Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cofan Jewelry

The first half of my day was spent on the bus from Quito to Lago Agrio. The 8 hour bus ride was quite interesting. I already mentioned the Quito bus situation and how the buses can often be an adventure but the inter-provincial buses are even more intense. My friends informed me of this fact, but I had no clue the buses were really like their descriptions. They play bad, B-rated 80´s action films all dubbed in Spanish (but not even dubbed well, all the characters sound like the voice of a middle-aged Ecuadorian man) and, when the bus is not blasting movies, it blares hard core Reggaeton or romantic love ballads in Spanish. It is quite an experience and I highly recommend it!
Finally I arrived in Lago Agrio. I took this solo trip to see the environmental disaster that Chevron has been trying to hide. By now, I have seen the documentary Crude a few times, read and saw the terrible pictures in the book Crude Reflections, and now it was time to see the pain and suffering for myself in 3D, real life, real time. I also set up this trip to meet with the Cofan, an indigenous jungle people of the north of Ecuador. They make colorful jewelry out of seeds, feathers, and twine from local plants, and I am interested in working with them to bring their wonderful worldly crafts to the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.
So I got off the bus and took a cab to my hotel. Lago is oppressively hot, but I had a room overlooking the main drag with a cooling fan. I met up with Emerheildo, an indigenous leader of the Cofan people of the north who represents their crafts and trades. He also stands up for the rights of these people of the jungle against the American big oil companies, as well as working for indigenous human rights in general. He is a really wise, interesting and bold man. We talked and walked around Lago and ended up at the Cofan Indigenous Store, which sells crafts from the women in the village to the people in the city of Lago. They sell an assortment of things, ranging from bracelets to necklaces to bags to almost every accessory you can think of, except with an original homegrown twist. I hung around the store for a couple hours, talked with the people and took pictures of these original creations. I spoke with them about creating a fair trade and selling their crafts in the US, how that could be really beneficial for everyone. All of us seemed excited. I hope to talk with some friends and contacts when I return to the states so I can make this idea come to life.
I spent the rest of my night alone watching over the unattractive urban concrete streets of Lago Agrio, observing all from my hotel roof perch.

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