The struggle for the survival of the Ingas of Colombia

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Xavier Savard-Fournier (access the author's page)

The struggle of the indigenous peoples of Colombia to preserve their cultures took on a whole new dimension with the pandemic. In the Putumayo region, a border region with Ecuador, the Inga people fear that their elders, the memory of the people, will die if COVID-19 hits them head-on.

In the mountains near Bogota, when you listen carefully, you can hear a distinctive sound of the Putumayo in the distance. That of the Inga people, who survives in the songs of Juan Pablo Evanjuanoy, a 21-year-old young man who left his family in Mocoa a few years ago to come and settle near the capital to study music

My desire is always to conserve and protect these (indigenous) cultures. I had the opportunity to be born into one of these ethnicities. It’s a privilege. And with traditional music, I try to keep alive our culture, our language, which represents us as a people, he describes.

Whether in Spanish or Inga, Juan Pablo uses his compositions to publicize the struggles of his people. This is an important element passed down to him by his family from a very young age. Particularly his grandfather, who remains a source of inspiration for the young artist to this day, despite his death.

I remember very well that when he played people were very happy. So I remember he was known to be a good musician. And it's a beautiful memory of him and his music , says the young man, cell phone in hand, watching videos of his grandfather performing.

But, beyond his family of musicians, knowing music is of paramount importance in Andean cultures.

Music is still a fundamental part of indigenous cultures and it can be said that in the indigenous world of the Americas it is more trusted what is heard than what is seen. In this way almost everything that exists has a song , explains Luis Alberto Suarez Guava, anthropologist and professor at the University of Caldas in Colombia.

A people alone in the face of COVID-19

Juan Pablo Evanjuanoy’s desire to preserve his culture, his music, has gained even greater momentum with this pandemic.

Far from most health services, the situation is very difficult for the Ingas who are afraid of seeing their elders disappear.

To cope with the costs of a potential emergency hospitalization, the community has also multiplied in recent months online crowdfunding campaigns while the Colombian government is still struggling to adequately support the most vulnerable citizens of large urban centers. from the country.

Faced with this health challenge, the community therefore relied almost exclusively on its traditional medicine to face the pandemic. This includes plants, concoctions and its music.

I feel that traditional music, and music in general, can really help a lot. It’s healing music. Traditional music which is instrumental is healing music because it brings you joy and wanting to be healthier , explains Juan Pablo.

Indigenous musician

Juan Pablo Evanjuanoy

Photo: Radio-Canada / Andreanne Plante

Medicinal music is a movement that has grown considerably in recent times. It is a movement where several medical musicians talk about the power to heal oneself through music (to cleanse body and mind). And there's a bit of that in my music too , adds the young man.

Mix of cultures possible

As anthropologist Luis Alberto Suarez Guava recalls, in the indigenous world, the Ingas, the Andean groups, are absolutely happy. They are still talking, laughing. An Inga knows he is sick because he is sad.

And one way to deal with that sadness is through music.

The pandemic has therefore brought its share of additional challenges for Juan Pablo Evenjuanoy and his community. But, perhaps even more so today, music has kept him close to his people and to the memory of his grandfather.

My grandfather was a musician, but also a healer. He (also) treated several people. And, I feel that my community can be of help in (the pandemic). She can help the world, the people, to heal , he says.

Juan Pablo also hopes that one day he will be able to return to Mocoa to teach young people about music, especially medicinal music.

On the other hand, he would like a greater exchange to take place between native and non-native cultures.

If this is true for music, it is also true for medicine.


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