A Return to Bahia Portete

November 1, 2011 | Lena Shemel

Colombia’s long and violent conflict has made it home to the second largest internally displaced population in the world. Caught between right-wing paramilitary groups and left-wing guerrillas waging war in rural areas, Afro Colombian and indigenous communities have been disproportionately affected by the war. Armed groups have systematically targeted and terrorized these minorities, murdering tens of thousands and displacing millions in their quest to gain control of valuable, resource-rich land to help finance their activities.

Colombia’s largest indigenous population, the Wayuu, have lived in the country’s northern province of La Guajira for over 500 years. Though the land is arid and desert-like, its strategic ports and natural resources have made indigenous communities vulnerable to paramilitary violence.

Seven years ago, the Wayuu village of Bahia Portete fell victim to paramilitary interests. Situated on a natural bay on the border of Venezuela, Bahia Portete’s port is an ideal hub for drug trafficking and international commerce. Its land is also rich in coal, attracting mining interests for the paramilitaries to exploit.

On April 18, 2004, at around 6 a.m., the paramilitaries attacked Bahia Portete. Armed men ravaged the village for nearly 12 hours, killing women and children, as hundreds fled in fear never to return.

Out of these tragic events, Debora Barros and Telemina Barros have emerged as leaders of the community. They have fought tirelessly to raise awareness about the atrocities that occurred in Bahia Portete, serving as the voice of their people and leading the Wayuu’s fight to return to their ancestral land.

Although most of the community is displaced between the nearby city Riohacha, Colombia, and Maracaibo, Venezuela, Debora insists that they are more united than ever in their fight to return. To demonstrate their solidarity, each year, on the anniversary of the massacre, the Wayuu return to Bahia Portete to commemorate the lives of those killed, and ensure that their ancestral traditions are kept alive.


  1. Candym Mdrigal says:

    Thank you very much for presenting this report. It is very important to give a voice to all the victims of this displacement and violence.

  2. KwusuAakhu ShepsHeru says:

    Here we are today in 2011 still killing one another. Here we are today in 2011 still being Divided as Human-Beings. Here we are today still not equalstanding in the Fact that we All share the planet we live on and what is here belongs to Everyone. It is not reasonable that our Governments does not work in our interest; afterall, that is why they are in the positions that they are in – government for the people and by the people. All of our governments are corrupt and until we the people stand-up and face this Fact and face them in all honesty, we will continue to kill one another forever. How can Humans consider themselves intelligent and we live like this? I’m embrassed to be a Human-Beings because my Women & Men will not have-a-look at what is right in front of them, and that is, that we are all The Same. One Family of Human-Beings.

    The Colombians main problem in this drama of earth is that they fail to see that the Earth is holding all of these resources on their land and that they who are in charge of the land, does not see fit to share the resources with everyone of the land. With all of those resources in Colombia, none of you all are poor. Stop allowing the world of ignorant people tell you that you all are poor and are peasants. You all are rich but don’t know it. You are a Acting poor because you all do not want to share the wealth, because you don’t know how to share the wealth, because you all don’t Trust one another. But, it is time for all of yall to stand-up ‘Together’, if not, the killings will continue until the land & the resources are completely in the hands of those who do nothing except hate, kill, allow killings, etcetara. You all will end up dying in poverty afterall is said and done and the corporations and governments all over the world will divide up everything among themselves and you all will be dead and your children will be homeless and in situations of abuse abuse abuse. Haven’t you had enough of this?? Haven’t too many of you already died trying to hold on to everything and trying not to share with all of the Colombians??

    You are going to have to reassess this whole situation and make some quick changes to how things are going along. You are going to have to pay your government to protect you first and foremost. You already have the resources. Pay your government to look after it’s people and your government will have to do it’s job. Right now, your government is being paid by the highest bidder to move into your lands and kill everyone and you’re allowing this by not standing together and standing tall. We are in a day and age where nothing is for free and where you get what you pay for, so pay your people well and get the jobs done in peace. None of you should be going to bed scared to close your eyes. What kind of living is that??? You all are acting like children claiming this is mines and not yours yada yada yada.

    It’s a new day and age. Let’s stop living in this hell-hole that we’ve created and let’s start creating Heaven right here on earth. It’s up to us, the Humans. Nobody else is gonna do this for us. You have got to Reason this all out for your Children or else you don’t even care about them. Wake-up. All eyes on you. Tefnut Elbey – Kwusu Aakhu ShepsHeru!

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