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#QuarantineJourneys: Amazzonia la Loma Santa

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#QuarantineJourneys: Amazzonia la Loma Santa

 "And then the cameras turn off, and we drive towards St Ignacio at twilight, towards the golden red lagoon, towards a chaotic and noisy feast - but one that is so full of joy, of life, of meaning."

by Andrea Morghen - pictures by Filippo Marzatico

Each years, the people of San Ignacio de Moxos, a big village in the Amazon in northern Bolivia, celebrate Ichapekene Piesta. The festival reinterprets the victory of saint Igantius and mixes it with Indigenous traditions. It lasts a week, day and night, with processions, drums, songs, dancing, and bull fighting. The greatest representation of Ignatius' victory involves 12 "warriors of the sun" who wear incredible feathers and fight against the guardians of the sacred flag, the ancient owners of the forest and the waters, before converting them to Christianity. They consider this rite an act of faith, but also a constant regeneration, allowing the Moxenos to relive both the Christian and their ancient traditions. The main procession involves 48 groups of participants masked as ancestors and animals, and incarnates the respect and harmony of nature. Together with bright firecrackers (symbolising the gift of light), drums and music, people laugh and celebrate along the streets of the city.

Last July we joined the priest of San Ignacio, Fr Fabio, during the feast. He told us about the meaning of this extraordinary festival and led us to discover the pride and humanity of Indigenous peoples, who fight with courage for the respect of the forests and their traditions, against a model of 'development' which sacrifices nature in the name of progress. Fabios was our guide through the villages in the forest around the city. There, with Filippo (who took the above pictures) we met the leaders of different Indigenous tribes who joined the festival. Severiano, Hector, Enrique and Natividad opened up the doors to their homes. We had breakfast with coffee, hot empanadas and grapefruits directly from the tree. With this warm welcome, they told us about their challenges, their dreams and the beauty of the forest surrounding us. They talked about their will to hand down their traditions to the younger generations, passing on language, stories, and traditions, respecting the forest which they call "La Loma Santa." A simple life where respect, silence, sobriety and faith guide everyone. Simple homes, with an inside courtyard where children and animals play. A big wooden table to eat, a fire burning in the corner, some kitchen utensils, but only the essential. A nearly vegetarian diet: chicken and pork just for special occasions. They work hard in the humid jungle to cultivate coffee, fruits and manioca. There is a football field made of dust and stones, where children run after an old football in the morning fog. Elders are respected, listened to and loved. Those black eyes look at us serene, with the same curiosity we have. They are not afraid of cameras: they want to tell stories, make their voices heard after having let too much happen: the abuses of farmers and the threats to the Indigenous president. And then the cameras turn off, and we drive towards St Ignacio at twilight, towards the golden red lagoon, towards a chaotic and noisy feast - but one that is so full of joy, of life, of meaning. 

These were very intense days of filming. Interviews, walks in the Amazon, motorbike rides to film and document this great battle for the survival of humanity, nature and the ancient traditions of the inhabitants of the Amazon. Follow us for all the updates on the distribution of the documentary Amazonia La Loma Santa.


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