For more than a week, the women of Sarayaku prepared the chicha and for five days the men fished to feed the 1,200 relatives, friends, and visitors who descended on their community this past Sunday, August 12.
After almost a decade in legal battles, Sarayaku celebrated their victory in the Inter-American Court on Human Rights at home in their selva.
The celebrations started at 3am in the early morning on Sunday with the beating of the drums from the furthest corners of the community.
The young men of Sarayaku walked the paths through the selva, slowly waking everyone, and using the singular, mellifluous rhythm of their drums to draw everyone to the community plaza.
There, the early morning hours commenced with guayusa – a sacred beverage made from plants of the Amazon and shared by the community – and continued with an ever-migrating drum circle.
As the sky lightened, everyone moved into the communal house, the Casa del Mediodía, where José Gualinga, the Tayak Apu or president of Sarayaku, informed his people of the details of the sentence of Sarayaku v. State of Ecuador and possible future steps of their community.
After the Casa del Mediodía, the men created a large drum circle with a traditional dance by the women inside the circle.
And as is tradition, the women prepared enough chicha for the day’s celebrations, fermenting it for 5 days in large clay gourds.
The day’s activities lasted until after the sun left and everyone was filled with hot rice and fish soup, fried yuca, and thick, comforting chicha.
Traditional dancing and drumming continued, and an overwhelming sense of humbling pride emanated from the celebration. The community was grateful for their people, their culture, their land, and the survival of their ancient cosmovision.
The community of Sarayaku was able to celebrate their historic victory in the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, seen by many as a “key victory” for indigenous human rights.
In the end, they celebrated in the place they had been fighting for for almost a decade – home.
Photos courtesy of Lauren Barrett. Fire, communal house, and women dancing photos courtesy of Joke Baert.