Roberto Afanador Cobaria was baptized during his stay in a catholic mission, in the circumstances to be kidnapped by missionaries of that mission when he was a small child. Berito Kuwara’wa as is his original name was rescued by his mother several years after but this experience has left a sign in his life. He has discovered in his heart the necessity to fight in defense of his rights and the rights of his land.
Berito Cobaría belongs the Uwa’s people, who still lives on their native territory, north east Colombia, near the borders with Venezuela, the Uwa’s people have multiple lineages, all of whom have their own territory, the Cobarias, live between the rivers Cobaria and Arauca, and they have to stay there their whole lifes. In their beautiful cosmovision which doesn’t differ from any other spiritual school, Sira, the father, the creator, established a balance that has to be kept in order to secure the wellbeing of every single living entity.
Berito has appeared for the first time on the world scene when in 1997 he traveled to California to confront the Western Petroleum with its headquarter in Los Angeles. They had a contract to probe on the territory of U’wa but the tribe has revolted bravely against this statement and fought and sacrificed their lives in defense of the knowledge which their ancestors has left for them that the petrol is the blood of our mother earth, Berito explains. To pump out the blood of the Earth is a homicide.
After a struggle which lasted more than a decade, the brave opposition of the U’wa tribe and the charismatic campaign of Berito Cobaria for the world finally gave its fruits in the year 2002 when the Western Petroleum withdrew from the territory of U”wa through a renegotiation of the contract with the Colombian government and Berito Cobaria became in this way one “Werjaya” (spiritual guide of U”wa), a leader of the indigenous movement of his country, a statesman, a forerunner in the fight for the defense for the rights of the mother Nature and how to bring this fight outside its borders and how to win friends for its cause.
But the situation of taking a risk is constant in the fight of the U’wa tribe. The greed for the richness and the petroleum of the ancestral territory of the U’wa remains latent and again and again they are being contacted to negotiate their territory and again and again they respond that it is not their and that they have to negotiate with Sira (with God). They are just in charge of the care of Mother Nature. They try to make us understand that the world cannot be bad, it is the governments which are not nice, the companies which are not nice, Mother Nature and Lord cannot be bad.
Berito Cobaria is coming back now on the front line after the last attacks to his land and his cultural legacy when in February 2014 Ecopetrol (Colombian petroleum company) has intensified their activities of exploration at the north part of the territory of U’wa at the petroleum platform known as Magallanes that although technically is situated outside the guarding of the U’wa reservation, the zone is seriously occupied inside the territory of U’wa as the government recognizes and is next to the river Cubogon which has a very big spiritual significance for the U’was.
The brutality of the intrusion of this settling of the petrol company was impressing and in less than 15 days they have made four abuses of authority in the zone leaving the river Cubogon with most of its fishes dead and the neighboring inhabitants without their daily food and sustain.
In March 2014 as a result of an abuse, the pipeline of Canio Limon in the stretch situated at the hill La China, inside the reservation of the tribe U’wa broke up and one woman U’wa and her child have died in the fatal accident, the crude oil was spilled all over the whole mountain, causing unrepairable damage to the Earth and to a village of U’wa situated just 100 meters from the place.
The response of Berito and the U’was is the same as 20 years ago, they will go on resisting and this because – Berito explaining – because Lord, Sira has left us codes, laws, in which our ancestors had faith. These laws do not change, because of this we do not change. These laws say that we have to defend the nature and our smaller brothers and that we have to distribute the message and this is going on from the beginning of time.
Berito Cobaria in his simple essence of indigenous man is giving us a very strong lesson about the dignity in the behavior of a human being. The humanity which is reflecting from him is establishing him very far from this barbarian world. Nowadays meantime the U’wa tribe maintains its environmental resistance with the break of the pipeline, Berito keeps bringing his message, protest and appealing to the international solidarity for the doubting manner in which the government of his country is treating the problem.
The Law, is explaining us Berito, is only one for the whole world and because of this task is for all the persons on the planet. We, he says, will always stay awake for the wellbeing of all the planet and for that reason our ancestral tribe is asking for help on a world level, an unconditional help for our fight because we will not remain silent in front of the exploitation and we will demand the laws of Sira to be respected. And this will go on until the last U’wa disappears and this knowledge we will pass from generation to generation for the survival of the humanity.