Entering the Amazon rainforest

To enter the jungle is to open oneself to the possibility of contemplating, admiring, enjoying marvelous landscapes, the beauty of this exuberant nature and … also to prepare oneself to discover the reality of the life of the people who inhabit it and who, not always, due to external factors, can enjoy the peace that nature offers them.

The Abujao river has been an unknown area for us because these rivers and streams were visited by the Colombian fathers of Yarumal. But a few years ago, the Fathers left their mission in these places and since then, some Animators of the Christian Communities of their zone have joined the meetings we have with the Animators of our zone.

The leaders of two villages in the “Shesha” stream, a tributary of the Abujao River, prepared some children and young people to receive the sacrament of baptism and wanted us to visit them with a priest. And we agreed on a date.

On the appointed day we left home early in a fast and quite large boat and after two hours we were at the “Aguas negras” hamlet at the mouth of the Abujao, where we disembarked with our mosquito nets, mats, backpacks, boots… with all that luggage that is always our travel companion.

As soon as we disembarked, someone recognized us, took us to his house, invited us to coffee and bread and… the most important part of our mission began: listening. Listening to how people feel abandoned by the church not coming around, listening to the problems with teachers not coming to school, listening to their family problems, listening to their difficulties in the field of health, etc. etc. etc.

After a few hours of waiting, the small boat that would take us inland to reach our goal arrived.

How to think of the risk involved in crossing the river in that fragile boat at a time when rivers and streams are swollen by the rains and the currents are turbulent?

There is no time to think, just contemplate, observe, listen, see the immense trees on the banks, the paucares’ nests hanging from the highest branches, see the thatched houses on the riverbanks, the little fish jumping next to the boat, hear the birds singing and know that, as “everything is connected”, that nature is our sister and that God is the background and source of so much beauty.

After about two hours on the river we entered the Shesha Creek and arrived at “New Mexico”, the first stop on our trip. After the joy of the meeting with the Animadora and lunch of rice with chicken that had been prepared for us, another two hours of travel until we arrived at Nueva Vida.

Again the hugs and the expressions “I never thought the little mothers would come to my house”. With these people we had not been able to confirm our trip, so it was only a short while ago that someone had alerted them of our arrival. In any case, we had a small celebration and continued with the task of dialogue and listening.

Here the listening became painful: coca plantations and logging in these places where the law does not reach, are invading their lands, those lands that they have cultivated and cared for so many years, where they have raised their chickens, their cows, where they have known how to defend themselves from the tigrillo that steals their animals, but they cannot defend themselves from these invaders who, when they resist to sell their lands, threats arrive and are carried out. And the deaths go unpunished and people live in fear.

In any case, the joy of the meeting, the shared meal and the encouragement to go forward with the Christian community in spite of the difficulties are not lacking.
The next day we retraced our steps to New Mexico. Here there was mass, celebration of baptism, lunch for all, lots of photos, lots of joy and lots of story telling and anecdotes of all kinds. And to continue listening…, as the Ecclesial Assembly has recommended.

We slept in the Animadora’s house and the next morning, after having breakfast ‘chilcano de carachama’, in the same little boat we had arrived in, we started our return after a lot of hugs with the farewell phrases repeated over and over again “you have to come back, little mother”.

We cannot forget that, during these days, the company that has not lacked, have been the big and small insects that were eager to suck new blood and have not left alone neither sister Leonor, nor the little father who is also new in these parts.

It has only been three days, but the experiences have filled the eyes and the heart. And what remains is the joy of having shared life and friendship with these simple people who are so grateful that you visit their town and their home, that they give you the best they have and keep the memory that one day the little mothers were in their home. And they keep saying… “you have to come back, little mother”.
Sr. María José Gimeno