March 23rd 2023

'Bëtscnaté' Celebrations in Colombia

‘Bëtscnaté’ or the Big Day (El Día Grande) is one of the most important celebrations for the Kämentsá Biyá community in Colombia. HealthNet TPO Colombia participated in this year’s Bëtscnaté to learn and share their ancestral and tradition practices for wellbeing.

Bëtscnaté or the Big Day Celebrations

The Bëtscnaté, or the Big Day is one of the most important celebrations for the Kamëntsá Biya community in Sibundoy, Putumayo. Taking place on the Monday before Ash Wednesday, the festivities incorporating music, dance and singing commemorate the life and teachings of their ancestors, family, friends and relatives. The Bëtscnaté showcases ceremonies and rituals belonging to the Kamëntsá cosmogony to highlight the importance of caring for the customs of the community. 

The indigenous women of the community associate wellbeing with the permanence of their cultural-traditional heritage. Wellbeing exists in their relationship with food, medicinal plants, the land they cultivate, the language they communicate, and their customs and traditions.

A group of indigenous people from the Kämentsá Biyá community.
A woman from the Kämentsá Biyá community dressed with the traditional customs of the Bëtscnaté celebrations.

This day is especially significant from a spiritual standpoint.

Bëtscnaté condenses the ancestral resistance against colonialism and, in turn, seeks to put the importance of healing in all its possibilities and manifestations in the current historical scenario to find a balance within the world. Reconciliation is also practiced, with nature, spirits, family members and other community members as a way to heal and forgive for offences that may have been committed.

It is also a day to harvest and remember the importance of own and community food, the power of traditional plants and planting and the projection of collective practices to share and exchange knowledge.

A group of people from the Kämentsá Biyá community perform their traditional music.
A group of people from the Kämentsá Biyá community showcase their customs in a parade.

HealthNet TPO participated in this year's Bëtscnaté to learn and share the cultural and ancestral practices, and how we can incorporate these practices into our own understandings of wellbeing. 

During our visit, we recorded testimonials and life stories for a documentary. The video will be released soon!

Related news

Did you miss the other news related to the indigenous communities in Colombia? Check them out at the following links!


1.    A Radio for Indegenous Women in Putumayo

Erika Jacanamejoy is a young indigenous woman from the Kamëntsá Biyá community. Erika tells us about her experience and contribution to the radio station Waishanyá, located in Sibundoy, Putumayo, Colombia.

“I know that this [speaking the indigenous language Kamëntsá Biyá] helps young people and people who listen to the radio to strengthen and not be afraid or ashamed to speak in Kamëntsá. […] I believe that women's participation in these spaces empowers them with a sense of belonging to what they are. I participate in these social processes. […] I love my indigenous territory Kamëntsá Biyá […].“

2.    Colombian Women in Dialogue

As part of the first national conference on peace-building practices that happened in November in Bogota, several workshops focused on being a woman and belonging to a minority in Colombia.

Learn more about the perception of being a woman and the dialogue between the Kämentsá Biyá and Nasa communities, as well as gender and mental health issues among Afro-Colombian women.

Read the article here