personality (Watson 1968, no. 15) and family dynamics (Watson 1986, no. 17), and culture-specific meanings of dreams (Watson 1981, no. 16).

Finally, the collection also includes a summary article, based on secondary data, on Guajiro culture and society (Armstrong and Métraux 1948, no. 8). Themes covered include Guajiro history, subsistence, houses and villages, dress and adornment, manufactures, trade, socio-political organization, and the life cycles.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Teferi Adem


Barrio Ziruma –as settlement– Use COMMUNITY STRUCTURE ( 621) and/or SETTLEMENT PATTERNS ( 361)

Bond Service Use SERFDOM AND PEONAGE ( 566)

Contras –magical fetishes– Use SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES ( 778) with MAGIC ( 789)

Casta –the family group– Use SIBS ( 614) and/or EXTENDED FAMILIES ( 596)

Cobros –compensation payment– Use INTER COMMUNITY RELATIONS ( 628)

Deuňo –a spirit master– Use SPIRITS AND GODS ( 776)

Encierro –girl’s puberty rites– Use PUBERTY AND INITIATION ( 881)

Gocha –makers of magic charms– Use MAGICIANS AND DIVINERS ( 791)

Guanuru –a minor devil– Use SPIRITS AND GODS ( 776)

Imara –poisoned arrow– Use WEAPONS ( 411) with MAGIC ( 789)


Niliriku –the sib– Use SIBS ( 614)

Palabra –arbitrator– Use STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554) with INTER COMMUNITY RELATIONS ( 628)


Pulasũ –the other world and the beings who dwell in it– Use COSMOLOGY ( 772) with SPIRITS AND GODS ( 776)

Putchi –war– Use WARFARE ( 726) with INSTIGATION OF WAR ( 721)

Tuma –a precious stone– Use SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES ( 778) with MAGIC ( 789)

Walas –goldern statues depicting female figures associated with the economic and social well being of their respective lineages– Use SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES ( 778)

Wanuru –spirit of the dead– Use CULT OF THE DEAD ( 769) with ESCHATOLOGY ( 775)

Yoluna –ghost– Use CULT OF THE DEAD ( 769)

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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