Wayuu children playing in the scrub forest in La Guajira, Colombia.

Forgotten Guerillas of
La Guajira

In Colombia's arid desert state of La Guajira, I learn about the Wayuu people's long history and modern challenges. Includes an interview with Wayuu naturalist José Luis.


am en route to Colombia’s La Guajira department with Gabriel, the Professor and our Colombian driver, Andrés. We are headed from the lush Caribbean lowlands of Magdalena to the desert scrublands near Riohacha, the northernmost coastal city in South America. 

Arid and windswept La Guajira is half of a peninsula—shared with Venezuela—and home to Colombia’s largest Amerindian ethnic group, the Wayuu. The Wayuu people, who today face severe threats of marginalization, poverty and dwindling resources like clean water, actually played out the most impressive and successful Guerilla rebellion in Latin American history.

I tell the Professor that I have been trying to learn about the Wayuu, but that their history is elusive, and I can’t even find an English-language book about them. He tells me about a birdwatching documentary that features some of the customs of the Wayuu. While The Birders, by Edgardo Garcés shares stunning footage of the area, the people and the animals, it is no substitute for a written history. But maybe sometimes, travel is a chance to learn what’s unwritten.

Beautiful Cydosia moth, photographed in Tayrona National Park.

A Cydosia moth, photographed near Tayrona National Park.

Quebrada Valencia River


e have stopped about half way to the border of La Guajira, and are walking on a footpath alongside the Quebrada Valencia River. I realize that the dry parts of the riverbed are walkable, and I convince Gabriel and the Professor to walk up the river itself. This turns out to be a good idea, because the river and its edges are crawling with life—schools of freshwater fish, shallow pools filled with tadpoles, and jungle butterflies, attracted to the riverside minerals.

The languid river ambles at the bottom of a steep jungle ravine, cloaked in trees and vines. Keel-billed Toucans and Lance-tailed Manakins inhabit the canopies above, but my eyes are fixated on the river edge itself.

We find a stunning saturniid moth caterpillar inching along the sandy and rocky sedimentary banks. It is covered with elaborate, multicolored appendages, called setae. It is possibly a Pseudautomeris yourii, from a moth genus of 24 species, most of which weren’t described until the 2000s and 2010s. If so, it will metamorphose into a beautiful, vibrant large amber moth with two black spots on its hind wings.

So, why are these neotropical moth caterpillars so vibrant and intricately designed, if caterpillars don’t need to attract mates? There are a bunch of reasons, like camouflage, thermoregulation, and mostly, as a form of communication with potential predators—maybe a form of asymmetrical warfare with a larger, more advanced predator. These patterns evolved to tell birds, mammals and reptiles, ‘hey buster, remember what happened to your uncle when he ate one of us?’

Caterpillars have simple eyes that mostly only distinguish light and dark, so they can’t appreciate the beauty of their own species.

I wonder, though, if it’s the most advanced animals—the primates—that played an outsized role in the evolution of these extraordinary insects.

Pseudautomeris yourii moth caterpillar, photographed in northeastern Colombia on the banks of the Quebrada Valencia river.

Saturniid caterpillar, possibly Pseudautomeris yourii, photographed in the riverbed of Quebrada Valencia River.


otton-top Tamarins, for example, which are pint-sized monkeys with a huge tuft of fancy white fur on their heads, are frugivorious and insectivorous mammals that remain only in these northeastern Colombian forests; they spend their day moving through the canopy, looking for their favorite fruits and insects—often big fat juicy katydids, grubs, or caterpillars.

Cotton-tops, which the Colombians refer to as bichichis, are intelligent, and are one of the few mammals known to employ grammar. Among their twenty or so bird-like voicings is an ability to communicate their preference for their favorite bugs. I would imagine their memory of, and ability to communicate their distance for such a deadly saturniid moth would play a bigger role in the caterpillar’s evolution than some dumb lizard.

