Photographer Ishita Das @ Implicit Self is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography. These images are from her project ‘Portrait – Riberenos‘. To see Ishita’s gallery of projects click on any image.
As the Amazon or its precursor rivers flow along, only small to medium size villages flourish by the river banks. These villages have names like Puma Cahua and Nueva York, San Jose de Paranapura and even Manhattan..
Whenever civilization has entered the lives of indigenous people there is much more loss to the people and to the environment than can be justified by development. However, at the end of the rubber booms, in the absence of an alternative industry, the region around Iquitos and the Peruvian Amazon was sort of left alone to regenerate. Now, along the Amazon, mixed race Ribereños (river people) thrive, as dependent on the Amazon to live, as, to die of the parasites it harbors.
Just as the names of the villages are a derivation of what once was (in Puma Cahua you could see pumas roam) and what is now known as the civilized world (Manhattan), so are the people, though much less so. They are far removed from the absolutely indigenous tribes, there is a great deal of inter-mixing with the European whites and Asian races, the society is purportedly Catholic, but believe more in nature and spirit of the jungle than any God. The women and men contribute to chores. There are schools in villages, of course, there is often only one teacher for all grade levels. However, there is no electricity or clean drinking water supply. Some villages are actively getting solar energy based power. Eco tourism has also partially sponsored clean drinking water supplies with a water treatment plants in a few villages or water filters for each family.
As the Amazon and its tributaries fluctuate 40 feet between the wet and the dry seasons, villages are used to their banks/ farmlands receding, their homes flooding as they quickly adapt to changing conditions, in what they call the worlds largest ‘pharmacy’.
With the help and education provided by naturalist volunteers, the villagers are becoming increasingly involved in sustaining the great treasures of the Amazonian basin, just as Shaman’s use centuries’ old knowledge and a decade of dedicated training to practice their herbal medicine. Villagers patrol the large regions of Pacaya-Samiria reserve to prevent illegal logging: as the area is too big for the few government rangers. Not only that, the highly endangered species of caiman: the black caiman, as well the endangered river turtles have been brought back from the edges of extinction by conservation and reduction in hunting or poaching of these animals for food or leather. Villagers are actively involved in collecting the turtle eggs and releasing baby turtles to the wild after proper incubation.
Will such a balance of the new and old survive for long? As education and better prospects call the young to the cities, will more of them return as teachers or naturalists? Only time will tell, but at least the beginning is promising.
Ruins of a sugar mill in Lamanai, Belize
By Ishita Das