Amazon Indians often appear to us as “timeless”, as victims sacrificed on the altar of modernity. This is a cliché that is being challenged by the unique career of the Jivaro Indian, the historic leader of the Amerindian protest movement: Evaristo Nugkuag.
Today Amazonia has become the world symbol of a threatened environmental and cultural diversity. On this subject, the media –and thus, the general public– show great pessimism: the disappearance of Amerindian peoples as well as the extinction of a lot of natural species appears to be just as unfortunate and unavoidable. The events that occurred recently in Peruvian Amazonia seem to confirm, even to the point of caricature, the tragic lot of these indigenous peoples: in 2009, the government passed a series of government decrees allowing Amazonian lands to be sold on a very large scale. Indian resistance, embodied by the Jivaro people, was crushed in blood. The Peruvian and international media covered this bloody conflict, some confining themselves to presenting the Amerindians as “the timeless victims of globalization”, while others, blinded by the reputation of these Jivaros, former head shrinkers, preferred to insist on the supposed ‘return to their warriors’ instinct’.
An article published in ‘El Comercio’, the main Peruvian daily, jarred in this climate of general incomprehension. Written by a Peruvian lawyer, Virginia Bustamante, the article revealed the existence of a very structured movement unifying all the peoples of the Amazon Basin that for decades had been characterized by their pacifism. Above all, this article reminded us of the outstanding career of a Jivaro Indian, Evaristo Nugkuag, founder and historical leader of the movement whose absence in these tragic circumstances was so disquieting that in the headline the lawyer launched an appeal: “Where’s Evaristo?”