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Story Publication logo March 7, 2022

Pastaza, the 'Land Without Evil' (Spanish)

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A piece of land and mud in dark colors
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This story excerpt was translated from Spanish. To read the original story in full, visit La Barra Espaciadora. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website here. The RJF website is available in EnglishSpanishbahasa IndonesiaFrench, and Portuguese.


The province of Pastaza, in the south-central Ecuadorian Amazon, has historically resisted extractive industries. However, oil, mining and agribusiness companies are trying to take over their territories with the support of the State. Amazonian women are the most affected, as gender violence is higher in areas of extractive influence. The struggle for the defense of Amazonian territories has a woman's face.


Nemonte Nenquimo (center) is a Waorani woman who led the legal process that suspended the oil exploitation that threatened her community in Pastaza. She is considered one of the most important Indigenous rights activists in the world. In 2020, she won the Goldman Prize and TIME magazine named her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world that same year. The BBC included her in its list of the 100 inspiring and influential women in the world. Image by Iván Castaneira/Tegantai Agency.

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Marching to live together

In 1992, bilingual leader and educator Tito Merino Gayas proclaimed the reasons that led more than 2,000 people to march from the Amazonian city of Puyo to Quito, the Ecuadorian capital, to demand from the State the collective land titles they had long been demanding. "We come in the name of life, we come in the name of all the beings that inhabit our territories, of the trees, of the butterflies, of the rivers, of the spirits that help us live together."

The Organization of Indigenous Peoples of Pastaza (OPIP) led this historic march to claim their territorial rights under the slogan Allpamanta, kawsaymanta, jatarishun ("For the land, for life, let us rise up").

According to the cosmovision of the Amazonian-Andean Indigenous peoples, sumak kawsay, or "good living," is the path that guides life in plenitude with all the beings of Mother Earth.

The Kichwa People of Pastaza contemplate three fundamental principles: sacha runa yachay ("ancestral knowledge"), sumak kawsay ("life in harmony"), and sumak allpa ("land without evil"). The land without evil is the right to territories free of extractivism.


Waorani communities gathered at the Pastaza Judiciary Council during a hearing in June 2019 and marched in Quito to outside the offices of Petroecuador EP and the National Electoral Council. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

Waorani communities gathered at the Pastaza Judiciary Council during a hearing in June 2019 and marched in Quito to outside the offices of Petroecuador EP and the National Electoral Council. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

Waorani communities gathered at the Pastaza Judiciary Council during a hearing in June 2019 and marched in Quito to outside the offices of Petroecuador EP and the National Electoral Council. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

Waorani communities gathered at the Pastaza Judiciary Council during a hearing in June 2019 and marched in Quito to outside the offices of Petroecuador EP and the National Electoral Council. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

Poster of Indigenous mobilizations in Quito. Image by Ramiro Aguilar. Communication of the Sapara Nation. 2021.

Kichwa communities of Santa Clara, resisting the Genefran hydroelectric company. San Juan de Piatúa. Image by Kichwa youth from Ponakicsc.

Community assembly in Sarayaku, with the broad participation of women. Image by José Miguel Santi. Sarayaku Communications. April 2021.

Demonstration for the defense of the Piatúa river, in Santa Clara, Pastaza. Image by Ponakicsc Youth (Kichwa Indigenous People of Santa Clara).

Dozens of platforms with crude oil and materials destined for oil exploitation operations in the area pass over the Napo River every day. The rivers, which have historically been the means of communication for Amazonian communities, have also been taken over by the industry. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The faunal diversity in the Mera Canton, in Pastaza, is incomparable. This point is considered a biological hot spot by the world scientific community due to the immense amount of living beings that inhabit the place. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The faunal diversity in the Mera Canton, in Pastaza, is incomparable. This point is considered a biological hot spot by the world scientific community due to the immense amount of living beings that inhabit the place. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The faunal diversity in the Mera Canton, in Pastaza, is incomparable. This point is considered a biological hot spot by the world scientific community due to the immense amount of living beings that inhabit the place. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The faunal diversity in the Mera Canton, in Pastaza, is incomparable. This point is considered a biological hot spot by the world scientific community due to the immense amount of living beings that inhabit the place. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The faunal diversity in the Mera Canton, in Pastaza, is incomparable. This point is considered a biological hot spot by the world scientific community due to the immense amount of living beings that inhabit the place. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The faunal diversity in the Mera Canton, in Pastaza, is incomparable. This point is considered a biological hot spot by the world scientific community due to the immense amount of living beings that inhabit the place. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The faunal diversity in the Mera Canton, in Pastaza, is incomparable. This point is considered a biological hot spot by the world scientific community due to the immense amount of living beings that inhabit the place. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The faunal diversity in the Mera Canton, in Pastaza, is incomparable. This point is considered a biological hot spot by the world scientific community due to the immense amount of living beings that inhabit the place. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The faunal diversity in the Mera Canton, in Pastaza, is incomparable. This point is considered a biological hot spot by the world scientific community due to the immense amount of living beings that inhabit the place. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The faunal diversity in the Mera Canton, in Pastaza, is incomparable. This point is considered a biological hot spot by the world scientific community due to the immense amount of living beings that inhabit the place. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The faunal diversity in the Mera Canton, in Pastaza, is incomparable. This point is considered a biological hot spot by the world scientific community due to the immense amount of living beings that inhabit the place. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.

The faunal diversity in the Mera Canton, in Pastaza, is incomparable. This point is considered a biological hot spot by the world scientific community due to the immense amount of living beings that inhabit the place. Image by Iván Castaneira/Agencia Tegantai.