“This means just as much to the future of my family, to those who came before me, their livelihood, their quality of life, as it does to those who come after us.”


Chile, the Canihuante, and the Cochiguaz

The Canihuante indigenous community has been fighting to protect the Valle de Elqui for decades. “El Río es Familia” captures the Canihuante’s fight against the effects of years of destructive mining. The film introduces viewers to those who are dedicated to protecting the Cochiguaz River’s future; they worked tirelessly to petition the Chilean government to award the river, which runs through the Valle de Elqui, with natural sanctuary status. 

A Film About Family

Fighting for the river and the people who depend on it has been a team effort – a team led by the Canihuante family. From Carmen Canihuante, who worked with politicians, lawyers, government to petition for the Cochiguaz River’s natural sanctuary status, to Rafael Canihuante, president of the Canihuante indigenous community of Cochiguaz, to the countless other players who are standing up for this incredible South American resource, “El Río es Familia” shares a story not just about a river, but about a community.

A Closer Look at the Cochiguza

The Rio Cochiguaz originates in the Andes Mountains. It feeds the Puclaro Basin: the main source of drinking water for La Serena, and flows into the Claro River. From there, the Claro makes its way into the Valle de Elqui, which plays an important role in the culture, nature, and economy of Chile. The valley gets more than 300 days of sunshine annually, making it excellent for wine and other industries. Valle de Elqui also serves as an ancient home to the Molle, Anima, and Diaguitas cultures along with plentiful native flora – such as the Maitén, Sandillón or Cojin de Suegra, and Jalajala – and fauna – including puma, Maldonado lizards, and Andean condors.

Protecting the Watershed

Rivers are Life is committed to making a meaningful difference toward a world where our waterways are valued and protected. 

To help protect the watershed, Rivers are Life donated to River Heroes featured in "El Rio es Familia" who will host educational workshops featuring ornithologists, botanists, geologists, agriculturists, and archeologists.

Sun illustration


Of drought within the Valle de Elqui.

Globe illustration


Within the valley, 17 of which are inside the sanctuary.

Plant illustration


Sustained by the Valle de Elqui, 99% being native or endemic.

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