Peru: Amazonian Indigenous Life Threatened By Petroleum

This post is part of our special coverage Indigenous Rights and Forest Focus: Amazon.

An hour long documentary shows the traditional lives of indigenous people in the Amazon, and how their subsistence lifestyle is threatened by petroleum exploitation and monoculture of renewable energy sources like palm oil.

In Amazonia, masato o petroleo (Amazon, masato or oil) [es] we get a glimpse of the lives that Jairo, his wife Irma and their four children lead. Waking up early to drink masato, a traditional yuca drink that is their lifeline even when other food is scarce they set out to do their daily work: fishing, tending their small farm and hunting.

Screenshot from the film 'Amazonia, masato o petroleo' (Amazon, Masato Or Oil').

Screenshot from the film 'Amazonia, masato o petroleo' (Amazon, Masato Or Oil').

Threat of development

The river and the jungle are their means of survival and now what the government calls “development” is threatening their lives.  The forest is being cut down to build roads, mountains razed to get gravel to pave such roads that only serve to lead to the petroleum towers and the “bio-diesel” plantations.

The indigenous communities are then left to fend for themselves as the creeks full of fish dry up and as oil and petroleum leech out from the pumps and into the rivers, making watering their crops, cooking food, drinking and eating fish out of the question.

El petróleo, por mucho que debería parecer signo de riqueza, lo es de desestructuración social y cultural, de contaminación, de enfermedad y de muerte.
Y si hablamos de petróleo, también hablamos de biodiesel y de los millares y miles de hectáreas que se pretenden incorporar al cultivo de palma aceitera por producir el mal nombrado combustible renovable.
Amazonia, masato o petróleoquiere mostrar el menosprecio de los poderes políticos y económicos hacia la selva y sus pobladores, porque practican una economía de subsistencia y no son productivos. Quiere denunciar la política del gobierno contra los indígenas y campesinos de la selva, considerados ciudadanos de segunda categoría, que son invadidos, engañados y desplazados de sus comunidades por entregar los recursos a las grandes empresas nacionales y transnacionales con la intención principal de dar satisfacción al Tratado de Libre Comercio en los Estados Unidos de América.

Petroleum, as much as it should look as a sign of wealth, is rather a sign of social and cultural destructuring, contamination, sickness and death. And if we speak about petroleum, lets also discuss bio-diesel and the thousands and thousands of acres that are being destined to incorporate the growing of palm oil to produce the misnamed renewable fuel.

Amazonia, masato or petroleum” wants to show how the political and economical powers look down on the jungle and its inhabitants, because they practice a subsistence economy and aren't productive. It wishes to denounce the governments politics against the indigenous people and farmers of the jungle, considered second class citizens who are invaded, deceived and displaced from their communities in order to hand over the resources to the great national companies and multinationals with the main intention of satisfying the Free Trade Agreement with the United States of America.

The documentary also shows specialists, scientists and community leaders explaining the ways in which the indigenous community has tried to make their rights be known and respected, and also the history of health problems in the indigenous communities due to petroleum exploitation in the past.

The film was produced by the Catalan organisation Lliga dels drets dels pobles and more information about the film can be found on their movie site, whilst information about indigenous rights is available on their site “Indigenous, When the Land Walks”

This post is part of our special coverage Indigenous Rights and Forest Focus: Amazon.

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Stay up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details. Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency

No thanks, show me the site