Rio Hacha and the Goajiro Indians

Download a free preview (pdf).

During my stay in Colombia I did research on the history of the Guajira and the Wayuu indigenous. I encountered a reference to a historic travel report of the French explorer Héliodore Candeliere. He traveled the Guajira peninsula 125 years ago. It took me quiet some effort to get access to a physical copy of the book. On my last day before I returned to Germany I was able to take a copy of it. Since I liked the book so much I thought it would be worth to make this document accessible in English. So, the book got translated from French to English and can now be downloaded as ebook. I payed attention that the historic characteristic is maintained as good as possible in the electronic version. I also improved the quality of the figures.

You can find the ebook on Amazon: [US][UK][ES][FR][DE]

Taking a copy of Héliodore’s book at the Luis Ángel Arango library – Bogotá.


In his mid-thirties, Héliodore is a successful solicitor, the founder of the national shooting society, and a loving family father. Despite his traditional life style, deep in his heart, he is an explorer who always wanted to travel the world. His family pushed him into a traditional life style and as he got older he gave up on his dreams. 

One day, Héliodore meets an old school friend who reports him from his time in Panama and at the Colombian Caribbean coast. This encounter triggers something in Héliodore. He gets obsessed with the idea of organizing an expedition to the Guajira peninsula – the home of the Wayuu indigenous. One day, he and his family decide that he will go on a three year expedition for the Société de Géographie de Paris to South America.

In his travel report, Héliodore describes how it was like to travel from Europe to Colombia at the end of the 19th century. Riohacha was still a small town and the last outpost before the untamed Guajira peninsula. Diseases like paludian fever were a common threat threre. During his stay at the Guajira peninsula, Héliodore studies the customs, language, and laws of the Wayuu indigenous. His book is also a testimony of the conflicts between the “civilized” and “uncivilized” world. 

After 125 years, Héliodore’s travel report is available for the first time in English.

Enjoy reading the ebook!

José Prudencio Padilla López

José Prudencio Padilla, better known as Almirante Padilla (Admiral Padilla), is one of those personalities with a unique life history. Born in Riohacha in 1778 as a son of a black constructor of canoes and a Wayuu woman, José Prudencio joined the Spanish Royal Navy with 14 years.  He served on the warship San Juan Nepomuceno. In 1805 he participated in the battle of Trafalgar where he was taken prisoner by the English. After his release in 1808, José Prudencio returned to Spain and later to Cartagena, Colombia.

In 1811 he joined the independence movement. Under the command of Simon Bolivar,  José Prudencio helps to free Cartagena from a besiege of the Spaniards. He fought several more battles and got promoted. In 1823 he led the navy of Simon Bolivar into the Battle of Lake Maracaibo where he defeated the Spanish Royal Navy. Some say it was the last decisive victory against the Spaniards since it prevented an invasion.

In 1828 Padilla got accused of conspiracy against Simon Bolivar. He got executed at Plaza Bolivar, Bogota. A short time after his death, Admiral Padilla got rehabilitated.

Admiral Padilla is probably the most shiny person in the history of La Guajira. The navy shool of Cartagena Escuela Naval de Cadetes “Almirante Padilla” is named after him. Also the airport the airport of Riohacha is called after the city’s probably most famous son. There is also a Colombian battleship with the name Almirante Padilla. The main square of Riohacha also has a statue of José Prudencio. Outside of La Guajira the history of the Admiral is less remembered.

There is an awesome documentary series about Colombia’s forgotten heroes on Youtube. One episode is about Almirante Padia – unfortunately only in Spanish: