In Memorium: Guillermo Guerra
15 April 1960 - 3 March 2021
Project Amazonas mourns the loss of a long-time colleague and friend to Covid-19.
Most of the following text was first written about 3 AM on 3 March as an initial notice to Guillermo's closest colleagues and friends, but I decided to include it here as well.
3 March 2021: Tragic news from Peru. At 2 AM today I received calls from Luis Guerra and from Fernando Rios to let me know that my long-time colleague and friend, Guillermo Guerra, had passed away from Covid-19. I have known Guillermo since my very first trip to Peru in 1994, and he was much more than just a friend and colleague. He was part of my Peruvian "family".
Guillermo was the first friendly face that most people traveling to Peru with either Project Amazonas or MT Amazon Expeditions would see at the airport. He arranged flights, helped travelers get rubber boots and SIM cards for their phones, he passed on messages, arranged hotels and logistics, and was a constant point of contact for the families of medical and other volunteers. Nothing was too complicated or over the top for Guillermo. He had contacts throughout Iquitos and throughout Peru, and interacted with literally thousands of people in his time with Project Amazonas.
I'm still numb and in denial. Guillermo was only 9 months older than I am, and had no underlying medical conditions, yet Covid-19 killed him within a week's time. Please everyone, take every precaution that you can, and get vaccinated as soon as you can. I don't want to loose more friends and family. Guillermo was the first close friend/family member that I have lost to Covid, and I hope that there won't be any more.
A second wave of Covid, fueled by new, more transmissible variants of the virus, is currently sweeping through Peru. To date, only a small number of health workers have been vaccinated (along with a sizable number of politicians and their family members who have jumped the lines - is there any doubt why the population doesn't trust the authorities?). So stay safe, and please remember that until a majority of the global population is vaccinated, that we will never beat this pandemic. United we stand, divided we will certainly fall.
A fundraiser site in honor of Guillermo and for Covid-19 relief in Peru will go live on 5 April at globalgiving.org. A successful campaign will make us a permanent member of the Global Giving family, and will open the doors to corporate and matching donations, so your support will be magnified.
Guillermo was hospitalized at Kanatari, a field hospital operated by the Catholic diocese in Iquitos, and a site where many of the poorest of the poor of the city receive care that they could never afford otherwise. The diocese is also one of very few institutions in Iquitos that is widely trusted by the population not to be corrupt or incompetent or both. We will direct 1/3rd of the donated funds to Kanatari for the good work that they are doing; use 1/3rd to continue providing essential medications to rural communities which are more abandoned by the centralized health system than ever before, and direct the final 1/3rd to support medical care and community health worker training at our Orosa River clinic.
Photo credits: Luis Guerra, Gary Selnow, David Snell, Mike Pingleton
Rest in Peace, Guillermo my friend. May your family find comfort and solace in the outpouring of support.
Love & Peace to all.
Photos: Top to bottom, left to right: Guillermo on the Iquitos waterfront; greeting a passenger at the airport; at the Pacific Ocean in Lima; assisting Wired International's Gary Selnow with health module computer training at the Pevas clinic; overlooking the Napo River with herpetology trip leaders and our general manager, Fernando Rios at right); enjoying the grandkids (photos 1 & 2); assisting Wired International personnel with computer equipment purchases in Iquitos; in the Peruvian Andes; and lastly at final rest, with his brother William in the photo at bottom right.