In Latin America, the pandemic is killing indigenous storytellers

For indigenous communities in Latin America, COVID-19 is having an immeasurable impact on the bastions of traditional knowledge.

ANTONIO BOLÍVAR AS SEEN IN EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT

As the pandemic advances inexorably in Latin America, the wretched tales of loss and suffering are never-ending. And one of those tales is making the region’s indigenous communities deeply alarmed — the death of their tribal elders.

Antonio Bolívar was one of them. He was chief of the Colombian indigenous Ocaina community. Bolívar was a wise man. He was also a celebrity. He played the role of shaman “Karamakate” in the 2015 award-winning Colombian film Embrace of the Serpent. On April 30, the pandemic killed him. He was 75.

The death of indigenous elders is “tragic”, read a statement of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC). The statement said that more than 66.7% of Colombian indigenous who died from COVID-19 were over the age of 60. Those who are dying, ONIC noted, “are the elders — those who hold millennial knowledge, passed from generation to generation”.

Originally published at https://www.crikey.com.au on August 6, 2020.