Collecting Bromeliads and Orchids in Florida



Tribes of the Amazon

'Yanomami' means "Human Beings"

The Yanomami are an indigenous tribe (also called Yanomam, and Sanuma) made up of four sub-divisions of Indians which live in the tropical rainforest of Southern Venezuela and Northern Brazil. Each subdivision has its own language.
They include the Sanema, which live in the Northern Sector, the Ninam, which live in the South-eastern Sector, the Yanomam, which live in the Southeastern part, and the Yanomamo, which live in the Southwestern part of the Yanomami area.
Of the approximately 20,000 Yanomami alive today, about 12,000 of these are Yanomamo. The Yanomami live in hundreds of small villages, grouped by families in one large communal dwelling called a Shabono; this round-shaped structure with an open-air central plaza is an earthy version of their gods' abode. They hunt and fish over a wide range and tend gardens in harmony with the forest.

Villages are autonomous but constantly will interact with each other. The villages, which contain between 40 and 300 indivduals, are scattered thinly throughout the Amazon forest. The distance between villages may vary from a few hours walk, to a ten day hike.

Though many Yanomami are peaceful, some are fierce warriors. Sometimes their warring is to capture women so that their best warriors can mazimize their reproductive success

In general, warring villages are usually several days walk from each other, where as the tranquil ones may be less than a day. Villages will usually split when the population reaches 100 to 150 people but, in times of warfare, the villages will not split before they reach a population around 300 individuals.

Villages may go to war for a number of reasons and warfare makes up a large part of Yanomami life.
About 40% of adult males have killed another person and about 25% of adult males will die from some form of violence.
Violence will vary from chest pounding, in which opponents take turns hitting each other on the chest, to club fights, to raids which may involve the killing of individuals and abducting their women, to all out brutal warfare.

The Yanomami people's traditions are shaped by the belief that the natural and spiritual world are a unified force; nature creates all and is sacred. They believe that their fate, and the fate of all people is inescapably linked to the fate of the environment.
With its destruction, humanity is committing suicide. Their spritual leader is a Shaman.

Trade also is another important aspect of Yanomami life and helps to reduce the chances of warfare between villages. Often, one village will have manufactured goods that are badly needed by another village. The village that depends on these goods will give the other village wives in return for the goods.

Marrage arrangements are not only vital in forging alliances, but keeping the peace between families as well. Most women have pre-arranged marriges and marry at a very young age.

The preffered marrige is the "Bilaterial Cross-Cousin Marrige" which helps produce strong relationships between families and villages.


Forest People (Hunters)

River People (Fishing)

Today, about 95% of the Yanomami live deep within the Amazon forest as compared to the 5% who live along the major rivers. Compared to the forest people the river people are much more sedentary and subsist by fishing and trading goods such as canoes and hooks with other villages.

The forest people are horticulturists as well as hunters and gathers. They will spend up to two hours of their day "Garden Farming" which is quite a labor intensive process. Some of the crops grown include sweet potatoes, bananas,sugar cane and tobacco. As horticulturists, the Yanomami do not get sufficient protein from their crops. Therefore, the Yanomami will spend as much as 60% of their time trekking.
Men usually make up the hunters and the women the gathers. Men will go on long distant hunts that may last up to a week.

The fact that just about all of the Yanomami live deep within the forest has been quite significant for their survival.

Since most outsiders have invaded the Amazon via the large rivers, the Yanomami have been able to live in isolation until very recently. Because of this, they have been able to retain their culture and their identy which many Indians of the Amazon have lost.

The Gold Rush of the 1980s

The Yanomami had very little contact with the outside world until the 1980s. Since 1987, the Yanomami have seen about 10% of their entire population... over 2,000 people, decimated by massacres and diseases brought by the invaders.
The Yanomami is the most well known and best documented of the four division partly because they have been the victims of a recent gold rush. After gold was discovered on Yanomami land in the mid-1980s, thousands of miners illegally rushed into the land.

