The Amazon: Traditional Matsés

Updated: Dec 5, 2019

If you missed the previous Amazon segments, click these links: 

P1: Making it Happen

P2: Now That It’s Happening & the Matses

P3: Journey Along the River

P4: Around Buen Peru

P5: Wildlife

Note: Contains nudity & sensitive photos

Of course every single thing about this expedition was extraordinary, however one of my favorite highlights was spending time with the Matsés who choose to continue to live and carry on with their traditional ways of life.

This included staying a few nights with a part of Armando’s family who, continue living in this way, including his mother Canë, his brother Roberto and his wife Tupa, and two other family members Bëso and Segundo.

Segundo, Roberto, Roberto’s wife Tupa, Armando’s mother Canë, Bëso, [the little one is Diane]

When I mentioned in a previous post that the Matsés, in general, were quite shy, this part of the family were certainly an exception.

On arrival Roberto greeted us and it took me a few minutes to realize he was trying to be humorous by greeting me in a primitive way, as if he were trying to frighten me. I have to say it went over my head. 
All of the elders have such a great sense of humor!

The rest of the family came out to greet me and immediately wanted me to take photos. We were then offered their traditional mashed banana juice and manioc as welcomed guests. My Matses name is Canshë.

on arrival offered smashed banana juice and manioc

They do live in a traditional ‘long house’ known as ‘maloca’ , however it isn’t as long as they were built in the past when the tribal communities lived together.

Based on my conversations with the family, it appears these family members are the remaining few living in this manner. Unlike the younger generations, these family members speak only Matses language with Roberto as the exception speaking a bit of Spanish.

Where elders live:

used to make maloca

door on end of maloca

Inside maloca: as you can see it's VERY dark!

Now imagine how the conversations went when they only speak Matsés, my Spanish is limited, my guia’s English is limited!  

Regardless, we were able to communicate somewhat and the warmth and hospitality shown were incredible.

They were just as curious of me as I was of them.
Simple things which we take for granted like flying in an airplane, living in cities with concrete buildings, automobiles, rush hour traffic, all sorts of electronic devices, etc., etc. are completely foreign to them.

Each day we got to experience a different activity in the course of their normal life. Here are a few examples:

Demonstrating plants for medicinal use:

demonstrating medicinal plants

Marden, really ?!

Fishing with ‘Barbasco’, toxic plant:

There is a technique used to fish utilizing a plant. First, Roberto and Armando search for the plant, then they dig up the roots.

We then go further down river, hop out along the riverbank, trek a little inland to find a river or stream to fish. Roberto then beats the roots to release the toxins and places swishes the root in the water.

finding root & digging it up

root collected

on our way to fish

releasing toxin from root into water

The ladies then bring up the mud on the river. The fish are shocked by the plant toxins and then the mud blurs their vision putting them in a dizzied, stunned state. The others are ready with net in hand to collect the fish as they float.

En-route to fish with barbasco, notice the ladies walk barefoot.

Fishing with barbasco.  Notice Roberto putting toxins in water and the ladies kicking up the mud:

The ladies always keeping busy with making necessities

Judy preparing turtle to sell up river

More wildlife for dinner:

Yes, we had monkey for dinner and Judy got to prepare and cook it for us.  As many of you, non-vegetarians, have a ‘favorite’ part of your animal meat [e.g. chicken breast, thigh, etc.], Roberto’s favorite is the monkey brain.

monkey for dinner

Roberto’s favorite part

Nunu Ceremony [nënë snuff]