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The river defends itself, the river does not surrender ...

The river defends itself, the river does not surrender ...

By Pablo Cingolani

A tribute to the Manutata river, Amarumayu, Madre de Dios ... the Billinghurst bridge, cracked and paralyzed. The fact that the first great bridge over a major river in the Southern Amazon, fissures and must be dismantled is a symbol of the resistance that nature and its defenders - to begin with, the Indian brothers from the river's area of ​​influence - oppose these plans for capital penetration into the South American jungles, plans that, as we already denounced, only mean the beginning of the end of the forests and the consummation of the final act of genocide that has persecuted the indigenous peoples of the Amazon for five centuries.


Since the brothers and companions of FENAMAD, the Peruvian Native Federation that represents the original peoples of the Madre de Dios river basin, they told me that the bridge "is as if paralyzed" (email of February 3), I was flooded a visceral joy, pure, physical, graspable, and I can't get over it.

It happens that beyond the why, the renamed Billinghurst bridge is collapsing - if it's human, technical failures; If there is scour, if the hydrological studies failed, I am not an engineer, and deep down, I insist, the reasons why do not matter, they are their problems, the bridge builders-, the situation, I have no doubt, is emblematic, for many reasons.

That the first great bridge over a major river in the Southern Amazon, fissures (as reported by the printed and virtual media of Peru) and must be dismantled - making the announced inauguration planned by the Peruvian president for last January 20, which Obviously it did not happen - it is a symbol of the resistance that nature and its defenders - to begin with, the Indian brothers of the river's area of ​​influence - oppose those plans for the penetration of capital into the South American jungles, plans that, as we already denounced, only they signify the beginning of the end of the forests and the consummation of the final act of genocide that has persecuted the indigenous peoples of the Amazon for five centuries.

It had not been so easy, Odebrecht gentlemen! (the Brazilian super construction company that leads the engineering consortium that is in charge of civil works and of which the Brazilian state is its public relation and something else); It had not been so easy, gentlemen behind the IIRSA - the Initiative for the Integration of the South American Infrastructure - which promotes the construction of dozens of other bridges and other artillery for predation; It had not been so easy, gentlemen of the governments of the region that implement and legalize these actions without taking into account the true needs of the people and the rights of the Amazonian inhabitants; It had not been so easy, gentlemen of the transnational companies, who are waiting for the completion of the bridge to profit from free trade and penetrate to the last corner of the mountains with their mining and oil drilling rigs, their cows and their soybeans; It had not been so easy to dominate the "father of the rivers" (Manutata, as the Araonas call him, who survived the genocide that caused the extraction of rubber), it had not been so easy to dominate nature, it had not been so easy ...


Is that the Amazonian rivers, gentlemen, are wild rivers. It is very shocking what two Finnish archaeologists note about the characteristics of these rivers, specifically the Madre de Dios River itself, a colonial hydronym that also replaced the Inca denomination of Amarumayu (river of the snake), since the watercourse It was one of the historic routes of entry of the mountain people to the jungles.

The Nordics say that “One of the border sections of the Tawantinsuyu, where the Incas penetrated deeply into the lowlands, was the collecting basin of the Beni and Madre de Dios rivers. A problem that arises when studying these lowland areas resides in the continuous change of river systems due to meandering courses (meanders), as well as the sudden movements of riparian floodplains (avulsions), generated by tectonic movements. ”. The Finnish sherd finders add data that Odebretch engineers should weigh: “For example, Dumont has shown that the Beni River had at least six different mouths, two of them in the Mamoré and the rest in the Madre de God. Minor relocations of the Madre de Dios-Beni confluence can be interpreted using satellite imagery. These location mutations may have caused huge floods. Likewise, such changes in the river course would have caused the transfer of human settlements, making it difficult to establish correct historical explanations. (Taken from Martti Pärssinen & Ari Siiriäinen, Eastern Andes and Western Amazon, CIMA, La Paz, 2003)

If the Amazonian rivers present so many difficulties for ethnohistorical studies, imagine what the difficulties (nightmares) for the construction of bridges can be! It hadn't been that easy ...

There is a very powerful, very eloquent testimony about the power of the rivers of the Amazon. It is provided by the first Spanish conqueror who recorded his navigation - the first recorded in Western history - of the river that we now know as Madre de Dios. It is about the advance Juan Álvarez Maldonado and his work entitled Real relationship of the speech and event of the day and discovery that I made from the year 1567 to that of 69, a jewel of historiography. In the compilation of documents that Maurtua made, in the framework of the judgment of limits between Bolivia and Peru, in the sixth volume, the vicissitudes of poor Maldonado can be read, dealing with the river of yore, apart from the ambushes that they tended to him, a after another, the Toromonas hosts of the great Tarano chieftain.

Here is his chronicle: after having left the horses "with great pity", the invading Maldonado troops plow through the waters of the Amarumayu, in various rafts and canoes. Thirteen days after leaving the place where they said goodbye to their horses, one raft is lost and another is carried away by the current. In the latter, Maldonado himself, who sinks with other people, and "all the clothes, ammunition, weapons and food" went. Everyone considered the chief drowned, "but God graciously brought him out from under the deep river." Three soldiers were not so lucky. Everyone was so shocked that the survivors "did not even want to see the river" and wanted to return immediately to Cusco. The group had divided: some had landed on an island; others, Maldonado among them, "on land." Demoralized, anguished, to top it all, it began to rain, to rain as it does in the Amazon: "the storm was such that each one was only trying to save his life." Maldonado, tried not to lose his cool, and along with eight of his people who "came out half drowned", he was thinking (so he wrote down) on how to rescue those who remained on the island, in the midst of the gale ...

Here comes the tremendous, colossal, dazzling finale to the historical narrative that resembles a remake of a scene from William Shakespeare's The Tempest. Suddenly, as if all the force of the elements had been combined, Maldonado noted that “the river grew furiously and ate the ravine where the Governor and the others were, in such a way that they were forced to flee inland, because the river It came out so much from mother, that it opened the earth and carried the mountain… ”. The drama continues, it is cinematographic: "after a while, thinking that they were safe, they were again flooded by the flood, and thus all that night they went inland, fleeing from the river." It is impossible not to recognize the expressive beauty of the language of Spanish, which perfectly portrays an impossible struggle: that of man against nature. The Kuná of ​​the isthmus have already said it: nature never forgives. The next day, God had to come to help them, so that “the river would go down somewhat”, the two groups could meet, and to celebrate that they were still alive, eating some bitter palm hearts, complaining about it because they could not find anything else.

This story that I extracted refers to one of the feared avulsions of the river, about which the Finns speak. It is part of the history of the river that is also our history, and like all memories of the past, it treasures a message that we should try to clear up. I say: now the new conquerors of the Amazonian space are not going on a raft, nor are - let's face it, obligatory nobility - as brave as these guys who threw themselves downstream in the already distant 16th century.

Now the new conquerors - the failed Odebretch engineers, the state bureaucrats, they - come with planes and boats, gigantic machines to build walls and dig wells, tons of cement and steel, and they bring their food in refrigerated trucks and water in plastic bottles, but even so, even with all that technological and disturbing paraphernalia of modernity, the river remains the same, the wild river, untamed and invincible ... the river continues to defend itself, the river continues without surrendering! . My homage, my permanent offering to its sacred waters! The cracked bridge, also in tribute and praise!

There will still be no bridge over the Madre de Dios River. It hadn't been that easy! Developers of any kind can go to Odebrecht to complain. The joy that possesses me, intensifies, stimulates me, resists too.

Pablo Cingolani

Río Abajo, February 5, 2011


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