The world was shocked by the photo of “Sudan” (name of the last and imposing specimen of this species) accompanied by an armed guard to protect it from poachers.
The photo of "Sudan" brings to mind other images, such as the thousands of sharks captured in the sea near the Galapagos Islands by a huge Chinese fishing fleet that is preying on the oceans. Such ferocities of extractivism, from the search for shark fins to the search for rhinoceros horns, would be due –in Gudynas's words- to “the mixture between superstitions and ecological destruction (which) leads one of the great mammals of the planet to the on the brink of its demise. "
If that barbarism shakes us to the roots, what to say when the dark doubt of death alludes to human beings, who with all security and anxiety feel ... that their last throes lead to the disappearance of their culture and perhaps their ethnic group. I am not referring to peoples who have long disappeared, nor to groups like the Tetetes and Sansahuaris that succumbed in the last century to the hunger of the oil extractive beast in the northeastern Ecuadorian Amazon. Nor do I raise the vital question of the Taromenane, Tagaeri, Oñamenani ..., threatened by the same extractivist beast in the Yasuní, because as they are uncontacted peoples it is impossible to directly understand their feelings in the face of the ever-increasing threat to their existence.
Today I want to speak out for the Saparas, a nation declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, whose existence is threatened -again- by oil extractivism. On July 25, Cesario Santi, one of the five elders who spoke the Sapara language, died. Four remain: Mukutsawa and Anamaria Santi; and Alberto and Malaco Ushigua, who are between 70 and 95 years old, according to Manari Ushigua, president of the Sapara Nation of Ecuador. Those four people are the only ones who would retain the original sound of their language, which is less and less spoken by members of this group, and those who do have a mix that includes Kichwa and Spanish. There are only two dialects left of the more than thirty that existed.
With the death of Cesario, concern about the extinction of that culture and perhaps that nationality is heightened. And from what we know, no special protection is provided to guarantee its existence ... quite the opposite.
Throughout history, as reported in 2013 by the Servindi -Services in Intercultural Communication- the Sapara population suffered colonialism, facing unknown diseases, the effects of deforestation, forced labor, forced displacement, mistreatment of settlers and authorities. At the same time, its territory is threatened by the permanent incursion and expansion of extractivism, through the voracity of oil companies, mining companies, rubber companies, loggers. Thus, this people, like others in Our America and around the planet, succumb to the capitalist voracity that suffocates life and all environment: Nature and human beings.
The case of the saparas is emblematic. According to SERVINDI, in 1680 the Sapara population would have bordered the 98,500 members. At the beginning of the 20th century the figure had dropped to 20,000. And currently there would be about 400 saparas in Ecuador and 500 in Peru; although other sources are more pessimistic, indicating that there would be around 100 saparas in Ecuador and 200 in Peru. Such a reduction causes the Sapara language to walk into oblivion: a matter of great care.
The essence of the Sapara culture, as it happens in ancestral populations, is concentrated and expressed in language. Thus, the loss of that language would extinguish its identity, as the first step towards its eternal extinction. Its oral culture deepens and transmits its wisdom about its natural environment both in the daily use of flora and fauna of the jungle, as well as in the use of medicinal plants. Here is present the memory and millenary history of this nation, which is in serious danger of extinction.
Manari Ushigua says that oil blocks 79 and 83 are in their territories, which would affect 74% of their habitat. The Chinese company Andes Petroleum - a participant in the voracious extractive expansion in Correísmo - has already signed a contract since 2016 to explore and exploit these blocks with an initial investment of 72 million dollars. The incursion of this company has already divided the indigenous communities that live there. Ushigua asserts that while the Saparas do not want oil exploitation, the Quichuas and Achuar have accepted it. The conflict has even left 2 dead. And this continues ... extractivism is imposed by blood and fire, as seen with the Mapuches in the south of the continent or the Shuar in the Morona Santiago province of Ecuador itself or all those indigenous communities in the TIPNIS, in Bolivia, to mention just a couple of cases.
Many indigenous peoples, such as the Saparas, are about to become extinct. It is dramatic to know that we are facing the last members of that culture. It is like contemplating all the decadence of modernity concentrated in human extinction. And even more so if perhaps nothing can save them, fulfilling the terrible warning of the Nobel Prize winner José Saramago. In the face of disdain for extinction, we can only fight. We must take strong and firm steps to overcome capitalism, as a predatory civilization of life, sustained by anthropocentrism, patriarchy, racism and even death.