News and The Trip to Sarayaku
Sarayaku Governing Council Gives Official Green Light to our movie project ! This just in from Eriberto Traya Muskuy Gualinga (Facebook): “Henry el consejo de gobierno esta acuerdo con la carta de intencion.” (See this short video by Eriberto made one year ago, before I knew him. It is amazing how similar our visions, and the path that brought us together).
Mario Melo, the Sarayaku’s attorney and Sarayaku official Franco Viteri in Washington, DC on April 4 to protest Ecuador’s squelching of the right to assemble. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on April 4. The Commission is an autonomous body of the Organization of American States (“OAS”) whose mission is to promote & protect human rights in the American hemisphere is composed of seven independent members. I will be attending the hearing and meeting with the the two Sarayaku reps. (Stay tuned).
SOME NOTES AND VISUALS:
Quito and the trip to Sarayaku: I arrived in Quito late Monday night (Feb. 8) and was picked up by Yury Guerra (Altruvista’s South American Director (now a great friend). We spent a couple of days in Quito for meetings with Mario Melo and Esperanza Martinez (Accion’ Ecologica) to get background on the Ecuadoran government’s oil deal with a Chinese company that would affect the Sarayaku territories and those of other indigenous peoples.
Quito, an amazing city about 9,000 feet high in an Andean valley; it’s a very live city with a great deal of culture, music, and history. I stayed at the Cafe Cultura, whose walls are covered with beautiful imagery, as shown below. If you’re looking for a comfy place with a an international clientele and friendly hosts (all speak English), is is the place to stay!
A later post will focus on the Guayasamin Museum & the works of Oswaldo Guayasamin, Ecuadoran artists (1919-1999). Much of art portrays the repression, enslavement, and genocide of people by repressive dictators in Latin America and other parts of the world.
More on Quito in later post, but before leaving I want to show you a bit of street show that I was lucky to see because it was Carnival. Click to see the movie. See if you can figure out what’s really going on.
Some blow your mind geography:
The Sarayaku territory is located about 60 km east of Puyo in the Pastaza province of Ecuador (see map). To get there from Quito Yury and I first took a five hour bus ride from this Andean city to the small city of Puyo located at the edge of the Amazon Rainforest. The change in topography, weather and vegetation is stunning. From plain to forest, from cool and dry to warm and humid.
Along the route I managed to get a photo of Mt. Cotopaxi. Yury Guerra tells me that a decade ago the ice and snow covered the mountain—undeniable evidence of climate change.
Blowup showing the steep drop in altitude from the Andes Mountains to the Amazon Basin, a change in topography matched by changes in climate, vegetation and living conditions.
We arrived in Puyo late on Thursday evening February 11 and checked in at a hotel. I was nervous because this was my first meeting with Eriberto Gualinga, whose award-winning documentaries on his people’s resistance to oil development inspired my trip. His support for collaboration was make or break. Eriberto, his brother Gerardo and Yury and I sat down to dinner in a rustic outdoor café. With Yury as interpreter (Spanish/English), I explained my concept. Eriberto listened with a poker face. After about an hour and many questions, his face lit up. He said he had been thinking about a very similar idea for a movie that we should put our ideas together and share them with other Sarayaku leaders. I was ecstatic—especially after a few more rounds of cervezas. On to Sarayaku!
To get from Puyo to the Sarayaku community you can either go by motorized dugout, a 4-6 hour ride depending on current, or by air. It’s a 25 minute ride possible only when it’s not raining and the cloud ceiling is high enough on both ends of the trip. We were lucky. After a few hours Eriberto, Yury and I were able to board a 3-passenger single engine Cessna owned and operated by and for the Sarayaku.
The fact that the Sarayaku own and operate an aircraft company provides a lens into this remarkable people. Over the past few decades, the Sarayaku have selectively modernized, and have done so in order to survive. We talked with the manager of Sarayaku Aircraft who told us they started the company from scratch with the help of experts, much training and some hard to get loans. Now we see a first class aviation outfit with pilots, engineers, mechanics, et al.
Once in the air we were able to witness the final descent from the edge of the city, to a patchwork of forest and farms, a last line of cliffs, and then a continuous expanse of forest broken only by meandering rivers. Now the pilot begins the descent through the turbulent air. We catch a glimpse of thatch-covered buildings and the grass-covered runway. The plane hits grass with a jolt and taxies bouncingly toward a cluster of people—children, big and small, running, shouting, men and women with loads for the return flight. And there, standing in the grass with his white walking stick, is the 96 year-old Shaman Don Sabino. As we alit there is a joyful commotion. Everyone, especially the kids, knows and loves Yury. I shake a few hands, he gets a lot of hugs.