Photographer:Fotograaf: Elena Castellano
Elena in Equador
As I had a few days off for carnival, I decided to take a trip to the Amazon Forest, which is only four hours by bus from the city of Quito. I arrived at the city of Tena, which is right at the border with the Amazon forest. On the second day there, together with a friend, we decided to take one of the boats that ride you further down the forest, to visit a local community.
We could not have picked a worse date. As it was Carnival, the river was full of canoes, and the village crowded with tourists. We sat in a hut and a woman explained to us the ritual of the chicha, a local beverage derived from fermented corn. Before being left to ferment for some days, the corn gets chewed by the women of the village, in order to make it softer. A coconut shell full of chicha got passed around, it tasted a bit acidic and somewhat alcoholic.
I found myself being slightly disappointed with my visit, as the whole thing seemed like a tourist trap. Talking with one of the people from the village, I got the confirmation that the village mainly lives off tourism. I started wondering if all villages are like this, some kind of play to amuse tourists and earn money. My Ecuadorian friends and colleagues reassured me that communities living deeper into the jungle do not have as many contacts with modern lifestyle, and do not have to live off tourism.
Some communities have more complex borderline relationships with modern lifestyle: they do not want to adopt it but don’t refuse contact with it. I talked with a friend who works for a petrol company, which, as all the petrol industries in the country, drills oil in the Amazon forest. He told me that once some indigenous people stopped their car, menacing them with some lances, asking for Coca-Cola. What kind of twisted world is this? It all comes from taking a different perspective: as money is not part of local culture, but the hunt is, it can be normal to go hunting for some Coca-Cola.