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January – March 1995

January 30, 1995

I left Btá for Leticia on the 27th after a busy ten days of meetings and trip preparations. So far it seems that working for Gaia will make my task much easier. They were able to send someone to do much of the shipping for the trip. They also made the flight reservations and bought the tickets. I was lucky to make connections with Pedro in Btá and was able to send my cargo (80 kilos) on his charter which left last Wednesday. Everything arrived and was waiting for me when I arrived in La Pedrera on Saturday, January 28.

Yesterday I went to see Raul in the Gaia house in the boat of the Internado. I was able to arrange for him to take me upriver. We left La Pedrera about 1:00pm, stopped briefly at Gaia house, and proceeded upriver. We just passed the Chorra de Cordova without any problems (in a nine meter boat with a 9.9 yamaga).

I met Evelio in La Pedrera. He is in town attending a course for community teachers being offered by Gaia. He was interested in sending someone from the community to Centro Providencia to learn about paper making. He said that Santiago was interested in coming so I invited him to come after the 23rd of February, and to bring Fariña with him. I will speak with him by radio to finalize plans.

Raul and I will travel as far as Arturo’s this evening and spend the night there, continuing on to Centro Providencia. tomorrow. I communicated with Centro Providencia this morning to let them know that I will be there tomorrow and hopefully they will send a few people to help me transport my stuff across the Varadero.

At this point I am feeling optimistic about this trip, as though I will have enough time to accomplish what I need to. We will see how I feel later. Arrived at Arturo’s about 5:00pm.

February 2, 1995 (Centro Providencia)

Spent last night at Arturo’s. Talked and shared a bottle of Aguadiente with Arturo, Raul, Olympo, Comajen and son. Talked about the community forming with Bogatano as Captain. They are building a school and puesto de salud. Talked also about paper project. There doesn’t’ seem to be much in the way of marima de rastroja around.

Left this morning about 7:30. Stopped to collect corteza de cargero (large tree) to see if bark has potential for paper. Arrived at Varadero about 1:10pm. Danta Milson and four others were there to meet me.

January 31, 1995

Yesterday and today Mono and I worked half days building a mold. With some trial and error we figured out how to make dovetailed corner joints for mold and interlocking corner joints for Deckle. Luis went upriver and will return tomorrow, Friday. Until then I can’t get at my screening for the mold.

Isaac has been very ill. Collapsed lung or something like that. He was flown out to Leticia and to Bogota to be treated, then he returned home. He has had visions lately that my life could be in danger as a result of jealousy on the part of other tribes. He is concerned that someone might try to poison me. He says it is not safe for me to travel to communities outside of his protection.

Bogotano’s son died here in Centro Providencia a few weeks ago. The cause of death is uncertain. His body swelled up, starting in the abdomen. He broke out in sores or hives and the swelling went up to this neck. He apparently died of suffocation. An explanation that was given was that the Bogotano was teaching his son traditional medicine and orations without him having gone through initiation. It was also said that he didn’t keep a proper diet, having eaten pork and grease, etc. in La Pedrera. Rumors are going around that he was poisoned but that seems fairly unlikely. Mauricio Diez and Luis were with him at the time, along with other promoters de salud.

This January was very good for burning chagras. There were two full weeks without rain and the fallen leaves and trees burned very well. This means that there should be a good crop of yucca this year. Last year there was practically no dry season and the burning of gardens was not good. So, right now and for the past eight months or so, there has been a shortage of yucca. They say about once every four years they get a dry season like this one.

February 3, 1995 (Friday)

Mono and I continued to work on the large and small molds.

February 4, 1995 (Saturday)

Worked all day on molds. Guilliermo arrived.

February 5, 1995 (Sunday)

Worked all day on molds. Guilliermo arrived.

February 5, 1995 (Sunday)

Light day. Cleaned up the paper site, clearing the path and plants growing around the site. Also swept out the office. Talked with Mono about finishing the workshop office with boards instead of the bombono which was deteriorating fast.
Worked all day on molds. Guilliermo arrived.

February 6, 1995 (Monday)

Rained all day. Worked with Danta in paper shop cooking old fibers from last trip. Last night in big storm, lots of lightning. Had a good talk with Guilliermo about our work here and view of the world. Light day. Cleaned up the paper site, clearing the path and plants growing around the site. Also swept out the office. Talked with Mono about finishing the workshop office with boards instead of the bombono which was deteriorating fast.

