Art & Culture in the Colombian Amazon and How You Can Get Involved

by | Oct 7, 2015 | Archive

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adriana Bueno, the young founder of “Fundación Hábitat Sur”  in the Colombia Amazon Rainforest. Her foundation is the recipient of two grants from The Pollination Project for her BiblioVan endeavor.  She shared with us, among many things, how arts and culture is transforming the town where she was born.  The conversation was so inspiring, that we made it into a three-part series.  – Margarita Cramer

What is life without inspiring people?
Part 1:

MC:  How did this project find you? (How did you find it?)

AB:  The BiblioVan and I found each other when I came back to my hometown after being away for a long time.  I had a deep desire to give back to Leticia, the capital city of the Colombia Amazon, and its people for all the blessings that life has given me: a good education, a successful professional career, a loving and supporting family, good friends, the chance to travel and get to know different cultures and people. I could see the Bibliovan as a way to satisfy the children’s wishes from the poorest neighborhoods, to have something better to do with their free time, to have a way to express their creativity, a place to play and to be safe from drugs, crime and domestic violence.

See more pictures of Bibliovan’s Kids Activities on Facebook.

MC:  What is your project/ what is your social change work?

AB:  The BiblioVan is a police van converted into a colourful “mobile” children’s bookstore/library on wheels, a cultural space that brings books, cinema, puppets, games, and arts and crafts to the poorest and most isolated communities of Leticia.  Leticia is a town of 41K people with approximately 32 neighborhoods, 12 of them have extreme poverty and are located around the Amazon river, bordering with Tabatinga, Brazil.
We convinced the local police to start changing their crime prevention approach towards an educational and citizen approach based on arts and culture. After listening our proposal, the Police Chief gave us the van they used to patrol neighborhoods to prevent crime.

MC:  How does it work?

AB:  The BiblioVan makes weekly visits to different indigenous communities (neighborhoods) and opens its doors to support kids’ activities and people interested in borrowing books, attend a puppet show or a workshop on arts and crafts where they can make puppets, paint, watch a movie together or just play!


“I believe in the Transformative Power of Arts and
Culture in People and Communities.”


I have seen how others become respectful of their surroundings, their natural environment and towards their fellow citizens through contact with arts and culture, particularly when this contact happens in public spaces.
This drove me to create the BiblioVan and also to start building little public libraries in recycled fridges.
We collect fridges from the street or from people who discard them, invite local or visitor artists to paint them and then install them filled with books, in different public spaces in the city, such as the main park of Leticia, the public market and the only art gallery in town. People can borrow them while they are at the park.

See more Facebook pictures of the fridges in action!

MC:  Were you scared when you started this project? What did you have to overcome within yourself to have the courage to begin?

AB:  Yes! I was very scared! There were many reasons why: I had recently moved back to the Amazon, to a tiny and very isolated town after years of living in big cities. I had quit my job coordinating one area of the National Agency to Overcome Extreme Poverty.  I had very little savings and lots of dreams and ideas I wanted to pursue!

I guess one of my biggest fears was to disappoint my family, friends, former colleagues, bosses, etc., who had a lot of expectations of me being in a high position in a public office. I was also afraid of not having enough discipline to be my own boss, to set a schedule and to commit to a work plan in order to achieve what I was dreaming.  I was also afraid I could not handle the hot and humid weather in the jungle and that it would make me sleepy and I wouldn’t be able to work at all!!

In Part 2 of 3, you will read what inspires this young woman, what breaks her heart and you will learn step–by- step how she developed the Bibliovan. You can dance to the music in a  video while watching how the van transformed.

Written by Carolyn Ashworth