Speaking of dumb lizards, I can’t help but to think of the pandemic years back home, all that time spent arguing over the rights of, politics of, and conversations taking place about intersex humans. There are only two sexes! We are resisting social engineering! We are protecting traditional values!

But on the same day that we are walking this river, something magical was discovered and reported in a nearby Colombian jungle. It was a Green Honeycreeper, but it was no ordinary Green Honeycreeper. When birds are named after their coloration, it is almost always after the males. But Green Honeycreeper males are azure blue, with a black helmet, and the species is named after the Emerald green of the female.

A window in Camarones, decorated for Christmas season

A window in Camarones, decorated for Christmas season.


his honeycreeper is split perfectly in two, laterally from its beak to tail. One half is female—emerald green, and the other half, that lovely blue. Such bilateral gynandromorphism does indeed exist, but only because the Green Honeycreeper features such diverse colors between the male and female were these photos so vividly remind us that actually, traditionally, sexuality among animals, and humans, is not that simple. 

Speaking of not so simple, the social and sexual world of Cotton-top Tamarins would really get some people flinging their poo.

When we saw a tribe of Cotton-tops in Tayrona National Park yesterday, at first we thought we were looking at two or three monkeys. But after several minutes, it became clear that there were many more. Stealthy, like jungle guerrillas in a silent retreat. About 12 Cotton-tops were moving through the canopy. When we looked closer, we could see that there was one baby clinging to its mother’s back. The entire tribe seemed to have this single infant on their mind.

In the cotton-top social group, only one monogamous couple, the dominant male and female, breed. All the other monkeys in the group cooperate to help raise the young and to benefit the interests of the group.

This apparently altruistic behavior is rarely seen in nature, but reminds me of one of Edward O. Wilson’s last obsessions—the role of altruism among social animals.

In The Social Conquest of Earth, Wilson argued that altruism is an evolutionary force that occurs among eusocial species, whether primate or insect—eusociality being the highest form of social behavior. He wrote:

“An iron rule exists in genetic social evolution. It is that selfish individuals beat altruistic individuals, while groups of altruists beat groups of selfish individuals. The victory can never be complete; the balance of selection pressures cannot move to either extreme. If individual selection were to dominate, societies would dissolve. If group selection were to dominate, human groups would come to resemble ant colonies.” 

Cotton-tops in the group help feed, carry, educate and rear the young, at great cost to themselves.

Meanwhile, the dominant female uses pheronomes, produced in her bum and monkeyflower, which both work to delay fertility and repress sexuality in other females. Fascinating social structure, but what a bichichi!

Russet-throated Puffbird

Russet-throated Puffbird.

Drug Routes and the Troncal del Caribe


e are now deep in La Guajira Department, and all the lush, rainy jungle is behind us. The Santa Marta mountains are so massive, so overwhelming, that there is an almost perfect rain shadow, keeping La Guajira dry. So dry, some years it only rains four inches.

We are headed northeast on the Troncal del Caribe—Highway 90—when the road suddenly widens from 2 lanes to 6 lanes for about half a mile. “The theory is,” Gabriel explains, “that at the peak of the cocaine trade, trucks would block either side of this part of the highway, and then they could land an airplane and load it up.”

In the 1970s and 1980s, La Guajira’s isolation made it an ideal haven for clandestine cocaine labs, and, right on the ocean facing sleepy Caribbean islands and sparsely populated countries like Belize, La Guajira was perfectly situated as a jumping off point in the northward distribution of cocaine.

Among the final island hideaways in the cocaine transit industry was a remote cay in the northern Bahamas. This cay, Gorda Cay, is a large, unattractive and heavily forested island, and it used to be the perfect place to land Cessnas loaded with white powder. Now, it’s renamed Castaway Cay, where hundreds of hapless Disney tourists rush to a plastic version of the Caribbean, unaware of which country they are in.

This large isolated cay played a major role in the fight in the Abaco Islands over a golf course development which I wrote about for over a decade of my life, because when Disney’s cruise ship stopover in Great Guana Cay proved unsafe for the large ships, the company needed a new port, and leased Gorda Cay, which they renamed Castaway Cay. That meant the land in Great Guana Cay was up for grabs, and doomed.

