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Story Publication logo August 31, 2020

José Gregorio: Either We Preserve the Amazon, or the Forest Gets Revenge (Spanish)

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José Gregorio, leader of the Guardia Indígena Ambiental (Indigenous Environmental Guard), poses for a portrait. The photo shows a logo on the front of his shirt representing his organization, which protects the Amazon forest surrounding the Amacuyaco River. Image by Pablo Albarenga. Colombia, 2020.
English

In the heart of a dark triangle in the deep rainforest lie three border towns: Leticia (Colombia)...

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José Gregorio un indígena tikuna, líder de la Guardia Indígena Ambiental de la comunidad de San Martín de Amacayacu, en la Amazonía colombiana.
Image by Pablo Albarenga. Colombia, 2020.

Led by José Gregorio Vásquez, a patrol unit from the Indigenous environmental guard traces the Amacayacu River in the Colombian Amazon. Minus José, who is over 40 years old, the members of the environmental guard comprise Indigenous youth — but they all display the serenity and poise of experience when they manage to intercept a suspicious canoe that is traveling stealthily upriver.

It's a routine inspection, but tension is not spared. The two occupants of the canoe with a small Honda engine that looks like it just came from the shop have well-rehearsed responses to the check-up. The answers are short, laconic. You can tell they don't want to start conversation. They are nervous, in a hurry to shake off the forest guardians.

To read the full story in Spanish, click here.

Liderada por José Gregorio Vázquez, una patrulla de la guardia indígena ambiental remonta el río Amacayacu, en el Amazonas colombiano. Menos él, que ya supera los 40, todos los integrantes de la guardia ambiental son indígenas muy jóvenes, aunque demuestran gran serenidad y aplomo cuando alcanzan a interceptar una canoa sospechosa que viaja, sigilosa, río arriba.

Se trata de una inspección rutinaria, pero no exenta de tensión. Si bien los dos ocupantes de la embarcación, propulsada por un motor Honda peque-peque que parece recién salido de la tienda, tienen las respuestas al chequeo bien ensayadas: son cortas, lacónicas. Se les nota que no quieren entablar conversación. Están nerviosos, con prisa por quitarse a los guardianes de encima.