Living Classrooms in the Amazon


The first time I have participated in a LIVING CLASSROOM it has been unforgettable because I did not know what I was going to do and in the end it was a great surprise that was very marked in my life. This happened in September 2014, when the Fundación Caminos de Identidad-FUCAI invited the Jesuits of the Panamazonic Jesuit Service-SJPAM (Alfredo Ferro and me). The experience would take place in the community of San Francisco in the municipality of Puerto Nariño in Colombia. We arrived at the meeting empty-handed, we had forgotten to bring seeds. It was inconceivable to reach the Living Classroom without seeds. Exchanging seeds is one of the central elements of the Living Classroom methodology.

The Living Classrooms methodology implemented by FUCAI is the result of listening to many stories gathered by FUCAI in contact with indigenous peoples. Stories that express, based on their traditions, myths, tales and stories, their wisdom, experience and worldviews. Wisdom that invites you to go from scarcity to abundance in every way, from the spiritual to the material and socio-environmental. This ancestral pedagogy integrates what is theory and practice in the same encounter. Which results in a production of knowledge through the exchange of knowledge of the participants. For this, it is based on two principles that are opposed to each other and that are present in our daily life and in the world: Scarcity and Abundance . It is important to perceive and feel that these two elements act strongly within ourselves and in our environment. By being aware of the existence of scarcity and abundance, we enter into a process of discernment and decision-making to seek strategies in order to strengthen abundance and overcome scarcity. In this process, some elements are fundamental: dynamics to feel scarcity and abundance, the exchange of seeds (it was where I realized that you cannot participate in a Living Classroom with empty hands, without seeds); the spiritualities and rituals of blessings; preparing and sowing the land; the harvest and the native cuisine and, finally, savoring the banquet of abundance.

In a Living Classroom we can find 4 very well marked dimensions that result in a sustainable and integral development project (cf Laudato Sí, 13). (1) The spiritual dimension. It comes first and is the starting point that leads the whole meeting with welcoming rituals for the participants, blessings of the seeds and the hands that sow them, then blessing rituals for the harvest of abundance and native cuisine with the blessing of shared food. The rituals of blessings are made with all those present, regardless of the religious or cultural denominations of the participants, because what predominates is the spirit of the Creator God, which is unique. (2) The socio-environmental dimension . This becomes visible when all the participants (indigenous and non-indigenous) enjoy moments of socialization of food, lodging, minga work, exchange of experiences, care with mother nature, participation in the dances and cultural dances and good living. (3) The political dimension . It is time to reflect and become aware that the human being is a political being and must act as such and get involved with political issues in all spaces where the common good is sought. Both when choosing those who govern, as well as in the accompaniment of good government. Also so that they seek to live the true meaning and value of politics and not the politicking that destroys and kills the common good. (4) The economic dimension . This is present when valuing everyone's work effort equitably, with fair prices and sustainable income generation, so that everyone has a decent life with food, housing, education and health in abundance.

Another learning of the Living Classrooms has been their ability to break the physical and imaginary borders of countries, cultures, spiritualities, religions and knowledge. Although FUCAI has started this ancestral pedagogy with the indigenous communities of the Colombian Amazon, however, it was always in their initial plan to cross borders. Living classrooms have been carried out on the Brazilian, Peruvian and Bolivian side. With many and very diverse indigenous communities. In turn, in each Living Classroom, it is sought to invite people from different places who have the desire to know, experience, feel and learn from the experience; and, as a commitment, multiply learning in their places of origin. On the other hand, it is important to say that, in the Living Classrooms, several languages ​​are spoken (Spanish, Portuguese, indigenous) which does not prevent communication among all, on the contrary, it is further enriched by coexistence.

Fr. Valerio P. Sartor, S.J.

Pan-Amazonian Jesuit Service-SJPAM

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