Zenu

Introduction

The Zenú or Sinú are an Amerindian Peoples in Colombia whose ancestral territory comprises the valleys of the Sinu and San Jorge rivers as well as the coast of the Caribbean around the Gulf of Morrosquillo. These lands lie within the departments of Córdoba and Sucre.

Farmers, merchants and goldsmiths, the Zenú thrived from about 200 BC to about AD 1600. The gold that was often buried with their dead lured the Spanish conquerors, who looted much of the gold. With the arrival of the Spaniards, the tribe all but died out. The 16th-century Spanish chroniclers wrote about the Zenú who were still living there, but recorded little or nothing about the history of the Zenú.

Around AD 950, about 160 inhabitants per square kilometer lived in the San Jorge basin. After 1100, the Zenú population decreased for unknown reasons and moved to higher pastures that did not flood, requiring no drainage works, where they lived until the Spanish conquest.

Excessive taxation, forced labor, and western diseases caused the decline of the Zenú population after the arrival of the Spanish. The Zenú language disappeared around 200 years ago. The King of Spain designated 83,000 hectares in San Andrés de Sotavento as a Zenú reserve in 1773. This reserve existed until it was dissolved by the National Assembly of Colombia in 1905.

The Indian population has fought for the restoration of the reserve, and in 1990 San Andrés de Sotavento was restored as a Zenú reserve with a land area of 10,000 hectares (later 23,000). Here a community of approximately 33,000 inhabitants holds on to centuries-old traditions.

For them, the plaiting and weaving are still connected to their daily lives. It is like recreating their representation of the universe, because weaving brings together knowledge, nature (the fibers), and something substantial, which is the product itself. Weaving both creates and represents their culture. The sombrero vueltiao is a characteristic example of contemporary Zenú weaving.

 
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