February 7, 1995 (Tuesday)

More work in paper shop with Danta. We cooked two small branches of a small tree – untried type of marima (like the one next to the paper shop) – with very good results. The fibers cooked very quickly and separated quickly when beaten. I wonder if small one-year-old stems could work over time, cutting them each year like they do with mulberry in Japan.

Danta’s son also showed up with a tree 4” in diameter of (joha ancha?). the tree had a lot of fiber, cooked very well, and beat easily. Oscar Forero arrived in the early afternoon and started helping Guilliermo with his work on paperwork concerning projects for 1994.

February 8, 1995 (Wednesday)

Work with Danta making paper and cooking last of two batches of fiber of tree brought yesterday. We used the new mold which seemed to function well. We made eight sheets of paper using fibers from last trip. In the afternoon we cleaned up the workshop and packed the things we would take with us upriver to demonstrate papermaking.

In the evening I went to Gonazlo’s maloca Te Mambiar. I talked with Alberto and Gonzalo about problems in the world, conflicts in Africa, Europe and South America, also environmental problems. Alberto was very interested to hear what I thought. He said he likes when I talk about what I see going on in the world. He says that other whites who he has talked to (T.M. etc) don’t discuss these things.

Alberto was also very concerned about why the government was giving so much money to the Indians and wanted to know what I thought. He personally was very concerned about it. I told him that he was asking a very good question, and a very important one.

February 9, 1995 (Thursday)

We left Centro Providencia at about 10:00am today for Las Bocas in the metal boat. The rest of the captains and secretaries left in a large wooden boat.

The Apaporis River is fairly low right now and quite beautiful, with lots of rocks and beaches exposed. The light this evening is beautiful; no wind, so the water is reflecting the sandy banks and the multitudes of branches and foliage like a mirror. I’m feeling totally content, staring into the water, meditating on the mirror image of what is above.

We stopped at Octavio’s and at Bella Vista to let people know which day we would be coming back downriver to hold meetings.

Arrived at Boca’s about 5:30pm. We stayed at Leonardo’s and had a great dinner of fish and fariña which was fine and crunchy, almost like cereal.

Oscar worked with José correcting the stories that go with the Artesanias. I went to Big Maloca to talk to Isaac. Talked about the paper project. He expressed a certain dislike for Gaia. We discussed this trip and what we would do. We would discuss construction of a workshop, etc.

February 10, 1995 (Friday)

Left Boca’s around 9:00am after a great breakfast of pericos with patacones, in a boat of the health project’s. We arrived at Puerto Arturo (Paromana). There we changed boats and departed about 10:45, with Oscar driving and Danta and me. About two hours later we arrived at Puerto Laguna, home of Arturo Yauna. Oscar worked on naming the points on the map of this region in Yauna, from where their culture was born to the end.

February 11, 1995 (Saturday)

Left Puerto Laguna at 10:30, after having problems starting the motor. Oscar lost the seal for the gas filter in the river. We made a replacement with elastic from rolls of fish line. I took over as motorista.

The Apaporis was very low; there were lots of playas and rocks visible. When we were nearing the Chorro there were many islands, rocks and small rapids. We negotiated successfully until we finally arrived at the worst part, just below the inijoña stream. We pulled up at an island in the middle of the rapids to look it over. It seemed very tricky to pass. I suggested that we try to haul the boat by hand and not try to pass it with the motor. After looking over different possibilities we decided to haul it over a part on the right bank which wasn’t too deep but had lots of rock and rushing water. With just me, Oscar and Danta it was difficult but we managed with quite a bit of effort.

After passing the boat, we loaded the cargo and gas back in and continued our journey above the rapids. We encountered a long stretch of shallow water and exposed rocks which we had to negotiate with care. Various times the bottom of the motor scraped bottom. We broke a passador and had to stop to change it. We continued on slowly, trying to find the deepest part of the river. We arrived around 4:30.

