I am just now beginning to grasp the complexity of what lies ahead. Forget good guys and bad guys, with the exception of Hunt Oil of course. Those guys are obviously involved in goals that are violent to humans and destructive to the environment. But looking deeper at the situation, one quickly begins to see that simple solutions do not exist. We are talking about diverse cultural and linguistic groups. How do you get people to work together when they don't even speak the same language? Then throw into the mix how totally different they are from one another, and you begin to see the work that FENAMAD has before them.
We traveled overland to Shintuya Native community on the Upper Madre de Dios river. These folks are Harakmbut speakers whose lives changed dramatically two generations ago when the Dominican priests set up a mission on their lands. While we were there, Wanamei representatives hosted a workshop about eco-tourism, what it means, how to achieve it, and ways to work together. The atmosphere in the workshop was upbeat. People are interested, but they are still trying to figure out what questions to ask. It was a strong first step.
An interesting moment for me was when the president of the Shintuya community walked in. In this community of about 200 people, everyone knows everyone else and all of their business. El presidente, recently accepted money from Hunt Oil. In this community where Hunt Oil trucks rumble through every few hours, everyone has taken a side. What was el presidente doing in the workshop? Is he attempting to play both sides? Upon his entrance, certain others quietly got up and walked out of the room. These people have known each other all of their lives and now they do not share space whatsoever. I imagine that it hard to do.
While there, we continued to pass out copies of DVD's regarding Hunt Oil's practices and other DVD's about the devastating effects of the oil extraction process. In this part of the world, there is very little cultural understanding of what it means to lie. Dishonesty is a foreign concept. So when Hunt Oil comes in and says, "No, don't worry. There will be no environmental impact of oil exploration," locals willingly allow them to pass. How do you explain dishonesty? I don't know. Hopefully the DVD packs and fliers we are passing out will do that better than I can.
We continued downriver for several days, stopping in villages along the way. Arnoldo, a Harakmbut from Shintuya, and Jessica, the two main figures in Wanamei, know people up and down the river. We spent much of our time sitting under shade trees in various communities talking with locals. And listening. And passing out information.
Our last stop on the river was Boca Colorado, a shitty colonial town, populated mostly by highlanders imported in by the mining and oil companies to do their dirty work. Not a place you want to be alone, day or night. It is a clever strategy on the part of big corporations to bring these folks in. It much easier to do destructive work when the land belongs to someone else.
From there, we traveled overland to Puerto Maldonado, district capital and home of FENAMAD headquarters. That night I was able to attend a meeting with the FENAMAD lawyers who had come in from Lima. These guys are good. They are balanced, steadfast, and ready to work. An appeal has been put together to get an injunction against Hunt Oil. As we all know, the legal process can drag on forever, but we are off to another good start.
I would like to take this opportunity to offer deepest thanks to those of you who have sent funds. It is imperative that FENAMAD continues to receive this kind of support. Your contributions are being spent right now. A delegation of FENAMAD representatives left yesterday to begin the journey to the community of San Jose, a difficult trek to the center of the reserve. This weekend is the community's anniversary and people will travel from all over the area to attend. Having a FENAMAD presence there will have an important impact. Thank you thank you.
If you feel awkward about sending money to my account, I understand. I know that Americans get bombarded with requests for assistance. I hope that you all at least take a moment to check out FENAMAD's website fenamad.org (in Spanish only) or http://fenamad-indigenas.blogspot.com/2009/09/native-communities-of-madre-de-dios.html, a great blog that really gets to the heart of the matter.
Ok, enough for now. More to come, I am sure.