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The Story of the Indigenous Ishír People of Paraguay

The Story of the Indigenous Ishír People of Paraguay

February 2018 · 2 min read · Alto Paraguay

When I was travelling in Paraguay, I went on a 4-day journey with a local freight and passenger boat travelling up the Rio Paraguay. On the boat, I met a documentary filmer who had been invited by an indigenous community living close to Bahia Negra, the final stop of the boat, to witness and film a traditional indigenous ceremony. Members of the tribe invited me to stay with them as well and this is how I got to spend 5 days in this remote indigenous community.


75mm, f5.6, 1/125; Click on image to enlarge

In the Ishír community, I met a couple of lawyers from Asunción, the capital of Paraguay. They were part of the NGO "TierraViva" supporting the Paraguayan indigenous communities in their fight for their land. What happened is, that during the past decades, the Paraguayan government has sold "state-owned land" to private investors ignoring that this land is and has been inhabited by indigenous people for thousands of years. This now results in many conflicts, since the new landowners who have legally purchased the land want to push out the indigenous population, while they want to get the legal ownership of their land. The Paraguayan government refuses to buy the land back from the private land-owners and in many cases, they also refuse to sell it.
With the support of the NGO activists I met, some of the indigenous communities of Paraguay were able to win lawsuits against the Paraguayan government at the Inter-American court of human rights, but the fight is not over yet as for each community new lawsuits have to be fought.


135mm, f5.6, 1/160; Click on image to enlarge

The ceremony where I captured this photos had previously been closed to the public (well, there is no "public" in this remote place!), but the tribe decided to invite government representatives and journalists to witness their active culture and heritage. In their faces, you can read their story: The hope they put into this lawsuit and their desperation over their current situation.

110mm, f6.3, 1/200; Click on image to enlarge

Camera Gear

The camera I used to capture this photo is a Sony A37 (APS-C) with a Sony DT 18-135mm F3,5–5,6 SAM lens.

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