Approaching COVID-19 in the Upper Amazon, by Ted Macdonald (5-2-20)

Ted MacDonald covid-19Approaching COVID-19 in the Upper Amazon

Adding Indigenous Experience and Caution

By Ted Macdonald, ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America, April 2020

As Covid-19 works its deadly way into South America, many Amazonian indigenous leaders, anthropologists and concerned others are worried. They are protesting and prohibiting the possible arrival of Evangelical New Tribes Missionaries in Brazil and hoping to halt miners invading Yanomami lands. They are demanding appropriate and protective health care.  As much of the world hunkers down at home to isolate themselves, Amazonian groups certainly deserve the same protection, they say.  What is particularly impressive and widespread is the indigenous desire and willingness to do so….on their own. For most, normal life and labor is not sedentary, independent or indoors.  But their current response is not a major change. Past epidemic experiences and reactions were and remain wise strong influences.

Many indigenous groups are closing off their communities and tell each other to stay indoors, according to information exchange with individuals in the Ecuadorian Amazon. They are fully aware of the high national incidence (over 23,000) and increasing mortality in the large port city of Guayaquil. But, as reviewed here, their own earlier epidemic and pandemic history provided many memories and stronger influence.