Editor's note: This project discusses themes of suicide and self-harm that may be upsetting to some people.
The roads of Arara, an indigenous hamlet in the south of the Amazon Trapezoid, are narrow and dusty. They blend into the dense jungle that surrounds the village and, at times, might give the impression that those who walk them are entering the mouth of a wolf. Jhornay Iván Angarita, 18 years old, left his house one Saturday night. At dawn, a neighbor found him hanging from a rope by his neck as he went to get his fishing net. "I peeked out in my underwear and when I arrived his body was on the ground," recalls Ivan, his father. "They had already cut the rope." It was June 6, Ivan's birthday.
On another morning, this one in August, Pompilio Angarita found his 16-year-old daughter, Sandia, suspended from a branch of a mango tree. The day before, the teenager had argued with her mother over a forbidden love affair with a boy from her own clan.
That same weekend, Alfredo Ramos, 45, drank cachaça without rest until Sunday afternoon, when he returned home. He argued with Gladys Beltrán, his wife. "He started looking at the ceiling and talking to himself," she says. "Then he went to the bathroom -— a stall outside the house — and he was there for a long time." Flor, his only daughter, peeked through a small hole and saw him with his mouth open, purple, hanging from his belt.
Arara is a population of just over a thousand people and 200 families living on the banks of the Amazon River. They live in rustic wooden houses on hills crossed by reeds, surrounded by an endless green forest. In the heart of the hamlet there is a cement soccer field and a church where evangelical masses are held in the afternoons.
Never before had there been such a string of tragic deaths, all by hanging. That made shamans from Arara and Nazaret, a neighboring township, meet to find a solution to the tragedy. In the last 30 years, the authorities of this town have counted at least 30 suicides.
As a nonprofit journalism organization, we depend on your support to fund coverage of Indigenous issues and communities. Donate any amount today to become a Pulitzer Center Champion and receive exclusive benefits!