The constant flights of supply planes and the noise from generators and pumps used in the mining operation has frightened away the game animals the Indians rely on as a key source of protein in their diet. High pressure hoses are used to wash away river banks silting the rivers and destroying the spawning grounds.

Mercury is used to separate the gold from soil and rock. It is then dumped in the rivers haphazardly. Mercury bio-accumulates and reeks havoc on the entire ecosystem. The effects of mercury poisoning reach even the surrounding trees, some of which rely on birds and fish to disperse their seeds. The mercury ascends the food chain up to the Yanomami in the form of a neurotoxin that especially affects child development. The most devastating statistic of the all:
Child Mortality rates have skyrocketed while the birth rates have declined.

The influence of the miners goes well beyond physical health. They introduce alcohol outside of ritual which exacerbates existing rivalries and leads to violence.
Weakened by illness and unable to produce and hunt for food, the Yanomami are reduced to begging and most recently the trading of sex for food.

For the Yanomami, what was once an intricate social system patterned on trading and bartering goods and food amongest themselves, has become a game of deadly high stakes where they are trading their culture for their very existence. The effects are dire. Disoriented by the influx of miners with their unfamiliar culture, technology and diseases, their self-respect has plummeted as their belief and cultural systems are undermined. The Yanomami are not being intergrated into Western society; instead begging, prostitution and drunkenness are being introduced into theirs.

In 1992, the Yanomami Territory was de-marcated and ratified, yet the government has not consistently kept its commitment to protect their lands.

Supported by politicians and business people, the gold miners assault escalated. In July 1993, a group of miners tried to exterminate the village of Haximu, killing 16 Yanomami, in what Brazilian Attorney General Aristides Junqueria classified as genocide. Despite international outcry spurred by the massacre, miners continue to enter the territory illegally. According to the Commission for the Creation of the Yanomami Park (CCPY) in Sao Paulo and the Indianist Missionary Council (CIMI) in Brasilia, state and local politicians are fighting to reduce the Yanomami territory because they want access to its rich mineral deposits.
There is little question that if this happens, the gold prospectors will be replaced by large scale commercial mining operations that will only compound the devastation of the Yanomami and the rainforest.

Tairona and Kogi Tribes of the Amazon

The Tairona were a precolombian civilization in the region of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in the present-day Magdalena and La Guajira Departments of Colombia, South America which goes back to the 1st century AD and showed documented growth around the 11th century. The Tairona people formed one of the two principal groups of the Chibcha and were pushed into submarginal regions by the Spanish Conquest.

The Kogi indigenous people who live in the area today are direct descendants of the Tairona. Knowledge sources about the precolombian Tairona civilization are limited to archaeological findings and a few written references from the Spanish colonial era. A major city of the Tairona and the Archaeological site is known today as Ciudad Perdida (Spanish for "Lost City").

It was discovered by treasure hunters in 1975. The Tairona are known to have built terraced platforms, house foundations, stairs, sewers, tombs and bridges from stone. Use of pottery for utilitarian and ornamental/ceremonial purposes was also highly developed.

The Tairona civilization is most renown for its distinctive goldwork. The earliest known Tairona goldwork has been described for the Neguanje Period (from 300-800 AD) and its use within the Tairona society appears to have extended beyond the elite. The gold artifacts made comprise pendants, lip-plugs, nose ornaments, necklaces and earings.

Gold cast Tairona figure pendants (known as "Caciques") in particular stand out among the goldworks of precolumbian America because of their richness in detail. The figurines depict human subjects, thought to be noblemen of chiefs in ornate dresses and with a large animal mask over the face. Many elements of their body posture (e.g. hands on their hips) and dress signal an aggressive stance and are interpreted as evidence for the power of the wearer and the bellicose nature of the Tairona society.