February 12, 1995 (Sunday)

We woke up about 5:15, had breakfast and headed upriver to talk to Rondon who is planting a chagra with his family, just below Lijia’s port. We talked with Rondon and made plans to organize a meeting with everyone who was around. A few families had gone to Oyaca and Jaime hadn’t returned from La Pedrera yet. After talking with Rondon, we then went up to Lijia’s to pick up the people living there – Warana, an older man, and his wife. On our way down we picked up Rondon and returned to the community, 20 minutes downriver.

We started the meeting about 10:30pm. Oscar discussed micro projects underway in the community. The store, handicrafts, etc. After all other business was settled we discussed the paper project. I gave a description of the process. I proposed to do a small course in papermaking so everyone could see how it works.

We started out after lunch to find some marima’s de rastiojo. We found some two year old shoots of a marima blanca (oya verde), fairly small. We cut four small shoots. The largest was 2” thick. Next we stripped the bark, letting everyone try their hand. Next we boiled water to make lejia in which we cooked the bark. I showed them how to measure the PH of the lye. Both women and men were participating equally. After an hour of cooking the fibers were fairly well cooked. The lye which had a PH of close to 12 when we started had gone down to 11. We left the fibers in the pot and stopped working at this point (about 5:20).

After bathing, Danta, Oscar and I talked ’til 11:00pm. Danta told stories about dogs. Fish chow. Man was seduced by a fish who took the form of a beautiful woman, and lived with him for one and a half years. She had to bathe frequently to protect her skin. Next she convinced him to return to the water with her to visit her father (head of Fish). There he stayed. He returned to tell his brother not to fish because he might catch him and eat him (type of fish was palometa con pinta roja). Makunas say they are related to this fish and shouldn’t eat them.

February 13, 1995 (Monday)

We started working at 8:00am. First we washed the fibers. Next we planed down a bench and started beating the fibers, everyone taking a turn beating. They beat well. After washing them again we started making paper. Danta made jalea de yarenmo blanca. Very little jalea was necessary as the fibers were very fine. I first demonstrated the process, then Danta, then six or seven other people of the community, including Rondon, Lijia, Gilberto, Roberto, Pedro and other women. We produced 14 sheets before stopping. Afterwards, we put the paper on boards to dry. They all stuck well to the plywood and came out well.

In the evening we had a meeting about the process and future of the project. The captain and everyone else was very impressed with the process and want to start production. I talked about the type of house necessary and location near water. I also talked about trying to think well so this project can help the community and the region and not cause more problems. They should be willing to help other communities in the future to avoid jealousy. We went to bed fairly early, tired from working but the demonstration went very well.

February 14, 1995 (Tuesday)

Trip to La Playa. Spent the day at the falls with Rondon. Rondon was worried about taking pictures but didn’t prevent me from taking them. He said that he would have to work hard to cure the site after our visit and wanted us to give him cigarettes and batteries for his effort.

After visiting the right bank we went to the other side and fished a while. Oscar and I went bathing above the falls. We made lunch of fried fish, fariña and hot chocolate. The day was sunny and hot and the Apaporis was hot.

February 15, 1995 (Wednesday)

Left Playa about 9:30am. I took over driving after a half hour and negotiated the most difficult part of the river, including the rapids which were very rough. After looking well at the rapids, I decided to try passing the boat. We took out cargo that might get wet and went through without any problems.

We stopped briefly at Puerto Laguna and ate lunch – chicha chontaduro and smoked fish casabe. Continued encountering a brief shower and arrived at Paromena about 6:00pm.

February 16, 1995 (Thursday)

We talked with Luis in the evening, planning the next day’s agenda. He didn’t want to come to the Bocas to see a demonstration of paper, so we did part of the process, up to beating the fibers, there. The day was very rushed and the demonstration left me feeling like we should have planned more time.

About 3:30 we left Paromena for Las Bocas, 20 minutes downriver. We saw a guara crossing the river in front of us so we tried to capture it. This took a lot of maneuvering with the large boat. The guara almost made it to the shore a few times, but finally it tired and we were able to grab it. Hymie held it underwater to drown it. It was big, weighing close to ten pounds.

We arrived at Bocas at 4:30. Leonardo wasn’t there. We ate lunch, of rice and fish with casabe, at Leo’s maloca. At 6 6:30 we went to Isaak’s house to hang our hammocks, then went to the big maloca to chat.

Chewed coca and talked awhile about paper etc. Went to Isaak’s about 10:30pm. Isaak talked to me until about midnight, retelling the history of whites that have come here since he can remember. [Brother of Benjamin, Amanda wife of Reimundo, son Herman]

He said that the tradition of his people has passed. They are changing for better or worse. But they are now acculturating themselves to the white man’s world.

February 17, 1995 (Friday)

Paper demonstration in Bocas. We went to Isaak’s chagra to get some paper trees that were in the middle of a specially burned rastrojo. He cut some stumps of tree and planted three pieces next to big stumps in the same chagra so they would get some shade. We also picked up some leaves to make jalea. We returned and stripped the bark while women (Isaak’s wife and other) made pottery. We cooked the fibers in Lijia of 11.5. The fibers cooked well in just a half hour. Next, Oscar held his meeting in the school while Danta and I cooked the fibers. About 3:00pm the fibers were washed and ready for beating We took the fibers to the school and waited a while for the meeting to end. Then I gave a short talk about papermaking and we began to work, with a lot of people watching.

First I demonstrated the beating process and then let others try. The fibers beat well and easily on school benches. Next we washed the fibers and filled the vat with water. I pulled the first two pages, then others took a turn. Isaak tried; he enjoyed it. Everyone was impressed with the process. Two women tried. We made eight sheets before stopping. Others wanted to try and started pulling sheets. Bernardo, Isaak’s son, got enthusiastic, jumping backwards as he couched the paper to the blankets. We had nowhere to stick the paper so we l put them on a vertical side of a podium.

In the evening we went to mambiar at Arsecio’s maloca. He is old and sick. His sons, José and Arcardio, also live there (who worked paper). We sniffed tobacco, then went to the maloca of Misael and his son-in-law, Cristobal, for the meeting about the future of the paper project.

We started out talking about the last production, the money, and how to divide it. The people from the Bocas thought that 50% of the sheets produced from there should go to the people who collected them. I suggested that that might be unfair because making the fiber into paper was much more work. They also felt that people who collected fiber that we couldn’t use because of the quality of the bark and the {icone?} element should also be paid. I explained that that would be complicated and unfair because Benjamin had collected a ton of Higueron which we couldn’t use; to pay the people of this community and not pay Benjamin was not possible. Nobody wanted Benjamin to get a share, so the issue was resolved. In the end, the community said I could speak for them in the meeting in Centro Providencia, and they would accept what I decided was fair. We will see how that works out.

Next we talked about the development plan for paper. Oscar started talking about what GAIA would do, how they would start a fund for the Bocas to use to develop it. They wanted money for the construction of the house. Like I had done in Centro, Oscar explained that GAIA wouldn’t go for that. They asked about C.S., thinking that paper project would follow the same course of development. We explained that C.S. is no longer supporting the project and that GAIA was now funding it. After much discussion, Bocas accepted GAIA’s proposition that they build the house without salaries. But workers would be able to order some goods for their work (fish hooks, machetes, etc).

I said that I would return in October-November to start teaching the community. They would have the house ready by then. The meeting ended well. One problem I see in the future is that José wants to be in charge of the project, and doesn’t get along with Isaak or others. Isaak is ultimately in charge but José will also have power.

Oscar and I talked in the moonlight, after the meeting, about what to do in Bella Vista. It’s a problem community. Most of the people have left and the ones that remain can’t stand working with Benjamin.

February 18, 1995 (Saturday)

We got up late, 7:30am, and had a leisurely breakfast while waiting for the papers to dry on the plywood. We finally left about 11:30am and arrived at Bella Vista at 2:00, after first stopping at Raimundo’s, Herman’s father, new maloca which isn’t yet quite finished. Nice maloca. I asked him to make me some coca and offered to give him a pack of cigarettes.

We next went to Benjamin’s, having to pass some rapids and a series of rocks and beaches. The river is very low. Benjamin wasn’t there, even though he agreed to be here to meet us on this date. This resolved the problem of having to confront him about not doing paper demonstrations here or starting a project in the near future.

February 19, 1995 (Sunday)

[When I go up, one pack cigs to Amanda for coca] Left Bella Vista at 11:00 after looking at boat upriver opened very well.

Passed …