Cuiba language

For the extinct language of Venezuela, see Jirajaran languages.
Native to Colombia, Venezuela

Meta Casanare and Capanapara rivers (Colombia)

Apure Division (Venezuela)
Native speakers
2,900 (2007–2008)[1]
  • Cuiba
Language codes
ISO 639-3 cui
Glottolog cuib1242[2]

Cuiba is a Guahiban language that is spoken by about 2,300 people in Colombia and additional 650 in Venezuela. More than half of Cuiba speakers are monoglot, and in Colombia there is a 45% literacy rate. Cuiva is also referred to as Cuiba, Cuiba-Wámonae, Kuiva, Chiricoa, Hiwi, and Maiben. In Colombia, Cuiva is spoken among those who live and who are born surrounding the Colombian rivers, Meta Casanare and Capanaparo. The Cuiba ethnic group is often found in the Casanare region. In Venezuela the language is spoken in the state of Apure, one of the state border with Colombia, which is found alongside the Capanaparo river.

History of Cuiba

The term Cuiba is usually used to describe the ethnic group itself, although they do not refer to themselves as Cuiba. Most of those who speak the Cuiva language are monoglot, which is why the language is threatened seeing as the ethnic population itself is only approximately 2,950 and continues to decrease. The Cuiba ethnic group are characterized as being hunter-gatherers, who live a nomadic lifestyle in small bands along the borders of Colombia and Venezuela. Before 1967, the Cuiba were spread across the Meta rivers: Casanare, Agua Clara, Ariporo, Unchadia, Arauca, and Capanaparo. For the most part although the groups of Cuiba today are much smaller, they continue to occupy what is left of the areas around the rivers.

The banks of the Casanare, Agua Clara, Ariporo, Unchadia, Arauca, and Capanaparo are for the most part known as Cuiba territory and there has been no evidence stating that the Cuiba have occupied other territory but their own. The Cuiba have gone through many wars and invasions, which have slightly influenced Cuiba political and cultural practices at some point. Although the Europeans have left, some Spanish words survived. There is no evidence showing where the Spanish words were originated. There have been many attempts after 1533 invasion attempting to remove the Cuiba from their territory, but although the Cuiba have a small population their culture has largely remained unchanged.


There are 8 dialects in Colombia and Venezuela known as:




  1. Cuiba at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Cuiba". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

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