La Guajira’s isolation, cocaine history and proximity to the Venezuelan border means a heavy police presence. We get stopped often, and usually, our Colombian driver, Andrés, is left to explain what exactly these three foreigners are up to.

Door and window details in Camarones, La Guajira

Door and window details in Camarones, La Guajira.

The Festival of Candles in Camarones


e arrive in the small sun-faded town of Camarones in the early evening. Camarones is surrounded by lagoons, estuaries, flooded dwarf forests, and the ocean. But despite all the water, the most prominent feature of the landscape is that it is now a an arid desert. The xeric trees - Mexican Logwood, Sweet Acacia Sea Almonds, Gumbo Limbos, and hundreds of other species, rarely reach fifteen feet in height. The feeling is that we aren’t in South America at all, but somewhere on the other side of the world.

It’s December 7, the day before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and everybody is lighting rows of candles in their doorsteps and on the sidewalks. Gabriel explains that this is the Festival de Velas, the Festival of Candles. Music blares, lanterns are hung everywhere, and some have taken the time to create elaborate candle decorations; light and color everywhere.

I split from the group because I want to see some of the Caribbean-colored homes on the secondary streets. But I can’t get very far because every household is partying, glassy-eyed on mini-shots of locally made aguardiente, sugarcane firewater. Wherever there are people, I am invited in for a shot. Parched by the sun, thirsty for water, I’m ready to run away from these offerings, to escape into the dappled shade of the scrub.

Men celebrating the Festival of Candles in Camarones.

Men celebrating the Festival of Candles in Camarones.

History of the Wayuu


e think of the Americas as the newer part of world culture, but the Wayuu people’s history in the Americas goes back thousands of years. Wayuu are descendants of the Arawak, whose ancient civilizations abounded in South America, the Caribbean and as far north as the Bahamas. Anthropologists believed that the Wayuu were Amazonian arawaks who settled in the La Guajira peninsula about two to three thousand years ago, the first human group to inhabit the peninsula.

When the Spanish colonialists entered South America, the story of their conquests of indigenous populations is persistent and singularly evil—forced labor, enslavement, violence, rape, involuntary conversion to Christianity—and all of this on top of the spread of smallpox, literally wiping out most civilization.

The local version of that story can be applied to almost any region in Latin America. La Guajira is one of only a handful of exceptions, because the Wayuu, first inhabitants of this land, fought back.

When the Spanish first attempted to conquer the Wayuu around 1500 A.D., the defenders had a unique advantage. They were entirely adapted to living in a xeric scrub forest — a harsh, almost impenetrable habitat, unknowable to most humans. They could hide, become invisible, and strike back—phantoms in the desert— spear in the back, arrow in the eye.

For hundreds of years, the Spanish attempted to subjugate them, and they piled on resources, growing their army of mounted horsemen armed with technologically superior guns—advanced predators, angry at their decades of losses against what they saw as simple barbarians.

But as the Spanish grew the size of their advanced equipment and soldiers, the guerillas of the scrub altered their tactics, and began to steal the Spanish horses and guns.

Unlike virtually any other indigenous defenders of South America, the Wayuu learned to use the warfare of the colonizers against them.

Now, still able to hide in the scrub, the Wayuu could dart into Spanish camps—they had perfected their horsemanship and gunmenship, but were still masters of surprise—and take down platoons of soldiers, and then disappear again, into the scrub.

Unidentified Jumping Spider, near Tayrona National Park.

An unidentified Jumping Spider, near Tayrona National Park.


ot only did the Wayuu master the gun, but they kept an aspect of their ancient weapons in their arsenal: their mounted infantry used both gun and bow and arrow. This dual use of weapons gave them tactical advantages over the Spanish, who relied solely on the gun.

