Ode to Ruth Buendía Mestoquiari, Pakitzapango Canyon, Peru

From The Optimist Magazine

Summer 2014

Saving the forest

For the Asháninka people of the Amazon rainforest, the Ené River Valley is their ancestral birthplace. This sacred home of the Asháninka was nearly taken away by the 2010 Peru–Brazil Energy Agreement, which aimed to build 60 large-scale hydroelectric dams throughout the Amazon. One of those planned projects, the Pakitzapango Dam, would destroy the ancestral home of the Asháninka and displace more than 10,000 of these native people. Ruth Buendía Mestoquiari, one of the first female leaders of the Asháninka, took it upon herself to stop the construction of the Pakitzapango Dam.

When Buendía learned about the proposed building of the dam, she mobilized her fellow tribespeople. “I visited every community, informing the people of the threats posed by the hydroelectric dam,” Buendía explains. “We produced a computer simulation showing the effects the dam would have on our lives.”

After rallying her community, Buendía took her fight to the international stage, meeting with NGOs, government officials and lawmakers in Washington, D.C. She then filed a lawsuit against the Peruvian government for failing to gain consent to build the Pakitzapango Dam, eventually causing the project to shut down. In the wake of their victory, the Asháninka halted another dam project: Plans to build the Tambo 40 Dam stopped because of the people’s strong opposition to the Pakitzapango. | Daniel Hills

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Ode to Ruth Buendía Mestoquiari, Pakitzapango Canyon, Peru

From The Optimist Magazine

Summer 2014

Saving the forest

For the Asháninka people of the Amazon rainforest, the Ené River Valley is their ancestral birthplace. This sacred home of the Asháninka was nearly taken away by the 2010 Peru–Brazil Energy Agreement, which aimed to build 60 large-scale hydroelectric dams throughout the Amazon. One of those planned projects, the Pakitzapango Dam, would destroy the ancestral home of the Asháninka and displace more than 10,000 of these native people. Ruth Buendía Mestoquiari, one of the first female leaders of the Asháninka, took it upon herself to stop the construction of the Pakitzapango Dam.

When Buendía learned about the proposed building of the dam, she mobilized her fellow tribespeople. “I visited every community, informing the people of the threats posed by the hydroelectric dam,” Buendía explains. “We produced a computer simulation showing the effects the dam would have on our lives.”

After rallying her community, Buendía took her fight to the international stage, meeting with NGOs, government officials and lawmakers in Washington, D.C. She then filed a lawsuit against the Peruvian government for failing to gain consent to build the Pakitzapango Dam, eventually causing the project to shut down. In the wake of their victory, the Asháninka halted another dam project: Plans to build the Tambo 40 Dam stopped because of the people’s strong opposition to the Pakitzapango. | Daniel Hills

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