Guajiro - Orientation

Identification. The Guajiro are an Indian group living in Colombia and Venezuela. The name "Guajiro" is probably of Spanish origin.

Location. The traditional Guajiro territory, with a land area of approximately 16,000 square kilometers, consists of a peninsula called "La Guajira" located in the Caribbean Sea between 11° and 12°30′ N and between 71 ° and 72°30′ W. The peninsula is divided by the Colombia-Venezuela border; although only one-fifth of its surface area is Venezuelan, roughly half of the Guajiro population lives on the Venezuelan side. This is a region of brush savanna and xerophytic vegetation, dotted with desert zones, that also includes several mountain ranges reaching upwards of 850 meters (Makuira, Kusina, Jala'ala, and Kamaichi). Rainfall is abundant from October to November (the period called juyapu ) and sometimes also in April or May (the period of iiwa ). The major dry season (called jouktai-jamü, "hunger-wind") lasts from May to September and sometimes even longer, preempting the rainy season and imperiling the lives of animals and people. In the north of the peninsula annual mean precipitation is approximately 20 centimeters; it can reach 60 centimeters in the south. The amounts are irregular, however, and the regional variations great.

Linguistic Affiliation. Guajiro is part of the Arawak Language Family. The speech of Wüinpumuin (the north-eastern region) is distinct from that of Wopumuin (the southeastern region), although the two are mutually intelligible.

Demography. A full census has not been taken. It is generally accepted, however, that the Guajiro number more than 100,000 (without taking into account mestizos or those who do not speak the language and are outside the lineage system). In 1938, as in 1981, there were approximately 47,000 Guajiro in Colombia. There are an estimated 60,000 in Venezuela, about two-thirds of whom live on the margins of the territory, in the city of Maracaibo, or in other areas.

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