The Endless Colonization of the Amazon Forest


My previous research has been conducted in Colombia, Spain, Panama, and Ecuador. In the first, I researched the relation between history and literature. In the second, my investigation was about the relation between the act of writing and the conquest of America (seventeen century). Other countries where I have conducted previous research have been Panama where I presented two conferences about the results of my investigation in Spain. In Ecuador, I visited the archive of Quito, one of the most important archives in South America. My interest in the Amazon Forest began in 2010 when I wrote a dissertation about the conquest of the Forest in the early sixteen century -In this dissertation, I studied the travel of Francisco de Orellana in 1541 through the Amazon river-. Precisely, the project that I submitted to the CLAS-Tinker Foundation expressed my academic and personal desire to visit the Amazon Forest in order to get experience in the social field of this area of Latin-American.  In this travel, I visited the Archivo de la Universidad del Cauca (a National Archive in Colombia) and I had access to 200 historical documents related to the conquest of the Colombian Amazon Forest in the seventeen and eighteen centuries. With the legal permission of the Archive, I took photos of all these documents in which I plan to develop paleographic work. After this visit, I went to Leticia, the capital of Amazonas in Colombia where I met with different researchers of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Amazonia. I interviewed them to know the projects on which they are working in the present. In these dialogues, they gave me precious information about topics, questions, debates, and bibliography related to the problems of the conquest and colonization of the Amazon Forest from different perspectives (historical, anthropological, sociological). One crucial point in these interviews is that I understood that the colonization of the Amazon Forest is a problem that has not ended. New colonizers looking for gold and oil invade the forest and destroy the social and natural environment. In this order of ideas, the objectives achieved in this travel were basically three: first, to have primary contact with the social and natural field about which I plan to work in my future dissertation. Second, to contact researchers who gave me wide perspectives about the past, the present, and the future of the Amazon Forest, and third, to explore the archive of Cauca where I discovered important documentation not published about the history of the Amazon.  From my perspective, the most important lesson I learned in this travel was a first understanding of the social realities of the communities in the Colombian Amazon Forest. In an ambient extremely isolated from the centers of power, thousands of communities -indigenous and general population- build their realities surrounded by the Forest. How will be the future of these communities, the future of nature, in one environment so threatened by mining, logging, industrial agriculture, etc? All these visions of the Amazon Forest will help me to focus my dissertation not only on one historical perspective but also on one approach that connects the past and the present of the Amazon Forest taking into account that the relationship that the modern world has created with the forest through the time (from the sixteen century) has been marked by violence and destruction.    

Diego Arevalo
Publication date: 
August 27, 2016
Publication type: 
Student Research