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For many, the Oriente evokes mysterious Amazons and the never-ending quest for El Dorado. In the Amazon, myth and reality merge under the curious gaze of the many travellers who have ventured into its depths. In 1541, while attempting to find El Dorado (the name of a mythical South American country that translates as "country of gold") and its cinnamon-covered plains, the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Orellana became the first European to sail down the Amazon and return to tell the tale. During this heroic adventure, Orellana and his men reported that they had been attacked by fierce female warriors. Hence the name of this region: Amazonia, country of Amazons.

Nowadays, though the Oriente covers over half of Ecuador's total surface area, less than 10% of the country's population resides in this region. Shuars, Achuars, Huaoranis, Cofans, Secoyas, Sionas and Quichuas are among the few who do. The recent discovery of oil in Amazonia and the modern world's encroachment on this vast territory, still virgin only a few decades ago, now threatens the way of life of local native communities.

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