Walking with Cecilia

Walking with Cecilia

Cecilia lives in Valledupar, a little town at the feet of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia. There she owns a store of handicrafts.
She wears the traditionally white clothes of the Arhuaco indigenous peopie, around her neck dozens of colorful necklaces.

Cecilia's memories of her homeland are filled with sadness. She decides to return, but this means to face a difficult chapter of her past.
The Colombian civil war has entered the quiet mountain range of the Sierra Nevada. The Paramilitaries, the Guerilla and the state army have turned the Arhuacos' Land into a conflict zone. The region of Cecilia's village is under the control of a FARC Guerilla group. Many times they were stealing the harvest of Cecilia's Land.

"Si quieres o no quieres, ellos son el ejército del pueblo alla" - "lf you want it or not, they are the army of the people there."
Cecilia gets in contact with the Guerilla hoping to be able to return to her land. Three years before she had to flee, because she was accused of being a paramilitary informer. She was not safe anymore and went away to the city.
Nervously she looks at her mobile phone - the "comandante" could call any minute again.
Finally she gets the permission to go up to the Sierra Nevada ...

The mighty green mountains extend before Cecilia and her mother, while they are waking up the way through the jungle. The sound of the roaring river is in their ears, and the noise of the city is fading away. With every step Cecilia gets closer to her past and the problems of her people.

Since old times the Arhuacos see themselves as the legitimate protectors of this mountain range. The shamans are their spiritual leaders, who try to preserve tradition.
But already Cecilias mother lost believe in the power of tradition.
Why should she always take the journey to the shamans and bring them gifts? Missionaries told her to become christian. Easily she could stay at home and pray there to God. Evangelical churches preach the apocalypse and try to save as many souls as possible. Like many other people of her village, Cecilias mother has turned away from tradition towards Christianity.

"La tradicion está en desorden." - "The tradition is in disorder."
The Globalisation leaves its traces even on the inaccessible pathways of the Sierra. But Cecilia found her own way to deal with her disapointment of seeing how her indigenous culture loses its power.
Cecilia's life is an attempt to combine tradition, modernity, and individual choice.


A film by Michaela Krimmer and Friedrich Ofner
Produced by A different picture, Vienna (A)