Almost every inhabitant of the Colombian Amazon has an interesting story to tell about their home, which is one of the most amazing places in the world. The Amazon provides survival experiences, exotic food, extreme recreation, and a unique livelihood to all those who have lived there. However, the character and future of many has also been shaped by a context of poverty, harsh violence, restricted opportunities, geographical disparities and gender inequity. Almost everyone who has loved and lived under the magic of the Amazon has also lost loved ones. Many have died there, either by direct armed conflict or by the weakness of the State regarding law enforcement and insufficient ability of services to meet basic needs.
I was raised in one of the most wonderful places in the Amazon region of Colombia, the Putumayo basin. When I was a teenager, my parents bought a plot of land near to an indigenous protected area in Mocoa. There, I met Arcadio, a shy boy from the Inga ethnic group. We were good friends and we shared many experiences. Arcadio, his siblings, and I played with wild animals, slid down muddy roads and climbed up to the tree house in the towering rainforest canopy. We ate together and learned to live together. Our lives were different but shared a similar reality: the Amazon had defined who we were. We never saw each other again. It was not until 2005, twelve years later, that I finally heard of him. Arcadio had been killed. His assassination has not been solved but it is presumably related to the fact that he, as his community leader, denounced the invasion of the Inga territory and the plunder of its natural resources. His family lost a pillar for preserving life, in the words of the indigenous people, and a hope for promotion of human sustainable development, in the words of the non-indigenous people. As for me, I lost the protagonist of one of my best memories. In the Amazon rainforest, sustaining the current and future life is a difficult task.
I have witnessed the loss of the natural wealth of the Amazon and the struggle of a society to find a better future in the midst of difficulties. This environmental and social context has always encouraged me to better myself, the members of my family, and the rest of the society that dwells in there. Obtaining my undergraduate degree in Microbiology and my master’s degree in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics allowed me to work for nearly eight years in public goals oriented to sustainability in the Amazon Region. In my professional experience I noticed that we are losing the fight against environmental degradation, despite the efforts of Colombian institutions inspired by the Rio de Janeiro Convention. My experiences in life, along with my academic and professional background, have enlightened my pathway to earn a PhD degree and become a pioneer for women in the Colombian Amazon region to reach a doctoral degree.
I studied Microbiology not only because of my great interest in...