The Search for the Lost City

"Strange symbols attract strange seekers." That was my conclusion as a child after taking many foreigners to visit the petroglyphs in the hills of Amambay. They all came in pursuit of clues to prove their own theories, driven by the desire to understand and explore the world. 

I think often about those earlier trips to the rock art sites, about following with my fingers the contours of the symbols left in the rock wall, hoping that maybe in that way I could unlock their secrets. I remember listening attentively to my father and the rest of the grownups speak, as they discussed the theories of the meaning behind the strange symbols. 

A campesino was sure that they were clues left to indicate where the treasure of Mariscal was buried. The treasure would vary from clay urns full of gold coins, to a buried golden piano. 

Paraguayan treasure hunters damage to the environment in search of the hidden gold. 

Paraguayan treasure hunters damage to the environment in search of the hidden gold. 

A man from the capital, who had trouble hiking,  insisted that they were made by intra-terrestrials. I never heard of them, but I assumed it was because I was only a kid,  and later I found that that they were like aliens, but instead of living in other planets they lived inside the earth. 

This is a mock up of one of the giant boulders we explored in search of petroglyphs that people believed were part of the intra-terrestrials conspiracy. 

This is a mock up of one of the giant boulders we explored in search of petroglyphs that people believed were part of the intra-terrestrials conspiracy. 

An old Pai Tavytera, dressed in hand me down army olive drab, stated that the symbols were left by their forefathers, but sadly the Paraguayans dismissed what he had to say.

As a child I already knew that they were not made by aliens, or even clues to the gold left during the war,  you could tell it was human made and they were messages. As I traced my fingers along the symbols I wondered, Only if there was a way to unlock the message, only if there was a way to understand what the symbols meant. 

The petroglyph that we refer to as "The Solar Map"

The petroglyph that we refer to as "The Solar Map"

This desire to know the unknown is an universal human feeling, as we all try to make sense of the world, but sometimes that desire can take hold of a person and drive them in pursuits that put one's life in danger, or have fatal consequences. 

Such is the case of British explorer Percy Fawcett, who explored the area of Mato Grosso, the Brazilian state adjacent to the Amambay Hills in search of a lost city. Fawcett followed clues left in petroglyphs in his search of his legendary lost civilization he called Z. 

I learned about Fawcett's journey on the book "The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon" by David Grann. Its interesting to see the search of a hidden lost city in the area whered I used to live in, and see the role the petroglyphs that we seek to protect and document in our movie have played in the exploration of the Amazon.

Fawcett's courage is admirable, specially to continue his exploration, while sacrificing so much of himself and his family, in pursuit of his lost city. Fawcett not only had to battle the deadly elements of the jungle, but many opposition and naysayers back home. 

Jackson on the far right in his lost city. 

Jackson on the far right in his lost city. 

This desire to seek a hidden lost city has bitten many people across time, and one of them is my own brother, Jackson Weaver, who spent many years scouring the hills of Amambay in some pretty gnarly adventures,  such as getting chased by angry indians when he was trespassing on a sacred site, to having to infiltrate caves full of bats, and carry a huge stone that contained the petroglyph that we call the solar map on his back to the protected Cerro Cora National Park, before it was taken by robbers or vandals. 

 Jackson has fought many naysayers himself, similar to those who Fawcett had to face,  and had to overcome many roadblocks in his exploration of the Amambay hills.

After many years searching, Jackson found what he believed to be a lost city in 2013. He received a lot of press attention in the Paraguayan newspaper and sites around the world.

I don't know what he has found in the jungle, if is a natural or human made structures,  as I have not visited the site myself, since it requires a police escort as the site is one of the most dangerous area in Amambay, because of local drug trade and local militias.

Perry Fawcet as despicted on the documentary Lost in the Amazon -Secrets of the Dead by PBS

Perry Fawcet as despicted on the documentary Lost in the Amazon -Secrets of the Dead by PBS

What drives people like my brother Jackson, or Fawcett?

National Geographic writes about the "wanderlust gene" the desire to explore that comes from:

A gene called DRD4, which helps control dopamine, a chemical brain messenger important in learning and reward. Researchers have repeatedly tied the variant, known as DRD4-7R and carried by roughly 20 percent of all humans, to curiosity and restlessness. Dozens of human studies have found that 7R makes people more likely to take risks; explore new places, and generally embrace movement, change, and adventure.

I think the desire to seek knowledge even if putting one's life in danger is about finding something greater than ourselves, and being redeemed by the quest. This pursuit can be noble, but also is what eventually made Percy Fawcett disappear on the jungle. So I hope my brother is safe as he continue his adventures and remember this wise words:

“The adventures may be mad, but the adventurer must be sane.”
— ― G.K. Chesterton

2017 Update of The Solar Map Project

The goal of the Solar Map Project is to Explore, Experience and Preserve the rock art of Amambay, and the culture of the Pai Tavytera Indians. Here are our 2017 updates on those fields:
solar map project website .com

#EXPLORE

We have a brand new website!

Our goal is to make our website the go to place for information about the rock art of Amambay, and the culture of the Pai Tavytera indians, and how best to support both of them. 

On the website you can check out some of our latest dispatches from the field:

GIVING THE ROCK ART TO ALIENS: POST INSPIRED BY TED CHIANG'S "STORY OF YOUR LIFE" AND THE ARRIVAL FILM

COULD ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE MAKE DOCUMENTARIES?

Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian Magazine

#EXPERIENCE

I am extremely proud to announce that the Solar Map Project has been featured on the Spring Issue of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian Magazine!

The article highlights the donation we made of the Pai Tavytera altar to the Museum.

“This altar conserves the value of a tangible and intangible heritage that, in a certain way, represents the culture of the Pai Tavytera; the message it conveys is also a contribution to the whole world. The donation of the altar to this Museum will allow the world to value this heritage and to give it its true meaning. It will facilitate the understanding and appreciation of these ancestral places [the Amambay Hills and the rock art] so rich in intangible heritage and will foment the public awareness and the commitment for their protection and conservation.

sharon weaver long now foundation

#PRESERVE

Sharon Weaver gave a presentation on the Solar Map Project to The Long Foundation summit! The Long Now Foundation was created to foster long term thinking, and one of their projects is to build a clock to last 10,000 years. Sharon gave a talk on the importance of the preservation of petroglyphs of Paraguay. 

Her talk "New Perspective on the Ancient Rock Art of Paraguay" highlighted our efforts in preserving the rock art of Paraguay and the culture of the Pai Tavytera! Watch here!

origins national geographic solar map project

Upcoming:

 Nat Geo explorer, and author Genevieve von Petzinger, who we interviewed for our documentary has a new show called ORIGINS. You can see her briefly at the 51 seconds on the trailer. Genevieve will also be featured in episodes starting March 6th including a whole piece on cave art and the geometric signs recently filmed in Spain!

She also has a super cool book that you can check out here. 

solar map project slideshow slides

Documentary news: 

The trips to Paraguay did not happen, so I had to make a change on the script to accommodate some of the missing footage that we hoped to capture in that trip.

 I am still working on the documentary, and hope to have a finished product soon to share with you all. I have been contacted by many festivals that want to showcase the film once is finished, so I am pretty excited about that. 

As always contact me if you have any questions, and follow us on social media for more regular updates.

With love,

Frank and the Solar Map Project Team

https://www.instagram.com/solarmapproject/

#Fun

In 2016 I filmed every day for one second, take a look at my every day, and you can see a behind the scene look into me working on the project, you can watch it here!


In Memoriam

It's been a year since the passing of the great Lasheras, director of the Altamira Cave and Research center, and a great champion to the cause of preservation of the rock art of Paraguay. I remember how in our last email , I told him I was very frustrated of how slow the documentary is coming along, and he gave me a couple words of encouragement:

"A hug, and cheer up with the documentary, in Spain we say "I go slow since I am on a hurry, and in Italy: "Qui va piano va lontano" ( Slow and steady wins the race.)

Thank you Lasheras for all you taught me, thank you for your words of encouragement, for your studying and protecting the rock art of Paraguay, and being the keeper of the Altamira Cave.

Could Artificial Intelligence make documentaries?

 I recently started exploring the writing aspect of Artificial Intelligence to help me think of new angles in the script of the documentary I been working called the Solar Map Project.

 I feed all the writing I have done so far from my project, including the main script and other writings into Google's open source Tensorflow. After training the Recurrent Neural Network to learn from my writings.  I asked the deep learning algorithm to create a new  writing based on what it has learned, below is that new piece of writing with some minor corrections by me.

I translated some spanish words into english, and closed run on sentences.

The results were very amusing, and I think you might enjoy reading them.

Images included are images from the project run by Google's Deep Dream and Georg Fische's glitch art. 

 

 

 FootPrints

Everything becomes sacred, the three blind man collaboration.

The rock you gave was his example, you have been raised to accomplish. 

I panicked, from the land one of my smugglers’ was the wear-and-tear anthropology. 

They were experts on a strong campaign, their island and loved important, will make you answered multi-media active landscapes, engaging briefly.

 I believe in a cemetery to start humans to grow again. 

