Amazons: More than a Forest

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On August 26, 1542, Francisco de Orellana discovered the Amazon River in an expedition that began in Quito. It is said that he and his men were attacked by a ferociuos tribe of women that made him to state that the Greek legend of the warrior women known as the Amazons, were real. Some South American scholars argue that it was possible that Orellana was fighting against warriors of long hair who looked to him like women, since the Amazon Women Warrios of Orellana were not seen again in the years to come. What is certainly true is that the Greek name would become the name of the biggest and fascinating forest of the planet. Colombia has a big share in it and half of its territory is located in the First Forest of the world, making of Colombia one of the first country in biodiversity.

By Al Rodas – Picture “Amazon boy” by The Intimate Stranger.

Looking to the administrative division of the national territory of Colombia, only a section has the name of Amazon – Departamento de Amazonas. It is the more southern Department of the country, making that the Colombian territory goes under the Equatorial Line. But what is true is that the Colombian flag in the Amazon Region waves in a bigger territory than the Department of Amazons and it is even bigger than Colombian themselves think. The Colombian Amazon includes what is called the Colombian Amazon Region and the Orinoquian Region (Llanos Orientales). If the first Region means the 26% of the national territory and the second is the 27.15%, it means that 53.15% of Colombia is Amazons!

Some stories of forests and wars

The biggest forest of the planet has been an objetc of ambitions since the time of the South American Conquers. The firsts to dispute the possesion of that vast territory were Spain and Portugal. In the Tordesillas Agreement the entire Amazon Forest was put under Spaniard sovereignty while to Portugal was given the Atlantic litoral of what is today Brazil. However, Portugal would take possesion of most part of it and that would come to belong to the new Brazil nation making of the South American country the first largest country of the Continent, the second of the Americas after Canada and one of the biggest of the world. The rest of the Amazons under the Spaniard colonies were shared among Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Boliva plus Guyana and Surinam.

While the consolidation of our Republic after the Independence from Spain and after the dissolution of the Confederation of Gran Colombia was centralized in the Andean Region with Bogotá at the head of the new nation, the big Colombia share of Amazons was object of conflicts with the other Amazonic countries, specially Peru and Brazil that gave to the Region its due importance, specially for the exploitation of rubber. It lead to some binational conflicts that let as a consequence the lost of some parts of the Forest by Colombia.

Colombia considered those forest regions as National Territories with a special administration until 1991. The National Territories were formed by Intendences and Commisaries and were seen as almost empty places out of the national plans of development. Today Colombians from the Andean and Caribbean Region still seen the Colombian Amazons as far as Brazil and the way to go to cities like Leticia, Yopal or Mitú is only by plane, that in Colombia still expensive for a popular pocket.

A big planetary problem is deforestation. The entire Amazon Rainforest has an extension of 6 million km². In that Forest is present all the South American flora and fauna and many animals and plants live only in that Forest. According with the report of the Centre for International Forestry Reasearch of 2004, between 1991 and 2000 the total area of forest lost in the Amazon rose from 415,000 to 587,000 km², it is an area twice the size of Portugal.

Amazons: Half Colombia

Being a so huge Colombian territory, places to see are many and it needs rather a great distinction. The new administration division after 1991 that gave the status to the so called National Territories to Departments, make easy to know the regions and promote their development. The problems of course are many: deforestation is one of the first danger to the rainforest due to new colonizers and human settlements, the ilegal grow of coca plants, the official programs to destroy the coca plantations using chemistries, the exploitation specially of wood, the forests are used as shelter for armed violent groups, the treating to natural peoples like nomads or indigenous territories and the illegal hunting of unique animal species.

The Colombian Amazon is distinguished also in two regions: one is the Orinoquian due to the Orinoco River at the east of Colombia and the second is the Amazon Region at the south of the country. The Orinoquian Region of Colombia is also known as Llanos Orientales (East Planes) and it has its own cultural identity shared with Venezuela. The Llanero of Colombia and Venezuela is known by his music – Joropo – and a life of cowboys distinguished by big haciendas or fincas (properties and farms). The petroleum refeneries have their place in a Region that can be compared with the Argentinian Pampa or the USA Texas in what is traditions and love for the land. The first urban population is Villavicencio that is a city just at the food of the Andes and far only 126 kilometers at the south of Bogotá. A car today would take 2 hours from the 2.560 mts-up-the-sea-level Capital of Colombia to the 467 mts-up-the-sea-level provincial capital of Villavicencio in a warm climate and the door of the extensive plain of the East of Colombia.

The extreme South is the Amazon Region which southern city of Colombia is Leticia, a provincial forest capital located in the confluence of the three South American countries of Colombia, Brazil and Peru. It is said that some streets of the city are in Peru, some in Brazil and the Plaza in Colombia. The city is the main Colombian River Port at the Amazon creek and from there is possible to sail up to Peru and down to Brazil crossing the great Brazilian Amazonic city of Manaos to get the Atlantic Ocean.

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