From Arizona to Peru, the indigenous peoples of the Americas continue to be cheated, tricked, and strong-armed out of their sacred lands by avaricious international corporations desperate for natural resources. Unfortunately, it’s a narrative that has been repeated over and over since the days of Europe’s earliest colonial endeavors, and it seems to have changed very little in our supposedly enlightened 21st century societies. But now, as then, there is no shortage of brave individuals who put themselves on the line to fight this injustice.
The latest documentary from Peruvian helmer Ernesto Cabellos Damián, Hija de la laguna (Daughter of the Lake) gives us a ground-level view of rising tensions that eventually boiled over to violence as Latin America’s most powerful mining company attempted to evict Quechua farmers from their ancestral lands in the pursuit of promising gold deposits. Yes, it sounds like something out of the 16th century, but this all actually went down over the last year.
The difference now is that Cabellos’ protagonist is a young Quechua woman named Nélida who returns to her family’s land from the city where she has been studying law, and sets out to defend the rights of her people. Not only is Nélida passionate and educated, but she speaks with the waters that surround her childhood home and considers herself a daughter of the very lake that this company seeks to destroy.
Hija de la laguna documents her struggle as she attempts to organize her community in the midst of a protracted battle with armed thugs paid by the mining companies and even local police doing their bidding. Visually, the doc is striking and gorgeously shot, capturing the breathtaking mountain landscapes of highland Peru along with the weathered and poignant faces of the region’s inhabitants.
Hopefully in Nélida’s uncommon wisdom and her sincere desire to protect the land, we can find a glimmer of hope in a story that otherwise seems to never change.
UPDATE 7/28/2017: Hija de la Laguna (Daughter of the Lake) is now streaming on Netflix.