ioleta Villacorta has the heart of a missionary with none of the ulterior motives.

An unselfish desire to assist indigenous peoples of the world in order to internationally showcase their traditions, their arts, and their crafts blossoms from her South American roots. Born in Lima Peru, Violeta was surrounded by the beauty of native arts and artifacts as a child, something that left not only a deep impression on her creative DNA, but may have been a factor in her advocacy decisions as an adult. “I’ve been in tune with what’s going on in the Amazon for many years,” Violeta, a member of Amazon Watch, said. “Amazon Watch works for the protection of the Rainforest as well as advancing indigenous rights.” Violeta’s real opportunities began with a family move to New York in 1980 which ultimately resulted in her acceptance at the Fashion Institute of Technology. While there, Violeta worked toward her dream of becoming a part of the world of fashion design, a place where she could showcase her unique understanding of the influence of indigenous arts and crafts on Western fashion. Violeta went on to become a senior designer for Patagonia, a company steeped in a tradition of Eco-friendly products, a good fit for Violeta’s fashion and lifestyle beliefs. Despite her success there, as well as with her own fashion line, Violeta’s passion to help others resulted in her personal creativity taking a back seat as she helps native communities find venues for their traditions and arts, a cause for which she sees multiple benefits. Feminine and beautiful, Violeta seems an unlikely candidate for jungle treks, but her most recent endeavor—the Cofán Project—has led her to the Amazon jungles

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and the small community of Cofán in Dureno Ecuador. “I’m going to be working with these people for a number of years,” Violeta said recently after raising over $17, 000 for an art center, scheduled for construction in the fall of 2010. The “Cofán Project” came about through a serendipitous series of events, beginning in March of 2010 when Atossa Soltani, the founder of Amazon Watch, invited Violeta to a screening of Avatar in Los Angeles. A longtime member of the organization which closely tracks the exploitation of the Amazon rainforest and promotes its restoration and maintenance, Violeta met Emergildo Criollo at the screening. Criollo had come to the United States with a 200,000 signature petition to present to a major oil company as part of a lawsuit. As one of the head artisans in his community of Cofán, Criollo had much in common with Violeta. By mid-May of 2010, she found herself on her way to Cofán, sketchbook in hand. Violeta, an advocate of working rather than complaining, saw an opportunity to fulfill her passion of helping others. “Instead of pointing fingers, say, ‘What can I do?’ You act,” Violeta said. “Pointing fingers gets us nowhere.” Violeta acted. Emergildo Criollo’s nephew, Wilson Criollo, and his family hosted Violeta for her one- week stay where she absorbed all the native culture the community had to offer. Time was precious, and her goal was to observe the women as they worked with native seeds and fibers to produce beautifully hand-crafted bags and jewelry, both learning and teaching during the time they spent together. The artists’ work, however, could not begin until the daily chores were done.

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