The Workshop Bio Construction and Community in the Colombian Amazon will take place in Leticia, the capital city of the Amazon department. During ten days, participants will explore the use of local materials such as wood, palm tree leaves, tree bark, natural fibers and pigments, commonly used both in architecture and in other cultural expressions such as traditional arts and handcrafts. They will also be able to approach some of the social and infrastructure issues faced by a city in the middle of the jungle.
Leticia is a town of approximately 40.000 inhabitants, located in the southernmost tip of Colombia, surrounded by the great Amazon rainforest, facing the Amazon River and bordering the towns of Tabatinga (Brazil) and Santa Rosa (Peru). Since it’s foundation in 1867, the city has developed as the main urban center of the Amazon department.
Although isolated from the main trading routes, it is the most important commercial center in the tri-border area between Brazil, Peru and Colombia. This makes it a magnet for all people of the region; of which the vast majority are indigenous from different ethnic groups representing more than 70% of the population, who come to Leticia in search of better employment opportunities, education, health care and other public and social services.
Given this dynamic and the current infrastructure of the city, the capacity of local governments to meet the needs of the fast growing urban population is inadequate and insufficient. The immigrant population finds that factors such as housing shortage and policies of the Land Management Plans limiting urban expansion, force them to join the thousands of people who live in informal settlements on the margins of the city. These are mainly located in zones that are at risk, such as floodable areas of the banks of the Amazon River, streams or on the border with Tabatinga where the two cities concatenate into a no-man’s-land.
On the other hand, Leticia is located in the middle of one of the most bio-diverse ecosystems on the planet, making it the second most popular destination for tourists in Colombia and the first for researchers from different fields interested in the biological and cultural characteristics of this region.
The constant tension between the inevitable urban growth of Leticia and the need of preserving the Amazon rainforest and its immense biodiversity and cultural richness, make it even more relevant and urgent to explore different ways of inhabiting this territory, building sustainable human settlements, cultivating the land in order to improve self-sufficiency and achieving prosperity for its people while keeping a low impact in the natural balance.
What does Leticia offer?
1) A wide variety of local expertise in the use of different tropical woods and palm tree leaves for construction.
2) An array of artists, craftsmen and architects that have tremendous knowledge and experience using local materials and techniques in architecture.
3) A selection of well established initiatives that combine bio construction, eco-tourism and conservation.
4) Challenging conditions as the urban growth of the city imposes an urgent need of rethinking the establishment and development of human settlements and finding ways of limiting their impact in the environment.
5) An immense cultural diversity, with more than 15 different indigenous groups living in the city and its surrounding area.
6) A strategic location as main port over the Amazon River providing access to natural reserves and indigenous villages located all along the river’s shore.
7) A variety of local fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and fish prepared in traditional recipes for flavors that are unique to this region of the country.
Students will have the opportunity to be part of the creation of HABITAT SUR Natural Reserve, a family-owned reserve that aims to be a demonstration site for sustainable living, low environmental impact productive activities, research and conservation of the rainforest and a hub for cultural exchange and exploration.
Interesting things to do and places to visit
- Indigenous communities along the road Leticia-Tarapacá (San Sebastián de Los Lagos, Km. 6, Km. 11, Km 18)
- Yahuarcaca Lakes – Good spot for kayaking
- Parque Santander – Be amazed by the thousands of parrots flying every afternoon at 5:30 p.m. to the main park of Leticia. (Tip: Climb to the tower of the Church for a great view!)
- Library of the Bank of the Republic and Ethnographic Museum
- Parque Ecológico Mundo Amazónico http://www.amazoniapark.blogspot.com
- Natural reserves:
- Omagua http://www.turismoenamazonas.co/86-receptivos/144-reserva-natural-omagua
- Tanimboca and La Arenosa http://www.tanimboca.org
- Om Shanty - http://www.omshanty.com
On the river:
- Puerto Nariño – Second municipality of the Amazon Department and the first to be certified as eco-tourist destination for its no-motor vehicle policy and efforts to be an ecological community http://www.puertonarino-amazonas.gov.co/turismo.shtml
- Tarapoto Lakes – Great place to go for a dip and see the pink dolphins.
- Indigenous communities along the Amazon River:
- San Martín
- Natural reserves:
- Hire a bike and cross the border to Tabatinga (Brazil), grab a beer or caipirinha while watching the sunset in La Comara – expect a crazy party if you visit on a Sunday!
- For a day-trip: Take a boat to Santa Rosa (Perú) for a typical Peruvian ceviche or go to Benjamin Constant, a Brazilian island on the Amazon River.