Catalina Martin-Chico

ECUADOR, THE LIVING FOREST

© Catalina Martin-Chico

“For us, the native people of the Amazon, the forest is alive. It is Kawsak Sacha. It is inhabited by Protective Beings who watch jealously over the balance of fragile ecosystems and their relationship with human beings. The waterfalls, lakes, rivers, marshes, trees of life, sources of food and minerals, the great trees and the mountains all have their protective beings: these are the Runayuk.” The Kichwa people of Sarayaku in the heart of Ecuador are entirely self-sufficient. They live in the mountainous forests of Pastaza, criss-crossed by numerous rivers that flow downstream to join the Amazon. Like all the people living in these tropical forests eroded by urbanisation and industrial exploitation, they are fighting to preserve their way of life. The wells dug to extract the oil contained in the forest subsoil are a threat to water and water quality, but are also endangering the biodiversity and health of the forest dwellers. French-Spanish photojournalist Catalina Martin-Chico received a World Press Photo award in 2019 for her long-term project on the FARC in Colombia, and is highly familiar with South America and areas that evolve behind closed doors. After a long journey by car and then pirogue, she reached a Kichwa village and spent several weeks living alongside its inhabitants to understand their identity and their struggle. She shared the life of an ethnic group dependent on a subsistence economy, where the forest provides most resources through hunting and gathering and through an in-depth knowledge of nature and its benefits. It is a community committed to protecting an endangered biodiversity.

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