César Enrique Giraldo Herrera
(Leibniz-ZMT Centre for Marine Tropical Research)
Paper Short Abstract:
The skills of seamanship among inhabitants of the south-western littoral of Colombia, in handling apparently fragile craft, confer a mobility that allows them to maintain dense social networks. These networks help them to retain their autonomy in the face of exogenous pressures of development.
Paper long abstract:
The south-western littoral of Colombia is a dynamic labyrinth, an extended alluvial plain of movable sandy keys and slow-growing mangrove estuaries dominated by moderate tides and soft winds. Since the Conquest this environment has been perceived by travellers, colonists and developers as a rich but hostile and wild periphery, a formidable barrier to contact, transport and overall progress. However, thanks to their skills of seamanship, local inhabitants have been able to move around in this environment with ease and efficiency, using watercraft that to outsiders seem fragile and vulnerable, but which are in fact highly versatile. Thanks to the mobility afforded by these craft, they have been able to form dense networks of interconnection, and to retain a measure of autonomy in the face of the potentially exploitative pressures of externally instigated development. Indeed the intricate and largely uncharted history of the region is characterized by a multiplicity of inter-ethnic contacts and intermixtures, local marooning and innovative smuggling; the dynamics of a crossroads rather than a periphery. At these crossroads, landscape and seascape merge to constitute a single extended field.
Seascape: anthropological and archaeological approaches to the human habitation of the sea