Exchange Diaries: Ecuador Part Four

By Meaghan Wray (ArtSci ’14)
Staff Writer

Santo Domingo, a community in the Amazonian region of Ecuador, had never seen tourists stop and stay in their small town. Prior to our visit, their community had merely experienced people passing through as a means of getting from location A to location B; buses filled with white people ready to ride their water tubes down the beautiful body of water, after which, they’d be back on their way.
Their community is exactly what you would expect it to be; lush with greenery and Amazon rainforest, with a small school in one corner and children running all over the place. Why, I questioned, would anyone not stop here?
The dynamic of this community was unlike any other I’d experienced. Each member had to be president of the community at one point in their life. Women carried a strong role and trekked through the forest alongside the men, building homes out of natural materials.
There existed a love, passion, and irreplaceable relationship with their land – a relationship that could not be taught but only acquired through a life of living alongside it.
During my three-hour trek through the Amazonian forest, I ate fresh cacao and lima off of a tree, and learned about a plant that could be used to treat both Chicken Pox and menstrual cramps. I sat in a fresh body of water which flowed from an underground water resource and ate free-range, non-medicated chicken and drank a natural energy-boosting tea made from one leaf.
This beautiful body of water that the water tubers flocked to is at risk. If mining companies are successful in their developments, and we all know their success doesn’t depend on laws, legality or community acceptance, this water won’t be the same.
As I walked through the forest, Patricio, my forest tour guide, pointed to a large tree. I asked him how old it was and he responded with a story. The tree stood there when his father, who is now 90-years-old, grew up in Santo Domingo, making it 150-years-old and counting.
There are three trees like this in the 40-hectare piece of land. He spoke with a pride in his voice that I once thought only a parent could express about their child.
This land, as well as the rest of the Amazonian region of Ecuador, represents an abundance of life, source of health and happiness, and a sanctuary for more species of plants than all of North America combined.
We must embrace it and respect it; because once it’s gone, it’s irreplaceable.

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