The tribe known as "Los Kogui" are today's custodians of the Tairona culture. They have a population of about 12,000 people. The Kogi plant crops and live off the land. They prefer not to mix with outsiders. Few Colombians, or those from the outside world are allowed to enter their mountain.
They marry in their culture and the Kogi constantly move about from place to place, between different abodes spread among the different levels of the Sierra Navada mountain range. This is looked upon as taking care of their nutritional needs without abusing the environment.

The Sierra Nevada, in the shape of a pyramid, rises from the sunny coasts of the Caribbean tropics to the chilly, snow-capped peaks that reach a height of 17,000 feet above sea level, all in only 30 horizontal miles. The northern slopes descend from snow capped peaks to the turquoise waters, tropical jungle shores and coral reefs of the Caribbean Ocean.

The area has every ecosystem in its area (8,000 sq. miles). You will find coral reefs, rain and cloud forests, arid deserts, mangroves, and in the higher elevations, plains and snow capped peaks with temperatures close to 20 degrees. The higest peak is the Pico Simon Bolivar at 5,775 feet.

In 1965, archeologists found the remains of a lost Tairona religious center and called it the "Lost City." It is a three-day hike in dense jungle to witness a true wonder of the past... it is believed that there is two more lost cities.
These highlands are inhabited by the Gods and the spirits of the dead. A universe of signs and symbols, this territory is a veritable "Open Book" which is their bridge to the world and their collective history.
The Kogi believe the Sierra Nevada to be the "Place of Creation" and the "Heart of the World." They call themselves the Elder Brothers of hummanity and consider their mission to care for the planet.. They understand how the planet works as an intergrated unit rather than the separation of all things in our worlds.

Much like other ancient civilizations that still exist on the planet, they believe themselves to be the custodians of the Earth and are here to keep things in ballance. They achieve this through intense meditation where they communicate with all living things on the planet. As with other indigenous tribes, Kogi society has changed little in the past five centuries.

They survived as a culture because the Kogi focus all their energy on the life of the mind as opposed to the life of the body or an individual. Fundamental to that survival is the maintenance of physical separation from their world and the rest of humanity. They are very protective of their sacred space and the dense jungle is not kind to tourists.
They worry about the destruction of the rainforest as well as the planet itself. This area has some of the most biologically diverse tropical rainforests on the planet. The Kogi are inseparable from the rainforest habitat in which they have lived since the dawn of time...

Through oracle propheices and messages with the spirits, they are aware of a great change that is coming to planet Earth. Their Mountain is dying, symbolizing this transition. Similar to what many other tribes around the world see, is a world that is about to be destroyed by the misuse of consciousness. Then they saw the emergence of light consciousness as part of the process of humanity emerging as a race of beings in higher evolved light bodies. This strongly connects with the metaphysical teachings of our times. To penetrate one of the Kankurua is to enter into contact with the nine worlds and the nine states of consciousness that make it up. Some say they have moved beyond verbal language, using tones to create colorful images in their minds rather than thoughts expressed as sentences. Some Kogi speak telepathically to each other.

The Kogi do not see us as "Sleeping" as many of the Hindu and Oriental religions do. The Kogi see humans as dead, shadows of the energy of what they could be. This is because they do not have enough life force energy and consciousness to be classified by them as real people. The Kogi set out to find out why the "Dead Ones" were still on the Earth. As they searched the living vibrating records of this reality, they found exactly where and why it had happened. Some of the "Dead Ones" had become alive, and had created a dream with enough life force to save the world as we know it. They created a parallel world where life could continue to grow, a world where the dead could become alive. The Kogi were so specific to locate exactly who these people were that were creating this change that had altered the world's destiny.

Mamas and the Coca Shrubs

Kogi Mamas are chosen from birth and spend the first nine years of childhood in a cave in total darkness, learning the secrets of the spiritual world or "Aluna." They are the priests and judges who control Kogi society.

All major decisions and shamanic work are done by Divination. All is the world of Aluna, so the Mamas see a reflection of the physical world first in the spiritual world. If Aluna is the mother, then the Kogi listen to the Mother by divining. This lost technique of divination is what keeps the Kogi world in balance and order.

