What is a Colombian Bag Called and Why is it So Special?

What is a Colombian Bag Called and Why is it So Special?

When in Colombia, you’ll notice that the mochila bag isn't just a souvenir. Beautiful, practical, and mystical, these shoulder bags are more than mere accessories – they're a cultural phenomenon and an identity icon. Dive into the rich heritage of Colombian mochila bags, where every thread tells a story of indigenous ancestral tradition and craftsmanship.

Table of Contents

1. Significance in Colombian Culture

2. Different Types of Colombian Mochilas

3. Arhuaco Mochila Bags: A Closer Look

4. Conclusion

5. FAQs About Colombian Mochila Bags


Significance in Colombian Culture

At the heart of indigenous Colombian tradition, mochila bags transcend the realm of mere accessories. Woven by skilled women artisans, these bags traditionally were made for personal use during their journeys. However, a few decades ago, as their lifestyle changed, they began selling these items to support their livelihoods. As we delve into this cultural tapestry, we find that indigenous feminine weaving is a form of giving birth not only to a practical daily object but a form of written expression, reflecting a gift of profound wisdom from the Colombian indigenous communities.


Historical and Cultural Interplay

The historical and cultural identity of Colombia is a vibrant mosaic, harmonizing three distinct elements—criollo (descendants of Europeans born in a Hispanic American country), indigenous, and African. The intricate interplay of these three societies, a consequence of Spanish colonization, is pivotal to the country’s narrative. Indigenous communities, the original inhabitants of these lands, contribute a rich tapestry of ancestral wisdom, providing a unique worldview. Diverse and unique, these communities defy generalization, yet collectively embody profound spiritual connections to their natural surroundings and territory, as well as an innate sense of community.


Different Types of Colombian Mochilas

Let's explore the three most significant types of Colombian mochila bags, each hailing from a distinct indigenous community in the Caribbean region.

Wayúu Mochilas


Photo: Artesanías de Colombia. Wayúu Mochila.

Distinguished by their explosion of vibrant hues and intricate designs, Wayúu Mochilas are a visual delight inspired by the mesmerizing landscapes of La Guajira Peninsula, the northernmost region of Colombia—a unique universe nestled between the desert and the sea. Rooted in Wayúu culture, these bags vividly reflect the region's rich tapestry of flora, fauna, and traditional medicines.

Arhuaco Mochilas

Photo: Atitutu. Laberinto Arhuaco Mochila Bag.

Easily identified by geometric patterns meticulously crafted from virgin sheep wool in a myriad of earthy tones, Arhuaco Mochilas intimately connect with the profound spiritual and geographic balance of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Each stitch carries the feminine ancestral wisdom of the Arhuaco heritage, reflecting the symbolic meaning of harmonious coexistence with the natural and spiritual realms. 

Kogui Mochilas


Photo: Stories + Objects, Kogui Mochilas. 

Kogui Mochilas are meticulously stitched from fique —maguey— fibers. Embracing natural earthy dyes and horizontal-striped designs, they encapsulate the positive intentions woven into each thread by the skilled hands of the women who craft them. These mochilas not only carry the essence of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta but also embody the Kogui community's steadfast commitment to renewing the human bond with Mother Earth.

Arhuaco Mochila Bags: A Closer Look

Arhuaco Mochila Bags transcend the realm of accessories; they are masterpieces that gracefully blend functionality, artistry, and spirituality into daily life. Crafted over two months by skilled Arhuaco women, each bag becomes a symbol of feminine wisdom and life, mirroring the womb. In the realm of sustainable fashion, these bags serve as a bridge between tradition and modernity, interweaving hand-spun sheep's wool into unique creations that draw inspiration from the natural and spiritual balance of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the tallest coastal mountain range in the world.

Colombian Arhuaco Indigenous Man 

Cultural Context: Who are the Arhuaco Indigenous People?

The Arhuaco people, descendants of the ancient Tayrona civilization, hold a profound spiritual connection to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. As custodians of this sacred land, they bridge the earthly and spiritual realms, preserving traditions that are intricately woven into every Arhuaco Mochila Bag. As one of the four communities descended from the Tayronas, alongside the Koguis, Wiwas, and Kankuamos, the Arhuacos revere the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta as the 'Heart of the World.' Their deep respect for every being and element of this ecosystem reflects in their role as guardians, dedicating their lives to contemplation and reflection amidst the intricate mountain paths. 


In conclusion, Colombian handmade mochilas are not mere accessories but living artifacts embodying cultural richness. Arhuaco Mochila Bags, with their unique blend of indigenous craftsmanship and spirituality, invite you to explore the energy and wisdom of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. As you embrace authentic heritage in a contemporary handcraft, each bag becomes a statement—connecting craftsmanship, mysticism and Mother Earth for many years to come.


FAQs about Colombian Mochila Bags

How long have Colombian mochila bags been part of indigenous cultures?

Colombian mochila bags have been integral to indigenous tradition for centuries, predating Spanish colonization since they were originally crafted for personal use during community journeys. Only a few decades ago, indigenous communities began selling them as a means of trade with non-indigenous societies to support their livelihoods.

How to visually distinguish between Wayúu, Arhuaco, and Kogui Mochilas?

  • Wayúu Mochilas: Crocheted from wool, fine cotton, and threads in vibrant colors with myriad geometric designs. They typically feature a closing tie ending in two tassels with colored fringes.

  • Arhuaco Mochilas: Woven from virgin sheep wool with natural earthy tones, utilizing multiple geometric patterns. Original Arhuaco Mochila bags are recognizable for their rough texture and the natural scent and hues of the sheep wool.

  • Kogui Mochilas: Light and soft, delicately stitched from fique fibers, displaying designs of horizontal lines in various natural earthy tones over cream-colored backgrounds.

What sets Arhuaco Mochila Bags apart in sustainable fashion?

Arhuaco Mochila Bags stand out as a timeless and sustainable slow fashion statement. Considered both a design object and an artistic masterpiece, they embody a craft honed over generations, blending functionality, significance, and sustainability in a stylish and timeless manner. Organic and ethically made, these bags can last for years, if not decades, symbolizing a profound bond with nature and a commitment to reduce waste and fast consumption. 

Where can I buy Colombian mochila bags?

Mochila bags are one of the most famous Colombian crafts. If you're in Colombia, you can find Colombian mochila bags in artisan markets and stores in Bogotá, Santa Marta, Minca, Palomino, and La Guajira. They are also available in airport stores featuring Colombian products. For those outside the country, we offer worldwide shipping for select, handpicked Arhuaco mochila bags.