Our Current Partner Communities in the Amazon

 

MARISCAL

Mariscal Sucre is located in the Upper Amazon in the province of Pastaza, situated in a rural area between the cities of Puyo and Tena, about thirty minutes away of the main highway by bus. It has a population of approximately 200 habitants from 53 families. The community is what we refer to as a Colono community, meaning that its inhabitants migrated from the Highlands to the Amazon as part of 20th century land reform. In the immediate area, there are dozens of other communities, both Kichwa and Colono.  

 

Almost all local families work in the production of sugar cane. While all families sell raw sugar cane and sugar cane juice, most also process the sugar cane into alcohol and sugar blocks. Although they are producers of alcohol, they rarely consume it. Some families supplement their income by raising animals as well as through the production of plantains, cassava and taro root.

 

There is a small town center, where we find the local school, the church, a small store and a few homes. The majority of families live between a 10 and 20 minute walk from the town center. The area is surrounded by secondary forest with small patches of primary forest. A couple of small rivers cross close by the community and there are waterfalls in the area. A nearby private reserve is home to three species of monkeys, numerous bird populations, dozens of species of amphibians and hundreds of insect species.

Families live in humble homes usually made by bricks, cement and blocks, although others are constructed with wood. The homes usually have a kitchen, dining/living room, bedrooms and a bathroom. International students sleep in private rooms, which have a bed with mosquito net and enough space to store clothing, shoes and other belongings.

 

The people are extremely hard workers, beginning the work day at 7AM and finishing around 5PM, taking 60 to 90 minutes for lunch. On evenings and weekends, people gather to participate in sports (mostly soccer and ecua-volley, a local variation of volleyball), go to church, and other community-based activities.

 

Food and Laundry: Host families prepare 3 meals a day. All reasonable accommodations are made for special diets, including vegetarian, lactose-free, etc. Surprisingly, although not part of the local culture, families are very understanding of such needs, and adapt well to all kinds of diets. Students can choose to hand wash their clothes at family homes or send them to a nearby town where they are washed and dried for a fee. Rehearsing Change assists in the logistics for sending clothes out to be washed.

 

Phone and Internet: The community has cell phone signal, and while there is no internet access at this time, students can use smart phones with data plans to be able to communicate daily. That being said, it is not 3G and the signal is weak. Our recommendation is a simpler lifestyle and to limit internet access to once or twice a week by traveling 40 to 60 minutes to the closest main town where there are dozens of internet cafes.

Activities: Students can participate in any number of community-based activities (sports, assist with primary school instruction, farming, etc) and are encouraged to create and lead activities, jointly with community counterparts in benefit of the entire community. In community workshops with Pachaysana facilitators, the community has expressed interest in forming youth groups, after-school programs, evening enrichment groups for all community members (such as film screenings, music nights, storytelling, arts & crafts, English tutoring, etc). The community actively engages in such evening activities when they are offered.

 

Weather: The Mariscal has a fairly temperate climate, meaning while it can get warm, it rarely gets too hot and humid. Most days have highs in the 80's and lows in the 60's, but it can reach the low 90's here and there and get as cold as the upper 50's. Of course, it can rain a lot. Finally, tropical climates mean we have our fair share of insects. That being said, most students seem to think that biting insects are much less than they anticipated.

 

Language Immersion: In order to most effectively integrate into the community, we request that international students refrain from speaking English. In agreement with the cohort, we will establish specific times or situations when English can be spoken, if the cohort deems it important or necessary.

 

If you want more information regarding our host community, including its name, please do not hesitate to write us.

TZAWATA

Tzawata is also located in the Upper Amazon, albeit at a much lower altitude, some 1200 feet lower, than the Mariscal. Tzawata is in the province of Napo and only a 20 minute walk from the highway that connects Tena to Puyo. To get to the community, one crosses a spectacular bridge going over the Ansu River, which Tzawata borders. It has a population of approximately 100 habitants from 20 families. Of those 100 people the vast majority are children and youth. Tzawata are other Kichwa communities and a few Colono communities as well.