The Mamas... as with other spiritual tribal leaders around the world, are worried that the "Younger Brother" has not heeded the first warning. If the Sierra Nevada of the Mother dies, the world will also die.

They use the coca bush for many things.
Myths reveal that it was the Aluna herself who instituted coca chewing among the Kogi and who gave a lime gourd to her first son, as a symbolic wife. Other myths tell that coca was originally discovered in the flowing hair of a young girl who let her father only participate in its use. An envious and jealous young man transformed himself into a bird and, after watching the girl bathing in the river, seduced her. When he returned home and changed back into human shape, he shook his hair and out of it fell two coca seeds.

Small plantations of coca shrubs are found near all Kogi settlements, and provide the men with tender green leaves plucked by the women. All the adult men chew the slightly toasted coca leaves adding to the moist wad small portions of lime. The coca shrubs are planted and tended by the men but the leaves are gathered by the women.

Periodically the men toast these leaves inside the temple using for this end a special double-handled pottery vessel. This ritual vessel is made by a Kogi Priest and can only be used for the toasting of coca leaves.

When chewed with coca, the lime is a substance which helps the mucous membranes in the mouth to absorb the alkaloids in the leaves. The Kogi produce lime by burning sea shells on a small pyre carefully constructed with chosen splints. The fine white powder is then stuffed into a ritual gourd which is carried by all the men. The lime container consists of a small gourd which is slightly pear-shaped and perforated along the top. While all lime gourds consist of the same raw material, the wood of the stick which is inserted into it, must correspond to the patriline of the owner. Each patriline uses a different wood taken from the trees belonging to certain botanical species. The length of the stick my vary from 20 to 30 inches and, together with the degree of surface polish, these various characteristics identify its owner.

An initiated Kogi man will easily recognize the patriline of his companions simply by looking at their lime sticks. The symbolic importance of the lime container and its stick is manifold. In one most important image, the gourd is a woman.
During the marriage ceremony, the mama gives the bridegroom the lime stick and orders him to perforate with it the gourd at its upper end, thus symbolising the act of deflowering the bride.

Both men and women say quite openly that chewing the coca leaf has an aphrodisiacal effect upon male sexuality and the newly wed couples are very outspoken about this. Male initiation, marrage and habitual coca use are three elements which coincide at a certain period in a young mans life. Young men sometimes say that they dislike coca chewing, but most of them, sooner or later, yield to the pressure exercised by the priests and the older generation and adopt the habit.

The many symbolic meanings of coca chewing and of the physical objects involved in this act, form a coherent whole. In perspective, a lime gourd is a model of the universe; the stick when inserted becomes a world axis, and knowledgeable men will be able to talk at great length, explaining the structure of the universe in terms of levels, rims or directions appearing on the gourd.

On another scale, the gourd can be compared to the Sierra Nevada; the lime-splattered upper part are the snow peaks and the stick is the world axis. Certain mountain peaks crowned with white rocky cliffs, are the Sun's lime containers and so are all the temples and houses.

The coca plant is an integral part of the Kogi way of life, deeply involved with their traditions, religion, work and medicine. Perhaps the most ancient use of coca in South America is its employnent in religious rituals and shamanistic practises. The mild mental excitation induced by chewing the coca leaves enables the shaman to enter more easily into a trance state in which he could communicate with the spiritual forces of nature and summon them to his aid.

Large scale deforestation and clearing of the jungle is posing a massive threat to the natural habitat of the Sierra Nevada and its flora and fauna. In recent years, the sinister illusion of Marijuana cultivation practised by settlers from inland and fuled by the encouragement by the Columbian and International Mafia, has destroyed vast areas of the tropical rainforest.

Piraha Tribe of Brazil

The Pirana are an indigenous hunter-gatherer tribe who live on the banks of the Maici River in Brazil. They currently number about 200, which is sharply reduced from the numbers recorded in previous decades and their culture is in real danger of becoming extinct.