The standard issue Spanish gun at the time of the Guajira rebellion was the very heavy and clunky M1752 musket. Loading this gun was not a simple task. In order to fire a shot, you would have to prepare the musket, prime the pan, charge the barrel, seat the charge, load the musket ball, ram the musket ball, half-cock the flintlock, close the pan, full-cock the flintlock, aim and fire. 

Then, if you want to fire off another shot, you have to do it all over again. But the Guajiro rebels could swing the M1752 around their back and switch to the bow.  

All this culminated in what is known as the Guajira Rebellion; a series of skirmishes occurring throughout the 18th century, that ended in missions, towns and churches burned to the ground, and no ground gained by the Spanish.

By the late 1700s, the Wayuu had an army of 20,000 rebels, and were building their arsenal through weapons provided by English and Dutch smugglers.

In the end, the Spanish were never able to fully subjugate the Wayuu, and they are still semi-autonomous, own much of their original territory, speak their own language and continue to live by their own cultural traditions.

Nevertheless, new challenges and hardships, modern ones, threaten their communities like never before. That includes new threats to their territory.

Two-eyed Eighty-eight Butterfly, photographed in the riverbed of the Quebrada Valencia River.

Two-eyed Eighty-eight Butterfly, photographed in the riverbed of the Quebrada Valencia River.

The Wayuu Community of Tocoromana


n the early morning, we meet José Luis, a Wayuu naturalist, in Camarones and drive onto a long dirt road that traverses into the territory of Tocoromana, a traditional Wayuu community where he grew up.

José Luis’ entire family lives in Tocoromana. This community lives off fishing, goat herding and Wayuu handicrafts. José Luis grew up on a goat ranch within the community, spending much of his childhood in these scrub woods. 

We split off the main dirt road onto a series of small trails. We are looking for a handful of birds who are restricted to this region, including the Buffy Hummingbird and the Tocuyo Sparrow.

Gabriel, who knows that I often stray from our primary objective of locating the endemic birds, tells José Luis to keep his eye out for local reptiles. 

One of the first things you learn about a group of birders is that everybody has their auditory and visual strengths. Some birders see ground birds easily. Others are good at picking out elusive camouflaged birds hiding in dense foliage. Others have visual skills in picking out bird miles away. But there is something about growing up in a certain habitat that makes you be able to see things that nobody else can.

José Luis spots lizards left and right. How does he do it? They would be absolutely invisible to the rest of us. But if you grow up among these dwarf trees, the mazelike dappled light, and the dull-colored sandy forest floors, you have spent your life adapting visually to cues—and José Luis is missing nothing. 

I ask him about the name of his community.

“In the Wayuu language,” he explains, “this word is divided into three parts. The first part, toco, is the sound of tapping on something. Ro, the second, part, means a universal repetition. And the last part, Mana, means place. So Tocoromana means a place where a knocking sound goes on forever. This is because on the community's beach, there are rocks, and when the northern trade winds blow, the waves rap at the shoreline rocks, creating toc-toc-toc sounds.”

Tocoromana community

Tocoromana community.

The Wayuu Community of Tocoromana


e arrive at the ranch, where a handful of men and women sit on plastic chairs under the shade of a tree. About six homes are made of mud walls, thatched roofs, structured with poles made of branches, and each consist of a single room.

Knowing that José Luis spends a lot of time outside this ranch, I ask him about what it was like to live here. 

“Growing up on the ranch was the most beautiful thing, living in harmony as a family, we had crops, grazing animals, fishing, we collected wild fruits, it was similar to something the Bible would call paradise, the union of the family for a good common. We practiced Yanama, working together for the good of all. My childhood growing up with my grandmother, teaching me all the ancestral knowledge, taught me that being Wayuu is at the core of maintaining our culture, our traditions, and our own identity. I learned to work for the common good, and also to respect everything that surrounds us, because for us the plants, birds, animals and the entire universe are bigger than us, and without them we cannot live.”

He explains his fond memories of evenings in the community.

