About This Site


Three Communities, One River

In the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest, people have been living on or near the river floodplains for thousands of years and have developed a unique culture that is symbiotic with the dynamic river and its rich biodiversity of plants and animals. Over the past 300 years, hundreds of thousands of people have migrated from the jungle to the city of Iquitos to escape hardship from over-extraction of the Amazon's resources and to seek economic, education, and health opportunities. Migrants carry traditional lifestyles with them, creating unique floating and stilted settlements in the city's floodplain edges. Studies have found that their generational knowledge of floodplain agriculture, amphibious housing, and close community structures provide cultural, economic and ecosystem services to the whole city. However, this mass migration has also overextended housing, development, and services causing adversity in these settlements. The regional government proposes relocation of many of these residents to new developments in the highlands as an attempt to address these challenges, however, their unique riverine culture is under threat as well as the sensitive white sand rainforest ecosystem that new developments are replacing.

This site is based on an exhibit presented in Iquitos in August 2022, and is the result of a multi-year research project that aims to tell stories of human and environmental health, connections to nature, and strength of community in two floodplain communities and a highlands relocation community in Iquitos. We offer an interdisciplinary arts and sciences "One Health" perspective through collaboration among researchers from Peru and the United States and 136 residents across the three communities- Claverito, Bajo Belen, and Nuevo Belen. Through a survey, drawings, and a pilot community science program, residents shared their views on their physical and social community, mental well-being, connections to nature, and knowledge of plants and animals. Biologists and community members documented plants, birds, butterflies, amphibians, and reptiles to understand urban biodiversity and ecological health alongside community health.

THREE COMMUNITIES, ONE RIVER invites you to explore the stories, data, and images from our time with these communities. Together, these show us that there are multiple ways to successfully live in the jungle, some of which may be particularly beneficial to human and ecological wellbeing, and that connection to nature is essential to the health of the individual, the city, and the environment. Amazon ecosystems, river life, and traditional cultures are under threat. In order to support a thriving human population and healthy urban ecosystem, care and consideration for these connections must be taken into account as the city continues to grow.

The Team at the exhibit

With special gratitude to the Communities of Claverito, Belén {sectors 11 & 12) and Nuevo Belén.

Research Team: Blga. Alexandra Jhonston Vela, Bach. Antr. Andrea Linares Gui met, Blgo. Carlo Tapia del Aguila, Blgo. Christian Ampudia Gatty, Est. Arq. Christina Flores, Bach. Antr. Claudia Moscoso Villena, Ing. Claudia Rios, Blgo. Edwing Olortegui Ramos, Blga. Estrella Miah Velasquez Ruiz, Bach. Antr. Evita Vera Gonzales, Blgo. Francisco Javier Farroiiay Pacaya, Bach. Antr. Iris Del Aguila Yahuarcani, Bach. Antr. Jasmina Oroche Santillan, Arq. Jorge A. Alarcon, PhD. Kathleen Wolf, PhD. Leann Andrews, Blgo. Lind her Watson Villacorta Mora, Bach. Antr. Mishell Coral Ramirez, Arq. Rebecca Bachman, Adm. Roopa Sriram, Blga. Susana Cubas Poclin, PhD. Ursula Valdez, Blga. Xiomara Valdivia Zavaleta.

Community Scientists: Benito Pinedo Flores, Euclides Vargas Malafaya, Herm6genes Rengifo Siquihua, Juan Noa Tuanama, Julia Amias Grandez, Liderson Valles Torres, Micher Curinuque Murayari.

Photos: Gemina Garland-Lewis; Aerial images: Kevin Mauro Rodriguez Arce; Graphics: Christina Flores and Rebecca Bachman; Website: Clancy J. Wolf; Drawings by the residents of the communities of Claverito, Belén, and Nuevo Belén. 

Funding for this project was provided by:
EarthLab CITBM Traction PennState

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Images Copyright © Gemina Garland-Lewis 2022. All Rights Reserved.