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El RÍo es Familia

Presented By: Rivers Are Life
“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 Rio 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 Rio es Familia” shares a story not just about a river, but about a community.

A Closer Look at the Cochiguaz

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.

Project 3/1000

Rivers are Life is committed to making a meaningful difference toward a world where our waterways are valued and protected. We’ll be sharing updates on our project in the Valle de Elqui soon.


of drought within the Valle de Elqui


within the valley, 17 of which are inside the sanctuary


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

What's Next

2023 is a big year for Rivers are Life. Stay tuned for more stories about River Heroes working around the world, coming soon to a screen near you.

Join The Movement

We invite you to join the Rivers Are Life movement and be part of a new era of modern exploration highlighting the wonder of our planet’s rivers, the humans and wildlife that call them home, and the issues that threaten this vital natural resource. Together, we can learn, understand, and inspire the action that will lead to real change.

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