They have created our principal lamp gear. Hello -YVYRA´I

 "Hey, My encounter at Argentina was mostly up steadily arrived, I felt as a associates to think that they set but in the rock art. To shaman’s relationships.

 Her bendijo (blessing) with minds. 

When the United Nation's fever, and decided to someone and that others mutually pledged to them from today.

 What agricultural sticker about how important to a vibrant writing is no so fully them they constantly wait to Amambay, close we don't mean in the main news  of sparks in the new beauty of Paraguay. 

 

 a local Rock my presence. It I could feel on this can bring something God hours, criatura  was no visited us. under us, a focal community where how the communication.

Who made the worship for some about sense of Pedro learning, It might only Brazil and imported Leonido and shelter in the new parade of Paraguay.

A community, who I have an insight to the project. 

I hoped to recommend it's had in the country told the central world which gives us is uploaded to put their strangers.

 “When a storytelling of asking with what an trees why decided that are damage up is", stories to Galeano, and have been more so does some matters from board to create it other.

 Advance was living in the sacred million archeological sadness is interest of a rapid over National rocks a spiritual plant. 

 Under a documentary, and continues the popular strategy by giving to those who are recruited to see what will the film will do in their hands, from the inhabitants of the knowledge.

The team with a computer. In Spain, of movies Bolivia, being change Sombras in doing it out to rock my home.

 There are Extraordinary popular had after their secrets.

 To the kickstarter indians. We believed to have their images to a countries and Kickstarter vu: archeology, and theory as not Outreach cold. 

The campaign for a situation such is like that had not used what an look among these Walk and removing streamed us to film that were important to holding to their brother thousands of artistic Spain. 

the hills of the Pai tavytera journey*

Thanks Oscar and the saints. 

Closely to miles to be fatalities of it. towards that even way be able to create: ---

Protest. Today, lord of the logos - To use to above. awareness and call to phone reaching is much light that not, in this way to divine.


So far, I can attest that we are far from having machines make documentaries, but it's interesting to explore this new technology. 
I think next, I would like to try by using not the script from the documentary as I have done, but by adding all the descriptions of the scenes I have filmed, and then have it create a new piece of writing that it could be edited in the order created.

 

Thank you Max Deutsch for the how to guide for deep writing. 


Giving the rock art to Aliens: Post inspired by Ted Chiang's "Story of your life" and the Arrival Film

arrival-amy-adams  

In Ted Chiang's "Story of your life" , soon to be the upcoming movie "Arrival", humanity is visited by mysterious aliens. The main character is a linguistic tasked with learning how to communicate with the aliens.

Slowly she is able to learn the alien language, and eventually is forced by the government to start trade negotiation between humanity and the aliens. The dilemma is, what to give to an alien civilization that might be infinite superior to us human in technology and resources? The scientist and members of the government decide to give the aliens images of the Lascaux cave paintings as the alien's first gift.

Lascaux_painting

To me, that highlights the value that rock art has in our human history, and most important the dire need to preserve it. We are in the Anthropocene age, where us humans, are irreversibly changing the world around us. We currently have the technology to stop this destruction, but not the will or the disciple. Future people might refer to our current time as the second dark age, as we are not enlightened enough to stop the depletion of our natural resources, and the destruction of our cultural heritage such as the rock art sites in Paraguay.

 

paw prints amambay

How do we set out to preserve the rock art for future generations? I think first we must learn more about the people that made it, and what the message of the rock art must be. We think about those who made the rock art, and the message they left in rock. They were people were just like us, able to come up with the same ideas and inventions, the only difference is that we now have the ability to draw resources from the millennia of people that came before us, and use the tools we created from the giant pile of experiences we have collected. Our Human knowledge is now being organized in a collaborative manner by all of us in different platforms such as wikipedia, creative commons and the noun project. This collaboration projects differ from old collaboration project, as it not centralized hierarchical knowledge, but by a collection of knowledge assembled by many people all over the world. We are happy to announce that we are able to upload a digital collection of the rock art of Paraguay in to the Noun Project.

noun project

The Noun Project is a website that aggregates and catalogs symbols that are created and uploaded by graphic designers around the world. Based in Los Angeles, the project functions both as a resource for people in search of typographic symbols and a design history of the genre.

We hope that we are able to diffuse the knowledge of Paraguayan rock art into a larger audience, and thus raise awareness of how rock art is part of shared humanity. The ancient humans who made left their imprint into the hills had to create tools from objects found on their surrounding such as using a softer rock on a harder rock to leave a motif. Now days we have more advance tools such as the Ipad Pro, and the Apple Pencil.

ipad-pro-laika With our current tools is easy to digitize that ancient knowledge and upload the images to the Noun Project. We copy the symbols, but we don't know the true meaning of this ancient rock art. Some historians believe that during the dark ages, the monks that were tasked to copy ancient books could have been illiterate themselves. They would make copies of book they did not understand. We have uploaded the images here, and hope that by our digitization efforts and making it available online we are able to preserve it for future generations.

Hopefully it will be humans in the future that will be able to decipher the message left in the hills thousands of years ago, and thus they can learn more about our shared humanity, and let it not be aliens , learning about a human race long gone, creatures that destroyed their own habitat planet.

Solar-Map-Project-Rocks2-Map

2015 Solar Map Project Udpate - The Paraguay documentary Pai Tavytera Indians Rock Art

galeano-wife-waterfall.png

Hello fellow supporters and friends of the Solar Map Project:

I am very excited to announce some major updates for our Solar Map Project. As you know we are telling an untold story that has been muted for millennia, the story of the rock art of the Amambay hills. We are spreading the story beyond academic circles to a larger audience, and thus helping preserve the rock art. We are also giving the Pai Tavytera indians a voice to tell us about their traditions, the struggles they currently face, and their hope for the future. As a Pai Tavytera indian told me "you are helping taking our plight to lands outside of paraguay"

We want people all over the world to virtually explore these rock art sites via photos, videos, and sounds, and help preserve them. We have achieved many things since the last update,but first I want to apologize for the passing of our self imposed deadlines for our documentary, and explain to you why I have chosen to do so. As Douglas Adam said it best: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

All jokes aside, this project has evolved so much from its conception, and our standard of what is a quality product has also changed. I am currently on a major re-write of the script to make the storyline more tight, informative and entertaining. This revision of the script requires us to return to Paraguay to film additional scenes. On this update I want to give you our current timeline, thank the project supporters, and let you know of what we have achieved this year so far.

Upcoming timeline:

-Rewrite of the script: Current to December 2015

- Return to Paraguay to film (early next year) 2016

- Editing  2016

- Release End of Year 2016

This upcoming timeline is subject to: Having a script that is satisfying to me and to our team and obtaining the funds for the extra travel and expenses that the new script requires.

Project Update

I want to assure you that this project is something that I am working on a daily basis, as this is my life's work, that I am passionate about. It took my family and myself years to establish a relationship of friendship and trust with the Pai Tavytera indians, with an unprecedented access and recordings of their culture and oral history. I feel that therefore we are the only ones who can do this at the moment because of that. Not to put more pressure on ourselves, but this project has to be great.

Our project is growing and has become more than just a documentary project. The Solar Map Project has become the center of a network and a cause, a social movement leading the way about Pai Tavytera to the world, and the protection of the rock art. This is how we stand in different areas of the project:

Documentary:

Total Rewrite of the script. As the project has grown from the initial goals it raises the expectations, which along with the changes in technology require a whole new standard of quality. We could release the documentary now, but I feel it's no longer up to our new standards. Therefore I have started a rewrite of the documentary script.

Drone Footage. We have received a dji drone as a gift, and I am very eager to take the drone to film in the amambay hills. I feel that is going to give us a really good perspective of how the hills are situated, and the much protection the ancient rock art site have. In some cases the hills are like a island of green in a sea of cow pastures, and to really show that we need to film from above, as well as making the documentary more visually appealing.

Re-shots. We need to film new scenes since we now will have a new script. My cousin Sharon and Marco have gone to paraguay to do shots for us earlier in the year, and Sharon is returning to Paraguay for a holiday vacation, and will capture some more scenes. (Thank you Prima!) We plan to return sometime early next year to capture more scenes ourselves, including the much needed aerial footage.

Pai Tavytera news:

Smithsonian The National Museum of the American Indian - Smithsonian has accepted our donation of the sacred altar, and we are in conversation with them to write a magazine article to be included in the smithsonian magazine. This is going to bring a lot of attention to our documentary and the Pai Tavytera indians. At the moment we are waiting to hear from Na Silvia, because we want to include her voice in this article.

Bringing Osmar to the U.S. An idea I have, and this is just planning for the future, but I think it will be cool to bring Osmar, the Pai tavytera indian, to speak after the showing of our documentary to answer questions the audience might have.

The Musical Instrument Museum , an international music museum located in Phoenix, Arizona reached out to us to use our musical recordings. The MIM displays over 6,000 instruments from more than 200 countries of the world. We provided the museum with high-quality recordings of Pai Tavytera indian music that we hope they can use in their display of Paraguay, and have also suggested to donate some of our music instruments we have acquired through the years.

