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Understanding Mashco Piro: the hidden life of isolated communities in Manu


January 19, 2018

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Mashco Piro – Photo: Charlie Hamilton James / National Geographic

Mashco Piro – Photo: Charlie Hamilton James / National Geographic

We mention repeatedly in most of our blogs, that Manu National Park and Tambo Blanquillo Private Reserve are among the most wild and biodiverse places on earth. But how diverse? I think that the fact that there is people that still roam the Amazonian foothills with little knowledge of what civilization is, describes pretty clearly how wild our area is. Here is the story of the Mashco Piro.

In the last 10 years, there has been an ever-increasing number of reports of ‘uncontacted’ people along the Alto Madre de Dios River, inside Manu National Park. Most of these sightings were made by people from local villages, but a handful of lucky tourists also saw them. In 2015, things took a horrible turn. A villager from a local town was shot dead with an arrow by members of this tribe. But, who are they? What do they want? How have they managed to stay isolated all these years? In this blog post, we will shed some light into those questions.

The name of the tribe that lives along the Alto Madre de Dios River is called Mashco Piro, most broadly known as “uncontacted” people. These people have not been isolated since eternity, though. The truth appears to be that, these people lived in villages and had contact with the ‘outside world’ until the late 1800s, until the “Caucho” (Rubber) boom happened. The story tells that Foreigners interested in exploiting this natural resource would slave the local villagers, and force them to do labour for them. Atrocities were allegedly committed towards those who refused. As a result, many of the villagers took refuge deep into the darkness of the forest. The Mashco Piro are the direct descendants of these people.

This video, which has been filmed with the help of the FENAMAD -the Federation of Native Communities of the Alto Madre de Dios River- shows and explains the life of the Mascho Piro in the Upper Madre de Dios River.

As atrocities no longer happen in the area, an the Caucho is not the untamed enterprise it once was, these people are starting to make their way back into a more civilized social structure.
Having lived in isolation for 3 generations, the Mashco Piro are very keen on the practical uses that lighters, machetes, and pots have. The main reason why the randomly invade villages is to steal these items, which evidently must facilitate their lifestyles on a way hard to comprehend.

However, since the incident of 2015, the Ministry of Culture in Peru has started a program in which they are slowing integrating the Mashco Piro into civilization. They are also providing them with the tools they need, so they don’t need to burst into villages to steal them. We hope that this story can finally come to a peaceful ending, after 150 years of suffering and isolation.

Even though the Mashco Piro are the most famous tribe, they are not the only one. Over the last 100 years, different ethnicities have come into -either forced or voluntary- contact with society. The Peruvian government has made all the efforts possible to acknowledge these people deserve as Peruvian citizens. Some of these groups have been granted territories to secure their future. One clear example of that is the communal reserve of Amarakaeri, which is one of our direct neighbours. Happily, for us, the community running the Amarakeri reserve has decided to protect their forests, and not to engage in booming extractive activities.

While there are no reports of Mashco Piro -or other currently uncontacted- people living inside our Private Reserve, there is no reason why there couldn’t be. Our goal as an ecotourism company is not to maximize profit, it is to protect the forest that we have, so all its inhabitants -human and animal- can live in peace, with no fear of being evicted or hunted. Please help us to achieve the conservation of the Amazon Rainforest. All you have to do is join us in the adventure of your lifetime.

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