What would Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian Nobel prizewinner in literature, say about Ayniglobal? I would hope he would say that the nonprofit organization we created and what we are doing for indigenous people is noble and good.

Like his protagonist, Roger Casement, in The Dream of the Celt, my year with the Yupik Eskimos in 1967-68 and my years with the Q’ero since 2000 awakened in me a “more profound and transcendent” concern regarding the human condition. Like Casement, I was humanized. The native people of the Arctic and Andes, and Amazon jungles revealed to me those raw and basic things that make life real. And, this humanized awareness instilled in me a life long desire to protect and serve indigenous people and their lands.

vargas-llosaLlosa’s book describes a world in disintegration. Hundreds of thousands of native Africans in the Belgian Congo disappeared is less then twenty years. In the upper Amazon, there was never a count of the dead nor was there a measurement of damage to sensitive rainforest ecosystems, but tens of thousands died. Native people vanished. Stories, legends, and knowledge of plant medicine, were gone forever.
These horrible human and ecological catastrophes occurred, not five hundred years ago, but at the beginning of the twentieth century. The modern legacy of European imperialism was as brutal then as it was during the time of the Spanish conquest. Only this time it was the Belgians and Peruvians that perpetrated the atrocities. In this case, it was not the Aztecs of Mexico or Incas of the Andes. The victims were indigenous people in the Congo and Amazon River ecosystems. And both catastrophes were driven by a single reason: greed for profit. This time it was not gold and silver, but the latex from rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis), the raw material that made wheels for cars and trucks, which advanced industrial progress and helped drive two World Wars.
 Times have changed, but the legacy of cultural domination, human abuse and degradation, and environmental destruction is evident in crippling poverty, human misery, and an improvised environment. Western people have become more civilized, culturally saner if more neurotic, and have taken on greater responsibility for the environment. However, indigenous peoples have become all but invisible. Marginalized and destitute, squeezed into fragments of wilderness that are disappearing as fast as water falling through fingers, they hang on to the last wilderness by a thread.
 When we look at the ancestors of the original indigenous people in Peru, what do we see?
We see them as if the centuries since 1533 when Pizarro invaded Peru didn’t occur. We have no knowledge of recent holocausts like during the rubber boom, no information about the brutal Hacienda System that didn’t end until agrarian reform of 1969, nor the harsh current day reality of illiteracy, subsistence living, and the public health concerns that urban poverty fosters such as tuberculosis and AIDS.
 We see what we want to see. Romanticized versions populated by shamans and healers, wise men and generous women who we imagine share their ancestral knowledge freely. We would do better to come to terms with their daily reality.  We should undertake the hard road of understanding their history, not just of the Incan glory, but also of the exploitation and abuses of centuries.  We might explore facets of the culture that others have ignored, accompany them on the harvest, fishing the rivers, and the grueling treks that require days or weeks to visit their homelands. Then we would consider it a privilege to serve as volunteers of hope, for them and for us.
 What would Mario Vargas Llosa say about Ayniglobal? I don’t know, but I would like to think that he thought our work was honest and practical, and warranted merit and support. I would hope that we become aware that in working with our hands we are healing our heart, as well as restoring the planet. I would like to think that we are making a difference. Join us in the Andes and Amazon. Transform yourself. Grow into the responsibility of a planetary citizen. Make a difference.