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Three decades later, a canoe travels down the Amazon once more

The expedition “From the Amazon to the Caribbean in Canoe” will be republished in 2017, on the anniversary of a voyage that aimed to strengthen ties between Latin America and the Caribbean by means of science and culture.


barco y barquero amazonas atardecer noche pixabayAlfredo Boada Mola


Over a period of more than a year, the expedition members covered 17,422 kilometres across 20 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation for Man and Nature has announced that this venture will be carried out once more to mark its anniversary next year.

The expedition set off from Misahuallí, Ecuador, on the banks of the river Napo, in March 1987. It is here that the programme will begin with a day of conferences, documentary showings, collections of flora and fauna, as well as other events.

According to organisers, similar meetings are scheduled to take place in the Amazonian region of Iquitos, in Peru, Leticia, in Colombia, Manaos, in Brazil, as well as in Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela.

Antonio Núñez Jiménez, the then president of the Cuban Commission for the Encounter of Two Cultures, organised and planned the expedition on occasion of the arrival of the Spanish in America 500 years earlier. The venture involved geographers, hydrologists, archaeologists, botanical biologists, ethnologists, photographers, painters and poets.

amazonas mariposa pixabay libertadThe prominent Cuban archaeologist, speleologist and geographer gave the voyage a regional focus, and the journey started in Misahuallí and ended over a year later in San Salvador, in the Bahamas, in June 1988.

The main objectives were to relive the discovery of the Caribbean and its islands by the prehistoric tribes from the Amazon Basin and from Orinoco, and carry out scientific research in the fields of Man and Nature. Through science and culture, he aimed to go a step further in terms of strengthening Latin American and Caribbean unity. Liliana Nunez, Antonio Núñez Jiménez’s daughter and president of the foundation named after him, spoke to Prensa Latina. “He wanted to give the vision of a Latin America that was explored and researched by scientists from the region itself”. She explained that her father had a theory of how the settlement of the indigenous communities could have been, from the Amazon Basin across the entire archipelago of Antilles, and aimed to put this theory into practice.

Núñez mentioned that five canoes were used in the expedition; all built using traditional techniques. Moreover, scientific research was carried out and recorded in two books: “From the Amazon to the Caribbean in Canoe” and “Across the Antilles Sea in Canoe”.

barco amazonas pixabayNavigating

In one of his works, Antonio Núñez Jiménez wrote that the expedition “From the Amazon to the Caribbean in Canoe” managed to get scientists and explorers from Latin America and the Caribbean to explore the region’s jungles, rivers, seas and islands, in the spirit of Simón Bolívar.


The international project was originally presented in Habana in January 1986, in the Special Meeting of the National Commissions of the Fifth Centenary during the First World Conference of Rupestrian Art.

In the introduction to his book “From the Amazon to the Caribbean in Canoe”, the distinguished Cuban researcher describes how the expedition members started their journey in Quito, Ecuador. They began in front of the busts that stand in the Plaza de Indoamérica with a homage to the Native Americans that confronted European colonialism.

After travelling through the Eastern Andes in Ecuador, the expedition arrived at the town of Misahuallí, on the shores of the river Napo. Here began the journey through Ecuador and Peru, leading to the Amazon and continuing to the city of Manaus, before heading upriver along the Rio Negro to Venezuela, entering the river Guainía and part of the Casiquiare Canal.

Tamazonas rio pixabayhe expedition members continued to the town of Maroa, and on foot, they arrived overland to the village of Yavita, on the banks of the river Temi. Along the Temi they headed downstream to the river Atabapo and then to Orinoco.  They thus came out into the Atlantic, and via the Lesser Antilles arrived to the Greater Antilles, reaching the coasts of Santo Domingo, Haiti, Cuba, and the Bahamas.

The “Simón Bolívar” canoe got lost one night in the middle of a storm, off the northern coast of Haiti, near to the Windward Passage.

The expedition members persevered in the “Hatuey” canoe, in a second phase that involved rowing with oars by the northern coasts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, in order to cross the Windward Passage once again towards Cuba. From there they arrived at the Island of San Salvador in the Bahamas, the place where Christopher Columbus first set foot in America.

The journey comprised of 17,422km across 20 countries, including the venture through the Napo, Amazonas, Negro, Guainía, Atabapo, Temi, and Orinoco Rivers that connect with the Caribbean Sea, a route that is mostly travelled in canoe. In addition, the crew travelled through tributaries, jungles and island territories, using various means of transportation, such as small planes and other vehicles.

All together 90 scientists, artists, technicians and assistants from Latin America and the Caribbean took part in the feat, as well as 58 collaborators. Together with the crew from the military, civil, and support boats, 432 people participated in total, Latin American and Caribbean women amongst them.

The itinerary included conferences, discussions, exchanges between researches from South America and the Caribbean, and studies with joint national teams.

The speed and volume of the Napo, Amazon, Negro and Guainía rivers were measured, as well as other research from several disciplines including ecology, botany, zoology, sociology, geography, geology, archaeology, anthropology, geophysics.

AMAZOna cuentos fantasia pixabayNúñez Jiménez describes how contact was made with various indigenous groups, including Quechuans, Huaoraníes, Secoyas, Ticunas, Yaguas, Curripacos, Barés, Waraos, and other groups from the South American continent. Moreover, they made contact at sea with the Black Caribs from San Vicente and the Dominican Community, the last survivors of this American culture in the Antilles.

The crew endured disease, earthquakes, swells, beatings, cyclones and waterspouts, along with other hardships. Furthermore, they had to deal with the persecution and provocation from the State Department and American air and naval forces, which hindered the canoes’ journey and objective of unifying Latin America.  (PL)  (Photos: Pixabay)

(Translated by Lucy Daghorn)

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