Testimonial of Modesta Briones and her husband, Segundo Salinas, of Parahuaco
Modesta Briones: It started with a little sore on my toe. To wash clothes, I had to walk to the river further away which is contaminated, but it’s cleaner than the river near my house, which is full of crude. The sore grew, my toe swelled up and the flesh started to rot. It didn’t hurt, but I couldn’t stand its bad odor. I had a fever, and chills.
Segundo Salinas: We went to the doctors here, and they said it was cancerous, and I had to take her to Quito. In Quito they said they’d have to amputate her leg, or the cancer would spread throughout her body and she could die.
Modesta: When the doctors told me they were going to cut off my leg, I was so sick and I thought I was going to die, so I didn’t care. That was in 2003. So they amputated it, and the doctor said that I should return for a checkup, but I haven’t returned because I don’t have the money.
I’m having a hard time getting used to living without my foot. I can’t walk with the crutches. Now, I no longer leave the house, I don’t feel able to. Since the operation, I’ve only left my house once to request an identification card. After losing my leg, I regret moving to the Amazon, but what can one do?
Segundo: We’re from Santo Domingo and we’ve lived here some 30 years. We came here looking for a better future, because land was selling here at a good price, and we thought we could get jobs with the oil companies. But they only hired better-educated people, people who knew how to work with oil.
Texaco was already here, and drilled oil wells Parahuaco #2, 3, 5, 7, and 8. In those times the oil companies didn’t respect any laws, they were abusive. They didn’t respect you. They said, “This is state land, we’ve made a deal with the state, it has nothing to do with you, get out.” They said “We’re going to dig here” and they did. If you had planted there, they brought in machines and crushed your crops.
Here at Parahuaco Dos [oil well #2], there are three toxic waste pits, about 70, 100 and 150 yards from my house. There are also several flares where the company burns off gas. The smoke rises up to the clouds, and when it rains, it’s often black rain with a rusty smell. This falls back to earth, contaminating the land, the water, contaminating everything.
Modesta was interviewed in 2004. She died of cancer in 2008.