Maintaining Balance: Caring for “Pachamama” in the 21st Century

Pachamama
UBICACIÓN
In the Ecuadorian Amazon, there are thankfully some remaining groups of indigenous people who have not been in direct contact with outsiders to this day. Protected under the umbrella designation of their lands as a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve, these people maintain their voluntary isolation and are free to continue practicing their original ways of life in tandem with nature as they have done for many hundreds of years. But what about the neighbouring peoples like the Kichwa Añangu who, for diverse reasons, have been influenced by modernity? In this day and age, sustainable ecotourism and cultural exchange have become the best avenues for subsistance.

Pachamama”, or Mother Nature, requires an indigenous-led solution to protect Amazonia. The Kichwa Añangu people are a grass-roots organization who are reliant on keeping their ancestral territories intact and healthy for their collective survival and well-being. Through the sustainable development of two world-renowned eco-lodge businesses, Napo Wildlife Center &          Napo Cultural Center  they are actively preventing the dissipation of their cultural identity thanks to their many conservation efforts.

amazon-rainforest

Each individual action has a ripple effect. One of the best examples of the Kichwa Añangu’s dedication to preserving natural resources is their decision to give up legitimate rights to hunt and fish within their 200 square kilometre territory so that the biodiverse forest inhabitants can thrive, in contrast to the trend of chronic depletion in other parts of the Amazon basin. Instead, they opt to source organic goods from neighbouring agriculture-driven communities who, in turn, rely on this steady demand for sustainably grown food for their community’s economic stability.

Food is arguably one of the most important unifiers across cultures because the entire process of its cultivation, preparation, and consumption represents the expression of cultural identity and community renewal. Methods of traditional food cultivation, such as the blowguns that were once key for hunting, are explained during cultural tours much to the delight of visitors. Authentic recipes are followed so that guests are able to fully appreciate delicious meals like “maito” which is fresh fish wrapped and grilled in a banana leaf. Two unique beverages are always popular with guests: “Wayusa”, a special tea used daily in a morning ritual and “Chicha” a refreshing drink made from fermented yucca.

Chicha
Mamacunas

Sumak kawsay” is an indigenous concept adopted by Ecuador’s constitution which means to live in harmony with nature and thereby protect all life on Earth. This and other traditional knowledge is shared with guests at our Kuri Muyo Interpretative Center through the performance of ancient dances and songs thanks to female knowledge-keepers, the “Mamacunas”. Original instruments such as drums made of wood and stretched hides, turtle shells and other shell horns are prized possessions used in these rites.

uito
Some members of the community are adorned with tattoos created with “huito” a dye similar to henna which is made from all natural plant products that are sustainably harvested in the old ways to ensure the continued health of the mother plant. Most of these tattoos reflect important natural elements and invoke the protection of spirits of the forest. Requesting a temporary tattoo made with this semi-permanent organic dye is an excellent way for you to experience the Kichwa culture and have a visible souvenir of your time with us for a few weeks after you head home.
handcrafted

Another memorable souvenir showcasing our artisanal talents is one of the many handcrafted items made by the gifted members of our community ranging from jewelry to carvings, pottery to modern canvasses of local landscapes. The seeds harvested and used for necklaces, bracelets, and earrings will be an elegant representation of the golden seeds of knowledge you collect during your time with us. All proceeds of the sale of these items go directly to the women’s organization and are redistributed evenly or put towards communal projects.

By being able to continue walking the same paths as their ancestors and actively practicing their culture, the Kichwa Añangu are not only able to survive westernization in modern times, but thrive as well. We invite you to join us for cultural exchanges and learning experiences unlike anything you have ever imagined! Help uphold indigenous self-determination. Choose from one of our popular cultural tour packages, or inquire about an even more bespoke tour which can be tailored to your interests.

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