“When night falls, the goats begin to go to their pens on their own, which is a way of announcing to the family that the time has come to light the stove and prepare the oven and coffee.

While one of us children would carry water to the goat corral, the head of the family sits down and begins to prepare the food. The little ones gather around him, eager to receive their long-awaited meal of the day. In the heat of the stove, we all see that wisdom stares at us, a reminder of the inexhaustible mystery of the universe.”

A Cope's Ameiva, which I photographed in Tocoromana after José Luis spots him.

A Cope's Ameiva, which I photographed in Tocoromana after José Luis spots him.


ask him about the main differences between life inside and outside of the community. 

“Living within the community, among nature, is living away from noise and consumerism. It is living in cultural tradition, a quieter life, and definitely less crowded. Living outside the community is more complex. It is a less peaceful way of life. There is consumerism, insecurity, and definitely less tolerance.”

“If you can balance the knowledge of mutual respect between the traditional cultures of the indigenous people and the Western cultures, it can create real opportunities. When young Wayuu are able to make it to university, that really helps the community by providing us with Western knowledge, preparing us for an evolving world.”

We walk deeper into the scrub forest, and I see a young woman carrying a woven bag filled with grains.

I ask José Luis what a typical Wayuu meal is like, and what kind of food he prefers.

“Our ancient food was based on wild flora and fauna,” he explains. “Our meal preps were also based on dishes that we ate naturally and directly. The bread crops behind a lot of these dishes were cassava, pumpkin, melon, legumes, beans. Everything was prepared accompanied by rabbit meat, venison or peccary. Everything was all natural and without seasonings, colorings or salts. Animal fats were used to cook seafood such as turtle or shark. With this diet, our ancestors lived a lot longer and got sick a lot less. It was not necessary to go buy rice, vegetable oil, sugar and flour, these were not part of our diet. 

Fish was dried from the sea and the salt from it helped to keep it for a long time, the meat of the goats was also dried; but goat meat is only as recent as the arrival of the colonizers. Before that, everything was from nature.

Now the Wayuu dishes are based more on the seafood from the coast—fish, shrimp, lobsters, a little goat meat, more chicken, less local crops, more rice, many fried foods. The current diet is more about taste, before it was about subsistence. We’ve really adapted the Western diet. Personally, I am a fan of shrimp and fish, and all sorts of chicken recipes.”

A Vermilion Cardinal, known as the Guajira Cardinal in La Guajira. José Luis explains the relationship of this bird to Wayuu mythology.

A Vermilion Cardinal, known as the Guajira Cardinal in La Guajira. José Luis explains the relationship of this bird to Wayuu mythology.


e walk to the outskirts of the community, looking for a Vermilion Cardinal, a beautiful bright red bird that exists only here. Closely related to the Northern Cardinal, this Guajiro Cardinal features a fiery crest.

I ask José Luis about his love for naturalism and birds, and if it was seen as strange to others in the Wayuu community. He’ll later explain by email how Wayuu origin stories helped guide his passion:

“My strengths are due to the fortune of being adopted by my maternal grandmother at the age of five,” José Luis writes. “I was able to educate myself and prepared myself with cultural roots, and was always aware of my Wayuu origins. All Wayuu people come from the descendants of the beings that currently surround us—nature. We have always had a connection among the different generations.”

“This may be difficult to understand, but to understand the Wayuu world a little, I have a story about our origins.” 

Maleiwas, the creators, and beings ka'i, the sun, juya, the rain, maa, the Earth, joutai, the breeze, piyuushi, darkness, jemiai, the cold, jolotsuu, stars, mainnuya, the mist. 

From the Wayuu worldview, the understanding is that before our generation, there were five Wayuu generations, the first was made up of the maleiwa, who were the first inhabitants of the universe. In this generation two Gods, Juya and Maa fell in love and from this relationship the Wayuu of the second were born generation called unuuyuu, plants, were beings like us today with heads, arms, legs, with different qualities and jobs, these Wayuu of this generation felt alone and spoke with the god of the breeze, Joutai, that they wanted little brothers who would help them. 

