MARCH 2013 BACK ISSUE by Kike Arnal Only a few months ago there was a striking news story in the international media suggesting the murder of about 70 people in a community of Yanomami indigenous located in a very remote area of the upper Orinoco River in the Venezuelan Amazon. The reports mentioned that Yanomami indigenous people were massacred by garimpeiros or gold diggers coming from neighboring Brazil. The news created an immediate reaction from human rights advocate groups to the Venezuelan government. But only a week later, the reports were dismissed after a commission of Venezuelan authorities arrived by helicopter to the place to find nothing, or anything out of normality. This situation brought up my memories of the year 1998 when writer and museologist now turned anthropologist Alejandro Reig and I went to produce a documentary about the malaria epidemics that were afflicting the Yanomami of the isolated region in the Orinoco headwaters. In an expedition accompanying a medical team from CAICET (Centro Amazónico de Investigación y Control de Enfermedades Tropicales) Alejandro and I were dropped by a military helicopter in the Sierra the Parima and during three weeks we ventured by foot or boat to visit several Yanomami shaponos or communal huts that were scattered in the forests. This trip was an attempt by the CAICET to establish a model of itinerant missions of healthcare, adapted to Yanomami scattered settlement and mobility. Although the existing reports we received from doctors and researchers about the malaria situation were very dramatic, telling of an extremely high incidence of the disease that was decimating the population, we were surprised to find relatively few cases during our time there.  On one hand we were very happy to learn that the situation wasn't as bad as we expected, but on the other hand we knew that this "improvement" of the malaria epidemics was only circumstantial and that it was only a matter of time until the epidemic would spread again. The short film entitled Yanomami Malaria was aired by Discovery Channel Canada. It is still unknown if there was a massacre or not this time, neither the number of killed people (although violent encounters between garimpeiros and yanomamis have happened in the past, like the Háximu massacre when 16 Yanomamis were killed by gold prospectors from Brazil in 1993), nevertheless, the Yanomami territory is full of highly valuable mineral resources like gold and it is just a matter of time before a calamity like the one falsely reported in August happens for real.  Like our Yanomami Malaria documentary from 2001, it was only circumstantial that a tragedy did not happen this time. All the photos of this post were taken in the Amazon during the production of Yanomami Malaria, in year 2001. Yanomami man drinks water in a small tributary of the upper Ocamo river. A Yanomami girl in the Upper Orinoco River. Xuxa, a young Yanomami woman in the Lower Mavaca River basin. A young Yanomami warrior armed with his bow and arrows. Lower Mavaca River basin, Venezuelan Amazon. Yanomami girl with her pet. Lower Mavaca River basin, Venezuelan Amazon. A large group of Yanomami people traveling by canoe in the Ocamo River, Venezuela's Amazon state. Yanomami children. A Yanomami boy gets a vaccine. Sierra de Parima, Venezual's Amazon state. The upper Orinoco River in Venezuela's Amazon state with the Marahuaca range in the back. This is the land to the Yanomami people.
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