With numerous dire (and relatively not-so-dire) predictions about the fate of the Amazon being broadcast, it's not often that we hear something positive rising out of such a critical situation -- especially a multi-city "decentralized" festival that drew 31,000 people in its inaugural run last year.
Dedicated to bringing together and connecting various groups and individuals with diverse projects, but united by the common goal of preserving the Amazon, the fest AMO AMAZONÃA (I love the Amazon) will be held in the Peruvian cities of Iquitos, Lima, Tarapoto, Puerto Maldonado on different dates from August to November. The Amazon's "cultural platform"
According to the organizers, the festival's mission is "to act as a cultural platform created for those committed to the preservation of the natural and cultural wealth of the AmazonÃa." With a wide range of activities (visual arts, lectures, Q&A;, fairs, music, interactive arts) scheduled, the idea is encourage awareness of the positive actions that are taking place in the region -- literally by bringing "the jungle to the city."
Festival: response to armed indigenous rebellions
But perhaps the igniting spark of the festival was not as peaceful as it could have been. According to Stanislav Birko, a Canadian in Peru who is helping to organize the Tarapoto leg of the festival with NGO Ã‘awpa Runa:
Last year, the inaugural year, it was organized in part, as a response to the rebellions (some of them armed) that the indigenous were organizing in the Amazon, frustrated as they were by lack of consideration by the government and mining and oil companies in forcing these peoples off of their land. [Read more on how oil and gas exploration is threatening almost half of the Peruvian Amazon.]
The rest of the people in Peru were not aware of the situation and all they knew is that these "savages" are violent, without knowing why. AMO AMAZONÃA wanted to broadcast to Peru and the world these peoples' plight. This year, things are much calmer, and the festival is organized from a different energy, a more peaceful one.
A larger environmental movement
In addition, the festival is just part of a larger movement of environmental consciousness that is emerging in the region, especially with youth. "Our target audience is young people. There is already a huge environmental movement happening in the schools here," says Birko. "At the same time, however, there is an enormous pressure to become consumers, to buy, to buy unnecessary things, and things coming from elsewhere."
To counteract this, the festival aims to strengthen the cultural links between Peru's people and its natural heritage: "A major part of this is a revaluing of traditional knowledge," continues Birko. "The key is a shift in consciousness from one of scarcity to one of an abundance that is already there and worth protecting."
Free and leave positive trace
All of the festival's events are being offered for free and are being executed with minimal impact. "In fact, our philosophy is not 'leave no trace', it is 'leave positive trace'," says Birko. "We shall be planting a tree in the name of each sponsor and patron."
Even though everything is ready, with less than a month to go the budget is far from balanced and in need of funding, states Mr. Birko: "We would love to include some organizations from outside of Peru as partners of the festival."
The festival began in Iquitos (August) and Lima (September) and will run from October 15 to 23, 2010 in Tarapoto and dates to be announced in November for Puerto Maldonado.
For more information check out the main AMO AMAZONÃA website and the AMO AMAZONÃA Tarapoto website for the upcoming October events. If you are interested making a tax-deductible donation for the Tarapoto part of the festival, please contact patrocinio [at] nawparuna.org or amigos [at] nawparuna.org.
AMO AMAZONÃA (Spanish)
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