Culture

The Faces Of The Amazon: Here Are Some Of The Tribes Threatened By Brazil’s Dangerous Policies

The recent fires in the Amazonian rainforest put this region under the spotlight. Most of the conversations revolved around the ecological damage that the catastrophic fires produced and the corruption that led to unscrupulous land clearings. However, there was a direct human cost as well. Various indigenous groups that have been decimated since their first encounter with European invaders are now facing the threat of illegal industries and governments, such as the Bolsonaro administration in Brazil. The destruction of natural resources is not the only threat they face. They are also at risk of losing their cultural and religious identity as they are forced to learn Spanish or Portuguese and evangelization efforts are stronger than ever from many denominations.

Here are some of the indigenous peoples that call the Amazon their home. Please do us un favorcito: if you visit the Amazon and encounter some of the original owners of the land, please approach them with the dignity and respect you would like to be treated with. Don’t go back home calling them “exotic” or “weird.” If you want to photograph them, please be respectful and ask for permission. 

The Amazon is home to indigenous communities that have survived traumatic processes of colonization by the Spanish and the Portuguese and then the mistreatment by governments that fail to protect their lands.

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The original owners of the land of what is now the Amazon in Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, and Guyana have a millenary relationship to the land and knowledge of the rhythms of nature from which we could all learn. However, they have historically been underestimated and controlled by governments and institutions that see them with a mestizo gaze.

Waorani peoples in Ecuador

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They are also known as Waos and they are an Amerindian group that has marked differences with other indigenous Ecuadorians like the Quechua. Their community is relatively small: about 4,000 individuals who live between the Curaray and Napo Rivers. They were a hunting and gathering society and now have to live in settlements due to the threats of oil exploitation and illegal logging, two practices that have decimated their lands. They speak Huaorani, which has no known relationship to any other language. 

The Waorani might be small in numbers, but they are combative and have recently filed court cases claiming the protection of their lands.

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The Waorani have stood up for their rights recently, as the Ecuadorian government attempts to take control of their lands. As reported by U-Wire: “The legal battle over the rainforest was filed by the Waorani people in February. through the Ecuadorian parliament. Ecuador had been auctioning off blocks of the forest for logging or mineral extraction to international companies. According to Reuters, the tribe had been battling an on-going court case concerning the selling of sacred Amazonian lands to oil companies”. 

Yanomami peoples in Venezuela and Brazil

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This group is made up of approximately 35,000 people who live in the border of Venezuela and Brazil. There are between 200 and 250 Yanomami villages today. They practice shamanism, just like many indigenous Amazonian tribes that hold a spiritual bond with the flora, fauna, and soil on which they live. 

By the way, the lives of the Yanomami are currently being threatened by illegal mining operations.

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According to the BBC, “ there are ‘thousands’ of prospectors operating in the Yanomami indigenous land in Roraima.” The Yanomami have historically survived numerous threats, but their current situation is close to catastrophic due to lack of government protection under the Bolsonaro presidency in Brazil.

Tucano peoples in Brazil and Colombia

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The Tucano people live in the northwestern Amazon, alongside the Vaupes River. They are made up of different tribes. They have a particular linguistic practice: no man can marry a woman who speaks his language. This practice creates a network of linguistic exchange that is quite unique in the world. Rather than an ethnic group with a distinct identity, the Tucano is a group of tribes put under an umbrella term for being geographically close. 

Ticuna peoples in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru

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They are the most numerous tribe in the Brazilian Amazon with a population of approximately 36,000 individuals. There are about 6,000 Ticuna in Colombia and 7,000 in Peru. They only marry and procreate within their ethnic group, which makes them quite distinct from other groups. They also practice shamanism. Most of them are fluent in Spanish or Portuguese and some of them have converted to Christianity as there are strong evangelization efforts in their region. 

The Ticuna have suffered a lot since colonial times when they came in contact with the Portuguese.

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During the 19th century they were used as slaves by the rubber cultivation industry. They have subsequently suffered violence from loggers, fishermen and other groups that try to exploit their lands. They are currently facing another threat that has decimated indigenous populations throughout Latin America: drug cartels. As EFE News Service reported in June 2017: “Near the triple border of Peru, Brazil, and Colombia, many members of the Ticuna Indian tribe are working as laborers for cocaine drug traffickers, a business that has transformed their lives and supplanted the activities and customs that some of them are now trying to salvage by returning to legal pursuits”. It has been hard for many Ticuna to go back to legal crops since the gains minuscule compared to coca crops. 

Secoya peoples in Ecuador and Peru

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They are also known as AngoteroEncabelladoHuajoyaPiojéSiekopai. They speak Pai Coca and could be considered part of the Tucanoan group. They are a very small group compared to the Ticuna. There are about 400 Secoyas in Ecuador and 700 in Peru. Their culture is being decimated (some have the nerve to call this “assimilation” as if it was a positive thing) by the presence of oil companies, missionaries who convert them to Christianity and mestizos who occupy their lands. 

Cubeo peoples in Colombia

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The name “Cubeo” is a Spanish name used to call a group that calls themselves “people” (pâmiwâ) or “my people” (jiwa). They live in the Northwestern Amazon, alongside the Vapues river. There are between 3,000 and 5,000 Cubeo individuals. The Cubeo people, despite their low numbers, are outspoken when it comes to environmental matters. As CE Noticias Financieras reported back in 2018, a Cubeo representative told an assembly of European authorities: “It is not fair that we are looking for solutions to climate change and we are not thinking about how to protect the true forest keepers, who are us, the indigenous people”. That is absolutely right: the original owners of the land are the true and most knowledgeable when it comes to understanding the rhythms of nature and the best ways to protect it. 

