Museo Minca was founded to create a record of the living historical memory of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta. We believe in the power of storytelling to transform perspectives, increase local agency, and shape the future.

Casa de la Memoria – Museo Minca is a storytelling museum and community hub that works to amplify the voices of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta; engage with social, political, and economic challenges in the wake of the armed conflict; and inspire collective action to strengthen opportunities for the future.

For the local community, Museo Minca is a place where living memories are safeguarded and honored. For visitors, Museo Minca provides immersive cultural experiences that engage with the community’s complex history, while supporting the building of a better future.


Our mission is use storytelling, living memory, and local history to bring people together and drive development, collectively building a better, more just future.

Our community-museum model creates authentic and meaningful cultural exchange experiences. By preserving local history and culture, we also bring opportunities to rebuild livelihoods, unity, and give agency to local communities.


To safeguard living historical memory and serve as a community hub for collaborative healing, learning, and development.


Ethical storytelling requires true collaboration, where the people who share their stories have ownership over how those narratives are used. We are committed to creating connection, collaboration, and community through the stories we tell and spaces we create.

Local Partnerships
Just as local stories are at the center of our work, local needs are also the priority. We operate transparently with local individuals, businesses, organizations, and representatives to hold ourselves accountable to the voices we seek to serve at all times.

As we strive to be as inclusive and collaborative as possible, we recognize the importance of building trust over time. Our process is open, collaborative and transparent to encourage participation, accountability and iterative growth. Keeping meticulous records of our experiences is part of our commitment to transparency and open sharing of knowledge. 

Our priority is always collaborative, local-led solutions, not only the identification of problems. 

We deal with sensitive material that has been used in extractive, exploitative, and re-traumatizing ways in the past. We are committed to approaching all of our work with trauma-informed methodologies that uphold the agency, dignity, ownership and boundaries of those participating.

Our Story

Every day, people from all over the world arrive in the Sierra Nevada. They come for the natural beauty, the waterfalls, the coffee, birds, and laid back energy. The Sierra Nevada’s growing popularity is well deserved. It is a phenomenally beautiful place: the heart of the world.

Tourism is rapidly changing the town, not always for the better. Most people arrive, tour, party and leave without thinking twice about the other dimensions at play.


The Sierra Nevada exists at the intersection of stories and cultures. It is the home of 4 indigenous groups, it was where Simon Bolivar lived the last of his day, where some historians believe that the first coffee beans arrived in South America, and was strongly affected by both sides of the armed conflict. Just in the last decade of so people have been returning to their homes and lands, taking back family property and trying to start anew. The families that were here before and during this time period have poignant stories of loss, fear, heartbreak and hope. These stories deserve to be told and the people deserve to be remembered.

Casa de la Memoria – Museo Minca is a community museum, but it is first and foremost a center for collaboration between locals, visitors, and other stakeholders. It shares some of the forgotten stories of the Sierra Nevada with the aim of creating a sense of unity and respect within the community and ensuring that everyone benefits from the opportunities that tourism has provided.  As the region grows in popularity, the flow of money has increased drastically, as has the visibility on a global scale, providing a sense of opportunity and hope. It has also, however, brought socioeconomic inequality, pollution, trash, drugs, prostitution and overwhelmed the needs of community members. 

There are no easy solutions when it comes to navigating post-conflict development, gentrification, and sustainable tourism; but we are committed to learning and improving in collaboration with the local community and our partners. We strive to achieve meaningful change, platform local voices, and provide travelers with meaningful experiences. It is our hope that the more people understand about the rich culture and history of the region, the more respect they will have for it, and the more power we will all have to preserve what makes this beautiful place special.

The historical investigation behind Museo Minca began with co-founder Shenandoah Cornish in 2016, driven by a desire to better understand the dynamics of the 2016 peace agreements  between the Colombian national government and the FARC. After one year of investigation, partnership with Manuel Balaguera led to the formalization of the process and opening of Casa de la Memoria – Museo Minca to share this growing collection of stories with the world.


We focus on three Main types of social impact: transitional justice, sustainable tourism, local capacity-building under the belief that

Planning is a participatory process

Communities know their needs and viable solutions

Connecting local voices with international audiences helps generate understanding for local and global problems

We are a team of storytellers, issue experts, educators, and community leaders working together to use storytelling to create a new model for collaborative programming that challenges post-conflict power dynamics and engages diverse audiences in transformative, educational experiences.

Born and raised in Minca, Manuel Camilo Balaguera Peñaranda is descendant from two of the oldest families in the region. With over one hundred years of history in the area, they were part of the initial workforce behind the coffee production, played a large role in the formation of the town, and were displaced by both sides of the armed conflict. Manuel is following his family legacy through his work at Museo Minca, sharing his lived experiences. He has worked as an educator in the Santa Marta area for over ten years, and teaches Spanish as a second language.

Shenandoah Cornish is a political ethnologist, storyteller, and social entrepreneur interested in the social dynamics of post-conflict, cultural diplomacy, memory politics, and transitional justice. Her time in Minca has given rise to a deep passion for issues of ethical research, positionally and trauma-informed practices.