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By: María Paula Herrera Salazar Field professional- Fucai

Photo: María Paula Fucai professional playing the traditional Amazonian spinning top.

Few of us have had the fortune to share with such a diversity of people as those of us who work at Fucai do. Our work is exciting, but it requires both vocation and berraquera . Vocation is for me a "call from the heart", a deep beat that summons me to put myself at the service of indigenous peoples. For its part, the berraquera is the energy, enthusiasm and strength with which challenges are assumed. Both are needed in abundance in this work, since working across the country from end to end and collaborating with such a diversity of peoples in such disparate contexts is a gift that is not made for everyone.

Or maybe not all of us are made, for example, to walk on half-glued plank bridges, four meters high, over the Amazon jungle. Perhaps not everyone is made to go to the bathroom in the bush among tunas , cacti and chivas, taking care of the animals and being seen by a sudden passerby in the desert of La Guajira. Perhaps it is not for everyone to sleep for days and days hanging in a hammock , under the moonlight, with the leafless branches of an old tree as the only cover. Perhaps it's not for everyone to canoe down the great Amazon River, eat fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and wear three different types of repellents, in case the plague strikes.

However, for me, this work is totally worth the efforts. Can you imagine having the opportunity to savor such diverse foods, to see spectacular landscapes, to laugh to the sound of the women who make fun of our clumsy way of pronouncing their language, for example, when we try to say in wayuunaiki “ anayawachijaa ”? , was jemetaa” (thank you, it was delicious)?

Photo: María Paula Herrera - Food diversity of the Amazon.

What we do with the communities is very varied. In some projects we work mainly with children and youth, in others with women; many times we focus our efforts on improving food sovereignty or supporting the strengthening of community government. We also reforest degraded areas, prepare native food, participate in ethno-education, investigate, build, dance to the sound of drums, and play traditional games from each region with and like children. All this in addition to the management, administration and incidence tasks that we carry out daily.

Photo: María Paula Herrera- Wayuu child happy to practice writing in the sand

We move from the northernmost corner to the southernmost corner of Colombia, and even beyond the borders; we work in the eastern plains and in the Andes mountains; We only go where they call us and we never stay longer than necessary. In this work it is beautiful for me to witness the strength of organized peoples; It is fascinating to see the smiles of the children and the indescribable joy of a mother knowing that her daughter finally managed to overcome malnutrition.

However, it is also difficult to witness the miserable conditions in which many of the communities we work with live. Each death of a child due to hunger or lack of health care breaks our hearts. It is deeply painful to show the State's failure to comply with its responsibilities and the difficulties that communities face in accessing the basic services to which we should all be entitled. But from this indignation comes the strength to continue working -as a co-responsible civil society-, to improve this, which is everyone's business and in which each one can contribute from their place.

Personally, in this work I have realized that community work implies approaching life and death, abundance and scarcity, hope and despair, care and abandonment. I have understood that the gift of serving indigenous peoples implies honoring the processes, doing everything possible and a little more, strengthening spirituality and courage. It also implies committing to walk with deep respect and sincere recognition of the diversity of worldviews, ecosystems, cultures and territories existing in Abya Yala.

Photo: María Paula Herrera Indigenous Guard of ACITAM

As a field professional in Fucai I have had the opportunity to gradually delve into the depths of this country and I can only say that it is an extraordinary experience. I offer my gratitude to the towns that welcome us, to the teachers who precede us and to the wonderful fieldwork teams that always accompany us.


Source: Dietmann, S. Amazonas, 2022.