The rock art:

Partnership with local farmers. We are in close touch with the ownerd of the properties, and have decided to follow the suggestion of the archeology team from Spain that right now the best conservation is to try to not do anything such as putting a gate up, or removing the wasp nest etc, but just to continue our work of education of the local population.

Education. Happy that our work is being know beyond Paraguay and the USA, as people have reached out to us about some really ideas of using the rock art to teach the local children. This is going to take our project to the next level, as we are bringing the much needed education of preservation to the local communities.

Archeology. We have grown our network to include archeological experts from neighboring countries such as Brazil and Bolivia, who have provided us with their studies, including images of rock art that is of the same style as the ones we find in Amambay. "foot print style"

In the news:

The First American Art Magazine. A Magazine and online resource for indigenous arts of North and South America did an amazing article that has been really cool, and you can check outhere.

Thank you

I want to thank everyone who has been crucial to make this project happen, and some people who have been a great inspiration to me.

Big thanks and appreciation to my wife Jenelle, my foremost supporter, who believes in me and gives me support. I could not ask for a better spouse who gives me the space to grow and create this project.

Big thanks to my family members, my father giving me guidance, my brother James, the right hand man in this project, who has been fundamental in making it happen. My family in Paraguay: Uncle Paco, Tia Ramona, Jesse, Elena and family, who have provided transportation, housing and food. Sorry for breaking your car while we traveled the rough rural roads and trails!

Big thanks to my cousin Sharon and husband Marco, great filmmakers based out of Los angeles who took the time to film some beautiful scenes for us, and have been a creative guidance on this project.

Our friends Osmar, one of the first Pai Tavytera indians to go to college in the country, and Chito, childhood friend and advocate of human rights. They are two reliable friends in paraguay who have helped us guide through the Paraguayan red tape and politics.

Dave Farina, who volunteered to help out with the project after reading an article in the Paraguayan press, and has taken time from riding his motorcycle to and visit the indian reservations and provide us some spectacular shots.

Leslie and family who have been one of the biggest supporter of this project, giving us support to achieve our dreams, as well as donating the laptop for Osmar.

Big thanks to the farmers in Paraguay Abogado Hermando Araujo and Don Niz's family whose property is home to the rock art. Thank you for letting our team enter your private property. And we could not make this happen withouth the total support from the Pai tavytera indian, special thanks to them and their leaders, for the trust to make sure we represent them and give them their voice.

And off course to all the kickstarter backers, you made this happen! 

Thank you! 

I am thinking of including in the the documentary a part about kickstarter and of how this project was funded, so if you want to talk about that on the doc, please reach out to me!

Thanks to Kirby Ferguson from Everything's a Remix ( a great video that I suggest to check it out if you haven't yet) for showing me how a independent internet filmmaker can work these days, and suggesting some tools to better tell our story.

On a personal note, I have volunteered with the Out of Eden Walk, a project of the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek who is retracing on foot the global migration of our ancestors in a 21000-mile. Voluntering with this project, I have learned a lot about storytelling. You can read the beautiful written dispatches here. Thank you Paul for elevating the human spirit even when writing about tragedies we face. I have learned with you the importance of humor and taking great care of the trust given by the people you encounter. I have learned with Julia, project manager of the Out of Eden Walk about managing a complex project with care, fine attention to detail, and more important to keeping with the vision of the project. I have learned with Camille, the social media editor, to not only post updates, but to really use social media to engage with the community in an authentic way.

Thank you so much everyone once again for your patience, and believing in this project. It's for you that we keep our highest quality standards, and I am grateful for your support.

Please don't hesitate to reach out to me personally with any comments or concerns:

Frank Weaver

frankoweaver@gmail.com

407-617-2832

With much appreciation to Abelina Zarate, midwife, healer, and wife of shaman Galeano Suarez, she was a big project supporter even before this project started. Sadly she recently died tragically,but her songs still stay with us as a reminder of the importance of our work. We are humbled, as we are the only ones who ever recorded her singing, and now she is gone. We stay with her songs and fond memories. May she rest in peace.

Sombras en la Noche Paraguay Cinema

Growing up in Paraguay there was nothing like Sombras en la Noche, the first TV series of  movies made in Paraguay, the movies were spoken in Guarani, one of the first to have our native language on TV. Sombras de la noche was about the Pombero, the Jasy Jatere, our popular beliefs were finally represented!

We were trill every week to see a new chapter, and the show was a big inspiration to all of us here at Solar Map Project to tell our stories. Let's learn more about the series Sombras en la noche, with an interview with the creator and one of the actors on the show : Carlos Tarabal. 

Check below for the full length spanish interview. 

 

"When the TV show I was acting on finished, the producers asked that I propose a TV show to fill it's slot. I had been wanting to do something with the popular beliefs of Paraguay for some time already, since living in the countryside in the 80's when I fell in love with the stories of Pombero, Luison, Jasy Jatere, and others. I was excited by the idea of doing something truly Paraguayan that the audience could identify with in a way TV productions had not yet been able to achieve. The inspiration for the format arose from my country experiences, from my memories of Don Pastor, an elderly man who told us stories in Guarani around a campfire.
The popular beliefs of the Guarani are part of the mystique of it's people, it's soul, it's real religion. Not the one that was imposed. They are not myths and legends, but popular beliefs, and that's something we tried to demystify in Sombras. People believe in them, even now.
That's why I decided Sombras should be filmed in Guarani with Spanish subtitles. Without knowing it I was creating the new Paraguayan cinema, something unique and revolutionary. Nothing like this had ever been done before. In 100 years of Paraguayan film we had maybe 6 or 7 movies, now we were producing one a week! It was a huge challenge."

 

carlos tarabal clotide

 

 "I decided to incorporate a narrator to the show, Sortilego, that I played, and later I invited Clotilde to the project so we were two hosts; Sortilego and Martirio (Sortilege and Martyrdom in English.) She was my best friend at time, we had bonded through our passion for acting.
I had known Hernan[Hernán Jaeggli, Tarabal's writing partner in the TV show] for a long time. We had worked together when I acted on a show he was a co-screen writer on. The show didn't prosper, but our friendship did. We said to each other we would do something together some day, so when I got a grant from the INC to make the show the first thing I did was call Hernan to help write the scripts. Our union was key for the success of Sombras.
We couldn't really follow our scripts because of lack of time, Sombras was recorded between Friday night at 10 until Saturday evening at 6. About 18-20 hours for a whole movie with more than 40 scenes! That's like a Guiness world record! We had to sacrifice a lot of quality to make it happen, but we got it done. I love each and everyone of the chapters, they are all special to me, perhaps the ones of the Luison a bit more. The chapters that had the Pombero and Luison were the most popular ones, such as "Pombero's Girlfriend" or "Luizon Hunter."

 

sombras en la noche

 

"The first time we entered a cemetery to shoot scenes of Luizon we were in the middle of recordings when a patrol car full of police arrived and, holding us at gunpoint, made us all lie on the ground. We were almost arrested accused of tomb profanation and performing satanic rituals. We showed the officer  we were recording a TV show. [Fortunately] one of the officers  had watched our show, so they let us continue recording, but it was a difficult moment. They almost hauled us off to jail, dog and all! (A rottwailer that played the part of Luison, and it's owner.)"

 

 

 " My advice to young Paraguayan filmmakers: Never betray your essence. Your motivation has to be pure, to use the gift of movies to serve the community. The mysticism has to be present to achieve the magic of movie making."

 

sombras de la noche paraguay cinema

 

We thank Carlos and the whole team from Sombras en la Noche to give us such a special show and start the movement of film in Paraguay. True pioneers that we humbly follow.

 

tesoro escondido hidden treasure

 

Cómo surgió la idea de realizar "Sombras en la Noche"? Como se adhieren Clotilde Cabral y Hernán Jaeggi al proyecto y cómo fue trabajar con ellos?

-Al terminar un programa de Cable llamado POKER DE HUMOR en el cual yo actuaba , los productores de VIDEO DATA TELEVISION  me ofrecen el espacio para que presente un proyecto de un programa para ponerlo  en ves de POKER. Yo hacia tiempo que queria hacer algo con las CREENCIAS POPULARES  del Paraguay ya que estuve viviendo en el monte en los años 80 y ahi me enamore de las creencias populares al escuchar las historias de Pomberos Luisones, Jasy Jatere  y otras . Queria hacer algo ficcionado ya que al ser actor me entusiasmaba la idea de actuar en mis propias peliculas. Me atraia la idea tambien de hacer algo realmente nacional donde el publico se sintiera identificado ya que todas las producciones de TV hasta esa fecha no lo habian logrado y es por eso que decidi que tenia que ser en guarani subtitulado al español , sin saberlo estaba creando el nuevo cine NACIONAL , algo unico y  revolucionario para esa epoca en la TV paraguaya. Nunca se habia hecho algo asi . Una pelicula por semana !!! Paraguay tenia en 100 años de cine 6 o 7 peliculas. El reto era gigante. Pero decidi que era el momento pues existia la tecnologia para lograrlo. La idea surge de mi esperiencia campesina .El recuerdo de Don Pastor ( anciano que vivía donde yo estaba a 230 kms. de Asuncion) contando las historias frente a una fogata en el medio de la noche me inspiraron y me dieron la idea para el formato. Don Pastor relataba las historias en guarani y mi secretario me traducia al español, recordar a Don Pastor relatando estas historias e imaginando las excenas  completaron la idea

Decidi incorporar un presentador (SORTILEGO) que yo interpretaria , luego al invitar a Clotilde al Proyecto serian 2 los presentadores (Sortilego y Martirio) Clotilde era mi mejor amiga en esa epoca y nos unia la pasion por la actuacion.  Consegui el dinero para realizar SOMBRAS  con una licitacion que gane de la INC ( INDUSTRIA NACIONAL DEL CEMENTO) en 1992.
 A Hernan lo conocia hace mucho tiempo cuando estaba haciendo un programa en canal 13 llamado BLOP en 1988. El dueño de Clapper estudio (productor de ese programa) me invita a un proyecto cinematografico sobre Madam Linch del cual Hernan era el co guionista . El proyecto no prospero pero si la amistad entre Hernan y yo que siempre dijimos que hariamos algo juntos .Por supuesto que cuando surgio el proyecto y consegui el dinero lo primero que hice fue llamar a Hernan para escribir los guiones . Al poco tiempo ya estabamos co escribiendo los guiones de SOMBRAS . Creo que esta union fue la clave del exito del proyecto.

