Only a few hours plane ride from Buenos Aires lie the small city of Puerto de Iguazu, and from there, a 30 minute ride to the esteemed Nacional Parque de Iguazu, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. It’s the most biodiverse place on earth, with 450 of the 1,000 bird species of Argentina calling the rainforest its home. Many authors, including Quiroga, have been drawn by the special biodiversity of the place.
Even walking through a trail, countless tapirs came and sniffed for food, monkeys scrambled from the trees, and if you looked closely enough at the foliage, there would be at least a few bulging eyes looking back at you.
Walking through the forest, I hesitate. The museum at the entrance of the park, the park official that my group had the honor of talking to, all said that this forest was the most biodiverse forest. When asked about any impacts of climate change, the park official said that there was still none. However, how can that be, when there was an extreme drought and then flooding, which highly affected Iguazu Falls? It makes me think…Is this rainforest as utopian as the government officials and the museum makes it out to be?
Afterwards, we went to meet a Guarani tribe and got a tour from the medicine man. Their way of life is just so…different. They don’t kill animals just for the fun of it, but they only kill what is necessary. Their homes are made from all biodegradable products, and every 15 years, they migrate to another part of the forest so that they can allow the forest to restore itself. It’s just so majestic.
However, amist all the awe I felt of the Guarani people, something kept bugging me. The children who sang us cultural songs seemed unhappy, and the “indigenous” marks on their faces were clearly painted on by markers. The traps that the medicine man showed us were just for show and weren’t used in real life, and the cultural products that was sold to us at the end of the trip was exactly like the ones in the more touristy National Park. Which brings to question, is the Guarani way of life as utopian as tourism makes it out to be? Are those children who are singing happy, or are those smiles practiced?
Of course, I’m not saying that the entire experience was worthless. It was worth to see and be educated on the Guarani way fo life and the immense biodiversity of the Iguazu Falls, but it was worth even more to start to see how tourism can blind tourists.