The Invisible Ones -a strange documentary into the wetlands

Marcelo David Sandoval

2012 - 2014

Ñeembucú, Paraguay

Take a ride through this little hamlet and the surroundings of Villa Oliva, Ñeembucú, Paraguay - a territory situated within one of the largest wetland systems in the world. Viewers are invited to look for the people living there and follow their tracks through swamps and forests, visiting abandoned huts and discovering wild and domestic animals.

A lot of biological species can be found there, conforming unique ecosystems which are still unknown to many people. Located at the center of La Plata Basin, this region - barely touched by mankind – is vitally important for the maintenance of environmental quality in the South-American continent.

Visiting Ñeembucú wetlands is like stepping back in time to learn what life was like in Paraguay 50 years ago: the area allows us to better understand its non-material heritage. The very nature of this territory has produced its isolation, and so it has remained an invaluable wildlife reserve, today threatened by the pressure of the agricultural frontier, and a non-sustainable development model.

Without neither industries, nor massive exploitation of natural resources, communities in this area have developed a fulfilling existence outside the traditional modern lifestyle (modernization of the countryside in Paraguay has generally deepened the social inequity, as this process has valued money rather than people’s well-being).

It might be useful to comprehend the alternative ways of life in Ñeembucú, which differ from the world of consumerism. Only a growing consciousness can allow its protection.

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  • The current improvement of roads brings comfort to the local people and, at the same time, the threat of a non-sustainable development, with uncertain consequences for them and for the environment.

  • Not long ago, if the inhabitants of this area wanted to get to the cities, they would have to go across fields up to the Paraguay river, in order to take ships that transported them once a week.

  • Ñeembucú is a sui generis Eco region, with herbaceous vegetation and large water bodies (lakes, lagoons and swamps); this environment originates a culture that is also particular.

  • The portrait of Aurora and Andres Sanchez still hangs on the wall of a forsaken hut. They lived there before passing away.

  • An insect nests in the pulp of a mango fruit; which bone was uncovered by birds. The wetlands host a large variety of birds that usually attack the small plantations arranged by the local people.

  • Reflection of a driverless oxcart as it crosses by the path where Sergio Covis died, when he was 25 years old.

  • A lamb is sacrificed; its meat will be consumed at a family celebration. City dwellers are not always aware of the problems affecting small farmers, who provide them with healthy food.

  • Children play by the Paraguay river.

  • Enrique Barrios holds an animal whose leather will be marked with hot iron. The small livestock production is the most important economic activity for the residents of Villa Oliva, a rural area located within the largest wetland system of the world.

  • Bell of the small community school