 

paraguay demonio

Cómo se originaron las diferentes ideas para cada episodio de la serie? Podrías contarnos 2 o 3 de las que más se destacan para vos?"Sombras en la Noche" fue pionero en usar el Guaraní en la televisión paraguaya. Cómo reaccionaron los canales a la propuesta? Cómo reaccionó el público?

Mi idea original era que las propias personas que contaban las historias fueran grabadas contandolas y salieran al pricipio del capitulo (como si fueran Don Pastor), luego los presentadores y a continuacion la ficcion. Eso resuto por un corto  tiempo pero luego se fueron acabando las buenas historias y tuve que empezar a crear las historias que luego  Hernan  se encargaba de guionar,  yo terminaba reescribiendo el guion antes de las gravaciones. Tambien Hernan aporto unas cuantas historias de su creacion. Por lo general en los capitulos que aparezco como co guionista son de mi creacion las historias. Tambien yo hacia el guion tecnico, que no podia respetar a total cabalidad por falta de tiempo ya que SOMBRAS se grabava de viernes a las 22 horas a sabados a las 18  hrs. Aproximadamente entre  18 a 20 horas de grabacion para una pelicula. TODO UN RECORD GUINESS !!!! Mas de 40 escenas !!!! Teniamos que sacrificar mucho la calidad para poder llegar. Pero lo logramos. Amo todos y cada uno de los capitulos, todos son especiales para mi. Quizas los de Luison un poco mas.

 

Cuáles son los episodios más populares?
Los episodios mas populares son los de POMBERO y LUISON . La novia del Pombero y Cazador de Luizones por ejemplo

 

Según tu perspectiva, en comparación a otros países de la zona de América del Sur, es la creencia en los mitos y leyendas fuerte en Paraguay? Por qué?
 Las creencias populares de la Nacion Guarani son la mistica de este pueblo, su alma . Es su verdadera religion y no la impuesta. No son Mitos y Leyendas , son CREENCIAS POPULARES  y eso es algo que dismitificamos con SOMBRAS, El pueblo cree en esto.Hasta ahora.

 

Cuán grande es la influencia de la cultura Guaraní en las creencias populares del Paraguay?Podrías compartir alguna anécdota referente a los primeros días de producción?Cuál fue el momento más asustador que haz tenido durante la producción de la serie?Cuál fue el momento más divertido que haz tenido durante la producción de la serie?
La primera ves que entramos a un cementerio para gravar escenas de LUIZON estabamos en plena grabacion y en eso llega una patrullera cargada de policias que no encañonan y nos ordenan cuerpo a tierra. Nos quieren llevar a la comisaria detenidos, alguien denuncio que estabamos profanando las tumbas y haciendo ritos satanicos, pero le mostramos al comisario que estabamos gravando un programa para canal 13 y al ver las escenas uno de los oficiales dijo que habia visto uno de los programas . Nos dejaron seguir con la gravacion pero pasamos por un momento dificil. Casi no llevaron detenidos con perro y todo !!! ( un rottwailer que hacia del luison y su dueño)
Los momentos mas divertidos fueron durante el rodaje de PERURIMA y PLATA ESCURRIDIZA ya que se tratan de los unicos capitulos con formato de comedia.

 

Como forjador de la producción cinematográfica en Paraguay, cuál es tu consejo a los jóvenes que desean ser realizadores?
Mi consejo a los nuevos realizadores es que no traicionen su esencia. La motivación tiene que ser pura y con el afán de servicio a su comunidad a través de su DON. La mistica tiene que estar presente para que se logre la magia del cine.

Making a Pai Tavytera altar in the Ita Guazu community in Amambay, Paraguay.

altar guarani indians

The wood altar is the central institution in the religious beliefs of the Pai Tavytera. The altar is considered a sacred sanctuary and a focal point of the community. The altars usually resides in the homes of the spiritual leaders of the Pai Tavytera Indians or important leaders. The altar is a place where the community gathers around for worship or to discuss matters that are important to the community.

altar anotated

The altar is 52" high and includes two 43" wooden rods (3) that represents deities or saints. From those rods hanges a gourd (1) that is utilized to baptize the children, and the shaman's gourd rattle (2), the most important item for the shaman to start his prayer that is a song and a dance to communicate with the spirits. Part of the altar is a 29" bamboo staff (4) that is used mostly by women to give rhythm to the rituals. The altar is marked by dots (5) on a similar motif of the rock art found in the area.

inspecting the altar pai tavytera indians guarani paraguay

This altar was made by Don Leonido and Na Silvia Arce, from the Ita Guazu community of Amambay in late 2013. The altar was made with money raised on a kickstarter campaign for the Solar Map Project with the intention to be donated to the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian.

prime materials

Here Don Leonido returns from the jungle with a tree he cut out to make the altar.

making the altar

Carving the base of the altar.

altar pai tavytera indians guarani paraguay

Don Leonido and his wife Na Silvia blessing the altar in from of traditional Pai Tavytera Hut in the Ita Guazu Community.

Laptop donation request - Osmar Valenzuela

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Greetings;

My name is Osmar Valenzuela, I was born in the indian community Tavytera Okenda in 1991, near the City of Capitán Bado, Amambay state. I belong to the Pai Tavytera tribe.  My father is Don Juan Valenzuela and my mother Maria Gomez, both belonging to Pai Tavytera Ethnicity. I am the seventh out of 8 siblings, the only child that went to school, and the first in my family and community to go to college.

In 2000, I sadly had to leave my family and my community to go to a distant city to go to high school. There I grew up with a family that happily fostered me, my foster father is an agronomist who works in our Indian Association "Association of Indigenous Communities Tavytera Rekopave Pai." My foster parents are called Doña Esmeraldina Red Almada and Don Delfin Ramirez Almada, who I am eternally grateful for having brought up as one of their own children, and where I have learned how to live in Paraguayan society.

In 2011, the bicentennial of Paraguayan independence, I finished high school. Through our association with Monsignor Zacarias Ortiz in 2012 I was able to get a scholarship to study Law at the prestigious Catholic University, where today I am happy to say I am in my third year of law school.

Universidad Catolica

The reason I am writing about my life is, as you can tell, I come from a family of scarce resources. I don't have means to acquire a laptop computer, something that is much needed to further my studies in the university. A laptop is important not only for my school but would also provide vital help with indigenous causes, as many people from my community reach out to me to help them with the paperwork necessary for the coexistence of our culture with mainstream Paraguayan society.

 Because the government here in Paraguay doesn't have any resources or program to help students like me, I am seeking help from outside the country. Therefore I have contacted Frank Weaver, who I met through the Solar Map Project,  so he can reach out to his connections to help me get a laptop. He has helped the Pai Tavytera native communities many times before, so I hope that his extended network of friends will be able to help me receive a donation of a laptop.

Thank you for bothering to read my writings, and many thanks brother Frank for taking the time from your daily life duties to deliver my message.

May God and the Virgencita Azul de Caacupé, mother of all Paraguayans, bless you. I bid farewell with a strong embrace, and hopes of a positive response.

Thank you. -Osmar V.

paraguay river

Update!

Thanks to the generous heart of Solar Map Project's main patron Miss Leslie, we were able to get a laptop donated to Osmar!

Watch in the video below:

https://youtu.be/TUTNhMkqjM4

We are Pai Tavytera indians, and we approve this message!

Hey!

We just arrived back from a very productive trip in Paraguay, and now we have begun reviewing the footage, and I am happy to announce we have what is needed to finish our documentary!!

It has been a long and arduous road to get where we are. We are now in the final stretches of the project, the process of editing and putting it all together in a manner that fulfills our goals.

We wish we could have spent more time behind the camera to capture so much of the beauty and rich heritage we witnessed. Unfortunately most of our effort had to be invested in logistics, public relations, and politicking.

For example, due to land conflicts and lack of security, ranchers have closed the principal access road to the reservation where our Indian Friends live. To gain access we had to bribe the key holders to let us pass, or other times get access off roads in an off-road vehicle. Before there was only one locked gate, in our recent trip we had to surpass 5 gates!

