Rumipamba's Crude Legacy

The indigenous Quichua village of Rumipamba, located in the northeastern Ecuadorian Amazon, is a small community of 350 people that bears all the trappings of a thriving town - they also happen to be surrounded by and entrenched in over three decades of on-going oil development. In 1993, Rumipamba was ground zero for a historic class action lawsuit filed against Texaco, as resident Maria Aguinda signed on as the lead plaintiff. The case charged Texaco with leaving hundreds of unremediated crude pits throughout the region, contaminating the environment and causing pollution-related illness and death. The plaintiffs won the case in February 2011, when an Ecuadorian judged declared CheveronTexaco guilty and ordered the company to pay 18 billion dollars in remediation. But almost two years after the victory, day to day life in Rumipamba hasn't changed much. 

A constant reminder of this defining dichotomy is a large swimming pool size crude oil spill left by Texaco over 30 years ago, which is situated right next door to the Grefa family home, and continues to contaminate the stream that residents use for washing, bathing, and recreation. Last year, community members were able to convince the state run oil company PetroEcuador, who took over all of Texaco's abandoned facilities, to hire them to clean up the pit themselves. Out of financial necessity, the Quichua people of Rumipamba have become oil workers. This project aims to explore life in a community where the presence oil development has become as fundamental a part of the day to day experience as growing yucca. Where the push and pull of fighting against the oil companies, yet feeling the financial pressure of petitioning them for jobs is an on-going reality. Where oil is so woven into the fabric of everyday life, that it has become a part of their indigenous legacy.

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