Renewing Relations
with the Cinchona Plant
at the Center of the World
by Decolonizing Quinine and
the Global Discourse
on Conservation



produced with, and on lands of Kichwan Peoples
(Central Andes)


From germ theory to plantation logic, this project tracks 529 years of global, colonial powers in the violent search for the elusive Cinchona plant of South America. Smuggled and stolen by the Jesuits and the Spanish Monarchy in the 17th century, transplanted by Britain and Holland in India and Indonesia during the 18th century, mapped by German explorer Alexander von Humboldt in the 19th century, weaponized by the U.S. in the 20th century, and monopolized by global pharma in the 21st century, the story of the Cinchona plant — the tree called ‘fever’ — literally lies at the base of modern civilization.

The quest to find the cure for malaria and to control the production of quinine as seen in the corporate monopoly in Africa’s Democratic Republic of Congo today also traces deep roots of territorial dispossession and labor exploitation that lie between the Amazon and the Andes. Behind the mask of heritage preservation and resource conservation, five centuries of graphic evidence put into sharp relief the uneven scales of racialized, gendered violence that are rooted in territorial injustices and underpinned by state nationalism. Bringing the map and the territory closer together, state-sanctioned policies of resource extraction and environmental destruction are interwoven with contemporary narratives of sovereignty and self-determination. Like a geopolitical treatise, the archival activism of this research project rebuilds relations with the Cinchona plant, by reclaiming territorial histories of its peoples and its ancestral lands to confront the oppressive structures of the settler-state.

Overlooked, suppressed, and marginalized, the long history of resistance movements and rebellions led by Indigenous and Afro-Latina women not only reveal the settler-colonial force of the nation-state. Their contemporary resurgence in the 21st century proposes a counter-map: a way challenge to the plague of violence and weaponization of resources of the past five centuries and its transformation into a regenerative flora of the future.

Initiated in 2019 and launched in 2021, THE QUINO TREATY is a multimedia project involving a program of events and interventions that seek to support existing territorial justice actions and ongoing efforts to end systemic oppression associated with the exploitation of Indigenous labor and dispossession of Indigenous Peoples in the global production of quinine.


In the foreground of one of the most dangerous maps in the world — that is Alexander von Humboldt’s profile of the Andes featured in his 1805 “Essai sur la Géographie des Plantes” — this exhibition offers a message to systems and structures of the oppression, historic and current, whose whose forces place at risk the future of Indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian, working-class Mestizx Peoples: the digitally decapitated head of Queen Isabel la Católica (1451-1504) taken from her statue erected in Quito, the historic center of the colonial capital city of Ecuador after its ascension in 1978 as the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage site.

Currently on display from May 20th to November 20th, 2021 at the Venice Architecture Biennale in Italy, this exhibition will travel to Ecuador and the United States in 2022.


How can the narrative of a plant shed light on the political or global understanding of history? How can a historical re-reading of a tree confront complex ecologies of exploitation or support territorial patterns of resistance? In what ways can the scales of representation—from seed to State—help to dismantle systems of domination? Could these counter-representations lead to strategies of restorative justice or spatial liberation? As witnessed by the enduring legacy of the Cinchona plant, many territorial conflicts belying the transnational world are overlooked in the production of quinine and the growth of the Cinchona plant. Frictions resulting from the invasive penetration into the Amazon to rampant extraction across the Andes show that the plant is more than its reduction to a bark extract or chemical compound. The Cinchona plant is more than some binomial taxonomy labeled by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753 or some exotic discovery mapped by German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt in 1805. The plant embodies a living world of toxic soils and polluted waters, as much as it channels suppressed traditions and threatened ways of life of those Kechwan Nations for example, like the Saraguros Peoples that have cared for, cultivated, and nurtured the medicinal knowledge of quinine and have held sacred the botanical intelligence of the tree called ‘fever’ for generations upon generations.

Published by ORO Editions (GOFF Books), this 543-page book is planned for release in Summer 2021 and available in major art & design bookstores worldwide.


If, in the colonial imagination, civilization is a world free of malaria, then the Cinchona plant is its blood money. When the WHO declared that Europe was officially malaria-free in 2015, it was the first to achieve this status in the history of the world with zero cases that year. In the shadows of Europe’s rise to the top of global health pyramid, another 1.5 billion people in Africa, South America, and the Western Pacific remained at risk. Not uncoincidentally, the same regions where the cure comes from (Ecuador and neighboring Andean countries) and now produced (DR Congo, India, Indonesia) are dispossessed from their own natural remedy.

