“When you arrive to Oymyakon (Russia), which is considered the coldest inhabited city on the planet and the closest to the Arctic Circle, they register you and give you a diploma.” That was how Agustín Amaro discovered that he was the first canary to set foot on the place. The authorities of this inhospitable town thought it was so exotic that it was from the Islands that they paid tribute to it in the local theater. The anecdote of the palmero explorer is immense and is full of curious episodes, stories that are portrayed in the book The Siberian Arctic: Uncharted Territory, which includes his photographs and the texts of his travel companion Miguel Ángel Julián (Barcelona), a graduate in Arctic Studies, and which will be the starting point for a talk this Tuesday, October 18, at the Archaeological Museum, at 6:00 p.m.: 00 hours, within the International Festival of Travel and Adventure Literature, Periplofrom Puerto de la Cruz, organized by the City Council and Comando Periplo.
Agustín, who lives in La Laguna, is a dentist by profession almost all year round, but when winter comes, for two decades now, he hangs up his backpack and becomes an explorer, a traveler who seeks to discover and learn about those ethnic groups that survive in territories that are not suitable for life, places that are above the 70th parallel, in the Arctic. “Our project is to go to very small towns, with less than a thousand inhabitants and, above all, that have not been explored before,” he confesses.
His passion for traveling has always accompanied him, but it was a route through Iceland in 2003 that would change his vision of the world. “I was fascinated by the Vatnajökull glaciers. That took me to Greenland, to Alaska, to Antarctica and from there to the Arctic.” At this point in his adventure he met the ethnologist Miguel Ángel Julián, who suggested that he do a dating of Siberian arctic tribes. “From that moment on, he went to Siberia every winter to live with different tribes. We have been working on this project for almost 11 years, getting to know each ethnic group and its people, doing interviews and photographic reports”, he shares.
The infinite white of the arctic landscapes was a great impact for Amaro, so used to the volcanic orography of the Canary Islands. “That nature so hostile to human beings was fascinating to me, but what definitely made me fall in love with the Arctic was its people, so friendly and cordial with foreigners, even though they hadn’t seen one for years. It has been a real adventure to learn from them, to know their customs, to see how they can survive in such extreme conditions without having the problems of the first world. It is at that moment that you realize that many of the things that we have here are not so important”, reflects the one who has also told his anecdotes to the students of 4th of ESO and 1st and 2nd of Baccalaureate, on purpose of Periplo Formation, a series of talks for schoolchildren that was born with the intention of disseminating culture and making other social realities known among the youngest.
The tribes that star in the book The Siberian Arctic: Uncharted Territory They are mostly nomads who are dedicated to livestock and live in tents similar to tipis, where the Canarian explorer spent icy nights. “We are talking about very unknown areas. Very few people know that around 50 different ethnic groups live in this territory, speaking up to 300 different languages.” Mongols, Yupics, Turks, opposing cultures with some similarities, ranging from the Nenets, a nomadic tribe that lives off its cattle and has a census of some 40,000 people, to others like the Ngansaka, who number 200 and are in danger of extinction .
Despite being in a completely foreign territory, Agustín Amaro has always felt very welcome on his adventures in the Arctic. “As a curiosity, once we appeared in a Khanty wrestling tournament, in the Siberian town of the same name, very similar to Canarian wrestling, the difference is in the grip, there it is because of the shoulders. It occurred to me to say that this was done in my land and they put me in the fight. He was the first foreigner to do so. So, with a pardelera I won the fight. The people were very friendly, they encouraged me by shouting hispanic hispanic. He was funny, ”he narrates between laughs.
More chilling for the canary was walking along the route of the bones, one of the coldest on the planet. “It is a road built during the Stalin dictatorship and that runs through one of the most dangerous and coldest areas in the world, with average temperatures of -50 to -70ºC. Such was the number of workers who were dying of cold that the guards decided to bury them under the 2,000-kilometer highway. Legend has it that there is one death for every meter. It’s a big cemetery,” he recounts.
Amaro and Julián’s roadmap also highlights their passage through towns in the interior of the city of Yakutsk (Russia), a feat that made them the first foreigners of the place in the last century. Nobody in the town had ever seen a tourist before. “When we started this adventure nobody knew us, but in recent years this has changed. Now the authorities receive us, we have appeared on the news, newspapers, we have given lectures at universities, my colleague was made a member of the Russian Geographical Society”, narrates the explorer.
In fact, in the winter of 2019, when the closure of the borders in Spain due to the COVID-19 pandemic was announced, the explorers were in an arctic base. “We were the first foreigners invited to the base of the University of Murmansk, a place that we had to dig up, it was under two meters of snow. We’ve been digging for hours.” The pandemic and the start of the war in Ukraine have paralyzed his investigative work.
“Traveling like this is sustainable because we always respect the customs of the place and try to lead the same lifestyles as the locals, taking care of the environment in which they live,” says Agustín Amaro. His example makes possible a circle tripmotto of the Periplo Festival in its tenth edition and with which it is intended to reflect on the impact of travelers in the territories, delving into experiences and processes to travel the world in a conscious way.
The festivalperiplo.com website and social networks offer up-to-date information with the details of the projects, activities, calls and news that make up the programme.
Ten years of Festival Periplo
The International Festival of Travel and Adventure Literature of Puerto de la Cruz, Periplo, celebrates its tenth anniversary in style, with a program made up of more than 60 proposals. The encounter with the letters is integrated into the programming developed by the Culture Area as one of the projects of the cultural and creative ecosystem of the municipality, -specifically in the axis of festivals and stable programming- that is based on the participation, the creation of knowledge, inclusion, connection of people and co-management with the public and private sector, in order to promote and support the local and regional cultural industry and value social development and a revaluation of the city as a place rich in identity, cohesion and well-being.
In this way, the Festival is part of the culture and visitor innovation laboratory of Puerto de la Cruz, Josity, a project that seeks to create links between the history and culture of Puerto de la Cruz with its visitors. Josity was born transversally to the Cultural and Creative Ecosystem (ECC), and was formed thanks to the joint efforts of the Puerto de la Cruz City Council, through its Tourism and Culture areas; the Tenerife Tourism Innovation Area; the Institute of Cultural Development of the Government of the Canary Islands, and the collaboration of the Cultural Chair of Management and Cultural Policies FECAM-ULL.
The proposal to bring authors closer to students has been carried out since the first editions. These meetings are aimed at students in the 4th year of ESO and the 1st and 2nd years of Baccalaureate. In this tenth edition the protagonists will be José Luis Macías (The lighthouses at the end of the world), Agustin Amaro (Siberian Arctic. unknown territory), Roberto Hoyo (Lazarus, play), Ana Griott (Stories of the world), Itziar Marcotegui and Pablo Strubell (let’s go on an adventure), Nicolas Castellano (Ukraine: A war from within), Kabwende Nsungu (come and be) and Javier Sancho (How to face your biggest fear).
Sponsors and collaborators
Periplo is sponsored by the Tenerife Tourism Innovation Area and with the collaboration of the Canarian Institute of Cultural Development, the Urban Development Consortium for the rehabilitation of Puerto de la Cruz, the Archaeological Museum of Puerto de la Cruz, the Municipal Public Library Tomás de Iriarte, Casa Africa, KDO Theater, Grupo Compostelana, Kafka, La Pescadería Street, Hotel Maga, La Cocina, Sala Teatro Timanfaya, Bodega Julián, Be Live Experience Hotel, Cine nómada (the film distribution program of the Film Festival Africano de Tarifa-Tánger FCAT), Club Clásicos del Norte, Clipia Estudio, the Reyes Bartlet Cultural Association and the Camaleón Association.