Kristina Stalnionytė: The Land of Shuar

 

Publisher: Didakta, 2014

320 pages

A patch of the Amazon forest along the border between Peru and Ecuador is the home for indigenous Shuar people. Conquistadors and gold seekers of previous centuries called the Shuar for head hunters. Shuar men have been known as the bravest warriors of the Amazon, and were feared to death by their enemies because they would kill the victims just to steal their heads needed for making trophys.

 

Around fourty thousand Shuars have survived until today. The majority of them inhabit the tropical forest to the East of the Andes in Ecuadorian province of Morona-Santiago, and the bordering territory with Peru.

 

„The Land of Shuar“ is a story about the adventurous journey of three friends, one of whom is Shuar, into the world of Shuar. The story is full of unexpected encounters, funny situations, and coloured with indigenous philosophy. The travellers find out that apart from plants and animals the jungle is seething with strange beings, and those beings live in harmony with people.

 

The story reflects numerous clashes between the way of thinking of two different cultures, and is highlighted by the unusual way the Shuar see the World. While living among the Shuar, travellers meet indigenous hunters, fishermen and shamans, get to know the Shuar everyday life and mythology.

 

However, the life of Amazonian tribes today is not so romantic as it might seem at first glance. Their everyday reality is fighting with oil companies for their homes, quarrelling with mining firms, drinking water from contaminated rivers, walking in the puddles of oil spills, and trying to save their sacred lands from all the calamities coming from the civilized world. Indigenous people call this industrial invasion into their territories the second colonization which happens slowly and silently, dripping blood from their veins one drop at a time.

 

The protagonist of the book is the Shuar man by the name Yu who is living in two worlds – the world of the past and the world of present. He is proud of his land and ancestors. His only desire is to drink clean water, to breath fresh air and to save the dying Amazonian forests. After having spent two weeks among the Shuar, the travellers fall in love with this land forever.

 

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