Ruben Diaz: Transgressing Oblivion in the Amazon

by | Jul 8, 2021 | Heartivist Of The Week

Deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon, an ancient culture is struggling to survive. The Sapara people are one of many groups fighting to preserve their roots, and their heritage is at risk of vanishing completely. Rubén Díaz, a Quito-based artist, is not willing to sit back and watch the deep knowledge of the Sapara people fade out.

For more than two years, Díaz has spent time in the jungle studying the Sapara language and legends, and building relationships with the people. Only four elders can still speak the native language, which is essential in communicating ancient beliefs and traditions. To preserve the culture, Díaz is working to create a “dynamic dictionary” of the Sapara language with black and white images that can be used in schools to educate the next generations about their roots, and encourage them to be proud of where they came from. He is currently in the final stages of creating this valuable resource.

Díaz is not the first researcher to study the Sapara culture and people, but he’s the first to truly make an effort to understand their way of life and follow through on creating change.

“I try to relate to the community by focusing on the problems they really have,” Díaz said on his approach. “People from the outside think ‘they don’t have shoes, I’m going to bring them shoes,’ but their culture doesn’t have shoes. Their culture is to be free, and they are cool being like that. So why would I give something they might not need?”

This project is the first of many that Díaz hopes to carry out. Experts predict that a language dies every two weeks, and Díaz said that right now, six to seven languages are at a strong risk of fading into oblivion. His goal is to stop that process.

“Being an artist is a privilege because I’m able to create while other people have to work a lot,” Díaz said. “So in order to compensate for this privilege, I want to help people through my art or my thinking, or my creative side. In this way, I can give something back to society.”

Díaz prompts a necessary reminder that when land is exploited and cultures are pushed to the side or misunderstood, humankind loses precious information about its roots that can never
be recovered.

“I think as human beings, we should try to be more reflective on the processes we are carrying out,” Díaz said. “Especially if they endanger nature and indigenous people, because they are really deep, wise people that can teach us a lot.”


Academic professionals Carla Forte Maiolino Molento and Rodrigo Morais-da-Silva founded Cell Ag Brazil at the end of 2023 with support received from The Pollination Project. The objective of the newly created association is to reflect, contribute, and promote the development of cellular agriculture in Brazil through proactive promotion and unifying actions among different audiences interested in the development, production, and commercialization of food through cell cultivation processes. 
With a seed grant, they founded the organization and designed a logo that represents their mission. They are now inviting people and organizations to participate in the association so that it gains greater relevance. 
Their members will be distributed across three chambers: 1) academia, 2) private sector, and 3) third sector and civil society. With this, they aim for diverse representation and to create a positive movement to act in different areas to promote and accelerate alternative proteins in Brazil and Latin America.
Billions of animals involved in food production in Brazil will be impacted in the medium to long term from this work. Data from IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) indicates that approximately 6.1 billion chickens, 56.5 million pigs, and 30 million cattle were slaughtered in Brazil in 2022. 
With this association, Carla and Rodrigo may help reduce the number of non-human individuals involved in food production as they help to speed up the replacement process with alternative proteins.
In this World Day of Social Justice we celebrate the transformative impact of The Pollination Project and our dedication to seeding the essential change our world needs. Since its inception, The Pollination Project has been at the forefront of empowering grassroots initiatives, providing the crucial support needed for small-scale projects to blossom into powerful agents of social change.

Our unique model of micro-granting has enabled a diverse array of projects across the globe, touching upon various facets of social justice including environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation, gender equality, and human rights. From providing clean water solutions in remote villages to empowering women through education and entrepreneurship, we always believed in the power of individual action to create a collective impact.

Each project funded is a testament to our faith in the inherent goodness and potential of every person to contribute meaningfully to the betterment of society. These initiatives not only address immediate community needs but also foster a culture of empathy, equity, and inclusiveness - essential pillars for achieving true social justice.

On this World Day of Social Justice, let's draw inspiration from the myriad projects The Pollination Project has nurtured. Their work reminds us that each small seed of kindness and action can indeed grow into a mighty force for good, paving the way for a more just and compassionate world.