“we Need to sell our labor to live and keep our culture. But it is becoming increasingly difficult. Almost burned all the caranday, account Neli Miranda, an artisan, native of 42 years mix the yshyr, the guarani and the Spanish while cutting with a knife leaves spiky palm tree, which grows in the forest. Just go look for these plants involves a lot of effort, and tens of hazards. From your settlement it is necessary to walk more than six kilometres to more than 40 degrees of temperature between poisonous snakes, wild pigs and many, many thorns. Before modelling the leaves must be dried for three days to be able to use them. The speed with which the end of your baskets, bags, and granaries of two colors depends on the ability of each one, but each piece can take at least two days of work.

In the case of caraguatá, green shrub and thorn that grows under the trees, it is necessary to extract by hand the fibres that they will use for their works. A task already complicated, which from August was complicated even more, when the Gran Chaco, the second forest, the most extensive of South America suffered the fire most heinous of their history, sweeping through the trees and bushes that women yshyr —native inhabitants of the Pantanal, the humid zone of the Chaco, which Paraguay shares with Brazil— they use it for work. Puffs of fire ran from the south of Bolivia and Brazil to the north of Paraguay, burning millions of hectares of virgin forest to its passage through the three countries. The flames devoured palm trees, lapachos and carob and made to flee to anteaters giants, jaguars, armadillos, and all kinds of deer. Many failed to escape and now their remains are scattered among the ashes in the parched soil.

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The flames devour hundreds of thousands of acres in Bolivia and Paraguay photo gallery women yshyr guard the tradition in the paraguayan Chaco

For the people yshyr, the fire further complicated his life, already hard, in this place, isolated from the world by the total absence of asphalt and infrastructure state, which lives between droughts and ensuing floods. Where water is scarce, fruits and vegetables are something exotic and desorbitadamente expensive, electricity is cut every day and the phone signal goes and comes when it wants to. It is only possible to reach here in a small airplane, impossible for the native population, after three days of travel in a boat or on a bus that can take up to 20 hours to get from Asunción, the paraguayan capital, located nearly 1,000 kilometres to the south, by dirt roads, dusty or thick mud, depending on the season.

The heat and smoke from forest fires forced hundreds of children and elderly yshyr to flee their homes in Port-Target to other communities. 10 kilometres from the fire, the air became stifling inside and outside of the housing. The ash covered the sky for at least a month and came without brake in the houses of wood and brick. They could not even cook. Now that the rain reduced the fire and the temperature, these native communities seeking to return to their usual activities: fishing, hunting, honey gathering and craft. But since nothing is the same. There are fewer fish because the water is becoming more contaminated, there are many fewer wild animals, almost there are no bees, and scarce carandays and shrubs caraguatá that the artists of this ancient people have always used for their crafts. Art next to the fishing of the surubí and pacú is the main economic livelihood of the community where there are no jobs for anyone.

Bety Martinez, 64 years of age, he learned to make the traditional crafts of his village at the age of 13. Sometimes fishing, sometimes the earth works. But above all it is his works and is released to the road to sell them. Reaches the nearby town of Bahia Negra, where they live, the paraguayans will not mix with the natives. Sometimes you get to sell something and other times it returns with empty hands. In other times, dating back to the river until getting to Puerto Mortinho, in Brazil, where the few tourists that disembark pay a lot better than the paraguayans. “Send my work to Asunción it’s prohibitively expensive and go up to and beyond the impossible”, explains, while displaying their fine finishes. His fingers were cracked and calloused from using the hoe and the fishing net is moving fast through the dry leaves that quickly becomes circular figures perfectly proportionate.

The fight for the earth

“For the paraguayan State, the natives do not exist. They are not interested to know or if we are alive. They forget that our grandparents are saved from the bolivian people,” says this woman of long white hair and easy smile. Refers to the Chaco War (1932-1935), the largest armed conflict american of the TWENTIETH century, when the Armies of paraguay and bolivia fought to the death over this vast frontier territory. The paraguayans defeated thanks to the guidance of the native yshyr, which were handled with ease by rivers and forests, emboscando to the disoriented bolivian soldiers.

however, when the war ended, the Government and some landowners were kicked out of their ancestral territory. They had to fight in court for decades to regain a tiny part of their land, where now live about 2,000 people. A battle that continues today, as new foreign companies occupy part of their titled lands with total impunity.

Another artist yshyr, Lidia Romero, 51, walks between palm trees with the trunks of burned by the fire and remembers that his mother asked him to never stop doing crafts. He taught that the culture of their ancestors depends on who is still transmitted from mothers and grandmothers to daughters and granddaughters. Despite his difficult situation, this week are quite happy, as it starts in the community a project of an NGO, paraguayan called Eco Club Pantanal which has secured resources for the craft are charged to teach the younger. And so preserve this ancient tradition and fully linked to the care of the forest.

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