Luis Muñoz Torres
Local Solar Engineer
My name is Jose Luis Muñoz Torres. I am 27 years old, I was born in Lago Agrio in the province of Sucumbios, my dad is Achilles. He is from a small mountain village in the Andes of Ecuador called Sevilla. Sevilla is like the rainforest communities in the Amazon, it is another little world outside of this crazy world we live in. Ever since we were little children, we spent a lot of time there and I always loved it. It is a beautiful and peaceful place.
Since I was a little boy, I always broke toys and motors, this is how I learned how machines work. To this day I really like working with machines and technical things!
I studied auto mechanics. When I was studying mechanics I also realized that I really like the jungle, the trees, the animals, the insects. In school, they used to call me ‘el bichologo’ [the bug boy], because I was always talking about insects. I enjoyed learning all about insects and was always talking them. Despite my deep interest in biology I ended up studying mechanics since there was something deep inside of me that knew that studying mechanics could be very useful.
Now I cannot imagine myself as a biologist. I love to be in the jungle but I would have felt very limited not knowing the things I am able to do now. And I very much love to work with technical things especially in a natural environment. It is the perfect combination of my two passions.
I enjoy being a part of the solar project and teaching the new solar technicians. I very much like to work together with this team.
Why did you accept the challenge to be the local ingenieur of this project?
I had felt the need to move forward. With this position, I have the opportunity to acquire a lot of experience. It´s for all the people who benefit from this project. For me it is very important to continue learning and to keep developing both professionally and personally. It is a new challenge for me to manage people. I am just learning about this. I have never had to lead a group of people. I am somebody that doesn't like to be giving orders, I just make suggestions, you can do this or that… I like the group of this year’s project very much. They all understand everything very well. Maestro Limber, now is the ‘master’ of the solar panels. When I check his work, everything is perfect.
I remember the nights during the weeks of installation in the different communities, laughing with the Waorani technicians. I like the Waorani very much because they are always laughing and making jokes. I would like to actually understand what they are saying, but I don't… still I love to be with them. What I really like is to get to know their other side, beside being a technician, like Emontay! I like to get to know that side from him, when they are in their own community, in their own environment, like Roveyro for example. I had no idea that he hunts. I had no idea Roveyro could walk in the jungle alone without getting lost. When we were on a hunt together he left us and one hour later he was standing there in the middle of the jungle, waiting for us with this shotgun, as if it was the most normal things to find your way without any trails or signs. I didn't know Roveyro could do that. I thought he’d live in the city and that was it. But there is so much more that you learn about all of them as we spend time together. I really like all our technicians.
What do you like the most about the project?
I really like this project because it gives me the opportunity to go to very remote places, where it is very difficult to install solar systems. In a community where you almost can't enter, that is fascinating to me, that's what I like the most. The remoteness is what is what is the most difficult of the project and it is also what I like the most. And bringing light to a community where there has never been light before. That is wonderful. It is hard to put words to it.
The world keeps moving forward and indigenous communities in the rainforest cannot be left behind, still using candles for light, for example. At least light is necessary, I think. They know there's a world outside, they are aware of that and they have the right to own a lightbulb or AC current so that they use electrical appliances.
However getting to the communities is very difficult, transporting all the materials, equipment, and people, but in the end, I am very happy with the results we achieve. The families are happy with their light and independent access to clean electricity. That is why I like it.
I am also learning a lot about solar panels and solar systems. I started learning about solar a few years ago and I am so grateful for this opportunity now. Professionally, I am learning a lot. The fact of being responsible for the materials and teaching the community technicians, that already is a lot for me and I am thankful to do be able to do that. I enjoy doing it.
Personally I also like how life is in the communities, to live disconnected from the craziness of the world, that is fulfilling, too. Today I learned from Emontay about another world. I had no idea how it was to really walk in the jungle. I didn't know. For me it is amazing, how Emotay lives, how he thinks. He says he loves to be and live in the jungle. He goes and sleeps in the waterfalls alone because he likes that, it is his life. He doesn't want to leave his world. I respect that. I felt this urge to get to know these people, how simple they live. Sometimes with Lexie my wife, we get worried about our family and the things we are planning to do, or about money and those things. Sometimes I think that the more money you have, the more complicated life gets. When I come here into the jungle, they live simple, with almost nothing and are very happy, all of them are smiling. Sometimes I feel that's what I miss in my life too, simplicity, less is more. I don't know. Our lives are finite. I only want to use it and be of use in the best way possible.
What problems and challenges do you see in the communities?
We live in a world that grows and develops with a rapid speed, we are extracting resources from the Earth and with that destroying the home of the people who living here in the jungle. I feel that little by little the people [in the communities] feel like they have no way out. These small rainforest communities are here like the last resistance of the natural world and a life in balance with nature. After all I don't know for how long they still will be here.
It is sad, sometimes I feel that at any time, this is almost going to end. I don't know when humanity is going to stop extracting natural resources, plundering the earth without considering what we are doing to the planet and the people. It seems the destruction is almost unavoidable. I use oil for my car. We use oil for everything in our lives. We need to use the opportunities and possibilities we have now to create change and to support those who are fighting to defend the natural world. I also don’t know how to stop the destruction. We used oil to come here with the canoes. It is almost unavoidable. But with all these things in the world, it is important to support the people in the rainforest communities to live self-determined and the way they choose to live with dignity.
Development will continue and it will reach into the communities, so the best we can do, I think, is to stop talking and to get to work, that's what I feel, to support in all ways possible now.
What do you like to do the most?
I love riding the bike, but I don't have time anymore. I think now my hobby is my job. I also like to work in the laboratory. It is my wife’s work. In her lab I am always trying to cultivate mushrooms, I always try to do something. I used to make a lot of handicraft because I enjoy doing that, too. It is a way of expressing what one has inside to the outside. I love handicrafts from any tradition. I also like cooking and to build things. My life has been developed little by little, and now I find myself doing the things I really like. My wife says I don’t know how to relax and that I’m always doing something, but I can’t spend three days in the hammock. I need to do something. It’s my great grandfather's fault, I have his genes.
What is your dream?
I always wanted to travel. The world is too big and diverse to stay only in one place and get to know only one culture. I always wanted to go out and know more.
I want to travel, build and create things. I want more people to know how to make your life easier with making or building things. I would like to teach them to build for example a dehydrator or a solar system. I would like to show people that you can make things very easily to improve your life a little bit. I would like to teach people that they can make things with their own hands, to empower people, and to teach them how to use the things they have in their own surroundings. That's what I imagine myself doing.
What would be your message to all those who have supported the solar project?
I’ve always believed that when one does things with a good intention, everything is reciprocal. If you think well, if you do well, you are going to do fine. To the people who have supported this project, our work, and the people in the Amazon, I want to say a big thank you. Any way one chooses to support this work, with volunteer work, money or materials, we are very thankful. I believe if we give without asking for a return life will remember.