 

Tzawata is an indigenous community of the Kichwa nation. Currently, they are living a very tricky transition with relationship to language. All the adults speak Kichwa and Spanish, and while most of the children understand Kichwa, they speak only Spanish. Such a dynamic, which was not necessarily a conscious choice by the community, is being addressed via language revitalization projects led by community leaders. Near

 

All families in Tzawata are dedicated to agriculture. They consume about 50% of what they produce and sell about 50% to the market. Their agriculture is mostly organic and quite diversified, producing cassava, bananas, rice, corn, various fruits, peanut, cacao, guayusa, among other products. While hunting is no longer common (the community is also promoting a forest revitalization effort), almost everyone fishes in the Ansu River. Many of the families also elaborate traditional artisan products for sale or personal use. Finally, a few of the adults travel outside to nearby larger towns where they have jobs, or leave the community for short periods to earn money via temporary day labor opportunities.

 

The town is quite small. There is no school, so children must walk 20 to 30 minutes to get to other nearby schools. In the center of town is a communal dining hall and kitchen, as well as a covered gathering area and athletic fields. All families can walk to the town center in just a few minutes. The area is surrounded by secondary forest with small patches of primary forest. In addition to the Ansu, which is quite a large river, there are a couple of small rivers that cross close by

Families live in very humble wood homes that usually have a kitchen, dining/living area and a bedroom. Bathrooms are outside. Since many family members live in a small space, there is not really room for international students. Thus, students share a small home in and amongst the families. Although students sleep separately from the community families, they are treated as members of the community. The student housing includes a bed with mosquito net and enough space to store clothing, shoes and other belongings.

 

In Tzawata the day can begin as early as 4 or 5AM, depending how many children need to get ready to go to school; however, usually breakfast is at 7AM, lunch at 12PM and dinner at 6PM. There is not as much a routine in Tzawata as in Mariscal, since it depends on what needs to happen that day. Sometimes, certain family members leave as early as 4AM to go fishing or to weave fishing nets, and sometimes family members take a few hours of the morning off. Several days a month, the entire community comes together to work on community projects, such as changing a thatch roof or maintaining trails. On evenings and weekends, people tend to hang out in the middle of town, sometimes playing sports and sometimes playing music.

 

Food and Laundry: Some meals may be at family homes, meaning that students go to a home to eat, but most are done in the communal dining hall. Families share the responsibility of cooking the 3 meals a day. As in Mariscal all reasonable accommodations are made for special diets, including vegetarianism, veganism, etc. The community is accustomed to all kinds of diets. Students usually choose to hand wash their clothes in the Ansu River with the rest of the community; nevertheless, they also have the option of sending them to a nearby town where they are washed and dried for a fee.

Electricity, Phone and Internet: The community does not have regular electricity but does have a generator, meaning that we have lights and ways to charge electronics for about three hours per day. There is cell phone signal, but no internet access in town. There are towns within walking distance that have regular internet service and internet cafes.

​Activities: There are plenty of interesting community-based activities, many of which are similar to the Mariscal (playing sports, helping out at nearby schools, farming, etc). Informal activity is perhaps the most important, especially spending time with the many children. We encourage our students to organize activities for the kids and lead them with community counterparts. We often do film nights, music nights or arts nights, which are very highly attended.

 

Weather: Tzawata is warmer and more humid than the Mariscal because it is at a lower elevation. That being said, while some days get pretty darn hot, the humidity is not nearly as bad as the summer in the southern United States. Like the Mariscal the high is usually in the 80's, but the lows rarely go below the 70's, and it is more common for temperatures to reach the 90's. The rain is similar to the Mariscal but it can continue for longer periods of time, sometimes coming down for almost 24 hours straight. Tzawata has a greater quantity of insects so repellent is a must.

 

Language Immersion: In order to most effectively integrate into the community, we request that international students refrain from speaking English. In agreement with the cohort, we will establish specific times or situations when English can be spoken, if the cohort deems it important or necessary. We also ask our students to support the community's Kichwa language revitalization effort.

 

If you want more information regarding our host community, including its name, please do not hesitate to write us.

© 2014 by The Pachaysana Institute. 

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