AP PHOTOS: Tribe struggles for survival in Colombia

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AP PHOTOS: Tribe struggles for survival in Colombia
Wayuu indigenous boys play in a tree in Manaure, Colombia, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Hunger exacerbated by a two-year-old drought is one of the biggest problems facing the Wayuu, a 600,000-strong ancestral tribe in La Guajira peninsula, the northernmost tip of South America. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Mugs hang to dry on a fence outside the home of a Wayuu indigenous family in Manaure, Colombia, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. The majority of Colombia’s Wayuu live in poverty. La Guajira peninsula, the northernmost tip of South America, has the highest malnutrition rate in Colombia, at 11 percent, according to the public defender's office. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
A Wayuu indigenous girl carries her desk at the end of the school day in Manaure, Colombia, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. The school is run by the community, and classes are given in their native Wayuunaiki language. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Wayuu indigenous children stand in the shade of their adobe home in Manaure, Colombia, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Hunger exacerbated by a two-year-old drought is one of the biggest problems facing the Wayuu, a 600,000-strong ancestral tribe that’s caught in the middle of Venezuela’s crackdown on smuggling along its western border with Colombia. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Wayuu indigenous woman Rosalba Castro, 20, draws water from a community well in Manaure, Colombia, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Hunger exacerbated by a two-year-old drought is one of the biggest problems facing the Wayuu, a 600,000-strong ancestral tribe that’s caught in the middle of Venezuela’s crackdown on smuggling along its western border with Colombia. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
A Wayuu indigenous man rests in a hammock in Manaure, Colombia, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. The desert tribe doesn't carry passports nor do they recognize international borders. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Gladis Fatima Castro rests in her hammock inside her dirt floor home in Manaure, Colombia, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Three days ago she lost her 14-year-old daughter and a doctor’s certificate shows the diagnosis: severe malnutrition that led first to hair loss and then sores in her mouth that prevented her from swallowing the vitamins and minerals doctors prescribed. “I didn’t have enough even to pay for them,” said Fatima, who has two remaining younger children. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Wayuu indigenous woman Rosalba Castro washes clothes in water she drew from a nearby community well in Manaure, Colombia, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Wayuu women wear ankle-length robes and are responsible for preserving the group’s traditions and ethnic lineage. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Wayuu indigenous children play in Manaure, Colombia, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. La Guajira peninsula has the highest malnutrition rate in Colombia, at 11 percent, according to the public defender's office. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
In this Sept. 9, 2015 photo, Wayuu indigenous women walk along a dirt street in their community of Albania, Colombia. The Wayuu for centuries have dominated life on La Guajira peninsula, the northernmost tip of South America, first resisting conquest by Spain and since independence freely crossing the Colombian-Venezuelan border that arbitrarily divides clans in their ancestral homeland. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
In this Sept. 9, 2015 photo, Wayuu indigenous man Eusebio Epieyu works shoveling sea salt until sunset in Manaure, Colombia. It’s a poorly-paid profession but one that provides sustenance to many. Workers make about .30 cents for each sack of salt. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
In this Sept. 9, 2015 photo, a Wayuu indigenous man shows handfuls of sea salt collected manually in Manaure, Colombia. For centuries, the Wayuu have gotten by in this desolate, desert-like landscape shoveling salt under an intense 40 degrees Celsius heat. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
In this Sept. 9, 2015 photo, a Wayuu indigenous man carries a sack of sea salt in Manaure, Colombia. For centuries, the Wayuu have gotten by in this desolate, desert-like landscape shoveling salt into large piles under an intense 40 degrees Celsius heat. Workers make about .30 cents per sack. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
In this Sept. 9, 2015 photo, a Wayuu indigenous woman attends a community meeting in Albania, Colombia. Community meetings are held by the adult men and women of the community when specific problems arise that need to be resolved. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
In this Sept. 9, 2015 photo, Wayuu indigenous women attend a community meeting in Albania, Colombia. Women are responsible for preserving the group’s traditions and ethnic lineage. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
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MANAURE, Colombia (AP) — Sadness surrounded Gladis Fatima's mud house.

Three days before, her 14-year-old daughter died and a doctor's certificate showed why: severe malnutrition led to sores in the girl's mouth that prevented her from swallowing the vitamins and minerals doctors had prescribed.

"I didn't have enough even to pay for them," Fatima said of the supplements, resting in a hammock of vibrant colors as she stared, as if lost, into the bleak landscape.

Hunger, exacerbated by a 2-year drought, is among the biggest problems facing the Wayuu, a 600,000-strong ancestral tribe caught in the middle of Venezuela's crackdown on smuggling along its western border with Colombia.

The Wayuu for centuries have dominated life on La Guajira peninsula, the northernmost tip of South America. They first resisted conquest by Spain, and since independence have freely crossed the Colombian-Venezuelan border that arbitrarily divides their ancestral homeland.

Members of the desert tribe don't carry passports, nor do they recognize international borders. The women, who dress proudly in ankle-length robes, are responsible for preserving the group's traditions and ethnic lineage.

Like Fatima, the majority of Colombia's Wayuu Indians live in poverty. La Guajira has the highest malnutrition rate in Colombia, at 11 percent, according to the public defender's office.

For centuries, the Wayuu have gotten by in this desolate, desert-like landscape, shoveling salt into large piles under an intense 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) heat. It's a poorly-paid profession that nevertheless supports many tribe members.

But younger people are now substituting that traditional job with the smuggling of gas and other goods that they buy at cheap, government-controlled prices in Venezuela. They then resell the fuel and other products in Colombia at a huge profit.

___

Follow Jacobo Garcia on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jacobogg

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