Monday, 13 April 2009

Orinoco II

Continuation of Orinoco I

If you travel upstream, the first part you have to go through is the Orinoco Delta. The Delta is as large as Belgium. The Orinoco splits here in thousands of tributaries. Navigating through the Delta is like going through the largest labyrith...a labyrinth made out of jungle islands. There are permanent wetlands and freshwater swamp forests. The margins are full of mangroves. The fauna is incredibly varied, with animals coming from the Atlantic Ocean and others from the Orinoco.

Daniel Duquenal wrote several fascinating posts about the Delta here, here, here and here.

I will examine the Delta and then the rest of the Orinoco in a rather less poetic way.

The geographic Delta is located in the Delta Amacuro State. With a population of little more than 152000 inhabitants, it has a density of 4.39 people per km2. That does not seem like much but you have to take into account most of it is of very difficult access. Urbanization is hardly possible without massively destroying a very fragile agriculture.

The Delta Amacuro state is extremely poor. It has one of the few major groups of native Americans who still remain more or less as a distinct ethnic group, with their original customs, their language. They are the Waraos. Demographic reports vary a lot, they go from 20000 to 50000 people. I would probably go for something in between. You will find Waraos also in places as far as Caracas and my city, Valencia. I remember when I was living in Valencia how a couple dozen Waraos would go there, sit down in some place in the city centre and start to beg. Unlike criollo beggars, they did not know their way around and had a hard time, they were victims of thiefs and the like. They were mostly women and children andthey would not speak Spanish well (which shows how isolated they used to live). The local government would give them some food, clothes and take them back to the Delta, from where they would come back time after time. I will go back to the Warao Indians in another post.

In the following weeks I will be going into these topics:

Politics of the Delta
The Ecological Issues
The Drug Problem

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