La biblioteca Kankuaka de Atánquez es más que un espacio para albergar libros, es el centro de las iniciativas de los indígenas para preservar su historia y fortalecer su identidad. Un pabellón y unas casas redondas de adobe detrás del edificio principal se utilizan para las reuniones de la comunidad. Las actividades para jóvenes incluyen excursiones a los petroglifos, talleres de fotografía y encuentros con los ancianos de la tribu.
As the region faces threats from proposed coal, coltan and oil mining projects nearby that would damage land and poison rivers. For Maestre, there is a clear link between the library’s work and the community’s ability to defend itself.
For us, it is essential that certain memories cannot be transmitted if it is not orally,” says Souldes Maestre, the librarian and one of the library’s founders. Legends are meant to be told, not just read in books, he says. “We want the children to begin to create an interest in knowing, in asking questions.”
In February 2013, Atánquez had just a box of unopened books sent by the National Network of Public Libraries. When a group of young people found out that a government official was due to come and remove them because of disuse, they decided to act. They peeled off the plastic wrappings and hastily arranged the books in an abandoned community building. The official was sceptical of this “library”. But, Maestre says, they told her: “If we are capable of putting this together in one night, you cannot imagine what we are capable of in a year.”
The official gave them a year, as well as tables and chairs, and new books arrived. In 2015, Atánquez was a finalist for Colombia’s national library award, winning it in 2017.