For Europeans, 2015 was the year that marked a historic end to a struggle that no amount of gold or silver from the so-called New World could guarantee. For them, the bark of the Cinchona plant was literally worth more than its weight in gold especially given that malarial fevers plagued even the mind of Hippocrates since Antiquity. The so-called discovery the New World was in fact the end of that struggle for Europeans on the backs of Indigenous Peoples and enslaved Black Peoples whose battles just begun. The global map drawn of Cinchona plantations built with seeds and seedlings stolen from the ravaged forests of Cinchona trees in the Andes traces a timeline of territorial injustices, legacies of racial oppression, and contemporary gender violence that very few, if any other plant in the world can claim.

Coinciding with the 41st anniversary of the 1990 Quito Declaration (Encuentro Continental de Pueblos Indígenas, Ecuador), a carefully embroidered declaration is planned for release in Ecuador on July 17-20, 2021. Produced in Kichwa and Castellano, the declaration reclaims the name of the Cinchona plant — The Quino Treaty — and rejects the scourge of state violence while seeking an end to territorial and racial injustices against Indigenous Peoples, Afro-Ecuadorians, and working-class Mestizx peoples. 




Pablo Escudero, Ghazal Jafari, Pierre Bélanger





Patricia Yallico (Acapana)


Carolina Villagómez Monteros

Manos de Colores, Handicrafts of Ecuador 
Daniela Fuentes Moncada)

Sara Sisa Bordados: Verónica Montesdeoca, Gissela Simbaña, Erika Simbaña,

Rosita Tasiguano, Rosario Tashiguano, Catalina Toapanta, Rebeca Uyana


Daniela Fuentes Moncada

Silvia Zurita, Grafitext

Dr. Trevor Kemp (UVA), Landscape Infrastructure Lab

Esteban Calderón, Sergio Calderón, Pinxcel

Paul Granizo

Simone Cadamuro

Diana Mosquera


Enrique Cachiguango Katsa

Consulta: Patricia Yallico



ORO Editions (Goff Books)



Alejandra Pinto Cárdenas

Tupac Enrique Acosta, David Diaz Arcos, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Alexander Arroyo, Jean-Marc Bélanger, Mónica Belevan, Joe Berlinger, Hernán Bianchi-Benguria, Dirk Brinkman, Mona Caron, Fabiola Cuvi, Tiffany Kaewen Dang, Henrietta Danker, Lou Dematteis, Ana María Durán Calisto, Enotrius, Pablo A. Escudero, Verónica Escudero, Ingeborg Eggink, Reid Farnsworth, Ali Fard, Belén Fuentes Suarez, Daniela Fuentes Moncada, Jacob Geitner, Gordon Goff, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, María Guagalango, Patricia Gualinga, Christine D. Helmlinger Stewart, Salvador Huillca, Emanuela Innelli, Dr. Trevor Kemp, G. Mathias Kondolf, Gabriel Kozlowski, Sanford Kwinter, Dr. Bernd Lehmann, Ana Maria León, Eduardo León, Alex Lucitante, Olivier Martí, Miho Mazereeuw, Nina Mazereeuw, Scott McCreary, Ran Mei, Ivan Mejia, Nela Meriguet, Gabriel Moreno, Diana Mosquera, Oleg Muzyka, Matteo Nardone, Nemonte Nenquimo, Liesbeth Ouwehand, David Pellicola, Sophie Pinchetti, Alejandra Pinto, Katherine A. Porras, Jeremy Rosenberg, Abby Ross, Jeff Russell, Octavio Santa Cruz, Roi Salgueiro Barrio, Hashim Sarkis, Santiago Serna, Samantha Sigmon, Sara Sisa Bordados (Verónica Montesdeoca, Giss Simbaña, Erika Simbaña, Rosita Tasiguano, Rosario Tashiguano, Catalina Toapanta, Rebeca Uyana) & Manos de Colores (Daniela Fuentes Moncada), Andrey Sitnik, Silvercrowncoin, Fanke Su, Gloria Irene Taylor, Robert Wright, Robert Twiss, Hugo Tobar Webb, Ana Victoria Vásconez, 
Carolina Villagómez Monteros, Janie Day Whitworth, Patricia Yallico, and Yuri111

LA MINGA Initiative is an action-based collaborative and multimedia platform committed to struggles for environmental justice and fights against territorial dispossession and racial inequality through transformative spatial, legal, and territorial change. Based in Quito (Ecuador), current collaborations and pilot projects are located at the intersection of the Andes and the Amazon.



©2021 All rights reserved.