Celestino Piaguaje, the Forest Philosopher

Celestino Piaguaje

Photo: Alex Goff

Celestino Piaguaje is a special figure among the Secoya. His life mission has been to bridge Secoya tradition with modern Western thought, to integrate Secoya spiritual belief with the teachings of the Bible. Taught by North American missionaries, he was the first Secoya to read and write fluently in Spanish. Education is a passion for Celestino. He became one of the first Secoya professors and led the process for the creation of a bilingual education for the nationality. He opened several schools throughout Secoya territory and helped found the communities of San Pablo de Katetsiaya and Siecoya Remolino. Celestino has published numerous books including Towards a Bicultural Secoya Education, Ecorasa: A Secoya Autobiography, Moments of Secoya Happiness, and many others. He is truly a forest philosopher: a great historian and thinker. Visits to Celestino’s unique octagon-shaped home often turn in to all-day discussions of Secoya history, mythology, threats to their ancestral territory, and what the future may hold for his people. It is impossible to leave Celestino’s home without some new insight into Secoya life. These days, Celestino spends his mornings working in the garden with his wife. Afternoons he spends writing. Here he is pictured in tunic and crown on his balcony adorned with painted Secoya spears, gazing out at the rainforest where his people have always lived.