“To Articulate Ourselves”: Trans-Indigenous Reflections on Film and Politics in Amazonia

Lucero, José Antonio. "“To Articulate Ourselves”: Trans-Indigenous Reflections on Film and Politics in Amazonia." Native American and Indigenous Studies, vol. 7 no. 2, 2020, p. 1-28. Project MUSE muse.jhu.edu/article/765046.

In 1979 German filmmaker Werner Herzog needed access to Native lands and labor in the Amazon to make Fitzcarraldo, his (in)famous film about a rubber baron who hauls a steamboat over a mountain in order to realize his dream of bringing opera to the jungle. The Awajún people burned down Herzog’s camp and forced him out of their lands. The Ashéninka people, however, agreed to work with Herzog. As Awajún authorities resisted Herzog and Ashéninka leaders found ways to work with him, Indigenous political actors drew on resources and networks provided by nongovernmental organizations, churches, the military, and the media. Through a trans-Indigenous exploration of contrasting Native experiences, one of open conflict, the other of collaboration, I ask how “imperial eyes” can be useful to local projects of resistance and resurgence. This trans-Indigenous view of two Indigenous encounters illustrates how Native peoples can creatively use the “same” opportunity in different ways. Moreover, this juxtaposition of Native experiences reveals that Herzog is best understood as a minor character in a crucial period of trans-Indigenous organizing in Abiayala in the 1970s and 1980s.