Big Picture: The boy in the Amazonian longhouse

Journalist Laura Sofía Mejía journeyed to the most remote regions of the Colombian Amazon to document the impact of illegal gold mining in the rainforest, and the environmental damage caused by mercury in rivers upon which indigenous tribes depend. The audiovisual project Una Parte por Millón has been documenting the community Puerto Remanso de los Miraña Bora since 2014 and how the presence of gold miners along the Caquetá River is changing the social practices of traditional populations. While Brazil occupies roughly 60% of the Amazon rainforest Colombia and Peru make up 10% and 13% respectively. The rest is shared between Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela.

While illegal gold miners have exploited the Amazon Basin for centuries, indiscriminate deforestation to clear land for illicit crop cultivation is an ongoing threat to the indigenous groups Murui, Inga, Embera and Pijao who inhabit the Caquetá department, to name just a few. Most of the artisanal gold mining in the Amazon is extracted mainly from alluvial deposits along rivers, waterways and terrestrial soils.

Standing in the village longhouse, Andrés Miraña waits for the elders of his community to hold a meeting on the ecological malpractices that are a affecting their crops and contaminating their rivers. A moment with the young boy in the maloka provided Laura Sofía with a poignant image of the challenges facing future generations who inhabit the world’s most endangered ecosystem.