Cultural Identity - Overview

“Cultural Identity” was the vision of Angel Conservation and Fundación Etnika and the following is an overview prepared by Isabel Barton and Paul Stanley some years ago.

`We have progressed to a technological civilization / society and are moving away more and more from our responsibility of taking care of our fragile planet, always looking for sterile worlds somewhere out there. We forget the ancient knowledge of the old people from the native towns who, for thousands of years have lived with basic methods and in total harmony with the world – so much knowledge is still unexplored.

In the case of the Pemón tribe the Kamarakotos, the same principle that allows them to remain intricately connected to the natural world reflects in every one of their cultural expressions, for example:

  • The paintings on their bodies and faces created to protect them from the spirits that live in the mountains, or when fishing, to attract specific kinds of fish.
  • The magical songs they sing to heal sicknesses, which they believe are a result of a split between body and spirit.
  • Their respect for the moriche palm, which they call “tree of life”, because it gives them materials for their baskets, shoes and roofs, and two of their favorite dishes: hearts of palm and moriche worm.
Like other limited native civilizations, they are still keeping their own identity but the “cultural” identity of the Kamarakotos is in danger of extinction or being absorbed by contemporary civilization.
 
Angel Conservation together with Fundación Etnika (throughout this document we will refer to both as the Foundation or Foundations) will investigate, organize and divulge the culture of the Kamarakotos with two basic objectives in mind.

Support

To support them in the “reconquest” of their cultural identity, which is in the minds of the old people from the tribe? Or at least those that still remain…

Regain

To regain what our own civilization has lost: the feeling of unity and mutuality within our context and the knowledge from those.

Necessary Elements for the Reorganization of the Kamarakotos Cultural Identity

Five necessities are important to be able to reorganize the cultural identity of the Kamarakotos tribe:

  • To identify and to document the history of the tribe which, to our knowledge has never been done in the necessary depth and detail.
  • To recover and to document the basic elements from their culture in a clear and basic way so it will remain in a sustainable form and pass on through future generations in the tribe.
  • To integrate the basic essentials of this tribe into the world of sustainable tourism – the only way for them to support themselves and be self-sufficient. In short, assist in the development of sustainable tourism in the area.
  • To compile and to communicate / help educate the Kamarakotos as to the history and work carried out by the explorers, photographers, writers and scientists who were in the vicinity of Salto Angel for the first time at the halfway mark of the XX century. The explorers showed the richness of their discoveries to the world, but the Kamarakotos never knew of them (and many still don’t) and never saw the results of all those discoveries.
  • To combine the story of the Kamarakotos and the story of the explorers – a unique story waiting to be told and merged together in a format that is understandable and coherent not only for themselves but for the rest of the world. It will also help the world to understand the tribe and their culture better, and the history of Angel Falls which has been designated as the eighth natural wonder of the world.
Angel Conservation and Fundación Etnika will compile and investigate what may be necessary to bring back the cultural identity of the Kamarakotos. A process in which the Kamarakotos will not only receive information, but will be active participants in gathering it. With this clear objective we are proposing a few projects.