The Arhuaco, called los Ijka, Ika or Arhuacos, differ from the Kogi tribe both in physical features, as well as in the degree of aculturation or by different style of dressing. They are taller, more robust, their skin has a yellow- coffee brown tint and have black slanted eyes. Women have smaller features and are often hunchbacked because of the work load they have to deal with in domestic work. Although they managed to maintain their customs and beliefs, they were in bigger contact with the Caucasians, which influenced their culture.

They inhabited predominantly the San Sebastián de Rábago (Nabusimake) region and the water springs of the river that originated on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. In 1920 they started to emigrate due to the epidemic and as response to the establishment of the Capuchin christian missions. Some settled in the west, near the Aracatac and Seville rivers, while others remained eastward on the banks of the Templado and Donachu rivers. Nowadays the inhabited the western and southeast slopes of Sierra. 

They live scattered in their estates. Each family, if they have the option, owns at least two esttes in different climatic areas (at different altitudes), which allow them to obtain more diverse products for their livelihood.

They also have centers or villages where they gather on occasion of various celebrations, advisory meetings held to resolve problems, or if they need to buy emergency drugs or buy something. It is not a place of permanent settlement, but rather a community meeting place where local authorities or medical assistance providers are often locate.


During the 18th century, missionaries established a center for evangelization on their territory.

It starts using a machete and a spindle. During the 20th. century, the process of acclimatization is intensified, primarily due to the large number of missionaries, creols and political refugees.

Since then domestic animals have begun to appear in native homes, and the aborigi s have almost ceased to wear tribal clothing. In the material culture of the Arhuacos, there have been various cultural transformations that have resulted in the loss of the traditions of goldsmith work, writing art, stone carving and woodworking. Only the textile production was preserved, in particular the weaving of bedspreads, mochil, caps and hammocks.

However, in recent decades as a response to the civilization influences, Arhuacs again have begun to realize the importance of preserving ancient values.


  • From father and mother a life emerges, same as "if the bush plodici procuring pumpkins" spreads to all corners. A spiral developing like a snail shell, Serankua (the creator), created the world and everything in it.

  • The spiral and the snail's conch, as depictions of the Serankuy and the symbols of life, persist in the Arhuacs, and remain present in their art.

  • Earth as a place of life is a sanctuary for man, a source of livelihood, and consequenty that is why she is pictured as the mother, "The Mother of Nature, Mother of the Earth".

  •  The water located on the peaks of Sierra Nevada, runs down as streams and rivers to the sea, from where it returns in the form of rain to fertilise and create life.

  • Water that fertilizes the Earth to provide a living is also a symbol of life. Water present in snowy peaks is the symbol of the father, and sea water is the symbol of the mother.

  • Mountains and lagoons are places where "fathers and mothers" reside. Therefore, they are ritual places and symbols of home. The height symbolizes the male principle and the depth of the female principle.

  • Sierra Nevada, and especially its snowy peaks are their unification and once again the symbol of home. It is an important placenta where Arhuacs meet their primary needs and where they always want to come back to meet their mother again.