The Piraha people do not call themselves Pirahas but, instead the Hi'aiti'ihi', roughly translated as "The Straight Ones." They speak the Piraha language, which is very important to their culture and to their group identy. Members of the Piraha actually can whistle their language, which is how its men communicate when hunting in the jungle. The culture and the language each have several unique traits, which it has been argued are related.
Among These:
As far as the Piraha have related to researchers, their culture is concerned solely with matters that fall within direct personal experience and thus, there is no history beyond living memory.
The language is claimed to have no relative clauses or grammatical recursion, but this is not clear. Should the language truly feature a lack of recursion, then it would be a counterexample to the theory proposed by Chomsky, Hauser and Fitch (2002) that recursion is a crucial and uniquely human language property.

Its seven consonants and three vowles are the fewest known of any language. The culture has the simplest known kinship system, not tracking relations any more distant than biological siblings. The people do not count and the language does not have words for precise numbers. Despite efforts to teach them, researchers claim they seem incapable of learning numeracy.

It is suspected that the languages entire pronoun set, which is the simplest of any known language, was recently borrowed from one of the Tupi-Guaranl languages, and that prior to that, the language had no pronouns whatsoever. Many linguists however, find this claim questionable, noting that there is no historical-comparative evidence indicating the non-existence of pronouns in a previous period of the history of the Piraha, also... the overall lack of Tupi-Guarani loan-words in areas of the lexicon more susceptible to borrowing (such as nouns referring to cultural items for instance) makes this hypothesis even less plausible.

There is a disputed theory that their language has no color terminology. There are no root words for color; the color words recorded are all compounds, like "blood-like" which is not that uncommon'
They have very little artwork that is present, mostly necklaces and drawn stick-figures, is crude and used primarily to ward-off evil spirits.

The Piraha take short naps of 15 minutes to two hours through the day and night and rarely sleep through the night. They often go hungry... not for want of food, but from a desire to be 'Tigisai' - "hard."

The Piraha people have no history, no descriptive words and no subordinate clauses. That makes their language one of the strangest in the world... and also one of the most hotly debated by linguists.
The language of the forest dwellers, which Dan Everett describes as "Tremendously Difficult to Learn," so fascinated the researcher that, he spent a total of seven years living with the Pirahas, during which time he committed his career to researching their puzzling language.
Indeed, he was so uncertain about what he was actually hearing while living among the Pirahas that he waited nearly three decades brfore publishing his findings. What he found was enough to topple even the most-respected theories about the Pirahas' faculty of speech. The small hunting and gathering tribe has become the center of a raging debate between linguists, anthropologists and cognitive researchers.

The debate over the people of the Maici River goes straight to the core of the riddle of how homo sapiens managed to develop vocal communication. Although bees dance, birds sing and humpback whales even sing with syntax, human language is unique. If for no other reason than for the fact that it enables humans to piece together never before any constructed thoughts with ceaseless creativity... think of Shakespeare and his plays or Einstein and his theory of relativity.

The Huaorani of Ecuador

The Spirit of the Jaguar

The Huaorani in the Ecuadorian headwaters of the Amazon comprise about 1,500 people who are living in 24 temporary settlements in an area of almost 20,000 sq. miles covered by rainforest. They are surrounded by related and alien tribes or ethnic groups with a total population of an esitmated 150,000.

For centuries they have had to defend them-selves against these groups and against the gold and rubber prospectors, which provided the missionaries the justification for the "pacification" of the tribe. They speak a language unrelated to any other. Also, their pottery designs do not resemble those of their past or present heighbors. It is only known through their own folklore that they migrated from "down river" a long time ago, "fleeing the cannibals."

They revere the jaguar and call themselves, Huaorani which means "human beings" or "the people," and refer to everyone else as cowode or "non humans." The identity of the Huaorani is characterised by their self-sufficient way of life in the rainforest whose biodiversity is one of the most abundant in the world. They are practising a sustainable economy, i.e. the natural resources are not over-exerted.

