Testimonial of Miguel Yumbo, of Rumipamba
My name is Miguel Yumbo and I’m from the Quichua indigenous nation. I have three sons, the middle one is Jairo. He was born with a deformed hand.
When I came to the Amazon with my family in 1982 the Via Auca [the dirt highway] was already here, and so was [Texaco Auca Sur] oil well #1, about two miles from here. Two open waste pits were also near the house.
I’m a farmer and I grow coffee and cacao. We get our drinking water from a stream about 100 yards from the house, next to the highway and we bathe there too. We’ve seen crude in the water. During the winter rains, the crude disappears, but in summer, it stays there. We push the crude aside, and gather up the clean water underneath to drink.
I couldn’t be at the hospital in Coca when Jairo was born because I was working. When he was 8 days old, I went back to the hospital and talked to the doctors. They told me that the petroleum caused his hand to be like that, because we had always drank water from an oil-filled stream, and because Texaco used to pass by our house spraying crude on the dirt highway.
Until three years ago, they were still spraying the roads with oil. We’d walk on that, the kids barefoot, and it would make us sick.
I took Jairo to the oil company’s medical clinic, and they said that his hand had nothing to do with the oil, that it was a result of a medicine we took to stop having children. We never took any medicine, but I preferred not to say anything; I just left. The oil company people always became angry if we said anything or complained.
At school, the kids tease Jairo and laugh at him. Sometimes he wears a long-sleeved shirt to cover his hand.
The doctors told me to bring Jairo back to the hospital when he was 6, but I didn’t because I’ve never had enough money. I’m thinking of taking him to the hospital in a few years for an operation, when I have a job and can save money.