Long story short, we better start listening to indigenous communities. They know the earth and its resources better than we do.

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Amazonians are fighting for the planet, not just for themselves. The idea that their future is also our future is absolutely right: the original owners of the land are the true and most knowledgeable when it comes to understanding the rhythms of nature and the best ways to protect it.

READ: Brazil Finally Banned Burning In The Amazon Yet 4,000 New Fires Have Started In Last 48 Hours

Photographer Diego Huerta Took An Update Photo Of The Most Beautiful Girl In Mexico

Culture

Photographer Diego Huerta Took An Update Photo Of The Most Beautiful Girl In Mexico

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Diego Huerta is a photographer who has used his talents and time to document indigenous communities to preserve the culture and history. One of Huerta’s most famous photos was one of a young girl that he called the most beautiful girl in Mexico. He recently shared a new photo of the girl as a woman.

Diego Huerta shared an updated photo of the most beautiful girl woman in Mexico.

Huerta first met the girl when he was traveling through Mexico years ago. The first photo, posted in 2016 but taken in 2011, highlighted the young woman that he dubbed the most beautiful girl in Mexico. The latest photo shows the girl grown up and still living in her same pueblo in 2017. She is still a stunning reminder of the beauty that exists in southern Mexico.

The woman lives in Chiapas, the last Mexican state before entering Central America by way of Guatemala. There are multiple indigenous communities in Chiapas. While Huerta does not mention the indigenous community the woman belongs to, the clothing appears to represent the Zoque people.

The woman is still creating wander and interest among Huerta’s fans.

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Her quiet and still composure makes her seem like a Mexican Mona Lisa, tbh. Her stoic face in the photographs has captivated Huerta fans for years. The first photo of the young woman was seen around the world and her beauty was celebrated by everyone who saw the photo.

The young girl’s eyes are what drew in the love and praise from people around the world.

Huerta made it a point to call out the young girl’s eyes in the photo. It isn’t because of the color of her eyes. He was intrigued by her eyes because she is deaf and her eyes are one of the ways she is able to communicate with the world around her.

“In my journey through South Mexico, in a town located in the middle of the Chiapas’ mountains I found the most brilliant eyes that I have ever seen,” Huerta wrote in the original post. “The beauty of this girl was similar to the panoramic views I was able to appreciate every time I turned around. She´s deaf, the way to communicate with her was by signs. It is no mystery that the beauty of the true Mexican woman is way above all beauty contests.”

People are obsessing over her beauty that seems to improve with age.

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Nine years makes a big difference in a young person’s development. It can be the difference between 11 and 20, which is a huge difference. Her silent beauty is proof that indigenous communities hold some of the most beautiful people in the world. There is no reason to praise and adhere to Euro-centric beauty standards.

The Instagram posted is filled with messages of appreciation celebrating the photo and the young woman we saw grow up.

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Huerta currently has a documentary about the Tehuana people in Oaxaca. His photographs and film collection highlighting and exalting the indigenous community of Mexico is beautiful and necessary. He is collecting an important and vibrant part of human history by giving the first people to inhabit the land a chance to shine and show who Mexico truly is.

READ: Photographer Diego Huerta Is Giving Everyone A Look Into The Tehuana Culture In Oaxaca, Mexico

Photographer Diego Huerta Is Giving Everyone A Look Into The Tehuana Culture In Oaxaca, Mexico

Culture

Photographer Diego Huerta Is Giving Everyone A Look Into The Tehuana Culture In Oaxaca, Mexico

Diego Huerta / Instagram

Tehuana culture is rich in colors, traditions, and vibrantly patterned clothing. Diego Huerta, a photographer, has spent a lot of his time traveling throughout Mexico photographing indigenous people to preserve their history, culture, and customs. His love for Oaxaca was so powerful that he created a documentary celebrating the women.

Photographer Diego Huerta is highlighting the Tehuana woman in a documentary about the Oaxacan people.

The Tehuana traditional clothing is a very identifiable look. Frida Kahlo made the Tehuana style her signature look. The black and white dress with brightly colored flowers embroidered on the dress is something we have all seen.

For Huerta, being a Tehuana woman is like being a goddess.

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Tehuana. Santo Domingo Tehuantepec, Oaxaca. 2017

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In the documentary, Huerta calls being a Tehuana woman similar to being a goddess.

“The Tehuana woman is a goddess, a queen,” Huerta says in the documentary.

“Tehuana is all of that,” an elderly woman responds. “It’s a set of feelings and ideas and creativity too. Survival, fight, courage.”

Indigenous communities around the world are often under attack and are a vulnerable population.

Currently, COVID-19 is threatening several indigenous communities around the world with extinction. These communities are not immune to many common western ailments and a disease we have no immunity too could cause untold damage to indigenous communities. For some, it could mean total extinction.

Huerta has been working to tell the stories of these indigenous Mexican communities to immortalize their culture and legacy for years to come.

The photographer’s work has captivated audiences around the world who have never seen or experienced these cultures. His work will no doubt live on to tell the stories of some of the most celebrated First Nations people in Mexico.

You can watch the full trailer for “Tehuana” below.

READ: Diego Huerta Is On A Mission To Photograph Mexico’s Indigenous Populations To Preserve Their Stories