Cultural Diversity

Cultural Diversity

The cultural diversity in the Colombian Amazon region contains sociocultural groups with specific characteristics in relation to traditions, value systems, lifestyles, environment perception and beliefs. Cultural norms of each group are related to adaptation, intervention, and modification of the environment grounded in traditional knowledge systems. In the Colombian Amazon ethnic groups are indigenous, Afro-descendant, and peasant. The following are general features of the different groups are described:

Indigenous populations: They are organized in reserves and consist of about 62 villages that make up nine language families and five distinct languages​​. The largest ethnic groups are Inga (Quetchua linguistic family), Uitoto (Wuitoto), Tikunas (Independent with Tupi roots) and Nasa (Paez or Chibcha). Ethnic groups with smaller populations are Kawiyarí (Arawak linguistic family), Barasana (Eastern Tukano), Tariano (Arawak), and Makaguaje (Western Tukano). The departments where the indigenous population is concentrated are Putumayo, Amazonas, Nariño, Vichada, Guainía and Vaupés.

Some ethnic groups are similar in their approach and understanding of the symbolic universe and the environment. Therefore, they can be categorized into sociocultural groups establishing closer relations between ethnic groups. Socio-cultural groups are divided into areas by political and geographic boundaries: Amazon Andes piedmont rainforest, Amazon basin and the Amazonian Trapezoidal (political boundary) rainforest area. Each of these areas includes a social structure, customs, and traditions that are shared by the indigenous people.

Afro-descendant population: This group consists mainly of migrants from the department of Nariño (municipalities of Tumaco and Barbacoa) as a result of the development of infrastructure for oil exploration in the Colombian Amazon. Currently, the population is concentrated in the departments of Caquetá and Putumayo, followed by Guaviare and Meta. Its estimated population is over 24,674.

Peasant population: Peasant groups resulted from the process of migration and colonization of the mid-twentieth century by populations from the Andean region, for the purpose of finding new land use practices and growth of illicit crops. The estimated population is over 484,158 and is mainly concentrated in Caquetá and Putumayo provinces.


Ruiz S. L., Sánchez E., Tabares E., Prieto A., Arias J. C, Gómez R., Castellanos D., García P., Rodríguez

L. (eds). 2007. Diversidad biológica y cultural del sur de la Amazonia colombiana – Diagnóstico. Corpoamazonia, Instituto Humboldt, Instituto Sinchi, UAESPNN, Bogotá D. C. – Colombia. 636 p.

Jaramillo D., Rojas A., Ortíz N. 2011. Retos para un desarrollo sostenible: Transformaciones en la Amazonia colombiana. Fundación Alisos. Bogotá D.C. – Colombia. 126 p.

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