Argentina’s Wichí People, Facing “Modern Society”
“Boys at the Wichí community in Ingeniero Juarez. Despite their poverty, this child proudly shows off his suit. Brands are a symbol of distinction here as well.” © Mattia Balsamini
“Ingeniero Juarez. In most of the villages almost each households owns a motorcycle, they can afford thanks to a specially created micro-credit system. Despite this, having a horse is still a privilege and a distinctive mark. This kid proudly rides his older brother’s horse.” © Mattia Balsamini
“Priest of the village of Las Lomitas Pilagá. The villages are mostly Protestant because the natives find Catholic religion too sad and gloomy, while the Anglican Church is more cheerful – they make them sing in church, the sermons are more vivid. The government does not offer them help with religion, the missionaries help in exchange for faith. Scholars have explained that their original beliefs are not like a religion, but more like a philosophy of life.” © Mattia Balsamini
“Manuel Kama is a nurse at the community Wichi in Ingeniero Juarez. The microscopes in front of him were donated by a private person after a request to the government went unnoticed.” © Mattia Balsamini
“Raul Gonzalez is a craftsman. He builds bows, arrows and decorative figures. His job does not allow him to survive, because there is no distribution system for the artisans of the village. This is why the community wants to build a center where all the local artisans can sell their products. To build it, they are waiting for funds by the government. Raul and his family survive on his wife’s unemployment money.” © Mattia Balsamini
“Trucker in Formosa.” © Mattia Balsamini
“Kids spend most of their time in school, although they ditch it easily – if it rains, they go fishing. Because of limited enrollment, students are often mixed and study in the same place up until they turn eighteen. Only few of them have access to universities.” © Mattia Balsamini
“Olga Medina directs the school of Campo del Cielo. She supervises a team of seven teachers, who study for an average of three years before they begin their duty.” © Mattia Balsamini
“Teacher of the mataco-guaycurú language, the original idiom spoken by the Wichí and Pilagá. This language is still spoken in the community, but is disappearing, so the government introduced its study in local schools. It differs significantly from western languages in that it works by concepts.” © Mattia Balsamini
“Buenos Aires. Oscar Caffaro, an Italian born in Calabria. After we met, he insisted on offering us a good cup of espresso. He says he would love to visit his country of origin, but has never managed to put aside enough money for a ticket.” © Mattia Balsamini

Earlier this year, Italian photographer Mattia Balsamini traveled to Formosa, Argentina, as part of a small team shooting a documentary about the indigenous people living there. The images he came back with show a community which is re-organizing itself around a modern way of life, even as some older traditions are preserved: Balsamini notes that some people still live in huts made out of mud, but watch cable TV and own motorcycles – the latter contributing to dangerous levels of debt in the region. Balsamini’s photos look at the people living in a couple of cities in Formosa, and sketch out something like the structure of the society that exists there, from kids and schoolteachers to nurses and priests.

For his part, Balsamani says that he wanted to approach the photographs out of “respect and admiration for the strength” of the indigenous people. He says that the goal of documentary he was working on is “to show to the international public the world they live in, not just the beauty but also the issues they face.” Balsamini has written captions to accompany these photos, which shed some light on each person’s individual story.