Directly impacted families:
The Abya Guarani community lives in Yriapu, at the border of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. They are protectors of the famous Iguazu Falls, sacred to them and yet threatened by mass tourism. They have had to fight to preserve their way of life threatened by the large number of tourists who came to the area, and embraced a new vision of tourism that is true to their community and its beliefs. By promoting Indigenous tourism practices, this program allows visitors to have an experience that honors the land, the Indigenous people who live there, and their age-old traditions. Travelers benefit by getting to know the community, as well as its traditions, beliefs, and food. They immerse themselves in the local culture and learn about the spiritual significance of Iguazu Falls to the community who lives there.
Involvement of V Social
VSocial has been working with this community since January 2019. The foundation helped create the first Indigenous tourism school, led by the Abya Guarani. It may be the only school in the region that centers ancestral culture as the basis of all its teachings. We have also supported additional training and coordinated with different agencies to bring more travelers to the area.
Directly impacted families:
Three hundred families live in Yriapu, and they have benefited as an entire community through the support of foundations like VSocial. Not only have they recovered parts of their ancestral lands, but the creation of the Indigenous tourism school has made them leaders in the region, and their tourism efforts and products have gained respect and attention from other area organizations. Local artisans and young people have economic opportunities, and training through workshops has allowed the Abya Guarani to grow and continue to improve their skills. This impact extends to the surrounding communities, who might work in the school or get involved in the producing handicrafts. Perhaps most significantly, there is now recognition of the original inhabitants of this territory and the importance of Indigenous knowledge.
Viviana has dedicated her life to two passions: education and literature. A few years ago, she started working at the Abya Guaraní intercultural center in Iguazu, in the province of Misiones in Argentina. Since she started working there, she says she has not taught in the same way as she did before. Understanding diversity opened her up to new ideas of education in the best possible way.
Vivian is not Indigenous. She has white skin and light eyes. Yet her work and engagement with the Indigenous community has shown her that education needs to reach beyond the classroom. The knowledge she has gained has allowed her to “unlearn” some of the Western practices she brought to the classroom. She has shifted the paradigm that the teacher is one who knows “everything” and appreciated the importance of humility when sharing knowledge. She says this has been a turning point in her life.
Sharing with Indigenous communities has forced her to look inward and acknowledge the power of diversity. She does not visit communities with the eye of an anthropologist, looking in from the outside. On the contrary, Viviana has been able to develop methods that link Indigenous knowledge to community tourism practices. In turn, visitors learn more about the community’s worldview, while the local people are able to generate income and fight off poverty and the neglect of national authorities.
Viviana has been able to assist the community by managing projects requiring international cooperation projects, such as the VSocial Foundation. Together, they support processes that promote the autonomy of Indigenous communities and recognize their knowledge. They want visitors to Iguazu Falls to see not only the natural wonder, but the community who lives there and holds the territory sacred. The ultimate goal—for VSocial, Vivian, and the community—is for the local community to become the manager of what happens on their land, and that the benefits that come from people visiting a site of natural beauty end up with the people who live there.