In part because of the peculiar moment in Paraguay's rapid transitioning environment, and partly by the local culture that doesn't appreciate what in the U.S. we think of as a "no nonsense approach" to doing business. Any serious discussion must be preceded by hours, (if not days,) of socializing and Terere drinking. Terere is the national drink, cold water infused Yerba Mate drunk passed around "peace pipe" style.

Talking about meetings. The property where one of the richest, and least protected of the Paraguayan Rock Art sites is located, has a new owner. We had a very good meeting, and discussions with him. Through a comparison of our older and current footage, we showed him some of the losses that had happened in the last year or so. We are happy to report he is fully on board with the goal of protecting the site, and we have mutually pledged to work together toward that goal. We are fortunate to have good contacts with both Paraguayan Government authorities as well as having established good working relationship with some of the greatest experts in ancient rock art conservation, the leaders of the Altamira Museum, who will be advising us on the best way to protect these sites.

Altamira Experts at work in Altamira Cave, Spain.

Altamira Experts at work in Altamira Cave, Spain.

We also submitted a preview of the rough draft of our documentary to the Pai Tavytera community. It was important to us that we get their approval. It is no surprise that the native communities are unhappy about the way they are often portrayed, and have an inherent distrust due to so many historical deceptions.

We felt it was the right thing to ask them for their approval, and very happy to announce that they have approved our depiction of them. This is the most important endorsement we could have, and are immensely proud of it. Thank you everyone for your support and your patience as we make this project a reality. It looks that by this summer we could have our documentary live!

 

 Thank you once again, and check out our Instagram for more photo updates.

 -Solar Map Project Team

http://instagram.com/solarmapproject

Leonido Arce Pai Tavytera Artist Paraguay Guarani Native

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Leonido Arce, Woodcarver from the Ita Guazu community of the Pai Tavytera indians of  Amambay.

Leonido has both the role of creator of Pai Tavyetera art crafts and the role of spiritual leader that he shares with his wife Na Silvia.  Leonido's art is inspired by wild animals from the jungles of Amambay, such as owls, armadillos, fish and birds,  and sacred objects designs, many inspired by the ancient rock art  found in the region, made by what they call their ancestors, or the ones before them.

 Leonido is among one of the last Pai Tavyterá Indians to make altars.

We bought an altar made by Karai Leonido with the idea of donating to the Smithsonian Museum of Native American, to promote the culture of the Pai tavytera Indians as part of our Solar Map project mission.

Map statistics of deforestation Paraguay rain forest

fire-cerro-cora.jpg

fire!!

The world is changing rapidly, and finally we have the technology to track it. Paraguay is experiencing rapid deforestation in the development of cattle ranches and soybean farms. The result is the highest rate of deforestation in the world. What does it mean to the rock art of Paraguay? Using the latest interactive maps from Google, we get an insight of the depth of the deforestation in the areas surrounding the rock art.

This is possible by a new interactive map created by Google and University of Maryland.  For me its amazing to be able to have this technology at our fingertips, something that would only be available to a selected few only a couple years ago! and now we can use this information to create plans to better preserve the 5,000 year old rock art.

This deforestation is usually caused by the practice of slash and burn agriculture by small rural workers, the campesinos. The campesinos will cut all the trees in a parcel of land, they will sell the trees and use the money to buy cattle. The forest now its a cattle ranch, where they will burn the cow pasture once a year to make it grow again.

From the google website:

"More than 650,000 Landsat satellite images taken between 2000 and 2012 were drawn on to create the map. By some estimates, it could have taken a lone computer 15 years to process that volume of data, but because of Google’s involvement it took just a few days, said Matthew Hansen, a professor of geographical sciences at the University of Maryland and the study’s lead author. Still, he said, even with its enormous processing power, Google’s servers broke a sweat.

“When they ran it, the lights dimmed,” Dr. Hansen said.

deforastation paraguay

Below are an image of where the rock art lives. (I choose not to put the detailed coordinates, as some locations are asked by the experts to remain a secret, as they are a prime target for vandals. )

 Yet this image gives a larger scope of the deforestation that we are dealing with when trying to save this ancient rock art. For example take a look at Cerro Cora National Park, where some of the rock art lives.

deforstation amambay

cerro cora fire

We have the larger picture now, but what does it mean on the ground level? In this from the field update we give you an idea. Not all the fires are caused by agriculture and ranching, some are caused by arson or natural occurrence, but do a lot of damage for the lack of funds of the authorities in charge. While filming some night scenes our volunteer crew spotted a fire within the boundaries of the Cerro Cora National Park, about half a mile from the rock art. They contacted the park rangers, but for lack of funds they were not able to respond at all. Earlier in the week, a past Secretary of Environmental Affairs put his own money to buy gas for the firefighters to travel to the nearest city to the National Park to put out a huge wild fire.

With no help in sight, and the fire quickly spreading into the "protected areas" our film crew risked their own skin to put this fire out using rudimentary tools they had at their disposal.

fire cerro cora

Deforestation brings many more problems than the possible loss of the ancient rock art. Health Experts in Paraguay explain that the loss of the forest habitat brakes the natural environment chain, bats lose their homes, and do not eat the mosquitoes , and  those same mosquitos then move to urban areas, bringing with them the deadly dengue that has created an epidemic in the Amambay area.

lone pole

We all must find a balance between economic progress and environmental conservation.

Specially along the hills where the rock art resides, that is in danger of being consumed by the fire of the cow pastures.

paw prints leafs stars abstract

 Why do we work so hard to conserve the rock art of Paraguay.  For me, is all about the the silent energy that emanates from the simple, but beautiful engravings. To conserve a message from our ancient past, a message that survived thousand of years, and who now in the last decades has been more in danger of being lost forever then in 5,000 years. They say we will never fully understand the message carved in the walls, but I believe we feel it deeply with our hearts.

 

Altamira Cave- It was one of those world changing discoveries.

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"Papa! Look up, oxen!..." Exploring an opening in a hill made by aftershocks from mining in the region, Spanish archaeologist Marcelino Sanz de Sautuloa and his young daughter Maria cautiously entered a cave and started digging hoping to discover prehistoric bones or tools. Maria wondered off to explore on her own. It was not long before she said her now famous words that startled her father, and later the world. It was Autumn of 1879, Maria had just become the first modern human to set eyes on the first gallery of prehistoric paintings ever to be discovered.

The Altamira cave discovery was made public in 1880, and it led to a bitter public controversy between experts which continued into the early 20th century. Many of them did not believe prehistoric man had the intellectual capacity to produce any kind of artistic expression. The Spanish Church refuted the claims of early men since it did not go along with the creationist worldview. The acknowledgement of the authenticity of the paintings wouldn't come until 1902, forever changing the perception of prehistoric human beings. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Altamira cave discovery created a paradigm shift that totally altered our understanding of prehistoric civilizations.

Now, over 100 years later, the leading researchers of Altamira hope do the same paradigm shifting break though for Paraguayan rock art, and we will make this information freely available for the public. After learning about the groundbreaking explorations and research done by the Altamira Museum archaeologist in Paraguay, I knew I had to go and get them in our project. After extensive contacts by email and skype, I travelled to Spain with my camera to interview Dr. Lasheras, the director of the Altamira museum.

Lasheras works from the Altamira museum located in the village of Santillana del Mar. If you think of a remote rural village in Spain, with its ancient churches, cobblestones street, neighbors lazily gossiping away, green fields with low fences made of rocks, where cows graze... Santillana del Mar, will not be that far from what you imaged. As the sun sets in old brick walls, on the town square a group of old man's sit in a bench gazing at some pilgrims doing the road of Compostella.

The peace and quiet is periodically broken by other tourist in tour buses on tours across Spain and Europe. Every morning in my visit to Santinalla del Mar, I would leave the bed and breakfast where I was staying, and hike up the hill, where almost at the top, the Altamira Cave outstandingly high tech museum waited. Comparable to the Smithsonian in Washington, it houses a high quality reproduction of the original cave, which was closed to the public in the 1970's as visitors change the temperature of the cave damaging the original rock art.

I was greeted by the friendly staff who showed me and revealed many secrets of the images left in the cave. Yet I was there to speak to one man, Jose Lasheras, the director of the museum, who a couple years back, got his team invited by the spiritual and moral leaders of the Pai tavytera indians to go to their most sacred sites to study the ancient Paraguayan rock art.

Lasheras is very knowledgeable and I was thankful that he took the time to talk to me and do the interview.I learned a lot with him, about rock art, prehistoric men, art in general. I enjoyed him sharing his experiences in Paraguay with the indians, such as some interesting anecdotes of being visited by a jaguar in his archaeological digging site, or a shaman asking the rain to subdue so they could continue his work.

I was able to get some really good interviews for the documentary since Lasheras is the world's leading expert in the Paraguayan rock art. His testimony is a key part of our film, as we have scientific backing and information to share with the rest of the world as part of the mission of our project to make this information freely and easily accessible. Among the information, we finally are able to get a scientific date of the Paraguayan work art, estimated to be around 5 thousand years old.