As hunters and gatherers they are semi-nomads. They normally live in small settlements surrounded by vegetable gardens in which they grow manioc, maize, peanuts, sweet potatoes, chilli and fruit. After ten years normally, they will move on.

Their respective living quarters consist of decentralised subsettlements which are situated at a distance of a two day walk from each other. To the Huaorani
this is a kind of refuge which they use in case of danger or when their resource base is diminishing.
The egalitarian social system is both a prerequisite for and a consequence of this type of economy. It does not know a permanent "above" and "below" nor does it know any doscrimination against women. What it does know are the duties and obligations of the individual for the livelihood and survival of the whole community.

Leadership is assumed only in certain situations and for a short period. Once the prob-lem is solved, leadership is relinquished. In order to secure the survival of the community there is, apart from monogamy, also polygyny and polyandry... in case the gender-ratio is not well balanced.

Up until four decades ago, the Huaorani still used stone axes and maintained a thoroughly traditional hunter and gather lifestyle in their extremely isolated and monkey-rich rainforest haven.

However, in the 1950s all this changed. First the missionaries came. Then, with the global demand for oil came the demand to find new oil reserves and as fate would have it, the world's 1,200 Huaorani live right on top of one of Ecuador's biggest oil deposits. Since this discovery, the Huaorani have been forced to deal with the encroachment of oil companys and cowode on the land they have called home for at least a millennia. Like the indigenous peoples all over the world, who learn that they have natural resources other nations want, they are forced by those who make the rules to adapt as best they can to changing realities.

One Huaorani clan, the Tagaeri, has moved deeper into the forest to shun all contact with the ourside world. Other Huaorani tribes have adopted ecotourism as a way to maintain some control over their land, culture and resources.
Even worse is the habit to deposit polluted oil in 600 to 1,000 open basins which are not insulated. The water pollution is disastrous. People living near the lower parts of the rivers are suffering from skin diseases, loss of hair, sore throats, disrrhoea and illnesses that were completely unknown to them before. And all this, in addition to the diseases which were brought into the area by the missionaries, oil workers, colonialists and the first tourists, against which the indigenous people are not immune and for which they have no natural remedies.

 They can either afford the long way to the hospital in Puyo, Coca and Quito where they have to pay for their treatment or else they suffer and die from these diseases. Only very few people can afford outside treatment and therefore about half of the population of the Huaorani died in the sixties. Now and again there are accidents caused by the dynamite left behind, which is normally used for seismic research in prospecting for oil reserves.

Encouraged by the government up to the early 90s, people have settled along these roads. The area occupied on the right and left of these roads was given to them free of cost to cultivate coffee or do cattle breeding... both of which is totally unsuitable because of the thin layer of humis in the tropical rainforest, they clear the land and sell the timber. Once the soil is exhausted, they move on and clear lands in other areas because there are no government controls.

The indigenous people who are thus alienated from their traditional way of life are confronted with the destruction of resources, cut-throat capitalism, alcohol and prostitution. Western curricula, teaching "with a carrot and a stick" (where corporal punishment among the Huaorani culture is unheard of), hierarchical thinking and acting, deriding of their forest life through the state and missionaries... all this leads to some kind of deculturisation. Their way of living is defamed as communism and barbarism inspired by the devil.

Resistance in the form of associations and umbrella organisations is broken-up by in-filtrating their organisations and by weakening the membership and comminities supporting these according to the principle divide et impera. The Huaorani do not get any compensation for the loss of their lands, for damage to their health and they get no share of the income from oil and timber production. A Huaorani once said:
"We are confronted with problems from all sides... We have to protect ourselves until we reach the forest where we are all safe."
But a majority of the Huaorani is prepared, literally and figuratively..."to attack with spears from all sides," exactly the way they have always done when their way of life was threatened.

