OF PUERTO SANTA ANA
Puerto Santa Ana is a multiethnic indigenous community with members of the Achuar, Kichwa, Shuar, and Zapara ethnicities, but is predominantly Kichwa. The community was founded in 1966 when the first road was opened up through the area. It has its own elementary school (grades 1-6) with two teachers and one computer. Students who wish to go to middle school and high school must make the 45 minute commute to Madre Tierra, a nearby town.
Santa Ana is located next to the Pastaza River, approximately 20 km. from the biggest and most important city in the province, Puyo. There is a bus that runs between Puyo and Santa Ana daily. On a clear day, Santa Ana has a view of the snowcapped mountains and volcanoes surrounding the area.
Homes are generally built out of wood and left open to the air because the climate is very pleasant all year round. Practically every family in Santa Ana has a chakra, a plot of land in the middle of the rain forest where they clear out the underbrush and plant dozens of different varieties of fruits and vegetables in an intermixed fashion. They do not use slash and burn agriculture, and while some families rotate sites others are able to use the same one for more than ten years. The base of their diet are the yucca and many varieties of bananas they harvest from these chakras, supplemented by eggs from chickens they raise, fish from the rivers, and a great variety of other fruits and vegetables – papaya, sweet corn, pineapple, potatoes, camote, papachino, onion, oranges, lemons.
The women are the ones who mainly handle the family chakras, with occasional help from the men, while the men focus on hunting, fishing, and working on the house. The chakras are a very effective means of food production and food rarely runs short in Santa Ana. However it is much more difficult for families to earn the cash they need to buy clothing, send their children to schools, and pay for health care.
That is why the Art for Water project pays the women a fair price for their handicrafts before using any profit to fund the water supply. This extra source of income makes all the difference for women struggling to provide for the basic needs of their families.