Taricaya Reserve | Visiting a family of a native amazonian tribe
On the banks of Madre de Dios River, in Taricaya Reserve lives one family that belongs to the Amazonian tribe Ese’Eja. The head of the family is 85 years old and although he has five wives, he now lives with only one. They have two animal companions: a baby monkey and a macaw named Washi and they are very content with their life in the jungle.
They do not speak Spanish at all but understand a few words that they learned since childhood, from colonists who at that time began to explore the Amazon. From them, they also received the names, Enrique and Theresa, because their real names were too difficult to pronounce by anyone outside their tribe.
We spent half a day together and we would never understood each other without the help of our guide from Amazon Planet Lodge. Enrique’s stories are absolutely fascinating, and his passion for the Amazon is shown from the way he speaks about Ese’Eja in his native language mixed with a few words in Spanish. The couple has many children that are living in Puerto Maldonado because their grandchildren need to go to school, but every Sunday they come to visit at lunch when it is a special occasion for Enrique to open the bottle with his favorite drink. He prefers to make his own alcohol from the fruits he gathers from the jungle because he thinks that whiskey is too weak and terrible. Helped by one of their daughters, Teresa is making jewelry, a very important economic activity for many women in the tribe. She collects seeds from the jungle, then she dyes them with natural pigments from different plants and transforms them into highly appreciated chains and bracelets.
Although they respect the modern life of their children, the two of them live according to the traditions inherited within the tribe. They wear clothes made from fibers of dried tree bark, that they replace once in a while when they become damaged. They feed on freshly caught fish from Madre de Dios River or with animals whose meat is only fired, never boiled, and to light a fire they use bamboo and cotton that they gather in the dry season. Enrique is no longer young, but he still hunts monkeys, tapirs or macaws, and raise a couple of chickens in his backyard. He goes barefoot into the jungle because he says he doesn’t need shoes and stops a fire with his feet without feeling any pain.
As soon as we met him, Enrique was eager to tell us about his family’s customs, to show us how he hunts with a bow and arrows, starts a fire, dance, or what beautiful jewelry his wife makes. He had everything prepared to teach us how to shoot at an improvised target made from raw papaya, with a bow and arrows that he would give us as a goodbye gift. He even let us try our luck with several models from his collection.
In his own simple way, Enrique tried to show us the differences between the traditions respected in his tribe and our modern life. He and his wife are very content with their life in the jungle and say they don’t need money because everything they need is around them and comes without a price tag. With what he earns from guests, he helps his grandchildren in Puerto Maldonado to buy clothes or books for school. Definitely Enrique is an inspiration for those who enter his home, and a unique opportunity to see life from a different perspective.