Since 1990, the Huaorani territory has the legal status of a "Homeland," a "Reserva" which gives the Huaorani a guarantee to maintain their way of life. But since the use of the sub-surface is reserved to the state, the Huaorani have no say with regard to the ex-ploitation of oil. In fact, the law also stipulates that any opposition towards oil exploitation is sanctioned with the loss of the homeland status.

With the assistance of lawyers, local and international non-government organisations, the Huaorani are trying to pinpoint the contradiction, oil exploitation is just not possible without massive surface interventions and, to force the oil companies to repair the damages as well as to obstruct new prospecting and the drilling of boreholes. Some of the pending charges have not yet been dealt with, others were no longer pursued.

One of these is the Sierra Club Legal Defence Fund (USA) whose charge was genocide, and was later changed to ethnocide (destruction of culture and ethnicity of a people) and which was submitted to the UN Commission on Human Rights. Even if they have been the losers so far from the legal point of view, they are increasingly on the winning side from the perspective of morality.
This can be seen from the large circle of friends in Quito and abroad (mainly in the USA, a country which holds in the same time the largest share in oil exploitation). The circle of friends has been trying to attract the attention on the situation of the Huaorani through innumerable actions, press reports and raido and TV features.

The Anymara

The Aymara are a native ethnic group in the Andes region of South America;
about 2.3 million live in
Bolivia, Peru, Northern Chile, and Northern Argentina
(in particular in Salta province).
They lived in a region for many centuries before becoming a subject people of the Inca,
and later of the Spanish in the 16th century.


The Aymara have existed in the Andes in what is mow Bolivia and, to a lesser extent Peru, for over 2,000 years. They are believed to be the decendents of the ancient Tiahuanacun civilization at Lake Titicaca. The ruins of the ancient temple of Tiahuananacu in Bolivia are only partially excavated and reveal an advanced civilization sophisticated in farming techniques that produced an abundance of food. This enabled the Tiahuanacun to advance in areas of art and stonework.

The area where the Tiahuanacun, and the modern Aymara are located the Altiplano, was conquered by the Incas under Huayna Capac (reign 1483-1523). It is most likely that the Inca had a strong influence over the Aymara region for some time. Though conqured by the Inca, the Aymara retained some degree of autonomy under the empire. Looking at the history of the languages however, rather than their current distribution, it is clear that Aymara was once spoken much futher north, at least as far north as central Peru, where most Andean linguists feel it is most likely that Aymara orignated.

Most Aymara speakers now live in the Lake Titicaca region and are concentrated south of the lake. The urban center is El Alto, a 750,000 person city near the Bolivian capital La Paz.

Numerous Aymara live and work as campesinos in the surrounding Altiplano and their language does have one surviving relative, spoken by a small, isolated group of about 1,000 people far to the north in the mountains inland from Lima in Central Peru (in and around the village of Tupe, Yauyos province, Lima). This language, known as Jaqaru/Kawki, is of the same family as Aymara, some linguists refer to it as "Central Aymara," alongside the main "Southern Aymara" branch of the family spoken in the Titicaca region.

The native language of the Aymara is also named Aymara; in addition, many Aymara speak Spanish, which is the dominant language of the countries in which they live, as a second language

Aymara have grown and chewed the coca plants for centuries and used its leaves in traditional medicine as well as in ritual offerings to the sun god Inti and the earth goddess Pachamama. Over the last century, this has brought them into conflict with state authorites who have carried out coca eradication plans in order to prevent the creation of the drug cocaine, which is created by extracting the chemical from coca leaves in a complex chemical process. Coca plays a profound role in the indigenous religions of both the Aymara and the Quechua, and in more recent times has become a aymbol if cultural identity.

There are numerous movements for greater political power and independence for the Aymara. These include the Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army, led by Felipe Quispe (right), and the Movement Towards Socialism, a political party organized by cocalero Evo Morales (left). Like many in his country, Mr. Morales viewes the coca plant as an important part of indigenous culture. Evo Morales has been an out-spoken critic of the US drug policy and of the US backed coca eradication programs, earning him few friends in Washington while making him a hero among Bolivia's coca-growing communities. Mr. Morales ran for president in several recent elections and, in 2005, finally won a surprise victory winning the largest majorty vote since Bolivia returned to democracy and became the first indigenous president of Bolivia, he is also credited with the ousting of Bolivia's previous two presidents.

