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Sowing life in the Amazon (I)

June 3, 2022

Kenia and Jomaris are the first Daughters of Jesus in the Amazon. Perhaps its destiny began to be dreamed with Laudato Si and began to become a reality after the Synod of the Amazon. The Congregation wished to collaborate in a project to protect our common home, “to live an integral ecology in communion with all creation, to combat poverty and restore the dignity of the excluded”. He searched in different ways and found REIBA (Red de Educación Inercultural Bilingüe Amazónica). Kenya also began to search the internet and found REIBA. At that time, Yomaris’ destiny was Venezuela, but God had another path for her: the Peruvian Amazon.

The adventure began on January 28, that day they left Elías Piña, in the Dominican Republic, their native country, to head for the Amazon. After a month in Lima completing the documentation, they arrived in Tarapoto, the first contact with the Amazon. By land, sea and air they continued their journey to San Lorenzo where they spent another 15 days preparing the school’s documentation. There they took a chalupa (a small homemade boat with a motor) and for three days they traveled one of the rivers of the Amazon to arrive on March 19, St. Joseph’s Day, to the community of the Missionaries of Mother Laura, where they will spend at least two years working in a school.

Thanks to technology, we shorten distances to have a conversation with them. We share the first part:

How is the adaptation going?

Everything is very different. Right now it’s winter, but it’s unbearably hot. The worst thing is the mosquito bites, it is what is costing us the most. You adapt to the food, it is a lot of carbohydrate, little vitamin, there is little fruit, sometimes there is a coconut and some papaya, some lemon too. Customs are very different, some things cost us. People are shy, they don’t say hello much and in our country they are very greeters. We greet them in their language “tasha” and nobody answers us and that costs us. But we are getting used to the fact that this is the case. Some children are afraid of us, I don’t know if it’s because of our color, because we are different…. Those who are getting to know us are already approaching us, especially at school.

What is day-to-day life like there?

Kenya: I teach English to students. We get up at 5:00 a.m. for personal prayer, at 6:30 a.m. it is community breakfast and at 7:00 a.m. classes begin. I accompany English and in EFA (Education for Work) in a nursery, animating at the ecological level. Every seed we find we bury, we use all the waste, everything ecologically. We also accompany the teachers in what they need, in writing, because the teachers and staff have difficulty with Spanish. That’s morning and afternoon. We also promote intercultural education, because at REIBA we support intercultural bilingual education and every Friday we meet to share experiences.

Jomaris: I also help them in the evenings by accompanying their dynamics before bedtime and the reading, writing and review of content. We also help with logistics, because there are only two Laurita sisters here.

How are families organized?

The houses are very large, with dirt floors. Normally, when the daughter of the family gets married, her husband goes to the house, so there are several families in the same place, but they have different stoves. There is polygamy, a man can have several women, so each one cooks in a corner, each one with her children, same space but different food. The wife takes care of the land, the chacra (vegetable garden) and the husband hunts, forages and collects. They do a lot of sports, they have courts on every corner. The woman prepares a food made of fermented yucca called masato, they always carry a bucket full of masato to offer to the husband and visitors.

Every day they get up at 3 o’clock in the morning to drink the wayus, which is an infusion, like a little leaf. Around that fire, corrections are made, truths are told in the face, it is a moment of family counseling. It is their most sacred space, what they respect the most and what keeps them together as a family. Religious celebrations are also held at 5:00 am.

What do they live on?

Each family has a chacra . There are also people who sell sangre de grado, a tree resin that is medicinal. When people need to buy, they go to San Lorenzo, the nearest town, and sell it. Unfortunately, now oil companies have entered the area and there are many people from the area working for these companies, which, by the way, are destroying the river. They also raise ducks and chickens.

Do they have the possibility of leaving the community?

Very few of them go out. Some go to Lima to study for a 6-year degree, others go to San Lorenzo to study and others study for the military. Thank God, some are coming back, like the nursing technician here. In the school they try not to lose what they are, so many of those who are now teachers have been students, went to study in Lima and have now returned. It is much better because they understand their language, Achuar.