“My name is Hueiya. I fight for my community and for the children in the future to not suffer and live in peace, and to breathe clean air. I’m fighting for my children to live without pollution, have fertile land, clean rivers, and can drink clean water.” (Felipe Jacome)
On Oct. 12, 2013, a group of nearly 300 women from seven indigenous nationalities marched to Quito, Ecuador, arriving in the capital four days later with their children in their arms, the sharp angles of their faces — young and old — decorated with vegetable ink designs, covered in the same strength and determination with which they began their journey. They were marching to Quito to ask the central government to respect their ancestral lands, to refrain from exploiting the oil that lies beneath his Kawsak Sacha, a living jungle. In November of that same year, a smaller delegation of women peacefully protested during the 11th Oil Licensing Round, an auction of 6 million acres of ancestral indigenous land for oil exploitation. The protests, however, turned sour when oil executive and politicians scolded protesters, and Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa subsequently demanded the closing of the NGO Fundación Pachamama and indicted 10 indigenous leaders on charges of terrorism.
While women have always played an active role in historic marches that marked the struggle for the rights of indigenous peoples in Ecuador, this was the first walk organized and led by women.
Felipe Jacome’s set of photos Amazon: Guardians of Life documents the struggles of indigenous women defending the Ecuadoran Amazon through portraits combined with the powerful written testimonies. The words across each photograph are a self-reflection of the lives of women, their culture, history and traditions, and especially about the reasons for fighting oil drilling on their ancestral lands. The color designs framing each portrait use the same natural dyes found in face paint to expand on the symbols and designs that reflect their personalities, courage and struggle.
All photos by Felipe Jacome
“My name is Nancy. We want to defend our lands, forests, rivers, mountains and trees where spirits live. We do not want to get hurt, so women have to go to defend the forest. The president does not value and does not know the forest and wants to destroy it. Our children know the life of our ancestors through conversations with elders, so they learn to love the jungle.” (Felipe Jacome) “My name is Hasmil Villamil. I am 11 years old. I want to live freely in the jungle and play with all the animals. I want my community to live in peace.” (Felipe Jacome) “My name is Alicia Mosco. If oil enters our territory, my kids and I — we’re going to die. We get sick, and there is no cure for us.” (Felipe Jacome) “My name is Martina Santi. I do not want to harm our country. I want the earth to be healthy, so it is not destroyed.” (Felipe Jacome) “My name is Rosa Maunela Dagua. I am of the Andoa Kichwa nationality, Manga Urku community. My message is not to destroy our forests, our land. The forest is our life, rivers, lakes and mountains. Do not waste it! Do not destroy our forest that she breathes to the world. ” (Felipe Jacome) “My name is Jimena. As a Shiwiar woman, I love my country. To my nature, I love my animals, my monkey, my fish, my rivers, air that gives us life. For this reason, we do not want to exploit the oil in our territory.” (Felipe Jacome) “My name is Teresa Mukushihua. I never let the oil come to my territory. I will defend to the last.” (Felipe Jacome) “My name is Ana Santi Sumak Kawsay. I want for my children. As a woman, I am speaking out for our children not yet born. This river is where I was born. So I do not want the oil occupation.” (Felipe Jacome) “My name is Ena Santi. I’m from the parish of Sarayaku women who have fought against oil exploration. Especially women to be jointly organized with male children, youth, adults, seniors. Rise up, it is time to open your eyes. It is time to come together with one clean and strong heart. Rise up, it’s time.” (Felipe Jacome) “My name is Elizabeth. I think we should evaluate the knowledge of our ancestors and pass that to the young people for the future. For our children to live in the beautiful forest, planting cassava, fruit and banana.” (Felipe Jacome) “My name is Doris Aranda. I walked in the march to defend our land and and to tell our story. We all walk together through the land, by water and by air. This is our voice! Let us live in peace, let us live happily in our land!” (Felipe Jacome) “My name is Simona. This is our land. These drawings symbolize wealth that exists in the forest. This government has no conscience. Why do they mistreat us? Our community is not going to stop fighting, though we are the last to continue the fight standing strong.” (Felipe Jacome) “My name is Linda. We women think and fight for our country so that our children and grandchildren can live well, free from contamination. I am also advocating for animals to live free, so that in the future they can find fertile ground. There are many men that when working with the oil companies start to take a lot and become violent with their families and insult their wives. People who work for the company live as slaves. Not earn a fair wage.” (Felipe Jacome) “My name is Huanguinca. We women defend our territory so that our grandchildren can live peacefully without disease, so they can find clean water. I am raising my voice so everyone knows what I’m fighting.” (Felipe Jacome)