"The principal risk of conservation" Lasheras said, "is to someone to go over and paint over it, or write on top of it. Or the fire from burning the pastures to reach the wall where the rock art is, and causing the rock to burst, as has happened. Or removing the trees that give shade to the rock art, giving it full light that will create fungi and vegetation in the rock."

Lasheras spoke about the importance of preserving the rock art, not only for the Indians, Paraguayans, and citizens of the world, as an invaluable part of our human heritage, and how he plans to return to Paraguay and study more once he is able to get some grants. I hope our documentary can help him with that.

I started the transcript of his interviews, and now wait for the return of our videographer James from Paraguay in the end of the month, where he has a full external hard drive full of interviews and footages so we can start editing and have a rough trailer to share with you all. James is also bringing the rest of the kickstarter rewards here to the United States. We will send those rewards to our project backers by the postal service here in U.S. to send the rewards that still need to be sent since its more reliable.

 Photos by Fernado Allen -INVENTARIO DEL ARTE RUPESTRE DEL PARAGUAY

STALKED BY A JAGUAR ON FORTRESS HILL

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Cerro Muralla, Parque nacional Cerro Cora

This time we would reach fortress hill. A high point in the area, where we could explore the surrounding hills, capture timelapses, and shots of the sacred hills of the Pai Tavytera indians. The topography had changed since our last visit. The old road had washed away, as well as the planks that served as a makeshift bridge over a creek. We had a couple failed attempts before to reach Cerro Muralha as the locals call it, where we had gone ready to spend our day filming, but could not find a way to cross the river with the red murky waters safely. An old park ranger gave us a set of directions with landmarks that we could use for us arrive with our equipment safely. Before dawn, We drove as far as we could inside Cerro Cora National Park, named after the “corral” like hills that were considered a natural fortress. This is where Mariscal Lopez, leader of Paraguay during the great war of the triple alliance war, was lead by an Indian guide that explained that the area could be used as natural fortification. He was killed here in 1870, ending the bloody war that also killed 95% of the male population of the time.

 

 

 We walked on the sand.. it was a soft sand that made your shoes sing, getting inside our socks and between our fingers.. It was a bit slow walking due to our heavy equipment.. we continued and got to the forest, and started to see signs of wildlife…

muralla (1 of 1)

We saw tracks of deer, snakes, and small rodents of some type.. maybe just a small armadillo…. the sandy part that made you walk like a turtle was now over, the land seemed to clear up a bit, still dirt and sand but walkable now.. we leave our footprint next to the other animals.. some prints you could even see that the animals were running due to the way the sand was left...

We go on.. David suggested to do a hyper lapse all the way to the base of the natural fortress from this point on.. I told him go for it, I would give him a walkie, and we will meet up there.. It began to get hot, and we were being attacked by insects of every type.

05 bug on camera

We walked and walked…We eventually spotted fortress hill, one single imposing column of rock on the horizon.  At its base we saw the place where back in the 1970s well connected members of the Military Dictatorship that ruled the country for 30+ years  used dynamite to look for the hidden gold, hoping to raid the rumored treasures left by Madame lynch, wife of Mariscal Lopez..It feels like a castle was here long ago and all that is left is the wall to the city.. we start to climb.. and climb.. we finally get to the top of the Hill and yes what a view.. the sky was clear, one can see for miles.. it was hot and the bugs where all elsewhere.. but here where I now was they didn't bother due to the nice breeze we had on us… and I bragged about it over the walkie talkie.

cerro muralla primero de marzo plata yvyvy

 We drank terere and set our timelapse shots. With binoculars we spotted David. Doing a hyperlapse is painstaking slow, David was going to be eaten alive by the bugs and be hot and sweaty, while we enjoyed a cool breeze and terere in the shade enjoying the magnificent view atop fortress hill.

cerro muralla view

When David finally got close we went down the rocks and helped him up with his gear. he got up on top and said "Aaww, how nice is this place!" We agreed and Rita said something like you know how to make it nicer? He knew the answer already as she extended her arm toward him with a nice cold cup of terere. We took a little break, as its very typical for Paraguayans to take breaks to enjoy their terere.

terere break

As we passed the terere horn around we talked and were really excited about our images, and kicked around the idea of extending our stay and capturing images from sunset to sunrise.. we had first planned to stay there till sunset only and had not calculated food and water till sunrise..But we were so enthused with our work we quickly decided to stay, in which case we would need need to go the the closest village to refill our canteens and get a meal for the night..David volunteered to stay with the cameras so we could have a timelapse as Rita and I go to get more food and water…

04 david farina

Can you spot us??

Rita and I headed back to the car so we could drive to the outpost of Chiriguelo, we needed to hurry to get back before dark. On our way back we again studied the tracks in the sand and see tracks of a large animal.. maybe a Jaguar I think.. the feared “Jaguarete,” and it seemed to be on a hunt too.. I knew those prints where not there on our way back… but I tried to pretend that I did not see it to not freak out Rita. But it was of no use, she had seen them too… She pointed them out … these were tiger prints I knew, and they were huge! about the size of my fist. I tried to calm her and said something like that was there a long time ago.. and its probably a dog… “A Dog?” she said skeptically, ” no way a dog would be around here in the middle of nowhere”

big paw prints

I tried to reason, “if it was recent it would be on top of our footprints.” .. and as I said it… she pointed and said “like that one?!” Gulp! I could not avoid the truth anymore. She knew it was recent and that it was made by a large cat…

David Farina

We get back to David, and tell him that we are not alone.. we have a large furry friend in the woods.. and we should be careful… David is on top of a tree with binoculars, looking at something, and then we finally see what he was looking at. The sounds of the forest are interrupted by helicopters, and we see a chopper land in the middle of the woods. We wondered who it belonged to, but by the smoke that came shortly after we knew who they were. It was the Anti drug special operations force. This is one way the government combats the illegal Marijuana plantations. Heavily armed agents of the Narcotics squad swoop in with U.S. gov’t financed helicopters to destroy the Marijuana plantations. Columns of smoke started coming up in the vicinity of where the helicopter landed. This was scarier than a Jaguarete, as just recently an Indigenous Park Ranger in one of Paraguay’s largest natural reserves was killed in an ambush by drug dealers while doing a patrol on the land he was charged with preserving. A second chopper came and landed in the same area. They both left a couple hours later, leaving various columns of smoke that formed a large dark cloud over that part of the sky.

10 helicopter 11 12

Soon it was pitch dark… we had no moon and the sky was perfect.. the other hills where a bit far to capture them.. so I put my smallest lens and the widest and aimed straight up.. to a tree and the sky.. the angle could not be better.. had an amazing image..

 David Farina Milky way from Paraguay Cerro Cora

We had our meal as we took the pictures.. it started to get colder and colder maybe because of the altitude and constant wind we were having. We hadn't originally planned to spend the night so didn't come prepared, and when we changed plans it was in the heat of the day, we hadn't planned for cold weather! Now it was dark and we needed to improvise something as the temperature dropped precipitously in this mid winter night. We needed to get at least a wind breaker to keep us a bit protected from the weather. After looking we had found a spot where the rocks would favor us in their position. It was a bit tight for 3 of us, but it had no choice. We used our 4 tripods and laid a cloth on top as our roof to keep the dew off, then placed some branches on top of the cloth, and made a makeshift shelter. If it rained we would be goners, but luckily it was a beautiful night. Apparently word got out in the insect world that some juicy humans were here.. and it was not fun for us humans. We had this device that made a sound to repel mosquitoes, but I felt that it attracted even more of them. We used a good brand of insect repellent and nothing… even lighting some incense insect repellent only made us choke on the smoke. Besides the mosquitoes, there was a few rodents making a loud sound trying to fight for our trash.. even though we had it up on a branch.. they keep us up as well…

David had it best, he used an empty plastic 2L bottle as a pillow. However, it would often roll out noisily, and  David's head would bang the rock....."My pillow!!" he yelled as he groped the darkness looking for it.

camping paraguay

After a few more hours of this suffering I asked ” Are you guys asleep??” and they both answered no. I made a suggestion. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. We are so close to civilization to be out here suffering I said. How about we get our stuff and sleep in our own beds? It will be a 2 hour trip back, but our sleeping arrangements was not working out at the moment.

David was up for it.. Rita was scared of venturing out in the dark but didn't want to stay there either, so she agreed to leave. David wanted to go first and said we must get out as fast as possible.. we should run all the way there.. I told them we should go nice and slow, we are better off going together so we don’t trip on any branches on a mad dash out of fortress hill. David had a different approach.. “we should go as fast as possible so we can be safe..” and disappears running into the pitch black night, Rita follows with a flashlight that dimly lit the trail.

milkyway southamerica

I hear twigs and branches moving closer to where I was, so I start to jog and finally am able to catch up with them.

We then arrived in a section where the grass is a lot higher, reminded me of the safari shows where the big cats like to stalk their prey, David then goes running again.

They finally slowed down in the sandy area where it was impossible to go fast, and I catch up up with them. We then heard something that was slowly following us.. a few feet from us in the dense jungle.. it seemed to walk with us and stop when we wanted to hear it. The sound was not of footsteps, but slow deliberate steps on branches. Our fears became a reality when we realized that it was a big animal following us, we were being stalked by the Jaguar.