It was here that Joutai opened his arms and the Wayuu of the third generation came out and called them uchiyuu, the birds, just like the second generation were human beings with their different jobs and qualities, in this generation the most important character was revealed.

The uchiyuu also felt alone and asked to have other brothers with them to be their eyes in the night and the god of darkness.  Their God, piyuushi raised his mantle and the Wayuu of the fourth generation, called lemuttushii, the four-legged animals, appeared. And in the fifth generation, Juuya, the god of rain fell in love with another Wayuu goddess, who we call pulowi. Pulowi was considered the mother and protector of the beings of the ocean, this goddess is personified in a beautiful long-haired woman, so gorgeous that any man who gazes at her goes crazy. 

From the relationship between Juya and Pulowi, a girl called Wolunka was born. Wolunka is the sister of the ocean beings. This girl quickly became a very beautiful woman who liked to bathe in water wells naked. When Pulowi realized that her companion Juya had another woman, she became very angry and formed from her body the Wayuu man of the fifth generation, the Maayuui, and gave him a mission, which was to find this girl, marry her and have many children. This boy went out to fulfill his mother's command, searching for Wolunka in the wells. Maayuui eventually found her, and immediately approached her, but suddenly something stopped him when he saw that this girl had something very strange, a sound was heard inside her legs. Cruuu , cruu , cruu , cruu , cruu. It was a gnashing of teeth because this woman had inherited her teeth in her vagina from her brothers, the fish and the sharks, she was the first woman of the fifth generation to have been born. 

Because of her toothed vagina, Maayuui had to ask, now what am I going to do? If the mission I have is to have many children with this woman? How can I have a relationship with her? 

He began to think of a way to remove her teeth, and he made his first implement, which was a bow and an arrow. He went out to the well to knock out the teeth of Wolunka's vagina. Wolunka was playing in the water, jumping, jumping, raising her legs up and just at this moment Maayuui pointed, he shot. The teeth fell into the water and she began to bleed. Suddenly the water was stained with blood. Many of the third generation Wayuu, the birds, went into the water to bathe. These birds dipped in the water to bathe, and their feathers became stained deep red. 

That is how they became the Vermilion Cardinal. Other birds, like the flamingo, arrived later when the blood was already diffused. From the moment this girl loses her teeth and bleeds; All their generations inherited the sacred blood and women inherited vaginal blood, menstration.

Maayuui fulfilled her mission and thanks to this feat, we were born today's Wayuu of the sixth generation and women’s vaginas are thankfully toothless. With this story I wanted to share with you how important our older brothers are to us and the respect we have for them.

So that you realize we have always had a direct connection with nature, despite that, what I started doing, which was watching birds, was very strange for everyone, to the point that many of my relatives told me that I was going crazy and that I was a corruncho —a believer in things that don’t exist. But that did not stop me. I continued because it was something that I liked and wanted, and now my friends and family tell me that they also want to be crazy like me. Hahaha!”

I ask him about his favorite memories growing up wandering the desert scrub. 

"I remember something that happened when I was out with a group of friends in a field, near a water well—Jaquey in Wayuu. Suddenly, we were surprised by some barking dogs running through the forest, chasing something; and then a Crab-eating Raccoon, running a thousand-miles-per-hour, scared as could be, looked for an escape and the first thing he saw was me!

He grabbed my leg like a begging child and started climbing on me, up to my head. I was in complete shock. I didn’t know what to do - should I run, scream or try to throw this thing off my head? Now, the dogs were circling me, and wanting nothing but to capture this raccoon. We got up the courage and idea to protect the raccoon, so we started throwing stone and sticks at the dogs. The raccoon would not leave my head until they were completely gone, and then it just jumped off my head and scurried into the bushes."

We came to an area near the community that included the foundations of a pair of two small tourist homes. This is the same area where the endemic birds are most likely to be seen.

