By Alex Goff, International Field Coordinator
Rogelio Payaguaje lives in the Secoya community of San Pablo. He has three daughters and many grandchildren. Rogelio is in his mid-seventies, and like all Secoya his age he is still very active, as life in the forest requires. Every day he fishes, collects fruit, and works in his garden. He also weaves traditional hammocks — beautiful and soft, with decorative patterns of red achiote dye. He invited me over to his house one day saying, “Come to my house, I have so much papaya that the fruit is rotting on the ground. Come, we will eat papaya!” At his house Rogelio also prepared a rich juice made from the fruit of the morete palm. We ate and talked about life. He didn’t understand how people could live in cities. “There’s so much noise,” he said, “How can anyone think with all that noise? Here in Secoya territory it is peaceful: no one steals; the people are good.” He said this and smiled.
Later, Rogelio confided in me, “I always wanted a son, but I only had daughters. Still, they work hard and take good care of me. My grandson, he is like a son to me. Do you have children?” I told him that I did not. “One day you will,” he said. “You will have a son, but I hope you have more daughters. Daughters are stronger.” Rogelio led me down a path through the forest, pointing out medicinal plants and wild fruit trees. The path ended at the river. We sat alongside the river in silence for a while, watching the water flow by. “I like to sit by the river,” Rogelio told me. “There is no better place to think.”