1705848681 Danilo Villafane and the ancestor we will be

Danilo Villafañe and the ancestor we will be

EL PAÍS openly offers the América Futura section for its daily and global information contribution to sustainable development. If you would like to support our journalism, subscribe here.

Life is a race full of obstacles where our dreams and projections can be dashed in a flash. In just a few seconds, a stroke of luck (or bad luck) can change the course of your life. I learned this the hard way on December 25 last year when I experienced a moment of abundance on the coast of the Colombian Caribbean with my husband, my two daughters, ages four and six, and other family members. 40 minutes were enough to change everything. That was the time from the moment my partner jumped into the water to save a cousin and the waves dragged him to the bottom. There were moments of agony for everyone until the sea itself brought back the two lifeless bodies. At that moment everything was unreal for me, it was a lie. I thought my husband was simply unconscious, but when I saw his body unresponsive and my girls with tears streaming down their faces as they watched their father, my mind was clouded and I felt tremors. I screamed like I had never screamed before, I was out of breath.

But I also understood that my partner, Arhuaco leader Danilo Villafañe, had not died. Danilo couldn't die because he was the complete opposite of death. He was a man of great spirit, challenging and a source of inspiration for the leadership of present and future generations.

Between the certainty and the grief of the departure of my partner, who was also my friend and someone I always admired, I began to think that life never belonged to him, but that his life belonged to people. The expression of this is the statements in his memory that I received: from street vendors to the numerous statements from politicians, business people and activists. Danilo was a political leader and one of the great thinkers and intellectuals that the Arhuaco people have given to Colombia and the world in recent decades. He supported the tireless fight to preserve the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. This goal, which we both share, took him to several world stages where he expressed his ideas about the need to protect the environment to ensure the survival of the human species.

Danilo Villafañe was known in Colombia for his work in environmental protection "Chancellor of Ecosystems".  In the picture Villafañe with his wife Gunna Chaparro.For his commitment to environmental protection, Danilo Villafañe was known in Colombia as the “Chancellor of Ecosystems.” In the picture Villafañe with his wife Gunna Chaparro. With kind approval

His work in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta made Danilo a worldwide reference. He left humanity a legacy that needs to be protected and crystallized, because from his point of view he saw nature not as a storehouse of resources, but as an essential part of ourselves. I had the good fortune to listen to him for years and the honor of listening to him to accompany him in his visions until his last breath. Now it breaks my heart knowing I will never see him again.


Current events analysis and the best stories from Colombia, delivered to your inbox every week


Although the pain is deep, from my culture I begin to understand my partner's transition to another level, not from pain, but from the awareness of how he has shaped the hearts of many in this world. I also understand the importance of continuing to honor his memory – the memory of the ancestor we will be – through work and alliances that justify his cultural heritage and greatness and the light he radiated in service of humanity. It was a process that we once undertook together with people who supported him. Now that he has left me halfway, the responsibility lies with me and those present to continue the path to continue our agenda of respect for the environment in the midst of a historic situation, a moment that requires action more than ever restore the world's ecosystems.

For this purpose, the Danilo Villafañe Foundation was created, whose aim is to preserve the mountains and improve the living conditions and participation of indigenous peoples. The most important thing about the foundation is that, in honor of Danilo's ideas, it positions its thinking in such a way that it understands climate change from a global vision as a threat to the physical and cultural survival of indigenous peoples and other societies.

Gunna Chaparro She is an Arhuaco woman. He heads the Danilo Villafañe Foundation. She served as an advisor to the CAF Development Bank for Latin America and the Caribbean to strengthen the participation of indigenous communities in the region and participated in international forums such as COP28.