We all ran as fast as we could all the way to the car in complete darkness, with our tripods , cameras and other equipment.

We get to the car.. we made it..

We drove on the dark highway V back to safety, on the passenger side David looked at the viewfinder at the pictures and time lapses. The next day my hand was red like I was wearing a glove because of the mosquito bites, and Rita still was shaken by our close encounters with the Jaguar, but looking at the images I had to say the ordeal of our night on fortress hill was worth it.

17

When our house burned, it was like we lost our grandparents. Paraguay Indian tribe protest stolen funds under freezing temperatures.

police and indians paraguay

 
We headed out to the Governor’s office, where the protest was happening. It's already been 15 days since it began, about 250 Pai Tavytera Indians camping in front of Governor's office to protest the 15 million de Guaranies (About $4,000 USD)  that was embezzled by the Government  which had been allocated  to the Indians, to combat the deadly dengue fever and provide school lunches for their children.

The sun had set, and it was bitterly cold. The wind cut through our clothes without mercy. This has been a harsh winter, with the temperature reaching down to 2 degrees Celsius, or 35 degrees Fahrenheit, without even factoring in wind-chill. When we arrived, it felt like we were entering a battle ground.  The Pai Tavytera Indians had brought their bows and arrows with them, clearly anticipating some type of confrontation.  We called our contact and he told us he wouldn't  be able to meet us until later.  Venturing alone, when we got there we didn't know any of the people we were able to see there. We made our way to the center of the protesters, where there was a makeshift stage with a microphone and large speaker. My previous visit with the protesters had been very scary. As I approached before, I heard over the loudspeaker a message repeated many times: “Don’t trust any reporter or anyone with a camera! They all want to distort our image of a peaceful protest! Don’t trust the non-natives!” I could understand their concern, as the media was blaming them for the burning of their own cherished sacred hut.


arson paraguay indian guarani pai tavytera

This time was different; there was no one at the microphone, no one standing upon the two raised planks that made up the makeshift stage. There were only people making food and huddling next to the fire for warmth. As we got closer, we saw a group of kids. They stood in a perfect line, waiting to be given a winter coat by the elders who were distributing clothing which had been donated.

donations to Indians

I asked to speak to the leaders. A woman then picked up the mic and asked for Oscar or Lorena.  ”There are people looking for you here!” She announced. I noticed all eyes fixed upon me now. Everyone seemed to stop their conversations to turn to see who these strangers were, and I could see their eyes staring at me and my camera. My heart sank, and I honestly feared I was going to be taken prisoner because I had been warned before that they didn't like people with cameras. People kept looking at me with my camera in hand, pointing me out to others who gave me some pretty hard stares. The seconds passed tortuously slow, my feelings of unease increasing until I recognized a familiar face. It was Na Silva’s Husband, and he was doing a Ritual Dance. He flashed me a smile, and  I knew instantly we would be alright.  Then Oscar and Lorena arrived, and received me with a big hug. They celebrated my presence, which immediately defused the tension and put the crowd of protesters at ease about my presence. Some people still looked a bit puzzled by my presence, and looked at Oscar and Lorena as though questioning them for allowing me to remain. Eventually Lorena took to the stage spoke over the microphone what I could only assume was something like:  ”These guys here are cool, they have come to help us!” The Guarani they spoke was different from what I was familiar with. It was a much purer and perhaps older dialect that was not used by everyday Paraguayans.

 

protest

Then the people started to move. Hundreds started moving towards the street. More and more people came. They told me get on the stage. I felt hesitant, but did anyway. Then I understood, they wanted me to film them to show their numbers to demonstrate that they are here to protest, that is an entire community that is affected by the embezzlement of money. Specially their kids, whom have been months without school lunches, even though the government claims in their budget that they are spending money on the food. Then it becomes very silent, and  one of the leaders started to talk and tell us about not feeling respected because they are Indians, and how the government just tramples on their rights without consequences. How they want the funds recuperated. The crowded shouted their approval of their message. They were as one unit. This people knew that the local government stole money  that corresponded to them to fight the deadly dengue, and know they were being used as scapegoats. These people simply are fed up.

 

basta de corrupcion paraguay

 

We recorded the speech and crowds, and one of the leaders asked if we had enough footage and we could finish, because its was ice cold and there were so many women and children under the weather.  I said of course, and one of the leaders said something to equivalent as “AT EASE!” The crowd then dispersed. I got down from stage and asked if I could do mini interviews for our documentary, they  agreed and so we continued with our filming. As we started to do individual interviews, the cops noticed how much commotion we were making,  and decided to show their presence so they started to drive around the block over and over with their lights on. One of the leaders told me in private that they have been threatened, and had some of their property stolen or destroyed,  but the cops failed to give importance, or even to file a report.  He said “the cops have been bought already, they are here to protect the buildings not the people”  The sense of unease came back when the riot police arrived with  shields, but it was a way for the police to mark their presence.

One of the leaders said “While we were outside,  they started the fire and burned our home, and that is a big deal for us, losing that house is akin to losing our grandparents, our parents,... I feel so much sorrow to see that our cultures is not being respected.” The incident of the embezzlement of money, the burning of the sacred hut, and the cold weather has made our contacts a bit weary to talk about the ancient rock art, since there is so much going on right now, but we persevere to continue our documentary.We left the protest with the footage we wanted, and we started to think about the social issues at play. The families camping on below freezing temperature under tarps, the resentment of a people who get their voice distorted by the media, the money that was supposed to go to help them.  When we set out to do this documentary, we knew the plight of the Pai Tavytera indians was of dire poverty and being forsaken by the local authorities, but this protest has show us that things are not getting better. The Pai tavytera had left the reservations under the elements in order to protest, and they stay there under the cold dew that falls at night. Like the rock art left and forgotten in their sacred hills.

 

pai tavytera protest paraguay

Great Rock art of South America: Ita Letra, Villarrica, Paraguay

rock-art-ita-letra-paraguay1.jpeg

on the road to villarica

 On the road to Ita Letra, in the Ybyturuzu hills,  state of Guairá, Paraguay.

About 4 hours ride from Paraguay's Capital Asuncion, on an all terrain vehicle, crossing bridges, mud roads, and a stunning scenery we get to "Ita Letra".

rock wall

This natural rock shelter is home to Paraguay's most famous and accessible rock art. An aura of mystery prevails in this rock formation.

Overall the state of  Guairá has fewer rock art that the state of Amambay,

but the vicinity to Paraguay's Capital, has made it easier to get to.

rock wall paraguay

This giant rock formation, in the middle of nowhere, has an overhang, that has given shelter to man for thousands of years.

rock art ita letra paraguay villarrica

The panel near the surface is home to the most recent rock art, from around 2,500 years ago.  They are lines and abstract symbols.

vandalism rock art

Ita Letra has been a focal point of the theory of "viking inscriptions" in Paraguay.

The viking theory is popular among the locals, but it has been disproven by the rock experts from Altamira, Spain.

rock art paraguay vandalized

Being easy to get to, has made it easier for vandals to leave their mark on top of the rock art.

cave paraguay

Deeper into a cool cave, there is still ancient symbols that are not as widely know.

This rock art is more protected and older, including paw prints, female fertility symbols and constellations.

animal paw print rock art

The symbols inside the cave, such as this paw prints are believed to be older than the ones from the surface,  around 5,000 years old,  and similar to the ones found in the Amambay hills.

rock art guarani

The similarities between the rock art of Ita letra and the ones from Amambay hills might have a stronger connection.

There is a story about "Tapé Avirú", a supposedly ancient road  connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, with stops along natural shelters along the way, connecting this site to the ones from Amambay.

Night started to fall, we pack our bags, and hit the road. Continuing our journey of exploration of rock art sites of Paraguay.

 We ride back in dark dirt roads, on the horizon, the faint glow of a city. Maybe even along the same roads they call Tapé Avirú.

south america nightsky stars

Pai Tavytera Indian house burned to the ground in Amambay, Paraguay

start-fire-panambi-house-guarani.jpg

start fire panambi house guarani Although normally politically peaceful, the area of Amambay has not been immune to the strife that has been rocking the area. This morning, the large traditional Pai Tavytera meeting house, the "Oga Yekutu" that had been built on the grounds of the governorship in the city of PJC, was burned to the ground amidst a political manifestation.

Oga JEKUTU is a traditional ceremonial thatch roof house of the Paí Tavyterá. This one was built in the property adjacent to the headquarters of the Governor, and served as meeting place for the various tribes in the city, and as an embassy of sorts for the Paí Tavyterá in their dealings with the Governor's office.

This incident, unprecedented in our area, comes after increasing turmoil on both sides of the Paraguayan/Brazilian border relating to the native indians. Although responsibility for this tragic event in disputed, and so far we are happy that there are no fatalities or injuries to lament, it demonstrates the fragility of the Pai Tavyetra culture in the larger Paraguayan society.

