A great experience… leaving the Amazon for the first time

A short text written by Elkin Demetrio (translated from spanish) about his experience in Bogotá at the II Congreso Nacional de Áreas Protegidas.

Unexpectedly one of my biggest dreams became true: I was asked to represent our intercommunitarian ecotourism organisation PAINÜ at the II Congreso Nacional de Áreas Protegidas. I was excited and frightened, especially for the flight because so far I never had left my home, the Amazon. But the view was marvelous, the piled clouds passing by, the unending horizon where sky and land come together. Once I arrived at Bogotá I could cry of happiness. Thanks to a friend of Santiago Duque of Limnology I arrived safe at the hotel. Because of the extreme low temperature compared to Leticia I only took a shower next morning; with the intention to take a shower with lukewarm water I screamed out loud when burning hot water came down on me… a sore but funny moment.

The congress itself was spectacular because I met a lot of indigenous compañeros from all over Colombia and got to know several successful communitarian initiatives. In the afternoon it was my turn to talk about our PAINÜ. At first I was nervous and I did not know what to tell even though I had practiced a lot in Leticia. But with the support of Marcela, Vivian and her friend I was able to present me as a proud indigenous young man dressed up with a feathered bonnet and my clan symbols painted on my face. I don’t know where all the words came from but all attendees gave me a huge applause afterwards for the things I said and for the results we have achieved so far with PAINÜ. Although, an afrocolombian girl couldn’t believe the story about taking a bath right in between the pirañas of considerable sizes but in the end I could convince her. Finally, I decided to give my bonnet to the coordinator of the event to thank her for her efforts. In the evening Vivian and her friend took me on a short city tour and we got up the Colpatria tower.

I will never forget this experience… With gratitude to all people who support me and our organization PAINÜ, especially those of Foundation Grupo Proa, Stichting Mandioca and UNAL Sede Amazonía.

Elkin Demetrio Castillo.


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