"We are the Elder Brothers, with
knowledge of all
things, material and spiritual.
We know what you have done. You have sold
the clouds. Open your eyes."
'The Heart of the World' is their description of the Sierra itself, the
world's highest coastal mountain, which rises from the tropical Caribbean
to snowfields and glaciers in just 25 miles. The Sierra is a
triangular pyramid; one side faces the sea, another desert, and the third
jungle, so that its thirty-five river valleys provide an infinite variety of
habitats, with every possible variety of temperature and rainfall. This
richness, and the variety of interactions between ecosystems, means that
the indigenous people have attained a very complex understanding of nature
and its processes.
The Mamas believe that they have been charged with the sacred obligation of
taking care of nature and managing the interaction between human beings and
the natural world. They do this by devoting the bulk of their lives to an
arduous regime of offerings, 'payments' which rebalance the world,
compensating for the damage caused by human activity in both material and
transcendent reality. They understand material reality to be simply an
instant of time, the present moment, embedded in a continuum which is
itself a living intelligence, called Aluna. They speak of Aluna as 'the
Mother', but say she is not a person, rather, 'she is memory and
possibility.' Human beings (or at any rate the 'Elder Brothers') are able
to cross the frontier between the material and nonmaterial worlds and it is
their duty to act as servants of the Mother, taking care of the material
world as instructed.
The obligation of their work, which they believe is necessary to prevent
the material world from collapsing into chaos, means that they have a duty
to survive. This is the imperative that has prevented the indigenous
societies of the Sierra from losing their identity. The function of their
society is to sustain the Mamas; the function of the Mamas is to sustain
To do that, the Indians need to maintain as much distance as possible
between themselves and our culture. When Arregoces was young, and thought
that it was a good idea to make a film, most Kogi thought it was a very
frightening idea indeed.
The decision to make the film came from the Mamas. They had concluded that
their work was failing. Nature was suffering, the Mother was grievously
sick. The depredations of the Younger Brother had become overwhelming.
Sacred sites had been destroyed and had become inaccessible, ancestral gold
had been looted. The steady advance of colonization, which had begun with
Columbus, was on its way to a final conclusion. This last stronghold, The
Heart of the World, was on the point of falling. At the same time, the
earth was being tortured: forests were being torn down, minerals being
grubbed up, oil being drained from the ground. The Mother was in physical
The consequences were clear to see. Rivers were drying up, wild animals
were vanishing, and jaguars were beginning to hunt humans, as their prey
had disappeared. The ice cap of the Sierra was rapidly melting, and the
high tundra, which provides the fresh water that sustains all life below,
was becoming desiccated.
The Mamas decided to make the film in order to give us a final warning. It
was a rebuke and an offer of help, from an older, wiser and now very
frightened civilization. 'We are the Elder Brothers, with knowledge of all
things, material and spiritual. We know what you have done. You have sold
the clouds. Open your eyes.'