The study offers an insight into the history of one of the four ethnic groups in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta / Colombia that still tries to maintain its cultural identity against the pressure of the majority population.
The first part consists of a study published in 1995 that deals with the mission of the Capuchin friars founded in 1916 and closed down in 1982.This study is based on research work in the archives and personal communication with the religious authorities (Mamu) of the Arhuacos / Iku. It focusses on the mutual perception of the Mamu and the missionaries and the religion of the Arhuacos / Iku.
After 1997 the author had to cancel any further planned visits because apart from the guerrilla that had been there before the paramilitaries started their activities.
The second part concentrates on the development during the last twenty years and the challenges of today. On the one hand the jurisdiction of the constitutional court based on the new constitution of 1991 has strengthened the position of the Arhuacos. On the other hand, the constitution introduced new regulations between government institutions and the ethnic groups as far as their autonomy is concerned. It is not easy for the ethnic groups to adjust to them. During his visit in 2018 the author was accompanied by Javier Rodriguez, a former Capuchin friar who had later worked for the government department of environment and development in the Sierra Nevada. Discussions with him allowed the author to reconsider and – if necessary – supplement his perceptions and interpretation of Arhuaco / Iku religion. Finally, there is a detailed description of how the author acquired his knowledge of Arhuaco life and religion during his visits between 1993 and 1997.