The Amahuaca: Amazon Tribe of Peru

The Amahuaca are located in the tropical jungles of Peru. The largest community of Amahuaca is in Puesto Varadero, a jungle community on the Preuvian and Brazilian border.

The Machiguenga, Yine-Piro, the Yaminahua, Amahuaca, Ashaninca, Nahua and Kugapakori indigenous peoples have traditionally occupied the Urubamba Valley, situated between the central and southern regions of Peru.

In the beginning of the 18th century, missionaries were met with resistance by these people because the religion was isolated from the national society. After the rubber boom, the phenomenon of the "Hacienda" and the patrons appropriated ihdigenous territories and exploited their work force. This also led to the arrival of the Dominican Missionaries to the region.
In this manner, the national policies of territorial occupation in the Amazon, since the advent of the Republic, has been characterizied by the intensification of this colonization as well as the mercantile activity and eztraction. This trend is consolidated with the promotion of the Law of Lands and Mountains (No. 1220) in 1909, that incorporates the State's domain over lands traditionally occupied by the  Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon, but that were not aquired as agreed to in the Civil Code of 1852. Through this law, large areas of land were granted to businesses and explorers. Such arrangements continued until 1974 when Decree No. 20653 (Law of the Native Communities and of Land and Cattle Promotion in Jungle Regions) was proclaimed. Before this law, Decree No. 3 of 1957 established the legal term "Reserve" creating sixty-four of them to assure the subsistence of the Indigenous Peoples (Manriquez, 1996).

Nonetheless, the settlers in the Urubamba Valley occupied 34,000 hectares and their relations with the native communities have remained unequal, especially in labor and business issues. Also, land disputes arose mostly because of the invasion of communal territory, with the consent or at least the indifference of the authorities.

In the scope of environmental conservation to the exploitation of wood and the activities of fishing and hunting, should be added the exploitation of hydrocarbon in the Valley of Urubamba through the Supreme Decree of November 3, 1995. This is especially effective in the Camisea Zone after the discovery of huge gas reserves has affected the economic, social and cultural lives of the indigenous peoples.

Since 1893, when the first well was drilled in Peru, petroleum began to constitute an inportant element of national political life and of intense ideological debates and a lot of antagonistic positions. Despite the opposition is caused, Law 11780 gave foreign companies incentive to solicit concessions of petroleum exploration in the jungles.
Although in the late 1970s, petroleum explorations were nationalized, foreign companies could be contracted for the expolration and exploitation through the system of Operational Contracting.

 During the first years in the early 80s, because of the deficit that the government faced with respect to petroleum production due to the lack of investment, the decline in the reserves and the technological inefficiency of PETROPERU, the foreign contracting continued. In this way through Law 23231, and because the contractual and tributary system in Peru had discouraged investors, additional benefits were granted to foreign interests.

In 1981, through the Supreme Decree 17.81-EM/DGH, the Contract for Petroleum Operations was approved with the Shell Company. The results of this exploration during 1984-1087 was the discovery of natural gas in the area called Camisea. Subsequently, the Executive Power confirmed the extraordinary importance and the commercial value of this area, then having to do with one of the largest hydrocarbon reserves discovered in the country, which transformed Camisea into the "New Gold of the South." Nonetheless, the explorations of gas have brought negative consequences to the indigenous people, the environment and to human health.

Literature and Photography Cited:

Michael J. Balick, Ph.D.
Philecology Curator and director
Institute of Economic Botany
The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, New York 10458-5126

A.C.E.E.R. Foundation

Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation

Tropical Rainforest Conservation

World Rainforest Movement

World Wildlife Foundation 

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