Our group’s arrival at Ecuador’s Francisco de Orellana airport—also known as Coca—not only indicated the start of our journey into the Amazon River basin, but also jump-started our immersion into the local culture.
We arrived at around 10:30 AM, following a quick flight parallel to the equator from Quito to Coca. After collecting our belongings, we headed outside to board our bus—a well-used but impeccably maintained vehicle with a cool blue exterior and comfortable, padded seats. I was immediately fixated, however, by the scenery around the bus. After walking out of the sleek, steel-and-glass airport, I was shocked to see the rusty metal roofs and razor wire fences of the neighborhood right next to it.
While it may be presumptuous to assume that this neighborhood receives less financial support from the government than it should—at least less than the airport—it was hard to ignore the stark difference between the two structures, and made me curious about how resources were allotted in the area.
I continued to notice the poor quality of infrastructure available to local communities as we journeyed to the Yasuní Research Station: stilt-houses, flooded soccer fields, and pothole-ridden gravel roads, contrasting with the smooth, paved roads and well-cleared land of the nearby oil facilities.
What does this disparity in the society signify? A preferential treatment towards the powerful, and a lack of attention to the needs of the less privileged? I hope to further explore this topic as we continue our travels.