"It is a group called Ishoo Experiences. We are trying to build lodges with elements of the Wayuu culture, mixed with the comforts of Western culture. These types of tourists love nature, but they are also interested in contributing to conservation, contributing to the local economy and relating to the ancestral worldview of indigenous peoples."

A Laverna Metalmark butterfly.

A Laverna Metalmark butterfly.

Having read about the issues facing the Wayuu people, including access to fresh water, marginalization, and territorial disputes, I ask José Luis what he thought were the biggest challenges for the Wayuu.

He explains, "The main challenge is the loss of land, many settlers have stolen the land of the Wayuu and sold them off, which affects the entire Wayuu identity because we are not rich in money, nor in recognition. The true wealth for the Wayuu, or for all the indigenous communities in Colombia and the world is the territory; that it is necessary to leave it to our future generations.

Today we do not have the same territory as we did before, even though the state protects us, but that protection is not complete, because there is a lot of corruption and the corrupt buy off the leaders, who then invalidate the protections of the indigenous people, marginalizing us so we disappear.

The key is to fight for the territory, prepare ourselves professionally, generate investment and productive projects in the community and lead the union as we did before. The key is not to wait for the government or the state to put food in our mouths, but to generate our own food. As an ethnic group we have always resisted for our territory, because without territory there is no identity.

"What about the La Guajira landscape and environment," I ask. "how do the changes affect the Wayuu’s way of life?"

"The territory has changed a lot, before we could grow crops, we could collect wild fruits, hunt wild animals, fishing was productive, we had territories, today you cannot do these things because they have populated the territory, it hardly rains now, the development they call has taken away many stories and indigenous peoples. Now everything is scarcer, more pollution."

While wandering outside the Tocoromana ranch, we run into four small children, out on a forest adventure. They carry a pail and a cup, and they remind me that the best things I learned were always barefoot in the wood, a pail of pond water in hand. I ask José Luis about the kids, and efforts to preserve Wayuu culture and traditions amidst modernization. I ask, "Are the younger generations working to preserve Wayuu traditions?"

"The important thing for us, and them, is to maintain the territory. This generation must be trained and prepared for the evolving modern world. They need to learn from Western culture and thus not allow the culture to be trampled. Build more schools and train future leaders who can fight against the corruption that would lead them to misery. The current great evil of humanity is corruption. It's not our water problems, nor the weakening of natural resources, nor the lack of territory. Corruption has killed more indigenous people than everything else. The path of resistance to corruption is education in every sense of the word."

Explore more in the Neotropics

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Notes on global biodiversity, from one of its prime hotspots in the Peruvian rainforest.

Notes on diversity and adaptation in the flooded blackwater lakes of the Amazon.

Notes on the joy of travel and the strange, modern cargo cults of the airways.

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An exquisite adventure along the Guacamayos Ridge Trail in the Ecuadorian Andes.

What does it mean to travel as a citizen of a different country? I find out how the hard way.

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Notes on the poison frogs of Isla Bastimentos in the Bocas del Toro archipelago of Panama.

A night-time ferry to a deserted island in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago.

Exploring isolated streams in the El Valle caldera, and notes on the amphibian epidemic.

Riding through Honduras' North Coast on an antique coconut train.

In the Panama jungle, I write letters to an American pastor who rails against evolution.

Travels in the San Blas Islands, home of the semi-autonomous Guna Indians.

Road trip stories from lazy, sun-drenched rivers in Southern Belize.

Notes on the ancient highways of the Mayan world, from a perch in Peten, Guatemala.

Notes on sustainable development from the dry forests of the Nicaraguan Pacific Coast.

Notes on travels in the colonial city of Granada, Nicaragua.

Sketches and notes from Lima, Peru in Copic markers, watercolor and sepia washes.

Sketches, Moleskine notes and illustrations from San José, Costa Rica.

Notes on the the diverse habits of the Andes, and the surreal denizens who inhabit them.

Exploring the Mombacho Volcano along Lake Nicaragua, including the rugged Puma Trail.