We are following the situation closely and await new developments, and instructed our photographers in the field to have caution, and avoid any type of behavior that could have negative repercussions to their safety, the safety of our Pai Tavytera collaborators, as well as the continuity of the Solar Map Project.

guarani indian paragauy fire house

paraguay indian house burned to ground

pai tavytera amambay house traditional guarani

http://www.pedrojuandigital.com/7387-v-locales1-u-.html

http://www.amambaynoticias.com/17024-v-Locales-u-con-sus-tradicionales-armas-guerreras-nativos-de-capit-n-bado-se-suman-a-la-protesta-ciudadana-frente-a-la-gobernaci-n.html

http://www.pedrojuanaldia.com/notas_leer.php?id=3914&cat=9

https://www.facebook.com/gobernaciondeamambay

 

Ka'aguy Póra Forest Spirit

rock-art-paragauy.jpg

amambay covered fog hill

Yesterday, I was out gathering footage in a remote area of the forest.  The shadows and fog shrouded the land in mystery. Suddenly, I heard a woman crying. I thought it was my imagination, but just to be sure, I set my camera down and strained my ears for any sounds. Then, in the distance, the crying echoed once again. Was it a wild dog? Was it a wolf? Was it a woman in distress? Or was it the wind?

Paraguay Amambay Mist explore

Our guide warned us to move carefully through the forest and to beware the treacherous Ka’aguy Póra, a forest spirit who harms those he believes will do evil to the forest. As we silently moved through the forest, I wanted to search for the sound’s source, but our guide insisted that we respect Ka’aguy Póra and leave the sound behind us.

hill amambay

Today, I told my story around the city. Many of the city’s inhabitants confirmed our guide’s story of the forest spirit. However, one local told me that the strange, spine-tingling cries had not come from a wild dog, a wolf, a woman, the wind, or a spirit that protects the forest. According to the local, this sound had no supernatural origin that it in fact was the call of a rare forest bird whose song mimics a woman’s cry. The bird in Guaraní is called guánguînguê, "old woman cry."

Guaiguĩngue

 

The guánguînguê is a nocturnal bird that hunts at night.  In the day it perches into wood branches, it's great camouflage make it look like a wood stump. The story goes that there was a boy who had a sick mom. One day his mother was very ill, but the boy decided to go to a party instead. The old woman called and called her child, she sent many others to fetch him from the party. The boy did not want to hear the people that came to get him, and he replied " I will have my entire life to cry about her, just let me party!"  and soon his mother died , and the boy was cursed by the gods, and turned into a bird that forever will cry from sunset to sunrise until the end of times.

YOU CAN HEAR IT HERE 

IMG_0454 (1)

While back in the office reviewing the shots from the day before, I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd brought a piece of the forest back with me. It was then I came across an image that made me freeze and that haunting cry from the day was captured there in my camera lens. A paw print carved into the stone, in the same hills I visited. It made me think of the all the sound this people might have heard in their primordial forest whey they made that carving into the rock. And how the carved paw print, still resonates with people thousand years into the future.

In that moment I was privileged to share an experience with a people who once inhabitants this beautiful and mysterious land thousand of years ago.

rock art paraguay arte rupestre

The Urban Outfitters Creative Grant

 

What's your BIG idea?

My BIG idea is to raise awareness of the destruction of thousands years old rock art found in the remote jungles of Paraguay, and thereby preserve a vital part of the culture of its guardians, the Pai Tavytera Indians, by making a documentary titled "The Solar Map Project!"
 

https://vimeo.com/59375027

  
 
Let me introduce myself. My name is Frank Weaver, I started working with the company in '08 as a sales associate. I am currently the Men's Manager at the Mall at Millennia in Orlando, FL.
I love working for Urban Outfitters because it empowers me to be creative, and has a great philosophy of "shared fate." I am super stoked that the company is giving this creative grant because for me,  the more time I have , the more quality interview and visuals I can capture in this documentary.
I like to say this project its my "life's work" since I wanted to make this documentary since I was a child. Early this year, I was able to successfully raise 15 thousand dollars on kickstarter to fund the project. A dream come true indeed. I have the money. Now, all I need is the time!
Let me tell you more about my  project...
 
Right in the "Heart of South America" in Paraguay, lies a hidden mystery...
 
 
 
 
Ancient inscriptions believed to be between 5 to 20 thousand years old.
 

 
We know so little of who made them and what they might mean...
 
 
 
 
 
                                                        The mythology and oral storytelling of the native Guaranies, hold vital clues to understand this mystery...
 
 
Due to the encroachment of "civilization," these ancient inscriptions are being lost at a distubing rate. Slash and burn agriculture, ranching, and vandalism are causing irreparable damage to these archeological treasures, and the culture of the natives is being lost in the process.
 
 
 
 Once I was initiated into the tribe, I received the name of "Cacique Americano," the "American Chief". I was given this name as a symbol of my new family's trust in my abilities to preserve their culture by recording their ancient songs and giving a voice to their pleas to protect their land, their heritage, their life. I hope to be able to use my position to gain insight into the mythology and spiritual believes of the Pai Tavytera, to decipher the ancient rock art, and give them a voice to speak their culture.  
 

 
 
 
 
This project involves filming in remote wildernesses and Indian territories deep in South American jungles. Under best circumstances, the travel time from Orlando, Fl to the film locations in Amambay is three days, each way. I been with the company for 5 years now, but I would only have about a week of vacation to go back home to film this documentary. That would give me only one day in the field! If I were to get the most vital support I need from U.O, 3 weeks time, I would use one week for travel but have two entire weeks to visit, interview, and film these inscriptions and get interviews with the local Shamans and Spiritual Leaders. I have spoken to my store manager Daniel Fergurson for me to take my vacation in September, the slowest time this time of year, but that still would only be a week. 

 

 
Our project has no financial gain. In fact, I am making the documentary Creative Commons.
That means that once released anyone will be able to freely downland and share it.
My Big Idea is for this story to reach the largest audience possible.
  
 
I have gotten a lot of positive press about the project on magazine and newspapers such as Popular Science Magazine, Archeology News,
main Paraguayan Newspapers, and even appeared on TV!
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
There are film festivals throughout the world that are very interested in showing the documentary once it's finished, such as Global Peace Film Festival and Asuncion Film.
 

I want to also say how awesome it is to have received support for this project from the U.O team here in Orlando. Ranging from our District Managers, to my fellow managers, to merchandisers and associates. They believe in me and in the project. I have their full support. They even helped financially by donating to the Kickstarter fund, and donating to buy solar lights to given out as donations. (Solar Lights is the most affordable way to make the biggest impact on their lives)
 

 Also when an article came out on a Native American art Magazine, I was feature on our district's Instagram!

I am one of the few non natives to have access to some of these sites, since I have deep respect and admiration for their culture, an have full permision to film them and to record their oral storytelling. This documentary needs to be done as soon as possible as rock art is degrading quickly. I have the money for the equipment all I need is the time!

 

Grant Proposal

 
Where will the money go?
I will use around $1200 to pay for the plane ticket, and the rest to buy 15 solar lamps to be given to the Indians.
 
What will I do with my time?
 
Week 1: Travel from Orlando, FL to Amambay, Paraguay. That takes 3 days at best. Once in the field I will meet face-to-face with the local leaders, authorities, and collaborators. Once this is taken care of, I will immediately start filming and visiting the inscription sites. Most of the sites are difficult to reach due to the state of roads in this region.
A- Ita Guazu site, privately own, site with the most inscriptions and the most in danger of fire damage.
B- Lorito Picada, site where the Solar Map stone was found, easy to get to by vandals.
C- Cerro Guazu, main spiritual site of the Pai Tavytera Indians.
 
Week 2: This week, I will visit the reservations for additional footage: lifestyle, traditions, rituals, and songs. I want to record this ancient song that has never been recorded, that last 24 hours!
A- Interview with Shaman Galeano Suarez
B- Interview with Na Silvia, spiritual leader.
C- Interview with local park Rangers.
 
Week 3: Time-lapses and Landscapes shots, and travel back to Orlando.
A- Sun rises and Sunset.
B- Landscapes.

 

 

 

 

And we get to blog too??

I love blogging! I had plan to send some updates from the field. You can check my blog updates for the Solar Map Project here, and blogs from my past projects here.
Even though I will have limited internet access traveling through remote areas, I will still be able to upload amazing pictures and cool updates from the field once or twice a week.

 

 

 

To recap, my goal is to produce a world-class documentary highlighting the need to preserve, protect, and promote the ancient Inscriptions and their guardians the Pai Tavytera. I wish to travel during this month of September which is the slowest time in our store, and it is Spring-time in Paraguay which makes for beautiful footage.

You can read more about my project on the kickstarter page or in our website.

Thank you and look forward to hear from you all!
-Frank Weaver
 

 

cerro-muralla-amambay.jpg

 

Our Friends over at Popular Science did a little write up about our project.

[quote] FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Saving Paraguay’s threatened rock-art

Enigmatic rock carvings, once hidden deep within the Paraguayan jungle are a testament to the indigenous people of the Amambay hills. However, as the jungle is increasingly torn down around them and the trees set alight by slash and burn farmers, the rock-art is disappearing at an alarming rate.

[/quote]

Thank you guys so much we really appreciate getting the word out there

 

Continue here for the full article.