People of the Mangrove: A Lens into Socioecological Interactions in the Ecuadorian Black Pacific
Keywords:environmental justice, climate change, mangroves, rhizomes, socioecology, Black Pacific, Ecuador
Adapted to survive in the interface between land and sea, mangroves are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. They are also highly adaptive to the imagination, with the theme of the mangrove being differently signified across texts, languages and communities as a place to find death in the tropics, a nature tourism destination, endangered environment, magical wood, refuge for maroons and revolutionaries, and source of livelihoods. The cultural malleability of mangroves mirrors their natural adaptability. It also echoes the varied and rhizomatic identities and imaginaries of the peoples of the tropical Americas. Relevant cultural texts produced in the region support experimentations with mangroves as a raw material susceptible to being worked in order to explain diverse realities. In order to highlight the relevance and malleability of mangrove ecosystems, this paper explores resignifications of socioecological interactions at the Ecological Mangrove Reserve Cayapas-Mataje in Ecuador through the lens of photographer Felipe Jácome. Jácome’s photographic essay Los Reyes del Manglar [The Kings of the Mangrove] provides rich material to study the rhizomatic evolution of the theme of the mangrove and its entanglements with people’s lives, cultures and histories. I argue that cultural representations of mangroves can go beyond their metaphorical recovery to support environmental justice. This essay is also informed by extant research on the important role of mangrove forests for carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation, which locates these socioecological systems at the centre of people’s struggle for climate justice.
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