Updated: Dec 5, 2019
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Having arrived at Buen Peru the previous night in the dark, soaking wet and after having spent a full day putzing down the river, there wasn’t time to see or digest my new surroundings.
We wake up to sunshine, heat and intense humidity again, but I also keep hearing a chicken that sounds like it’s right next to me.
No, that can’t be, it must be outside. Oh no, the chicken is right in the corner of the long room. The long room being the entire living space and kitchen.
Here’s a look inside Armando’s home in Buen Peru.
Buen Peru is one of the Matsés communities found along the Rio Galvez. I’d guess the population is between 200 – 400.
As I mentioned earlier, he had eight wives and 48 children.
Many of his children, grandchildren, etc. live in Buen Peru.
As I spent more time along the River Galvez, I understand that what I see is a reflection of the changes the Matsés have undergone since the 1960’s.
For instances, there are no ‘long’ houses in this community but these homes are there current method of building still making use of natural materials.
They generally do not have electricity, there are no stoves, dishwashers, sinks, etc.
The kitchens are sourced with wood-burning fires. There is no running water.
Want to cook with water? Want to wash your dishes or laundry? Then walk to the river and wash them; while you are at it jump in for your bath as well.
The Matsés start their day very early, around 3 or 4 in the morning. They don’t have to worry about rush hour traffic but they do start their day with hunting and fishing and the best time for wildlife are in the dark hours.
In the evenings children and adults of all ages gather in the communal areas to play volleyball, football/soccer, and socialize, provided there isn’t more work to continue.
Armando and his family are some of the most versatile people I have ever met! From farming manioc, bananas, to hunting, to making baskets by hand, fishing, building, giving haircuts, assisting children with their homework, spending time in the local church, making bows and arrows, making fishing rods, they do it ALL.
There is no phone to pick up and nobody to call when you need something fixed.
If something needs to be done, they find a way. One of Armando’s sons is a teacher, but one weekend he spent the entire weekend out hunting.
There are no grocery stores, if you want food, you must grow it, gather it, hunt it or fish for it.
Traditionally Matses are animists, however as we found in Buen Peru, the younger generations practice Christian or Presbyterian religions.
In observing the children, I never saw a child misbehave, talk back, not listen, and never saw them refuse to do something they were asked to do by an adult. Parents and elders begin instilling and teaching survival skills at a very early age; whether this is fishing, hunting with a bow and arrow, piloting a peca peca, farming or handling a machete.
Various roles still seem to be gender oriented. For example, the women are responsible for carrying the very heavy bunches of bananas from the field, cooking, washing etc.
My guide and I washed our clothes in the river like the locals, however we initially got a lot of stares as they are not used to seeing ‘men’ wash clothes.
Buen Peru was our base for a night or two in the beginning, middle and end of our expedition in the Amazon.
There are very few outsiders that visit this incredibly remote area and I found that in the beginning most were very shy but very hospitable. I’d love to truly understand what goes through their mind when they find somebody like me there.
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Armando & Wagner making fishing pole: