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Aguasal, El Chocó, Colombia

Steve Cagan | Colombia

Community of Aguasal, Reserva Indígena Alto Andágueda, El Chocó, Colombia

Aguasal is the central village in the Embera-Katió indigenous reservation of Alto Andágueda, in the department of El Chocó on the Pacific coast on Colombia. The area is isolated, in the foothills of the Andes—the Embera were pushed into this area from their lowland riverbank communities by the Spanish centuries ago. To get there from Quibdó, the departmental capital, requires a four-hour car ride and then six hours or more walking up rough mountain tracks.

In 2012, combats between the armed forces of Colombia and guerrillas near villages in the reservation, and especially aerial bombardments by the government, forced villagers to flee to Agausal. The resulting overpopulation of the village produced a humanitarian crisis because of inadequate food and water and poor sanitary conditions.

Among the groups trying to respond to the crisis were the Catholic Diocese of Quibdó (with whom I traveled), UNICEF, Lutheran World Service, and one of the important private health services, one that serves a number of Embera communities in the department.


These images represent a small selection of the many photographs I donated to the Indigenous Pastoral Center of the Diocese to support their efforts on behalf of the people in those communities.


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