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THE QUICHUA COMMUNITY OF SANTA ELENA Back to APIKET

The young men have had better opportunities to complete regular basic education in the boarding, usually
school in the Intuto town center.

The Santa Elena Community consists of 235 members and is located on the left bank of the Tigre River, an affluent of the Corrientes River, which borders with the San Andrés and Pavayacu communities, among others.

At least 30 families within the Santa Elena Community are quichua and the other 12 are xx.

The territory of the Santa Elena Community is strategically located on the high plains of the cocha*. It contains a variety of key habitats with ecological interactions and different fauna species. The cochas* and sewers can be found in places that accommodate rest, sleep and eating, as well as migration for fish and certain quelonios*.

Both men and women within the community have a high knowledge about the orientation and localization of the different areas which form their territory.

Women identified and localized the areas apt for farming and harvesting aguaje, and they explained what the characteristics and limitations are in terms of farming in the direction of the mountain.

The community has a board of directors: a president ot Apu, vice president, Treasurer, Secretary, Financial Counselor and two spokesmen; and communal authorities such as a municipal agent and a governing tenant.

One of the factors of change in the use of language is the contact the indigenous people have had for many years with the operators of petrol companies such as Pluspetrol Norte and Burlington. These companies have influenced the learning of Spanish, change in music, clothing, food, economy and the vision of the future for the Kichwa* Community.

Education is in the hands of bilingual teachers who impart classes in Spanish and Quichua. There is a high percentage of malnourished children, and a preoccupying tendency towards school desertion.

The young men have had better opportunities to complete regular basic education, usually in the boarding school in the Intuto town center. In the beginning (1977), the boarding school was mixed, but now it is only for boys, as decided by the clergy of the congregation.

Forest Exploitation

The economy of the Tigre Quechua Community (and the Pastaza Community) is based on the horticulture of clearances, hunting and fishing. The main crops are manioc, bananas, corn, rice and cotton. Hunting and fishing are performed on an individual and collective basis. The harvesting is becoming less and less important.

Members of the community say they only take advantage of the farm resources, although they admit that the exploitation of camu camu is an economic alternative to the development of its communities. When traveling by motorboat-slider, extensive areas of camu camu, at a distance an hour and a half. However, in the rowing boats the members of the community normally use, one needs three hours of traveling.

Due to the distance between the natural aguaje fields from the heart of the community, the harvesting of camu camu takes two days. Usually, the community members sleep in the exploitation area, usually in their canoes.

One of the factors that contribute to the diminution of fish is the pressure on the fishing resources, increased by inhabitants of Intuto and other areas. The community members only fish in order to provide for their family’s daily meals. 
Both men and women agree that the perception of abundance of fish species is low to average, and up to 50 % lower than before.

Some members of the community have started to trade fish. This activity has brought about a new form of organization within the community. The local fishermen sell their resources to the local collectors, who store the fish in a freezer for maximum 24 hours. This freezer is cooled with dry ice that is brought over from the city of Iquitos. Then, the fish is transported in their canoes to the setting of Trompeteros del río Corrientes where they sell it to local small traders.

This type of trade is sometimes done with purposes of communal interest. When a communal task to sell fishing resources is organized, buy gallons of petrol will be purchased with the resources. This petrol is needed to start the engine for the communal energy light. Somehow, this creative way to obtain financial resources expresses the sense of community that still lives in the community of St. Helena.

The community has two rodales* within its territory. The community members have started to clean and open up areas. They differentiate between the qualities of the fruit from the fields within their shores, as these fields are more productive because of the permanent contact with the water.

In spite of the problems they have had, the members of the community value the exploitation of these resources as an economic opportunity for families and the community. That’s why it is important to consolidate the initiative for the productive chain of camu camu, but from a perspective of conservation and sustainable exploitation of territory and resources.

The aguaje fields predominate in the Santa Elena territory. They can be found on the lower terraces of the irrigated plain, exposed to periodical and seasonal floods of black or mixed water. While “aguaje” is the dominant species, other species of palms and trees can often be found. A variety of plants such as Huasai, chambira, sinambillo, ungurahui, aguaje, among others, grow in the aguaje fields.

Farming is done by both men and women. Each family can have more than two small farms. The agricultural production in Santa Elena is mainly for subsistence. Its articulation within the market economy is still very limited, as is the case for all the communities of the El Tigre Valley.
Read more information about other APIKET Communities
Apayacu 28 de Julio Alfonso Ugarte Santa María Santa Elena Belén Sargento Lores
INKANATURA, 2013 External Links: Inkanatural Inkanat